How To Start A Record Label In India
22 November 2012
Madhav (a.k.a Kohra) and I set up Qilla Records in 2010. The idea back then was to have a publishing platform for sounds that we enjoyed as selectors as well as appreciated as producers. What better way to support music you like than to publish it, right?
Our philosophy is simple - we are always on the lookout for fresh, unconventional sounds or even conventional sounds in an unconventional format. Or anything that tickles our fancy, for that matter. When we do find what we're looking for, we stop at nothing (within our means, of course) to procure the rights for these tracks.
When we started out a little over two years ago we had a very basic understanding of how a record label functions. The finer nuances came to us on the job, as we started to see where we wanted to take Qilla. We weren’t looking for a specific style or tempo, but for sounds that caught our attention right off the bat and then sustained that interest.
From the get-go we decided to be flexible with styles and focused more on the vibe of a track. If you have a skim though Qilla’s catalogue you’ll see that we’re as open to minimal techno as we are to melodic house. And with the next set of releases you’ll see more lo-fi, bass-heavy productions as well.
Here’s how we set up Qilla in five easy steps (and here’s how you can do it too!):
Do the paperwork:
One of the first things we did was set up a legally recognised company and register ourselves with the IMI (Indian Music Industry). This is vital as you’re only able to assign an ISRC or International Standard Recording Code to your tracks after being allotted a master code by these guys.
While my background in law was indispensible in drafting our contracts and the framework for future contracts, you can do this by getting your hands on a sample contract and tweaking it to suit the context. You don’t need to be a lawyer. As long as contracts are fair and reasonable you should be golden.
All our deals are made in writing, over email. This is also vital as it is always a good idea to have a record of conversations that turn an exchange of rights into a deal, avoiding potential conflicts and confusions.
Establishing a network is essential. Madhav is the networking champ at Qilla; he’s great with building alliances, which can be one of the more rewarding bits of running a label. We spend hours on SoundCloud pages, on Skype and email. This ensures that even if we’re not getting enough demos we still have a vast bank of content to sift through.
Almost all tracks signed to Qilla are direct consequences of either networking or specific intent when bringing an artist down for a gig. It’s a pretty holistic approach, or at least that’s the way we look at it.
You can get started by finding stuff you like on say, SoundCloud and sending a message or commenting (basically, show appreciation!).
It took us a while to figure this bit out but it’s the easiest bit! With the way electronic music is now consumed, it’s becoming increasing difficult to have stuff heard by the DJ’s and producers who influence the industry.
Have a specific promotion plan for each EP or release: sometimes good promotion can increase the prospects of an average track and inversely bad promotion can ruin a slammer of a track.
Promotion and publishing go hand in hand. It is important to strategise afresh with each EP, identify your target audience, identify the style of the original track, find producers who can remix versions of the track to expand your reach. Tap into your network and reach out to people.
You can promote content yourself by putting up snippets on SoundCloud, YouTube and other rich media networks, but you must remember to define meta data (tags/keywords) properly or you’ll never get the hits you want. You can (if within budget) also use a professional agency such as Total Promo.
Always remember that there’s a fine line between promotion and spam!
This is the trickiest bit. For electronic music to be viable and accessible, it must be available to buy on as many platforms and possible. You have to get your tracks on Beatport, iTunes and Juno (amongst others) so that people anywhere in the world can get their hands on it. There are multiple firms that offer this service and a simple Google search will unravel these mysteries. Our friends at Audio Ashram distribute content from Qilla, but you can find many content aggregators online if you’re looking toward a different target audience.
Focus on quality:
This bit should really go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you intend to run a record label then quality control is essential. This extends, but is not restricted to, the actual track, the mastering, its production quality, artwork and packaging text. The whole deal. We believe that there has to be a uniform aesthetic that extends from the music towards the artwork, the events we do and so on. Set high standards, make your own rules and your own plan. Choose quality over quantity and you’re all set.
*Qilla Records will be touring across the country this weekend (Nov 23-24) with Dublin based techno powerhouse Matador. For more info on these events and others happening across the country you can head over to our events page here. To listen to a preview of Qilla's upcoming release you can head over to their SoundCloud here*
Words: Gaurav Malakar (Producer at B.L.O.T)