Follow the birth of ASTIR Recordings in our new monthly column from label boss Simon Huxtable
Based in the southwest UK, Simon Huxtable has 20 years' experience as a DJ, dance music journalist and label manager behind him. Now, in 2017, he's decided to go it alone and launch his own label - and we'll be following his progress every step of the way in our new monthly column. Take it away Simon...
I’ve wanted to start a label for ages. Finally I have, and it’s been an interesting journey!
Let me start at the beginning. I’ve been a DJ for about 20 years now, plying my trade at pubs and clubs in the southwest of England, culminating in a VIP slot at Westfest 2009, a few international gigs and running my own digital magazine.
Now, rewind to 2014, when I went to ADE for the first time. Just off the plane, luggage still in tow, I found myself sitting with some industry friends drinking overpriced wine in the lobby bar of a hotel none of us were staying at. Much drinking and hilarity ensued, during which I asked my industry buddies a semi-serious question: knowing what you know now, would you have ever set up a record label? One manager of a well-known label (who shall remain nameless) spat out his drink and laughed. “No chance! Bloody mug's game these days,” he said.
This was a message that was repeated all week, by pretty much whoever I asked. But they’d got me thinking. Why was it so hard these days? What did I need to do to make it a success?
Three years later, here I am with my own label, having previously helped set up D.Ramirez’s Slave Recordings, and Banjax Music here in Bristol. Over the course of the next 12 months, I’ll recount my journey of setting up and running (and hopefully succeeding with!) a modern digital record label through the medium of anecdotes and a bit of serious knowledge, adapting to whatever happens along the way.
All about ASTIR
My label is called ASTIR Recordings. There’s no amazing story behind the name, I simply Googled a thesaurus page and out spewed the results. ASTIR (pronounced 'ah-stur') means 'stirred' or 'moving'; seemed a good name, plus starting with A it’s always on the first page of lists. On reflection, maybe I’ll rebrand as ‘_000 A1 records’!
In terms of music policy, ASTIR is inspired by labels such as Warp, Bpitch Control or Ninja Tune, in as much as I’ll release a cross-section of sounds, but they'll all be to a high standard. My branding will be about quality over quantity - old school A&Ring - which means I almost certainly won't make a bunch of money straight away.
The first job was to get my social media channels sorted out. Facebook is easy, but you might wanna use a different email for Twitter/Instagram/YouTube etc. Be sure which ones you want to use though, because you’ll have to juggle them all, as well as any personal accounts. Better to have two or three active social channels than eight that you never update!
Luckily for me signing music hasn’t been a problem, but you might want to consider how and what you’ll start the label with. Many start by using their own productions, or a mate's - this is smart, but remember you’re not going to be Drumcode, Perfecto or Hospital overnight, so make sure you have a strong idea for A&R and stick to it. Your music policy is a big part of your brand, so if it’s flaky and you sign any old lollipop, that’s how you’ll be seen.
Distribution will be key and this time I’ve used AMPsuite. For other labels I’ve been involved with the go-to was Label Worx, but there’s also Believe Digital and a bunch of others - it’s definitely worth having a Google, contacting a few different services and seeing what they have to offer. Fortunately, AMPsuite has many services for free that others charge for, so for me as a label owner, I’ll get a bigger slice of the pie to share out with my artists. I’ve also commissioned a logo designer, Jake, who delivered exactly what I needed - well worth the money as I’m a complete novice on Photoshop.
By next month, I should be about ready to start promoting my first release. It’s worth noting I could’ve done it way quicker, but it’s not always a good idea to rush. With the time I have, I’ll be constantly brand-building with articles in magazines, mixes, radio and interviews. Anything really to generate awareness - at as little cost to me as possible!
Words: Simon Huxtable