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So You Want To Be A Record Executive? Start You Own Record Label? Read Below!

How to Become a Record Executive

Do you want to help aspiring artist make their musical dreams a reality? Do you think you can spot musical talent when it is still in its rawest form? If so, you might have what it takes to become a record executive.

Record executives are the brains behind almost every successful music artist today. A record executive must be able to successfully juggle many responsibilities at the same time such as locating talent, developing an artist’s sound and crafting records that have the potential to make big bucks. A record executive's success is purly judged by the amount of profit they can generate for their company. Since the music business is a constantly evolving entity, record executives must be constantly on their toes to try and find the next big
country star, blues great, pop star, or hip hop artist and be able to predict the next popular trend in music.

Record executives work with
sound engineers, singers, background vocalists, guitarists, and all types of musicians to create records using the latest technology. After the record is created, the record executive is responsible for getting it distributed through multiple channels such as record stores and online music shops. While a great sound can help propel sells of a new record, publicity is key to making a group and a record launch successful. Record executives work with music stations and marketers to help songs quickly move up the charts.

While most people imagine record executives working only with the most popular groups, record executives can also work on more low-key assignments such as commercial work with
jingle writers or even music therapist crafting a therapy recording. Some record executives got their start as a musical performer themselves that toured the country with large roadie staff like Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy). No matter your background or preferred musical style, you can become a record executive with the right background and dedication.  

Starting a Career in the Music Industry

 Neil Portnow on Starting a Career in the music business

In this video, Neil Portnow, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) provides helpful advice on how to start a career in the music industry. He provides suggestions on where to find information such as book suggestions, but states that mostly, you must be open minded. He states that there is not a direct career path in the industry, so it is important to look for opportunities and stay dedicated.  

Step 1: Learn About Music

 Basic Music Skill You must be well versed in music basics to become a record executive and it is best if you are a musician yourself. Learn how to sing, play an instrument and basic music theory. Consider taking music lessons to help hone your musical skills.

Hone Your Ear Constantly listen to music to help train your ear. Listen to a wide range of artists in different musical genres. Learn to discern what sounds work, and what doesn’t work. Watch for music trends and see how patterns emerge. Most musical tastes are cyclical in nature. A specific style will become popular, then the market will get over saturated with similar sounds. A new sound will emerge and become popular because people are tired of the over saturated sound. Learn to spot the new type of sounds before they become popular. Seek out independent sounds and attend as many musical performances as you can.

Get Educated Obtain an undergraduate degree in a music industry related field. There are many different educational paths to a career as a record executive, but a background that includes audio engineering skills, songwriting, music theory, performance and even theater can help give you the foundation you need.

Get Experience Look for every opportunity to develop the skills you will need to be a successful record executive. Consider getting an internship with a record label, management company or even a publicity firm that works with musical groups. While in college, join any audio/visual groups, musical groups and even the theater group as a participant, manager or technician. Try to round out your experiences by swapping roles whenever possible.
Step 2: Get a Job in the Music Industry
Get your first Job After getting your degree, obtain a job in the music industry. You will probably have to accept a fairly low position to get started. Use connections you made during an internship, through your college or even job posting boards to score your first position. The goal is to get your foot in the door and start obtaining real world experiences.2

Learn Take every assignment and opportunity as a learning experience and treat each duty with a high level of enthusiasm. The music industry thrives off of high energy, so you need to show your enthusiasm to help get noticed for advancement. Also take the time while you are in lower level positions to keep informed about the music industry. Take every opportunity to meet with musicians, attend concerts and seek out alternative music directions. Many unpublished artists put music on the web in hopes of catching a record executive’s attention while building their fan base. Start combing the Internet to help find some ‘gems’ that you can bring to the attention of your bosses. If you are seen as an individual that can spot and find talent, it will be easier for you to head toward the record executive position.  

Step 3: Expand your Skills and Advance

 Communication Skills

One of the biggest skills needed by successful record executives is negotiations and communications. Record executives must learn how to persuade musicians, radio stations and people in the music industry to see their vision and make changes according to what is necessary to have a successful record. Consider joining a group such as Toastmasters to help develop your speaking, negotiating and communication skills.

