What DJs & Producers Need To Know About Record Labels

What is a Record Label?

Traditionally, an artist signs a contract with a record label in exchange for music manufacturing, distribution, and promotion. Record labels date back to the late 1800s with the invention of Thomas Edison’s phonograph. In fact, one of the earlier labels, Columbia Records, is still around and thriving today. 

The past 100 years saw many different faces of the record label business–including its rise and fall. As the music industry has transformed, especially with the introduction of the internet, MP3 technology, and social media, musicians are finding less of a place for conventional record labels.

Although there just are a few major record labels that compete today, the dance music scene has carved out its own record label space. Big players include Spinnin’ Records, mau5trap, Ultra Music, Astralwerks, and Monstercat. Beyond that are hundreds if not thousands of other labels, in which artists themselves have started in effort to develop a platform for up-and-coming DJs. 

For example, in 2000, Jonathan “Jono” Grant and Paavo Siljamäki of Above & Beyond started Anjunabeats. Primarily a trance label when getting off the ground, Anjunabeats later evolved to support trance-edged house music. More recently, in 2020, Excision started the Subsidia record label to underpin dubstep DJs whom he and his team see potential in.

Although every label is different, most record labels operate business by taking a percentage of your profits, of course, in exchange for all the work they do to grow your brand and sell your products, a.k.a. your music. The record label is essentially investing in your career, hoping for the big payout that may come with your success.

Photo of a Vinyl Record | What DJs & Producers Need To Know About Record Labels

The Downsides of Working With a Record Label

Signing that shiny record label deal means you no longer fully own your brand. The label owns a percentage of you–profits made from DJing shows and festivals, merch sales, master recordings–they possess a right to a percentage of your income for the entirety of the contract, which can mean decades.

You also no longer have total control over the tracks you want to release and the image you want to portray to your fans. Since the label has invested in you, they intend to push their own agenda with methods they believe will be most profitable to them.

Some have considered working with a record label “selling out.” Although a bit dramatic, there’s some merit in this analogy. You are putting your brand as a DJ into the hands of a company that will collect your profits and make career decisions on your behalf. 

Another way to look at signing to a record label is taking out a loan, except that once you pay back the loan, you’re still not debt-free. The label is the loaner or investor; let’s say they loan you $200,000 to build your brand. If you become successful and wind up making the label back their $200,000, you’re not off the hook. You’ll continue to pay the label their cut for the duration of your contract, even if you wind up racking up millions. 

Where to Draw the Line

A record label sounds like a good gig at a glance–seemingly unlimited resources, a team behind you, the notoriety of being backed by a label. There are many benefits that come with being signed to a label.

However, after jumping on a fancy deal, many DJs quickly start feeling the consequences of losing their independence. Not everyone feels this way, though. To some, the investment is worth conforming and giving away the rights to your brand. 

When considering whether or not to sign to a label, you should account for your values, recognize the risks, and assess what you’re willing to lose. 

Photo of a DJ Mixer at a Nightclub | What DJs & Producers Need To Know About Record Labels

Alternatives to a Record Label

What if we told you you could have both? As in, all of the services offered by a label and the prestige that comes along with it, in addition to the independence you deserve.

As a DJ working to build a brand in a competitive market, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not utilizing these label services. Also called a “record label as a service,” such entities can provide career/business coaching, distribution, marketing, press/PR, merch programs, and more. For these services, rather than “paying” with the rights to your brand and career, you are paying a fee.

DJs have several options when it comes to pinning down a label service. Eleven’s Your Career is among one of the premier choices for a record label as a service. 

Eleven’s “Label as a Service” Offers:

  • Dedicated career and business coaching
  • A small business building program
  • Services done FOR you or WITH you
  • In-house record label brand
  • Distribution options
  • Marketing options
  • Publishing, Sync & PRO options
  • Mixing and mastering options
  • Press & PR options
  • Funding options
  • Video strategy options
  • Social media options

Become an Independently Signed Music Creator with Eleven

Getting started with Eleven is easy and can be done in three simple steps. First, you can schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a team member on your own time. In your next meeting, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss aspirations for your DJ career and find out how Eleven might be able to fit in. As a final step, you can apply to the program and complete the review process.

Pricing for Eleven’s Your Career starts at $310/month, with three different packages available–Starter, Rising Star, and Professional. For an overview of these options or to schedule a consultation, visit Eleven’s website

What You’ll Gain At Eleven

  • Transferable entrepreneurial skills and knowledge that can be used for your DJ career and beyond
  • Confidence in knowing that you have what it takes to grow your music career 
  • Feeling like you’ve “made it” as an independent DJ and small business owner
  • Better time management – less stress juggling your workload as you have access to label services and artist management virtual assistants
  • A sense of relief knowing you can consult with your career coach anytime if you hit a roadblock
  • The perks of label representation without giving up ownership of your music or going into debt

Eleven’s Record Labels: StreamTribe Records and Root Cause Records

Eleven’s Your Career has built out two different record labels, both backed by the same business-oriented tools.

StreamTribe Records

StreamTribe Records was born during the pandemic when DJs primarily gained traction on streaming platforms such as Twitch. Solely catering to EDM artists, StreamTribe has roots in house, trance, and other subgenres. Currently, there are 5 DJs signed to StreamTribe Records.

Root Cause Records

The second label brainchild of Eleven’s Your Career is Root Cause Records. Launched in 2022, Root Cause was built around the idea that the real “root cause” behind why many independent artists cannot establish a profitable music career is because they’re lacking essential business knowledge. 

Growing Your DJ Career

Both StreamTribe Records and Root Cause Records heavily focus on the business aspects of growing a career in music. As a DJ, putting yourself in the mindset of a small business owner is the first step needed to take your career to the next level. 

You have what it takes to build a successful and profitable DJ career. You just need a team behind you. Refine your music industry knowledge and business skills with the help of Eleven’s experts. To learn more, visit turnuptoeleven.com.

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