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Birth of a label, part 7

A tough January at ASTIR HQ, but Simon's not giving up

2018 Feb 13     
2 Bit Thugs

Label boss Simon Huxtable finds trying to do too much at once can be counter-productive

Based in the southwest UK, Simon Huxtable has 20 years' experience as a DJ, music journalist and label manager behind him. Now, in 2017, he's going it alone and launching his own label - and we're following his progress every step of the way...

Thank goodness January is over… I’ve had a pants start to the year and I’m ready for a redo! I'd actually planned have a break in January, because no one has any money for buying music anyway, but in my haste to keep the schedule on track, I ended up promo-ing and releasing throughout the month - to my detriment, as it turns out.

Away from the label, I work in a restaurant. I had this idea in my head that January would slow down and I’d have the time to concentrate on music stuff - safe in the knowledge I had a stable income to finance it - but as one of the only full-time people working there, I’ve been run ragged. As a result, my two days off become sleep days, because I’m too tired to do anything constructive - like, say, label stuff. I’m not after sympathy here, by the way. Nearly every indie label is run by people with full-time jobs that do it for the love of it. The thing is, you really gotta want it - because in months like this one, it’s the only thing that keeps you going. So let me explain what happened...

The AMPsuite promo system is very user-friendly. I have nonetheless, on more than one occasion, managed to completely faff it up and had to redo all the metadata fields to send to stores. Why is this important? Well, for ongoing royalty payments the PROs (Performing Rights Organisations) need accurate data from which to make payment instructions. Equally, the various stores and streaming platforms need the info to correctly attribute those funds. This month’s mistake was a doozy. I'd sent the latest remix parts off to my mastering engineer - an artist in his own right. His artist name is Benwaa, but his Facebook name is Bee Waa. Guess what I put on the metadata? And that was after I'd double- and triple-checked that I'd done it right. I felt like such an amateur. I was, in fact, dog-tired and not thinking straight - I even faffed my own data up.

So here’s my takeaway: pick a day when you have the time to do your admin, and do it when you're unstressed and have the time to really concentrate, not like me, after a 12-hour shift because you’re buzzing from work and had a few beers to chill out! The metadata you input ultimately informs everything that happens to your track after someone buys it - and if you get it wrong, you lose money.

In other news…
January hasn’t all been bad. I did manage to strike up a few conversations for upcoming projects. The album I have planned for the end of February was initially going to be an unmixed collection of music, but when I put it to my label mates, the overwhelming response was “do a mixed version”. There is sound financial and business sense to this. For one, I’m doubling the appeal of the music, because not everyone who uses digital music stores are DJs. Secondly, with streaming making such a huge dent in overall music consumption, having a mixed version for sites like Spotify or YouTube makes visibility much easier. As a result of a sneaky Facebook status asking the question “mixed or unmixed?” I got another four tracks for the album from renowned artists, and an offer to mix the album from Bedrock resident DJ turned car sprayer, Phil ‘Moonface’ Thompson! I may hold off a little longer to get a few more great tracks and I’ll put the wheels in motion in time for the Miami Music Conference in March.

One of the most interesting things to come out of compilation has been working with the management team at Bonzai Progressive, one of my go-to labels back in the day. I’d signed one of their artists’ tracks and had to go through the process of negotiating the deal. This is something you really don’t do a lot in the modern world: normally, an artist would send a demo, you listen and decide. If it’s good you contact them, they say 'cool' and you send the contract over. But in this case, I had to state my terms before the contract was even looked at, then we haggled and came to an agreement. All very amicable, and after talking to some of my long-time label owner mates, something pretty unique. I’m now looking into the whole licensing game for a second compilation for the summer, but that’s going to take a lot more research before I get started.

A recurring theme for me this last six months has been starting up a radio show as a conduit to the label. I see radio as the great leveller in terms of music, as everyone is judged on the quality of their output, so it will come as no surprise I feel like I kinda dropped the ball when I left Saturo. Despite the fact I would never have had the time to make weekly mixes over Christmas, I do believe we lost traction... oh well, it's done now. I do have a syndication contact, I just need to sit down and make a demo mix for them to garner support for the show.

I’ve also made a few enquiries about running some ASTIR events this year. Small things in basements, just to get a vibe going. If Drumcode, Bedrock and the others can do it, why not my brand? Fact is, the real money is made through shows and touring anyway. So keep your eyes peeled for something at this year’s Brighton Music Conference end of April!

Words: Simon Huxtable

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Tags: ASTIR, setting up a label, independent labels, promotion, starting a record label, metadata, AMPsuite, Brighton Music Conference, Miami Winter Music Conference