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Record label A&R & sync licensing management

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Our sync licensing agency

A trusted source for Music Supervisors. 

Here’s a small selection of recent projects and sync licensing placements with various companies including Netflix, YouTube Originals, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Vice and Universal Pictures. 

We work closely with a host of record labels, both big and small providing representation on either a non-exclusive or exclusive basis. We only take a fixed commission of either 20 or 25% on the sync fee only.

We’ve created streamlined tools to manage your masters and their rights information, so onboarding and working with us is simple. We are always interested in hearing from labels across all genres for our projects, please do get in touch to discuss.

Georgia Box is a Music Gateway independent pop artist, shown sitting on a kitchen worktop listening to the radio
Recent work by Music Gateway

Catalogue management

Manage all of your master recordings (Wav files) and label assets securely in one solution. Manage everything from individual accounts or within our client-branded private network solution allowing teams to collaborate in the cloud 247 from any location, with the flexibility to manage your roster, creators and suppliers within one system.

Pitching music to clients and music supervisors is a breeze with our professional playlist pitching tool which includes high-quality audio and video streaming and user management controls for customisation.

Metadata and rights management are all handled within your private account database. You can assign song data (works) to files and add ID3 metadata information into your mp3 files. Our inclusive audio library search tool gives you full flexibility to manage your audio and add files to the integrated playlist creator, streamlining the whole curation process.

To discuss our solutions and or book a demo, simply get in touch below.

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Film & TV Placements

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Music Licensing Showcase


Our expansive catalogue of independent artists and tracks allows us to provide options for almost any brief and has given us the pleasure of licensing music to some of the most exciting productions across TV and Film.

New Balance

The Autumn/Winter 2020 range by New Balance for Kids Korea collaborated with Anthony Browne clothing to introduce a limited edition line of apparel.

This music-driven campaign required an upbeat popular production and catchy topline suitable for children that could also be re-recorded with children’s vocals.

Bamtone’s “Win The Day” had the perfect fun and youthful energy which the songwriters Scott Horton and Briand Melanson composed. Happy to collaborate with the creative team at New Balance and re-imagine the track with fun children’s vocals, the official song was appropriately re-recorded and released as “Dream Song”.

The Loss Adjuster

Pink Flamingo Films Christmas time black comedy film “The Loss Adjuster” stars Luke Goss, Joan Collins and Kym Marsh.

Hapless insurance loss adjuster Martin Dyer feels his life is spiralling out of control but discovers that even when you reach rock bottom, that some clouds really do have a silver lining. All music treatment for The Loss Adjuster was passionately curated by Music Gateway’s in-house Music Supervision and Sync Team.

Including the official theme song of the film “A Christmas Wish” by Beverley Knight, a modern Christmas bop with a classical feel.

Uniform Wares

UK-based watch brand Uniform Wares, known for their British design and Swiss craft geared up to unveil their new selection of watches through an online campaign.

Their vision was to create an advert that represents their modern and minimalist style and required a track to capture the attention of a young, vibrant and mixed audience.

South London-based producer Ch!mes’ ambient mid-tempo Electronic track “Apparent'' with its distinctive vocal chops paired perfectly with Uniform Wares’ campaign and successfully appealing to their target audience.

NCIS: Los Angeles


American TV Network CBS’ ongoing crime drama “NCIS: Los Angeles” starring LL Cool J, Chris O’Donnell and Daniela Ruah follows the Naval Crime Investigation Services team as they take on the toughest cases in LA.

Souluvmuziq’s multi-genre songwriter and producer MadD3E’s uplifting R&B track “Know Me Better” featuring vocalist Bluesforthehorn secured a seamless sync to begin episode 10 of season 11 on a high.

Bulletproof Season 2

Sky One

Sky One Sky One’s action-drama series “Bulletproof” follows undercover police duo and best friends Bishop played by Noel Clarke (Kidulthood, Adulthood) and Pike played by Ashley Walters (Top Boy) as they pair up to take down criminal gangs across Europe in the pursuit of justice. 5ive 9ine is a genre-bending team comprised of U K Rap pioneer Sway Dasafo and Producer Zagor who landed a Sync for the series’ multiple action-packed promotional trailers with their high-intensity Rap track “Born A King”.