Watch and Learn

Watch the executives in your company and see what skills they possess. Try to model their skills sets by taking classes and improving in any areas where you are deficient. One often-overlooked area is business skills. Record executives must understand accounting and the business side of the music industry. Learn to read contracts and financial statements to help prepare you for management positions.


Take every opportunity to advance in your music company. Seek out new jobs and more responsibilities. If possible, try to take jobs that will expand your skills and help lead to the record executive position. Never get distracted by the responsibilities of your job to the point that you lose sight of music happenings outside your company. If you get stuck at one company and don’t feel you are advancing, consider swapping to another company.  








How to Start a Record Label

Edited by Benjamin Mohaiand 48 others


 Courtesy of Wiki How - Edited by Benjamin Mohai and 48 others

A record label is basically a brand name connecting musicians to customers. Ideally, the label establishes a good enough reputation that when people see an artist or band signed by that particular label, they know it's going to be a track they'll enjoy, and they buy the product without a second thought (and never regret it). If you want to start an independent record label, however, having good taste in music is not enough; you need to be a good businessperson


Think ahead. Although many successful record labels started off with someone winging it, there are many that fail for that very same reason: poor planning. Creating a record label is a business and a full time job.

Consider the following before you start one:

  • Cash flow. Do you have enough money to pay for manufacturing? What about promotional materials? It'll be a while before you get any money back from records selling (if they sell at all). You might need a grant or a loan to hold you over. Some labels raise extra funds by putting on club nights or gigs. It's recommended that you don't quit your day job.
  • Business plan. Independent record labels can take off without a business plan, but you'll need one eventually, so why not write one now, when it'll benefit your business the most? You'll definitely need one if you want to apply for grants or loans, and it's a good idea to have one if you ask people to invest in your business.
  • Licenses and forms. Think about how you want to structure your business: sole proprietorship? partnership? corporation? Get a business license and file appropriate tax forms. Register with any relevant organizations (e.g. Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society). You may also need a retail license if you're selling records directly to the public.
  • If you decide to work with a partner or partners, ideally you will want to work with people you can rely on, trust, share and receive information with and most importantly people you can get along with. Working with friends is great but remember and remind them it has to be as professional and timely as possible, especially in the beginning stages because this is where a company can fall apart and end altogether. Having fun is always great for the job setting but there has to be a line in the sand which all parties cannot cross.
  • Office space. You can get by with just a post office box and a business phone number, or you could establish a complete office, if you have the funds. You can build your own studio or pay for studio time somewhere else.

Choose a name. Brainstorm 5-10 good names that you feel will fit your business. You need to tell people who you are and the type of music you produce. In short your business name should say it all. The reason for choosing a number of names for your record label is that if one is taken you can still fall back on the others and not have to waste time rethinking your names.

  • Go to a domain name registry and see if any if these names are already taken. Try for .com and .net as these are the most popular and visitors will be familiar with them. This quick check will let you know if anyone has the names already online and will help you with your ultimate choice.
  • Consult local government (the State Registrar in the US) to check if any offline businesses have these names. This will ensure that you are the sole user and nobody can infringe on your rights. It also stops you from any unpleasant lawsuits later on if people contend your rights to use a business name.
  • Select one unique name. Choose the best name from among the ones that you are left with. Remember it needs to be one that is appropriate for your business and music. Register a domain name for your upcoming website. It is important to do this quickly before it gets taken by someone else. When you register your domain name, always get both .com and .net so that nobody can have a similar name to you and leech off your marketing efforts.
  • Register the name with the appropriate authorities. This will make sure that this is exclusively your own business name and will protect your rights. You may need to file for a DBA (doing business as) license so you can identify with your label's name when conducting business (accepting and making payments, for example).
  • Design a logo. You might also want to print stickers, posters, stationary, business cards, etc.

Corner your market. Choose and study your genre. Sit down, either alone or with your partner(s) and think of the style(s) you want your record label to be. It would be best if you picked a style that you are very familiar with and have extensive knowledge about. Musicians don't like being forced into a box, but choosing and sticking with a particular genre helps a record label know their market (who buys that genre) and build contacts with people who deal with that genre (record shop owners, DJs, journalists, etc.). Research your genre, and find out what it's missing. Observe and predict trends. You need to fill a niche. Talk to local promoters, studio owners, music shops, distributors, journalists, and anyone who can offer insight about what's hot and what's not. Who is your target audience? How old are they? What are they buying? This is also good research for a business plan.

