How does the Net Label Work?


#1

@White_Noise @Creepr @RFJ
@relic @Roo_Stercogburn @Auto-meh-geddon

I hope I listed the proper authorities…

Full disclosure here… I participate in another forum that is exploring the idea of creating their own label as a benefit to members and a way to increase membership.

So any tips or shared experiences would be most appreciated

So common questions are:
-In this context, what is a ‘record-label’?
-How does that work for contributers of songs for the album the label produces
-What happens if the label makes money? How to share that with the contributors.


#2

I’ll let the guys from the current netlabel team respond here before chiming in. Curious what the other forum is though?


#3

It’s a Singer-Songwriter forum… lots of talented and helpful people.

Between IDM forum and this other one it’s a nice balance for me… as I do a lot of experimental and electronic composition but I am primarily a singer-songwriter.

Anyone interested in a link cam PM me… I don’t want to appear spamish :meat_on_bone:


#4

Certain types of spam are fine man, it applies to the convo. Might as well just link it here.


#5

yeah, feel free to link it, I curious myself. :slight_smile:

As for your questions, I see that as I type WN is also responding and he is really good at explaining this stuff, so I will keep my answer brief:
We (the current team at least) have not really considered ourselves a “record label.” We are a “Net Label” which is different. the difference being, to me, that we are 100% digital. We have considered swag of various sorts in the past, but never (during my tenure) discussed physical releases.
Also, we do not sign people. This is a creative commons based, free-will sort of thing. Artists retain full rights to their work.
As for contributors, they get nothing financially for works published in our comps. Our comps do not make much money. So anything that comes off of them helps us to keep the lights on (i.e. pay for Soundcloud Pro, Distrokid, etc). Apropos Distrokid, comps are not released this way because of the problem of having so many artists, as Distrokid handles label pricing based on artists. So we would have to get a much more expensive license to accommodate comps, and it is financially not worth it.
As for song rights etc for comp works…same as I said above, the artist retains all rights. We just have their permission to publish the given work under a CC license.
For single artists, we have discussed what to do if we make “real money” off an artist release, but as it has never happened, we do not have a tried and tested plan.


#6

Oh hey, you must have posted this about 5 minutes after I checked this morning, sorry it sat all day.

I’ll start by tackling your questions in order and we can expand from there if need be:

  1. What is a “record label” in this context?

IDMf Netlabel is a little weird in this regard as I understand it. Sort of a relic of a bygone age in some ways. You have to bear in mind that this started in 2009 or earlier as far back as I can find any records. And back then, while bandcamp and soundcloud might have existed, the ability we have to promote ourselves as artists these days with free business facebook pages, ad accounts on multiple major websites, promotion groups, etc - did not exist yet. So the service the netlabel provided back then was an “in” to that world of advertising that so many of us struggle with.

What I really see the first iteration of the the netlabel doing was taking the music/talent that more or less already existed here on the forums, packaging it up in a professional looking way to the rest of the world, and putting it out and promoting it as a more professional looking package than an individual could at that time. I think that lasted up until the end of the Benwaa era with the release of IDMf 047 (which incidentally is around the time that I first joined here, though I wouldn’t take any reigns on the netlabel itself for several more years). So take all that with a huge grain of salt, because I missed pretty much all of it and only can conjecture what things were run like based on what I hear in passing.

As the current admin team got to putting albums out again with 048 and beyond, I think the goal of the netlabel necessarily changed. The reality is people can and do get a lot more attention for themselves than we do these days because everything I said the netlabel did for the artists above, you can do for yourself pretty well now. It’s a different world 12 years later, and you wouldn’t start a netlabel now for the same reasons you would then (hell, I was fresh out of middle school when the netlabel was putting it’s first releases out - I wanted a Wii so damn bad - remember those?).