Piccadilly Pictures / Netflix Originals

Actress Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus) leads the action-packed Netflix thriller “Close” as a deadly bodyguard hired to protect a troubled heiress. Directed & written by Vicky Jewson.

Working with Music Supervisor Claire Freeman we secured two placements with tracks “Kerbela” from artist Orlando Lanzini and “Middle” from JP.

BROS: After the Screaming Stops

Fulwell 73

BAFTA award winning documentary following the reunion of brothers Matt & Luke Goss from the 80s pop band “Bros”. Watch how their journey to resolve past issues & deliver long-awaited shows at sold-out London O2 Arena gigs.

We secured a sync for Jess & James 60’s pop track “Move” through working directly with established Music Supervisor, Michelle De Vries.

The Terror


Ridley Scott’s “The Terror” airing on AMC is a 10-part horror anthology series based on the bestselling novel by Dan Simmons.

With a catalogue full of nostalgic & vintage tracks suitable for period dramas, working with music supervisor Natasha Duprey we placed “Candy” by Jack Kluger & Jay Clever and his Orchestra.

The Capture


The BBC drama “The Capture” was a huge hit. A 6-part mini-series about a persistent young detective who begins to discover a multi-layered conspiracy when handling the case of a British soldier who is charged with murder.

We placed a techno track for a specific club scene through Music Supervisor Michelle De Vries for this brief, which featured producer Politis’ track “Gravity” within the fifth episode.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Amazon Prime Original

“The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” is an Amazon original comedy/drama set in 1950s Manhattan following the life of Miriam “Midge” Maisel who is refinding purpose through stand up comedy after her husband leaves her for another woman.

We secured a sync for artist Lily Chao, whose track “Picking Tea Leaves and Catching Butterflies” was placed by Reel Music’s Robin Urdang.


Portobello Productions

“Moffie”, 2019 London Film Festival’s Best Film category nominee is a British South African LGBT biographical war drama written & directed by Oliver Hermanus. The film is based on an autobiographical novel by Andre Carl van der Merwe.

Working with Music Supervisor Jack Sidey led to us securing 4 amazing sync placements by 3 separate artists for this film including artists Denny Leroux, Structure and Steve Swindells.


Sony Pictures / Netflix Originals

Critically acclaimed Netflix Original series “Bloodline” is a drama/thriller based in the Florida Keys following the well-off Rayburn family (Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini) who has a dark past which slowly unravels leading to an uncertain future.

A sync placement was secured for the final season with “Never Been Good at Goodbyes” by Mike Goudreau & The Boppin’ Blues Band by experienced US Music Supervisor Mark Wike.

American Soul


Biographical drama “American Soul” is a series on BET based on the ambitious story of Soul Train show creator and host Don Cornelius. Set in 1970’s Los Angeles, this is a series filled with iconic music, dancing & fashion.

We secured 60s soul group Bud Ross & Pals with their lively track “Do Your Own Thing” working directly with Music Supervisor, Ashley Neumeister.

Ashes In The Snow

Sorrento Productions / Lithuania's Tauras Films

“Ashes In The Snow” is a historical drama film based on true events starring Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl) & Sophie Cookson (Kingsman: The Secret Service). Set in 1941 during Stalin’s brutal dismantling of the Baltic region, Lina, a young aspiring artist and her family get deported to Siberia.

Our trailer placement was via LA advertising agency Soda Creative syncing independent artist NEVERGONE’s track “Motion”.


Universal Pictures

Def Jam signed artist & dancer Teyana Taylor stars in Universal Pictures’ “Honey: Rise Up and Dance”. Skyler joins a dance crew to compete for a college scholarship. Discouraged by her family & friends, she tirelessly practices amongst Atlanta’s underground dance scene.

Singer, Songwriter Tyler Shamy scored a major sync with “Work You Out” performed by Spencer Sutherland. Thanks to established Music Supervisor, Adele Ho.

Little Drummer Girl


An amazing 6-part BBC mini-series “The Little Drummer Girl” is based on John Le Carre’s best-selling novel. Actress and idealist Charlie gets drawn into high-stakes espionage. Starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgard & Michael Shannon.

Working with Air-Edel music supervisor Matt Biffa, we secured three sync placements for authentic Greek copyright music productions played during the opening scenes set in Greece.

