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  You probably know some of the big record labels in Nigeria: Mavin Records; Chocolate City; StarBoy Entertainment; Loveworld Records. They have some of Nigeria’s most famous artists signed with them and play a big role in their success.
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Perhaps you’re inspired by the work that these labels do. Or maybe you think you could do an even better job than they have managed. You’d like to start your own record label, complete with managers, distribution, and, of course, talented artists. Given the nature of this venture, you will need to learn a fair bit about how they function before diving in (unless you have been tracking this portion of the music industry really closely). This article provides you with the basic information you need to launch a record label of your own. But first, let’s explain what a record label is, and what it does.

What Is A Record Label?

A record label is a company that produces, distributes, and promotes the music records of artists that are signed up with it. In today’s world, it’s easy to make your own music—even without a record label. But it’s really hard to get acclaim as an artist in Nigeria without the backing of a record label. They have access to the market and know what ‘buttons’ to press to get significant airplay for songs. These days, record labels are involved in discovering talented artistes that fit their preferred style, producing their songs in studios, generating PR for those songs, and placing the songs on a wide range of platforms, including radio and TV, and new media like Spotify, YouTube, Boomplay, etc.

Steps To Starting A Record Label In Nigeria

Here are the steps you need to take if you’re going to start a music record label in Nigeria.

Come Up With A Name

This is probably the easiest part of the process, but it’s also quite important. You want a name that’s catchy and can be easily remembered. Also, choose something that hasn’t already been taken. A name search on the Corporate Affairs Commission’s portal should help you confirm this. There’s more on the CAC shortly.

Define Your Structure

The record label could be a sole proprietorship if you are the sole owner; a partnership if it’s owned by several people; a private limited liability company; or a public limited liability company. If it’s a sole proprietorship, you have full executive and decision-making powers over the business. But if it’s a partnership, decision-making may be the duty of more than one person (potentially everyone who has a share in the business). To prevent or mitigate legal disputes within a partnership, you should ensure that all partners are parties to a legally binding partnership agreement.

Register Your Company With The CAC

Make your record label a legal entity by registering with the CAC. Registration with the CAC guarantees you several benefits. You will be able to open and run a corporate bank account in your business’s name and request a loan if you need it. People are generally more comfortable dealing with an officially registered entity.
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You will have to identify your business structure when you register your record label. See the above point on defining your organizational structure.

Register Your Trademark

Your trademark is the logo or symbol that distinguishes your business from other organizations. Trademarks are important because they give you a unique identity and set you apart from competitors. They also prevent rivals from stealing your brand identifiers. In Nigeria, trademark registration is done with the Registrar in the Trademarks, Patents, and Designs Registry, under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment.

Set Up A Recording Studio

Your artistes will need to record their songs in a recording studio, so you’ll have to set one up. A proper recording studio should have one or more computers (laptops or desktops), recording software, headphones, studio monitors, audio interfaces, microphones, Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), cables, etc. This equipment will be managed by workers who you’ll need to recruit (if you don’t have the expertise within the founding team). There’s more on recruiting below.

Get A Functioning Team Together

Your studio and other aspects of your record label business will have to be run by other people; you can’t operate them all by yourself. For instance, you will need a manager to engage the artistes you’ll sign-on. Managers ensure that artistes stay faithful to the label’s rules. They may also oversee the marketing and distribution of their artiste’s records. Your studio should have sound engineers; there could be a team that’s directly involved with sales; an HR officer who ensures that other workers adhere to company policy and work by its culture.

Have A Strong Legal Arm

When the time comes to onboard artistes, contracts will have to be signed. It’s important to have a skilled lawyer, especially one who’s versed in the entertainment business. This person will draw up legal documents, explain the terms of contracts to the parties involved, and represent your company in the case of a legal dispute.

Scout Artistes

Nigeria teems with talented musicians. But it takes one who has an ear for good music to find the best of them. This is the job of the Artist and Repertoire (A&R). The A&R doesn’t just find new acts. They also help the artiste develop their sound, songwriting, and production strengths. You will want individuals signed on to your label to fit with your preferred style and genre.

Initiate Publicity And Promotion

Radio and TV remain key platforms on which new music is played. As such, you’ll want to engage radio and/or TV presenters and jockeys on some of the more popular stations or channels, so that they’ll interview your artistes and play their songs. The number and spread of the stations you get in touch with will depend on your budget, and what you consider the critical mass of listeners required to drive a song on to widespread acclaim.

Distribute Music

Record labels figure out ways for the music they have recorded to get to the market. There are two fronts you should be looking at: the online/digital channels and the offline space (basically music stores). You want to establish a good relationship with music aggregator services, which enable artistes’ songs to get on digital platforms, where they can be listened to and downloaded. You should also work with distributors who can supply your records to stores in various locations. Final Words The record label business is capital intensive, competitive, and demanding. Besides having the financial power to make it work, you’ll have to be passionate about it to push beyond the obstacles you may face. Nevertheless, there’s always room for new players in the space. If you believe you have what it takes to break through and make an impact there, you should go on and make it happen. Featured Image Source: Unsplash
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This article was first published on 18th August 2021


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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