Find talent. Scour the local band scene and find bands who you think will earn your label a good reputation in your genre. You can't compete with the big record labels, so you want to go for interesting records that slip under their radar but will be a hit with your specific market. After you find a band you feel is a great fit for your label, talk with the band or the band manager and offer a contract signing them to your label. The key word here is "sign". That means you should have a contract for every artist, drawn up by a qualified lawyer. If a track or an artist gets big and you don't have a contract, things can turn ugly, and your label might get the short end of the stick. Some labels don't do contracts if there are one or two singles at stake, but insist on contracts when there's an album deal on the table.

Record in a studio. If the artist doesn't have a recording and you don't have a studio, shop around. Look for an engineer who has experience in your genre and an owner you can work with. You might be paying for some or all of the studio time. Ask about lower rates if you block book time for two or three projects. It's a good idea to have a producer there (you or a musician you trust) to make sure everything turns out well (and your money isn't wasted). It can cost $150+/hour. If you pay for a portion or all of the recording, then you can withhold earnings from the band until you make back all the money you put into the recording, and you have more of a say in how the album sounds. This needs to go in the contract, though.

Promote the music. Your goal here is to do everything you can to chart locally. Make enough copies to promote it as follows:

  • Contact local college radio stations - push to get your music played.
  • Send recordings to independent magazine and newspapers - hope for favorable reviews.
  • Put on great performances. The members of the audience will go home and tell their friends about your fabulous show. Print your website address on the program so that you can attract your fans to the website and they will buy more. Sell copes at the show. Make note of the songs that your live audience love and record them into a DVD or album of your greatest hits. Sell them from your website and allow a sample to be downloaded from your site.
  • Make use of MySpace and YouTube to promote the music on a larger scale.
  • Give away free tickets to your upcoming concert.
  • You can even pitch the music for televisions shows, commercials, cell phones, video games, but get legal advice before licensing the music.

Press the product. Get the recordings mastered before sending them to a manufacturer, if at all possible. An experienced mastering engineer will know how to make the final product sound like an album rather than a collection of songs, making it more commercially viable. Ask around. Get quotes. The more copies you make, the lower the cost per copy. When choosing packaging, think about how retailers will display them. Ask distributors for advice.

  • In the US, each release will need a catalog number (usually a 3 letter abbreviation followed by the numbers, i.e. CJK415) and a universal product code (the barcode on the back of the product) to be seriously considered by distributors.

Sell the music to distributors. To get as much product on retail shelves as possible, you’ll need to convince distributors to help.

  • They will want to see that you've established some success on your own (charting locally, selling product on consignment, live shows, mail order and other direct sales methods) before they even consider carrying your music. Here are some questions you will want to have answers for before you even contact a distributor:[7]
  • Has the artist had any success with established mainstream labels?
  • Does the artist have a following, if so, how well known are they?
  • If the artist is unknown, what specific promotion ideas does the label have?
  • Are there any well known "guest" musicians on the recording?
  • Does the recording, and artwork meet the standards of the musical genre?
  • Is there any current airplay on commercial or non-commercial radio?
  • Will there be independent promotion on the release to retail and to radio?
  • Has the artist hired a publicist, and/or what is the publicity campaign?
  • Will the artist be touring in support of their release, and is there a schedule?
  • Does the label have the financial resources to provide "co-op" advertising, in which the record label and retailer split the cost of media ads?
  • Does the label have the financial resources to press additional product?
  • Does the label have a salable "back catalog" of proven sellers?
  • How much product from the label is already out in the stores?
  • Does the label have other distributors selling the same product?
  • What are the next releases from the label, and when are they coming out?
  • How are sales/downloads of the artist's release doing on the Internet, and such sites as iTunes.com, cdbaby.com, MySpace.com, Tunecore.com, Ubetoo.com and the artist or band's own website?
  • Product is sold to distributors for about 50% of the list price, and is accepted on a negotiable billing schedule of 60 - 120 days per invoice. The label usually pays for shipping charges. Most national distributors require that they are the only distributor of a particular product. You might also be required to pay for advertising on the distributor's monthly newsletters, and/or update sheets, as well as catalogs (costs subtracted from invoice).
  • You'll also need to give them a negotiated number of free copies for promotional purposes, along with "Distributor One Sheets" (fact sheets with promotion and marketing plans and price information) and "P.O.P."s (Point of Purchase) items, like posters, flyers, cardboard standups etc., for in-store display.
  • Distributor One Sheets should have the following information on a single sheet: label's logo and contact information, artist name/logo, catalog # and UPC code (barcode), list price (i.e. $15.98) of each available format, release date (to radio), street date (for retailers, if different from release date), brief artist background description, selling points (discounts, marketing, and promotion plans).
  • All promotional product need to have the artwork punched, clipped, or drilled" to make sure that they aren't returned to the distributor as "cleans" (retail product).