Private Eyes

ION Television

eOne Entertainment’s “Private Eyes” is a crime-solving comedy/drama TV Series based in Toronto, Canada. It follows an ex-hockey player and private investigator who form an unlikely partnership.

The soulful R&B track “You Wreck Me” by Artists Kaki & Eddy Smith was placed in the opening scene of EP 9,, S3 through Canadian Music Supervisor, Dondrea Erauw.

Girlfriends Guide To Divorce

Bravo / NBC Universal

Produced by NBC Universal “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce” is a TV series following a self-help book author who is recently separated and is navigating her life in Los Angeles as a single woman in her 40s.

Working with NBC in-house music supervisor Kerri Drootin, we secured a sync licensefor Artist Sounds Like Moving’s track “Away”.

Friends From College

Stoller Global Solutions / Netflix Originals

Netflix original comedy series “Friends From College” stars Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele, Keanu) & Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Avengers). Experiencing nostalgia from their time at Harvard together, a group of friends try to manage their complicated lives whilst entering their 40s.

Music Supervisor Manish Ravel licensed a selection of Polish club music frok us for a nightclub scene featuring Weekend’s tracks “Ona Tanczy Dla Mnie” & “Dalem Ci Kwiaty”.

Destination Dewsbury


British Indie comedy film “Destination: Dewsbury” based almost entirely in West Yorkshire, follows 4 old friends on a mission to see their dying friend Frank for the very last time. The BBC reported that this made director Jack Spring the youngest feature film director at the time.

A song sync opportunity within the trailer was secured here through Music Supervisor Will Smith using rock band The Great Cynics’ energising track “Whatever You Want”.

Music Licensing

Music Licensing

New Balance

New Balance

Loss Adjuster

Loss Adjuster

Uniform Wares

Uniform Wares

NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles

Bulletproof 2

Bulletproof 2





The Terror

The Terror

The Capture

The Capture

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel





American Soul

American Soul

Ashes In The Snow

Ashes In The Snow

Rise Up & Dance

Rise Up & Dance

Little Drummer Girl

Little Drummer Girl

Private Eyes

Private Eyes

Guide To Divorce

Guide To Divorce

Friends From College

Friends From College

Destination Dewsbury

Destination Dewsbury

Remixes, producers & song placements (cuts)

We have a worldwide roster of remixers, producers and songwriters that can work on spec or to budget restrictions. We’ve placed a huge amount of productions in Korea, China, Japan and placements in the States and Europe.

Remixes, producers & song placements (cuts)

Hiring remixers

Work with our creative team and we’ll find you the right remixer based on your brief and A&R requirements.

Music producers

We work at all levels, from Abbey Road productions to smaller budget projects where we will find you the best producer matched to your artist needs.

Songs & toplines (cuts)

We act in a similar way to a music publisher whereby we place songs from professional songwriters that work within our platform. We provide lyricists, topline writers and full songs for placement with artists. 

Get in touch
Manage record label demo submissions
Manage record label demo submissions

Having an effective way of managing the music you receive is key to saving time. Our central tool gives you a branded landing page for submitters to upload and provide their information to you. This reduces inbox clutter and displays he demos in an easy one-click play format where you can shortlist and manage as you desire.

It’s the age-old needle in a haystack scenario that’s the issue, this solution takes the pain out of the process and helps the cream rise to the top. 

Get in touch



Who Are Record Labels & Record Companies?

Record labels, the traditional holy grail of the music industry. For artists, signing a record deal was like winning a golden ticket, the key to success and proof that you’d “made it”. Traditionally record labels were these huge, pop-producing powerhouses that took unknown performers, made them over and presented them on Top of the Pops. 

Over the past 50 years, however, with the rise of subcultural movements and the emergence of new genres, there’s been a shift. Thus began the age of the indie label, whose artists signified cultural change, creative freedom and underdogs. 

But now we’re entering into again another shift, the digital age has enabled unsigned artists to market themselves and connect with their fans through freely-accessible platforms like Youtube, Soundcloud and social media. Record labels of all sizes are having to rethink their approach to music production and promotion in order to stay ahead, especially when record sales are drastically falling.

So who are record labels and what do they do? What can they do for you as an artist that you can’t do independently? Read ahead as we’re going to examine every element of a record label, major and independent.

What Do Record Labels Do?

Record labels are responsible for marketing music and music videos by artists signed to their label to encourage sales. They are often also music publishers, and therefore must protect the copyrights of their artists, and act as distributors. Record labels often operate as groups, with sub-labels being owned by a parent company.

There are many functions and job roles in a record company. Traditionally they scout new talent and give them the direction and tools to turn them into recording artists, as well as developing their skills and aiding publicity to ensure they continue to grow in their careers. Record labels, dependent upon the nature of the contract, take a lot of the legal responsibilities away from an artist so they can focus on their music and performing. 

The breadth of a record label’s resources is largely dependent upon their status as a major label, or and an independent.

Major vs Independent Record Labels

What differentiates major and indie labels? Well, a major label is defined by its high proportion of the market share in the music industry and an independent one operates without the financial backing of major labels. There are three majors who have dominated the market for years and who remained the top record labels in 2018; the Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. In 2017, independents saw a huge rise in their combined market share, accounting for 29.88% of the sector collectively.


The majors are the old dogs of the business; they have huge, global networks and resources, as well as significant financial power to help promote their artists. Major record labels have been responsible for the success of some of the biggest recording artists in history such as Whitney Housten and Micheal Jackson. 

Majors are driven by commercial success and channel their artists towards popular music for the mass market. Their reputations and history of successful artists mean they hold influence within the music industry, doors are open to acts under the wing of major labels and opportunities to work with them are highly sought after. Big artists can be desirable for promotional purposes for fashion designers and consumer products alike, as they are branded style icons and are in the public eye. 

Major record labels have huge teams to back their artists and manage a lot of the business elements of music making. Typically they will have top managers, producers, songwriters, session musicians, publicists, stylists, photographers, radio pluggers and more behind an artist to ensure their success and mass public reach. As their goal is to produce high-selling, popular artists, they market their acts in a way they feel will connect with contemporary popular culture.

There are downsides to being signed by a major record label, however. To appeal to the mass market, the artist typically has little control over their art, instead of recording the work of songwriters and producers with proven ability to write number-one tracks. Unless the artist is known for having incredible songwriting skills, it’s likely someone else will be responsible for the composition of their songs. Even Adele, one of the most celebrated songwriters of the 21st century, collaborated with top producers and songwriters when writing her best-selling album 21.

Typically artists are given an advance to live by the label on whilst they are recording an album. Upon release of this, the advance must be paid back to the label in the form of sales and royalty payments. The artist won’t see any income from their music until their advance has been paid off. If an artist fails to sell enough records then they are in the debt of the label. There have been many a tale throughout the history of the music industry of artists being swindled by record companies who take a large proportion of the revenue generated by the artist’s success. Claims to the copyright of compositions, shares of publishing rights and fees of managers, publicists and legal departments all add up, often leaving the artist with little income unless they reach great success. 

The reason the three majors labels dominate the industry as vastly as they do is that they own, or part-own, a number of sub-labels and subsidiaries. For example, the Universal Music Group owns record labels all over the world, contributing to a net worth of $22 billion in 2017.

Independents (Indies)

The alternative to a major label is an independent one. Independents rose to fame and success towards the end of the 1970s with the subculture movements of punk, new wave, indie rock and grunge. They have always been closely tied to cutting-edge music scenes and cultural movements. 

In the 80s, the biggest independent record labels were often run by mavericks with no regard for the traditional conventions of the industry, but simply a love of good music and a desire to help promote it. Indie records produced some of the most iconic rock bands in history, such as Nirvana, Joy Division and The Smiths. 

Independent labels have reputations for offering more nurturing environments for their artists; focusing on development, their art and career longevity. Independent labels may not have the same financial backing or the vast expanse of resources that the majors do, but this doesn’t stop them from producing commercially successful artists, such as the Arctic Monkeys at Domino Records.

Independent labels are often formed in a response to the underrepresentation of a musical genre. As majors sign artists whose music fits within the realm of popular music, independents sign those who don’t. Some music scenes aren’t motivated by commercial success, but a preservation of their art. Independent labels can be much more niche in the rosters.