I think if you look at the albums from 048 and later, the most successful ones have been all about engaging with and highlighting the community. 048 was an album everyone was excited to do because we hadn’t released something in close to 3 years when that came out. 050 was a celebration of lasting for 50 releases. Date night forced people to work together. Forms poses the question of what YOU think IDM is directly to our forum members and asks them to tell us in song (hopefully on an annual basis going forward). All of it is about engaging with the people making the music, rather than just taking what we have and packaging it up really nicely like things used to be.

That’s not to say engagement didn’t happen before or that packaging doesn’t matter now (I think mastering falls into the “professional packaging” category and that remains my forte perhaps above all else I do), but I think community engagement nowadays is existentially important to the netlabel. If a project doesn’t engage the forums, it’s going to be massively more difficult to do if it’s possible at all. And that shows in how our individual artist releases perform versus the community projects. It’s not even close, the community releases do 5-10x the listens, downloads, etc every time, almost regardless of quality, that a single-artist release we talk with one guy in a PM about for a few months. And here’s the kicker: from the label side, the single-artist releases are just as much, if not more, work.

So these days, if a forum wants to have a netlabel, it should 100% be focused on forum/community projects. Mutli-artist releases, partner songwriting challenges, remix swaps, etc. All good. Solo projects with one artist that you lend the forum brand to try and bring more plays in for the artist and more attention to the forum? I’ve never seen it pan out. Might just be an issue with my management, IDK, but I’ve watched at least half a dozen of us fall for that idea since 048 and I don’t think it’s panned out once yet. I don’t have the numbers in front of me right now, but I think I’m overall right on this idea.

2+3 I’m going to lump into discussion of “the business”.

As creepr mentioned, we don’t bring in much. A bumper release for us might make 100-ish dollars over the first year. And that’s fine, we only need like $120 to pay for soundcloud pro for the year, which is what I consider our only essential outlay so that we don’t have to bump older albums off the page. The forums are provided for separately, so expenses aren’t high.

However, that doesn’t split to very much for each artist in say a 10 artist album. And frankly, as the accountant, the idea of having to get payment information from all of our artists in addition to tracking all the song info and revisions and such that I do as the mastering engineer, keep all that straight, and actually block out say a weekend a month to do all that accounting sounds like hell. I don’t get paid enough to do that for my day job (as an actual one-man accounts payable department), I sure as hell don’t want to do that for free on my weekends, and not over what amounts to a $10 paycheck.

And again, as noted above, the individual artist releases do much worse than the compilation albums, so the pay wouldn’t be much better for individual artists in our case. Now, all that may be different for your genre. It could be that the singer-songwriter forum has well-heeled listeners that will drop 20 dollars apiece on every album you make. IF that turns out to be the case, we can talk accounting if you need help in that regard. I have ideas, just again, not worth it to implement over 10 bucks a person.

We have enough left over after a few years of running a small surplus to experiment with things like trying distrokid - which I do not recommend for a small label like this for the reasons creepr outlined above - but hey, we learned and it didn’t cost us any money personally, which is really cool from my point of view at least.


#7

I think it would be interesting to see the top releases listed. I’m sure bandcamp has something where it parses out lists. And sure, some releases have been out much longer than others so that would get them an edge but is there a way to see say the top 10 releases the netlabel has done in list form?


#8

Easier than I thought….

Plays -

Sales -

Edit: And here’s a graph of total all time plays over time -


#9

Here it is

Who knows… there may be a few folks here at IDMf that can relate… it’s all Music :sunglasses:


#10

I was always curious about that…thank you.


#11

Thank you @Creepr All good info and insight. This particular quote caught my attention.

I believe that any individual artist that is on an IDMf comp and who also has a distributor, would be paid for streams or downloads through their distributor. Let me know if you believe otherwise.

As for the money that IDMf makes… is that through BandCamp? Or some other means?