Keep your fingers crossed. In the music industry, it's often hit or miss. Hopefully, the music will connect with your market and sales will take off, but some of your music, sooner or later, will bomb. Try to make it so that the big successes cover the losses, with extra left over to pay for operating expenses (and your own paycheck, so you can keep doing what you love without starving.


  • If the artists has had success in a particular market already, you can send the recording to distributors before you send it to radio station so that people can buy the records once they hear the music.[9]
  • Some labels double as the artists' management.

As you get better known you may start touring the country and even abroad. Just one or two albums can skyrocket you to success. However, never rest on your laurels as your competition is never far behind. It will not take them long to start butchering your work. Keep one step ahead of them by protecting your rights and finding new, unique talent. In this way you will keep a hold on the market.


  • Money is the biggest issue of any business so make sure you have figured out your money situation.
  • Be prepared for long hours.
  • Always set money aside for marketing and promotion.
  • Establish a particular "sound", jingle or effect in your recordings, this may sound obvious but it keeps fans listening over and over, whether it be an artist or genre. (think of the auto-tune progression)

Click Here to hear more on YouTube.







Starting A Record Label: Music Business Contracts Are An Essential Business Tool


     Entire law school classes are taught, and entire books are written, on legal battles related to the music business (see, for instance, They Fought The Law: Rock Music Goes To Court, by Stan Soocher). Most of these problems focus on contract disputes. That’s why, next to your attorney, the most important business tool available to you as a record label owner is the written contract. In fact, you can’t make money, sell records, or even exist as a label without contracts.

     The copyright and trademark laws are clear: whoever creates the vocal and musical sounds on the master recording (e.g., artist, producer, side artist, etc.), owns those sounds. Likewise, graphic artists who create the artwork for your records own that art as soon as it is created. Unless you obtain your rights in writing, any agreements you make with recording artists, producers, side artists, graphic artists, etc. are not valid or enforceable in a court of law. As a result, you could lose your rights to the recordings made—and paid for—by your label, including the right to sell them.

     The only way your record label can obtain the rights to use and sell the recorded performances on the master recordings, or the artwork you have chosen for the CD cover, is for the label and the artist(s) to enter into a written contract, or agreement, that grants those rights to your label. (Note: the terms “contract” and “agreement” are interchangeable in the legal industry.) Without this written contract, the master recordings will continue to be owned by the artist, producer, and any side artists who created them. And the graphic artwork will continue to be owned by the graphic artist. This is only one of many issues to be addressed in the contracts you sign with musical and graphic artists, but it is probably the most important.

     For any successful record company, written contracts are a fact of life. Over time, your label will have contracts with recording artists, of course, and probably with producers, graphic artists, distributors, and others. So make sure you obtain the necessary contracts (described in the following chapter), study them, and use them. This is a great way to establish good business practice from the start.






Things You Can Do Today To Build Your Label

1.    Accept that you will need to obtain written agreements for all the business your label does.

2.    Obtain the proper contracts and adapt them to your business. An experienced entertainment attorney can help you do this.

3,    Read some legal horror stories from the music industry in the book, They Fought The Law: Rock Music Goes To Court, by Stan Soocher.

This article is an excerpt from the e-book
Music Business Made Simple: Start Your Own Record Label which found on Amazon by clicking on the title of the book.