This is an interview i did with dave scotford, A young entrepreneur and founder of a record label called Red Monster Records. A very informative interview about running a record label, and also he is still at the university.
Enjoy the interview and let me know your thoughts..
Hey Dave, how is it going? Thanks for doing this interview with me.
Hey! Not a problem!
Can you kindly give us some background information about yourself? What you do?
I’m a 19 year old first year university student at Birmingham City University and I’m currently running a independent record label alongside university work, Red Monster Records.
Tell me about your company: Red Monster Records – tell us how the company formed?
The company was formed pretty basically originally, a simple sole trader and I was the only staff member. Basically my friends were in a band and were looking to put on a few gigs so I got involved and it’s gone from there and taken off at an unbelievable rate. We’ve never looked back from the start really.
To start with we were just a promotions business putting on a small local music show each month, things went pretty well and we started to sell out a couple of venues and started working with bigger bands. Then we kind of, almost accidentally fell into being a record label. We financed a few records and we kept doing it, so we decided to officially become a label. Although we still put on show-case and our own gigs and events in and around the Midlands.
How did you finance your business?
All of the money used in the running and start up of the business was my own investment. That’s not saying I was loaded, not at all. I literally started off setting up a website myself to save money and printed all the flyers at University. So everything was bootstrapping really, as cheaply as possible but still good quality.
Can you share some of the biggest lessons you have learned personally and as a business as things have grown? If you were to start again, what might you do differently?
Things have grown pretty rapidly here at the label. Maybe we expended too quickly too early, trying to pull in too many acts too early on in life as a record label. But I suppose we’ve learnt from that and pulled back to bring quality rather than quantity is the most important thing. Now we’ll spend months and months watching an act play live, listening to their recorded stuff and getting feedback from people they’ve worked with in the past before we consider signing them rather than a couple of weeks.
Seems an obvious mistake really, but many companies go through rapid growth and struggle a bit. But we’ve adapted pretty well and come out stronger the other side.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Now we’re a bit more stable with the growth then we’ve just done anything we can to market ourselves and as more and more people have heard of us then more and more people are wanting to work with us, and more music fans are buying the music we’re releasing. Lots of people say they’ll do ‘anything’ for their business to succeed, but we really, really will. We’re passionate about the music we release and so we won’t stop until we’re one of the most well known record labels and our acts are doing really well.
Do you have any suggestions for coping with set-backs, dealing with adversity?
For me, the main thing is to keep working. No matter how bad things are, they will get better when you roll the sleeves up and dig in. Things only get worse when the head goes into the sand and the problems are ignored, or worse, run away from.
Sometimes getting other peoples’ advice is the way to go, there are hundreds of business forums out there with members more than willing to offer help where they can. Business Link and the Princes Trust have been great for us, the hours of help and advice, information sheets and pages on their website they’ve sent me is unbelievable.
How do you keep your business focus – Do you have any suggestions for entrepreneurs who are experiencing challenging times?
I suppose focus comes from what I do. I love music, I love new music, and I’m passionate about it. To be honest I think I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, to run a record label is fantastic, which means I don’t need to think about ways to ‘make’ me get through the ‘to-do-lists’ – I’ve got a natural drive and ‘want’ to do the work.
What were you doing before you started Red Monster Records?
I did run a small youth football based company, which sold through e-commerce, football and sports accessories, as well as delivering coaching sessions within after-school clubs. Things went pretty well, but as soon as I saw the opportunity to work in the creative industry that I love, I jumped head first into it.
How did you get your label off the ground? Looking back, what was the single best decision you made when setting up your business?
The single best decision I’ve made is to actually get the label off the ground. It’s as simple as that; Life since the start up has been fantastic and because I spent a lot of my time at gigs, festivals or watching bands play, then it’s been good fun to. Sure, some of the work’s a bit dry – lets be honest, going to bed at 5am after a label showcase gig and then up at 7am to do the accounts can be a bit hard sometimes!
Similarly, what is the single worst choice you made when getting the label going? What one thing would you tell other to never do?
Like I mentioned earlier, We took on too many bands too quickly; But even having said that, we learnt from the mistake and have developed a better label by learning from it.
Is the business profitable?
Money wise or life experience? It’s a yes on both counts!
At a small label, budgeting is always important. How do you prioritize your promotional budget? If you could only spend money on one thing – say, a radio promotion company, a print media promotion company or advertising, what would you choose? Why?
As a label it is really important to budget, especially at the size and stage we are. We don’t prioritize the budget for a release because it’s all important. It’s like making a cake, if you miss one ingredient out then the cake won’t come out right.
Everything relies on each other, if people don’t hear the track on the radio they won’t get to know about the artist, won’t come to the gig, so won’t buy the EP. In the same way, we can spend the budget on radio, but
what about people who don’t listen to the radio too much?
We do pretty much everything in house; we’ve built the links with DJs so that cuts out having to use other companies.
How important do you think it is for bands to promote themselves on the internet? Do you think things like MySpace; YouTube can take the place of more traditional promotion routes?
In a word, yes. It’s really important bands promote themselves; otherwise people won’t get to hear the new music so you could have the best music in the world but without anyone hearing it, then time has been wasted recording it.
I think MySpace and FaceBook and YouTube are growing and becoming a really important tool in the arsenal that bands and artists can use. I think that more ‘traditional’ methods are still really important, like hitting the gig and circuit, and you need to keep a balance between the traditional and the new wave of social networking.
Although we have seen a brilliant little innovation over recent years now that internet connection speeds and becoming quicker and quicker. We’ve worked with venues that stream the gig live over the internet which is pretty amazing.
What should a small label look for in an artist? Are there any financial arrangements small labels should avoid making with artists – and of course, if so, what are they?
Really that would depend on the label. From Red Monster Records point of view we’re always on the lookout for someone willing to work hard, have fun, try anything and just enjoy the ride. Obviously we’re looking for great music to!
Financially I think that labels and bands need to be on the level with each other all the time, if everyone understands everything then that can help break down a few barriers.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
We’re working on a massive project at the moment, so hopefully we’ll have it all up and running soon. Obviously I don’t want to say too much, but we’re looking at a way of developing a website which brings bands, labels and promoters all together and help acts ‘Get Recognised’. But my main focus is, and always will be, my label.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur looking to start their own record label?
The economy is obviously a big issue for lots of businesses in the UK. For us though we’ve been really lucky; people still want to go out for a night and forget the world, enjoy the music and have a blast. We’ve been able to provide this through our gigs and because of the quality of artists that we work with then sales of EP’s and albums have been really encouraging!
Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us about your future plans?
Business wise then we’ll keep developing the label and keep putting out great music. We’re working hard at what we love and hopefully we can keep building on the successes that we’ve seen and keep learning the lessons from the setbacks.
Personally I’d like to finish my degree here at Birmingham City, going for a 1st class, or 2:1, and build my career in the music industry.
Thanks for your time and i wish you the best in the future.