Regarding the cost of DistroKid … FWIW I work with RouteNote because they have an option to Release at no cost. In return they take 15% of any streams or downloads. Or you can choose the $10 per release and keep 100% of any revenue. You can also change your mind… if a track you released on the free program starts making money you can pay the $10 and keep future revenues. They provide a monthly report showing streams across some 30 platforms.

Not sure how it work with a comp released by a “label” that included artists with other labels… new territory here! :man_shrugging:


#12

Sorry for offtopic, but RouteNote sounds like a good distributor, thanks for the info - I put my stuff on Distrokid for a while, but never made enough on there to pay for it.

Don’t mind me - interesting thread!


#13

Thank you for the input @ Metaside… you gave me the perfect segue for a shameless plug :sunglasses:

If you do decide to go with RouteNote please consider using my referral code… by doing that, RouteNote sends a bit of their 15% to me as a “thank you” it doesn’t affect your status or revenue at all.

If you are interested, PM me and I’ll send a link with the code.


#14

Wow! @White_Noise I super appreciate you taking the time to give a thoughtful and thorough response.

The quote above is, I believe, the crux of the matter… and is also basically what I supposed. The history of how it unfolded for IDMf is also very informative. :+1:

On behal of myself and the Mods at “Songwriters in the Kitchen”… Many thanks to you and all who were kind enough to share thoughts and experiences. :sunglasses::pray::pray::pray::pray::pray::pray:


#15

First of all, our revenue streams are currently 100% Bandcamp, yes.

As for the distributor question, I’m not sure. I’m actually having a similar conversation with someone else right now. Thing is, the way I understand streaming to work, each song is given a UPC/EAN/ISBN or something along those lines. Then whoever has a claim to the song registers with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO for short) like BMI or ASCAP in the US and lets them know that whenever that ISBN is streamed they get a cut. Then when that song accumulates enough streams that you earn say 10 bucks, they mail out a batch of checks every quarter and your check is in that batch.

Thing is, Distrokid, Routenote, CDBaby, whoever, aren’t PROs, but they do give out ISBNs to be able to get your song places like Spotify and pay out royalties. I know Distrokid will let you add other people with Distrokid accounts to your release and give them credit/revenue split, but I don’t know if you can add someone with a CDBaby account for example. And that also requires us to ask every artist who submits to us to have a Distrokid account in our case. And while that’s cheap in the grand scheme of things, it’s not free and I don’t like to spring 30 bucks a year on someone who just wanted to send us their sick track, times ten in the case of a compilation album. I know there was a long stretch of time when I was in college that would have kept me from submitting songs, and I’m sure there are others in the same boat now.

And again, here you have a communications nightmare of trying to keep everyone’s forum name, artist name, payment info, and now their distrokid accounts and song credits - straight. Because even if Distrokid will split revenues for all the services they hit, we still do Bandcamp, and Bandcamp doesn’t have facilities for this I’m aware of. So the Bandcamp revenue, which would be the lion’s share in almost any scenario for us, still requires me to do all the accounting and send out payment myself.

I’m not kidding when I say for every album we put out, there’s at least two spreadsheets somewhere on my hard drive to keep all the information about this straight as it is, and I only have song name, song status, artist name, forum name, email for that (the reason there’s two is one is for tracking submissions and one is for tracking songs that have made the final cut).

By far, the simplest solution is to try and keep money out of it, IMO. I say that as an accountant. The second you get money involved, the complexity of this endeavor goes up by about triple what it was before. Donate the profits to a music charity or something.


#16

Thank you again @White_Noise for all of the insight. A recent question from folks at The Kitchen… what type of BandCamp account does IDMf have? Artist? Or Label? And if Label… what does it cost?

All of us at The Kitchen sincerely appreciate your help :pray::pray::pray::pray::pray::sparkles:


#17

Hey there, we have an artist account.


#18

Thank you @Creepr much appreciated.

Mind if ask what it costs?

EDIT oops :grimacing: that was dumb :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: of course the artist account is free!:sunglasses::sparkles: