Plastic World's definitive guide to running your own record label (and pressing vinyl)
From the coolest cats we know.
Hello! I’m James McInnes. Me and my good friend Vic Edirisinghe started a record label here in Australia called Plastic World. We’ve just turned 2 years old and now done 10 releases to date. We’ve released music from some incredible Australian artists including GL, Retiree, Tuff Sherm, Cassius Select, Alba and pressed it to vinyl (and one tape).
Going into 2016, I don’t think we could be more inspired by the quality and variety of music coming out of Australia. There are hundreds of Australian artists and dozens of Australian labels doing some killer things and we love them all! We thought we’d celebrate turning two by sharing what we’ve learnt along the way.
1. Get a crew and figure out your roles
Vic and I met through a love of music and partying. We both liked Nate Dogg and romantic comedies so we were off to a good start. The label came about because Vic was frustrated with the variety of Australian record labels the artists he managed could release on and I had just finished working at Future Classic and was missing the record label game. So we were like ‘Oi. Let’s start a record label’.
Vic was going to handle A&R, events and PR. I was going to do production and distribution, design and help out with the marketing and A&R. We made sure we could cover all the bases that a record label needs to run and complement each other with the different skills and experience we brought in. Down the track we enlisted the help of our gun intern Tom Grant! Who now helps with the heavy lifting on all the marketing, PR and distro, which takes so much time.
When the label fired up artists like Alba, Retiree, GL, Cassius Select and Tuff Sherm all started getting involved and we started to get our core crew of homies and heads.
2. Define your vision
Don’t underestimate this one. It defines you, and we look back to it every time we want to make a new record or put on an event. Ours is pretty simple – “plastic world is a record label pioneering forward-thinking Australian music”.
3. Get a distribution plan
Figure out how your music gets to fans. Digital? Vinyl only? Tapes and digital? Bandcamp? Soundcloud? Fuck streaming services? Record stores? You can do this solo or you can look for distributors to help. We use the legends at Inertia in Australia and NZ who get all our digital out to iTunes, Spotify etc and give us guidance just about ever single day. Then we use Wordandsound to distribute or digital and vinyl around the rest of the world, they can get our records to the tiniest record store in Japan to a humungous online store. There are loads of distributors our there that do awesome stuff and offer invaluable help and guidance. Going out there on your own is a real brave (and limiting) move.
4. Making physical product
The fun bit. We’ve pressed all our releases to vinyl (and done a run of tapes, hopefully with more to come!) and think they are incredibly important in defining our commitment to great sound, design, the way people experience the music and much more. But.. physical product is expensive to make and move around the world, especially if you’re at the bottom of the globe in Australia. Get as many quotes from suppliers as possible and run the numbers against your distribution plan. The costs of pressing vinyl AND shipping is almost always cheaper than doing it in Australia unfortunately. Tapes are a little different and to make them locally is pretty economical. Same thing with t-shirts, stubby holders, stickers and whatever else you like making.
5. Get time and get organised
This is particularly hard, especially if you’re juggling day jobs, partying a considerable amount, have Netflix addictions or making your own music. You owe it to the artists you work with to do all you can with their music and give it the platform and support it deserves. Find a process that works for you to get time to nail those release schedules, accounting, contracts, emails and those backbones of your label.
6. Make mistakes
Nothing is definitive! Sorry I trolled you with the headline. Hopefully you got all the way down to this last point and laughed. We make mistakes all of the time. It’s important to make them and you shouldn’t be afraid to make them. You’ll learn hard lessons fast and be all the wiser from it. Some ones that we’ve picked up…
You’re only as strong as your artists – so make sure you get their music out there, help them grow, act professionally and put a smile on their face.
Draw out releases and singles more – dropping an entire album out of the blue only really works for Beyonce and Drake, they have millions of fans up their sleeve.
Vinyl is almost always late – prepare for it.
International remixes are REALLY expensive – that money is probably better spent elsewhere.
PR works – find a gun PR rep, the investment is probably worth more than an international remix.
Making physical product is fun – your music is bigger and more memorable than three minutes of a shitty stream, make it special and live for longer!
^ Bonus rule: Always have each other's back