July 12, 2020

DIY Digital Record Label in South Africa – Checklist

Record Label in South Africa
Image Credit: Music Business Advice

Today’s blog post is for the savvy musician and/or aspiring music entrepreneur. If you’ve always wanted to start your own record label in South Africa, I decided to put together a checklist for you.

The following checklist will save you years of trying to figure out this stuff on your own.  Learn in five minutes what took me five years to know!

So without any further delay, let’s dive in.

  1. Formalize your business
  2. Start recording your music
  3. Get a good mastering engineer
  4. Promote your music on the internet first
  5. Get a Digital distributor
  6. Find a talent manager
  7. Register your music and company with relevant music bodies in SA

1.  Formalize your business

Yes that’s right before you can go any further it’s so important that you register a formal company. A record label is classified as a business because you are in the business of selling your art which is music in your case.

In South Africa, you can register a company with the CIPC and the whole process from start to completion will only cost you 175 ZAR (the last time I checked).

2.  Start recording your music

This step is probably the most important; in fact I should have placed it as the first step. Without the music (the product) you won’t have an existing business or company.

But a business is not a business unless it can generate revenue (I will explain this shortly).

You can either set-up your own recording at home or you can hire a fully-fledged studio like the ones you see on TV in order to record your music.

Most artists in this day and age prefer to record at home for obvious reasons – it’s convenient and economical.

However, you have deep pockets nothing stops you from buying what we call studio time.

3. Get a Good mastering Engineer

I chose the word “good” because great often comes at a huge cost. And as up-start label chances are you’re working on a tight budget.

But you can still manage to get the results you are looking for by settling for a good mastering engineer. But good mastering will not help you if your music and mixing is not up to standard.

A mastering engineer is not a miracle worker so you have to play your part and make sure that you have a good product before you even consider mastering.  

4. Promote your music on the Internet FIRST

I know, everyone (all the gurus) is saying this but that’s because its 2020 and everything is happening online. The music industry is not what it used to be.

So I’ll repeat what everyone else has been saying for the longest time now – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Soundcloud, blah, blah, blah.

It might sound like the old boring advice but social media platforms, and building an artist online presence is extremely important for any artist – unknown or established.

Consumers are now flocking online (everyone starts with a Google search) looking for new music (to purchase and free downloads).

Creating a label or musician website is also a good strategy because this is where most of your followers will go for promos, downloads. You can embed your latest videos, podcasts and new music for preview.

So you make sure that you promote music and label on relevant online platforms. But use the correct digital channels.

5. Get a digital Distribution deal

Now that you have an online presence, the next thing you should focus on is getting a digital distribution deal.

As a record label in South Africa, getting a distribution has never been easier. There are countless of online music distributors in South Africa and abroad.

But as a novice, trying to search for the “best” distributor is not easy because you don’t know what to look out for.

A distributor will ensure that your label’s catalogue is available on all digital stores across the globe.

And in most cases the royalty split will be in your favour (usually 80/20 or 100% but with upfront payment for each release).

Some distributors allow you to cancel the deal should you not be happy and you still get to retain your masters.

6. Find a talent manager  

Come on let’s face it; you can do everything on your own. If your label is artist-run then you it would make logical sense to hire someone who can deal with the day to day running of the business.

There’s only so much that you can do as artist and you only have 24 hours in a single day! It doesn’t matter how talented you are but you will burn out if you try to do everything alone.

An artist manager can be outsourced or you can team up with someone who is more business inclined to focus on running the show.

7.  Register your music (and company) with relevant music bodies in SA

What’s the point of spending hours recording and promoting your music if you don’t know how to generate revenue and collect royalties?

The music industry is not easy to understand but since you are reading this blog post, it means you are making an effort to do so.

Below is a list of the most important Music Bodies in the South African Music Industry.

AIRCO (Association of Independent record companies in South Africa)

AIRCO is an organization which represents the interests of Independent record companies in South Africa.

In order to be a member, you should have a registered company in SA and part with a registration fee of 200 ZAR.

RISA (Recording Industry of South Africa)

If you are running a record label in South Africa, it is highly recommended that you register for membership with the Recording Industry of SA.

Even if you don’t intend on being a member but you still need an ISRC Code each time you release music (Digitally and physically). And RISA is the only agency in South Africa which is authorized to issue ISRC Codes.

SAMRO

South African Music Rights Organization is a non-profit organization which is responsible for collecting performance rights royalties on behalf of composers, authors and music publishers.

CAPASSO

Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) was created to administer the mechanical rights on behalf of composers and publishers.

I wrote a blog post not so long ago explaining mechanical royalties and CAPASSO.

SAMPRA

SAMPRA which is short for the South African Music Performance Rights Association administers what is known as Needletime rights on behalf of recording artists and record companies.

Conclusion

Setting up a digital record label in South Africa is achievable if you follow the above guidelines. Gone are the days when you had to wait for the labels to sign you.

In this day and age you can pretty much do most things yourself (with the help of a small dedicated team of course).

If you have any questions and thoughts, please comment below.