Independent record labels have traditionally responded more effectively to cultural movements and changes to the industry than majors. Without such restrictive structures or traditional conventions as the majors, they adapt more effectively to changing times. The digital era, for example, it suddenly allowed independent artists to engage with their fans and promote their music for free, levelling the playing field between them and the majors. Thanks to the everyday use of the internet and social media by millions across the planet, independent labels have been able to compete with majors like never before. 

No matter the scale of a record label, or their approach to music promotion, traditional roles will exist within the company. For independents, the roles may be slightly blurred and staff taking on more than one role within their operations.


Each band signed to a record label will generally have a manager. If it’s an independent label with a small team, the team may collectively act as the band’s management. A manager’s role is to guide the artist through their career in music, advising them on recording contracts, business decisions, press and touring. Depending on the scale of the band’s success and their wider team, a managers role could encompass more responsibilities or less. 

The manager should always have the best interests of the artist at heart. They should manage their act carefully to ensure long and successful careers. For emerging acts, managers can sometimes feel like an unofficial extra member, there for every step of the creative process and stimulating good relationships with their fans.

A manager will generally oversee the business side of music making, allowing the band to concentrate on the music. Managers should help their artists get in the room with record labels, producers, members of the press and other influential players who could assist in the advancement of their careers. 

Artists and their management often form close relationships after long hours of working together and through successes in their careers. Managers can be more of a friend than an employee and sometimes offer personal advice as well as business, to ensure the wellbeing of the artist.

In return for their services, managers generally take a cut of the band’s revenue as payment for their services. As an artist becomes more successful and brings in more revenue, the manager’s income should increase too.


This is the team responsible for finding new talent and nurturing its development. A&R stands for ‘artists and repertoire’ and is a key department within labels. The role itself of A&Rs has drastically changed however due to the internet. Once upon a time, playing shows was the only way bands and artists could engage with their fans and widen their fan bases. Record labels looking for artists would send out their A&R teams to local shows and venues looking for potential stars. If you were picked up by an A&R rep and signed, then you could really start to generate interest and sell records. The acquisition of new talent was vitally important to the success of record companies

The internet has broken down the barriers between musicians and fans, making it easier than ever to find talent. Fewer acts are being signed to labels now and A&Rs have had to adapt to survive. A&R departments are now smaller and jobs can comprise of more responsibilities as the role evolves to compete within the digital era. It’s commonplace for A&Rs to work independently whilst also working other roles within the industry and to carry the band further than they would traditionally. 


This is where record labels have traditionally made careers. It’s not enough to produce good music if no one’s going to hear it, it must be marketed and promoted correctly to generate revenue. This can involve multiple teams and where a major labels wealth and resources can really come in handy. 

Teams of marketers will produce artwork, merchandise and advertising material to promote your music in a way that’s reflective of your musical persona or identity, curated by your management team. Then it’s down to promotional teams to push your music onto online streaming playlists, radio playlists and put your name forward for festival lineups and support gigs. Next, it’s down to sales representatives who lobby for retailers to supply your records. There’s no use going to all the effort of promoting your music and getting you on the radio if no one can purchase your music. 

Music promotion is not only vital when releasing records, but when going on tour it has to be marketed if you want to sell any tickets. Touring is expensive and as an artist, or artist’s management, you have to be sure it’s going to be financially lucrative. Promotion is essential in the cities along the touring schedule, often a local promoter will be employed externally to the label to help increase ticket sales.

The internet has, of course, changed the way music is promoted in the 21st century. It’s now more cost effective to promote shows with weekly, local ads on Facebook than to advertise tour schedules in magazines. Independent labels can coach their artists on how to effectively use social media channels to maintain a marketable image and engage with their fans. Within an age of vast sharing of information, promoting music can be cost-effective, targeted and highly effective. 

Independents have made effective use of the power of the internet when it comes to music promotion, saving their precious funds for other business elements. Majors have been slower to respond to the popularity of digital media and are suffering for it. 


Publicity is an element of promotion. Publicity involves getting the press and public talking about your product, ie your music, by placing it somewhere it can generate conversation. For example, getting a review of your album in a magazine is publicity because someone is talking about it, getting an advert in a magazine is promotion. 

Publicity is vital as it’s not enough to just get your music showing up on people’s timelines if no one knows anything about it or what it sounds like. Think about it, you’re more likely to see a film at the cinema if it’s got really good reviews from critics, that’s publicity. 

