The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Running A DIY Label

Image credit: Kieran Webber

DIY labels play one of the most important roles in any DIY music scene and although the internet has made it easier for them to exist, it’s still has its positives and negatives.

We recently chatted to a variety of DIY labels from across the world, taking a deep dive into how they operate, how they help artists, and much more. A fruitful selection of interviews helped us discover more about the many DIY labels that are around today. Our discussions helped us uncover the many advantages and disadvantages that DIY labels face on a day-to-day basis. 

Throughout this article, we will be highlighting the answers regarding the ups and downs of running a DIY label with direct quotes from its owners. 

Do DIY labels have more control and freedom?

Much like DIY artists, DIY labels much prefer the outlook due to the freedom to create without limitations or big business holding you back. Not to mention interfering with artistic integrity. This is why both DIY artists and labels work so well with one another. As Lee Grimshaw, of Spinout Nuggets, explains: “The natural advantage is that you are able to do what you want, what you like and what you feel people should be listening to.” 

This sentiment is backed by Joe Booley of Beth Shalom Records: “The obvious advantage is control. Being able to work on every aspect of a release and see it through to the end is incredibly rewarding.” 

Meeting like-minded people and being part of something  

Like most people who work in the music industry, those that run DIY labels are music fans. So, as a label owner, you get to work and meet like-minded individuals as well as integrate yourself within the music scene. Fil of Blitzcat Records sums this up: “the friends you make with like-minded people along the way – artists, designers, writers, promoters, other labels – is banging.” 

Callum who owns the London via Australian psych label Copper Feast Records adds: “Being able to meet and work with all these incredible bands and make the big decisions involved to get their records out can have a massive payoff when the LPs arrive for the first time and all the hard work has a tangible result which we’re all incredibly proud of. It’s also really fulfilling when we can get the records to the bands as in a lot of cases, vinyl is only something they could have dreamed about releasing when they first started.” 

The empowerment of the internet 

The internet has become a powerful tool for creatives, never before has it been so easy to create a profile, a storefront, and target a global audience with such ease. Much like DIY artists, DIY labels have also thrived on the internet and used it as a tool to help them grow and even exist. As Joe from Beth Shalom explains: “We certainly wouldn’t have worked with some of the bands that we have in the past or even be able to have the customers we have which are stretched across the globe. So having the internet definitely makes it easier to operate the label and I’d struggle to know how to run it without it I think.” 

Talking about the power of the internet Callum of Copper Feast said: “Without that resource in terms of reach to bands, customers, scenes, record shops, and other key people in the industry, I’ve no idea where I’d have even begun with starting a label, never mind making it beyond the first release.”

This is backed by Angus of Double A-Side Records who explains: “That the internet has made everything more accessible. The information on offer and ways to interacts with fans and your favourite bands are easier than ever now.” 

It’s also allowed for labels to be able to communicate easier too, as Charlie Wyatt of Eeasy Records says: “If I had it my way I wouldn’t bother with any sites or channels but it’s stupid to think like that in these times. I mean emailing or DMing someone is infinitely more convenient and fast than cold calling Or writing a letter isn’t it?” 

As ever with DIY lack of funding and time management can be issues

As is always the plight of any DIY creative funding and time management can be an issue. Chris of Blitzcat Records explains: “What you quickly find out is that everything costs a lot of money.” This is something that is felt by all DIY labels, Joe Booley of Beth Shalom expands: “A huge disadvantage is not having the same financial backing that either bigger labels have or could have available through funding and partners.” 

Callum from Copper feast gives an insight into how this affects his label: “It can definitely be difficult just finding the time to do everything that needs to be done around here when you’re also juggling a day job and your personal life. I get by just about but there are inevitably things that we either can’t do or things that get pushed much further down the road than I would like until I actually have time to get them done. Of course, there’s also the financial side of things in that at least for these first few years, it only takes one unsuccessful release to put an end to our plans for the year until we can afford to release something again. We’re still very much reliant on every single order that comes in, so I can never be appreciative enough of all the fans that have supported us over the past 3 years.” 

Yet even in the face of all this, these labels make it work. Their dedication, passion, and drive are incredibly inspiring. Showing that it’s possible to chase your dreams, even if it doesn’t make you a millionaire. Each label is helping new and amazingly talented artists get discovered and allowing them to have their music pressed onto wax. DIY labels are the backbone to any solid DIY scene, not to mention vital for the growth of the wider music industry. If anyone deserves your support, especially after the pandemic it’s the DIY labels and communities in general. 

Music journalist and photojournalist based in Cornwall.

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