Publicity can be generated through interviews and reviews in magazines, on the radio, on blogs, in videos or any other digital content. In-store signings, live sessions in record stores or pop up performances can be great as well, as it gives your audience a more unique and intimate experience with your music and can broaden your exposure. 

One of the most effective publicity tools that have not changed over time is word of mouth. Fans recommending music to their friends is how many of us find out about new artists, especially as the recommendations come from trusted sources. Now thanks to the internet, the vast sharing of content by fans has meant this form of promotion can reach even more people and span across the world. 

If you’re signed to a major label, your promotional team will work to gain publicity for your music. Independents may employ a PR company to assist in this if they haven’t the staff or feel the external expertise would be beneficial to the artist. If your label is a small one, you can discuss with them potential publicity ideas and even implement some of them yourselves. 

Artist Development

This is another area that has changed within the music industry, as a lot more is expected of artists before they even sign a record deal. The rise of DIY artists has shown just how effectively musicians can handle their own business decisions. Artists looking for recording contracts nowadays are expected to have established a brand and generated a solid fan base before they can be considered for record deals. Major labels are having to reconsider their approach to sourcing new talent and some departments are struggling to keep up with the changes in the recording industry.

Traditionally, artist development involved focusing and perfecting an artist’s skills. It meant constant practice, business coaching, more time in the studio and growing your audience. It was all about ensuring your career had longevity. It used to be driven by departments of labels but now it’s largely down to the artist. 

For independent labels, this hasn’t changed their methods too drastically as they have always offered more nurturing approaches to their artists and want to see them progress. With major labels now, the focus is on ‘product development’ rather than artist development. As they’re challenged by indie labels and independent artists, their focus is on record sales and revenue. They want music that is successful commercially, so the focus is more on the product rather than the one making it. 

Whether you’re a signed artist or not, this area of your musical development will largely be your responsibility. If you’re set on having a successful and fulfilling music career, then your personal drive should motivate you to perfect your skills and keep advancing in your career. If you want it, work hard and fight for it.

Sales & Distribution

It’s no secret that record sales have been falling for years now, 1999 is said to be the peak year for global record sales but have been falling ever since. With the introduction of streaming services and internet radio now, however, they are plummeting further still. Sales can include any kind of merchandise; albums, singles, music videos and merchandise. The decline in record sales, costing musicians their traditional income, has meant that recording artists now rely heavily on touring and other merchandise sales to generate their income. 

Record labels will take care of the distribution of your music for you, whether you decide to do so solely online or physically as well. Distribution isn’t just CDs in stores anymore, it also means getting your music on every online streaming/radio service you can, making your music available everywhere. Distribution is correspondent to sales, you’re not going to sell your music if no one can access it. That being said, you have to be realistic and think carefully about where you place your music and if it’s cost-effective to print CDs and vinyl.

Major labels have whole departments dedicated to sales, pushing for records to be sold by retailers and checking up on their accounts. As majors generally have long-standing relationships with manufacturers and distributors, or even their own distribution company, this area is managed by the label. Indie labels don’t have the resources available to do this, but may instead have a deal with an independent distributor to place their artist’s records in stores and online across the globe. Depending on the size of your label as an independent, the artist may be more or less involved in this process. 


As many of you surely know, there’s a lot of legal work that goes into releasing music to do with rights agreements. It can be difficult to get your head around and difficult to protect. When you’re signed to a label this is one area they should be able to assist you in or even take off your hands altogether. 

Majors will completely take this off their artists hands, ensuring all deserving royalties are paid and work is registered with all the relevant performing rights bodies globally, as well as intervening when the artist’s copyright is threatened. When playing shows, discussing promotional deals and dividing compositional, master and publishing rights, their legal team will be there to arrange and oversee proceedings. 

Independents can operate differently depending on their size and resources within their team. They might have a legal department or employ a solicitor to manage their legal work. Whatever the case, if there’s a legal issue regarding your music, your label will be there to support, advise and back you up. If you have taken the independent route, it always pays to be aware of music business intricacies and a basic understanding of copyright law. 

Record Label Disputes

Sometimes, more commonly with major labels than with independents, legal disputes can erupt and catch the public eye. One of the most famous disputes of the last 50 years is, of course, Prince and Warner Bros.

After feeling the constraints of his label in regard to releasing music when he wanted and outside of the standard recording/releasing cycle, Prince legally changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to escape his recording contract. He was then referred to as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ and his record sales suffered for it. He did, however, go on to release more music independently and was a pioneer for releasing music via online services.

He famously compared recording contracts to “slavery”, fuelling the reputation of controlling and rigid mechanisms used by major labels such as Island Records, Atlantic Records and Universal Music.

360 Deals: Be Warned

One of the latest back-breaking deals facing artists today is 360 deals. These are a direct result of the decline or record sales and an attempt by record labels to tap into every element of an artists revenue and success in order to make money. 

Before the plummeting of record sales, it was standard practice that record labels would pay their artists’ small royalties for the commercial success of their records, however, the artist would retain the revenue generated from touring, merchandise, endorsements and other activities within the entertainment industry. Since the decline in sales however and the low-return from online streaming services, record labels are pushing for 360 deals in order to monetise on other elements that would usually belong to the artist. Labels argue that without their assistance and marketing, the artist would not benefit from these extra branches of income. 

In some cases, this logic seems fair. When labels have put up considerable advances for musicians, placing them with top producers and cultivating their brand, it makes sense but can be negotiated to protect the interests of the artist. However, a number of labels, publishing companies etc, are demanding compliance with these kinds of deals, having done nothing in the way of production, promotion or financial backing. 

If you get to stage in your career where a record deal is being discussed, make sure you seek legal advice to ensure you’re not swindled out of your rights and the rewards of all of your hard work. Make sure you understand exactly what kind of deal you’re entering into, and what that deal, that company, is going to do to advance your career. It’s easier than ever now to release music independently and there are so many other labels out there. Really consider if this is the best deal for you and how can it work in your favour.

FAQ Section

Q: What does a CEO of a record label do?

A music executive or record executive (CEO) is a person within a record label who works in senior management, making executive decisions over the record label’ (company) decisions. These decisions will affect the artists signed to the label, as in many cases, these decisions will affect the resource,   and direction of the company. There can only be one CEO per company, supported by music executives working across the various departments, both in larger independent record labels and major record labels, such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and BMG.

Q: How much does it cost to trademark a record label?

If you want to file for a trademark for your brand name or logo, you can fill out a trademark application online with the US Patent and Trademark Office or online in the UK and Europe.. The cost of the application fee is between $275 and $325 in the US and £250 upwards in the UK.

Q: What do labels do for artists?

Record labels are specifically designed to acquire the master rights of recordings and or pay for the recordings and music videos of their artists and label roster. This investment and financial funding are normally recoupable against sales and other revenue aligned to each artist. It’s common for larger companies to also have a music publishing arm of the business, which can be offered as part of a signing deal, but that can have its pros and cons. A record label is responsible for coordinating the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of the recording master copyright and music videos, as well as also conducting A&R to talent scout and develop new artists to sign.

Q: What are Independent Record Labels

Independent record labels are small companies called indie or boutique labels. They are generally not affiliated with or funded by any of the major records labels, such as Universal Music Group, Sony, Warners or BMG. Indie labels tend to work with other indie companies for distribution and music publishing. A lot of artists and bands consider boutique and indie labels as more artist-friendly and tend to have a more focused, smaller roster, a bit like a family, whereas if you were signed to Sony, for example, you can be a small cog in a huge artist wheel. Two of the largest independent labels is Beggers Group (Adele) and PIAS. 

Q: What are major record labels?

Major record labels also known as just majors are large international corporations that often operate under the control of a corporate umbrella called a music group. They operate their own music distribution services and music publishing companies within the business. Major record labels have good levels of resource across the depts and access to high levels of funded. For major artists, they invest big financial budgets for marketing, production, touring, and overall promotion of their acts. They also have a long-lasting network of established connections and influence in the music industry, backed up by hit legacy recordings and copyrights they own. 

There are currently three major record labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group but many consider BMG as the fourth. The majors invest and own a lot of sub-labels and brands.

Q: What are the positions in a record label?

Here is a list of record label job titles and descriptions

  • Music executive – A record label’s executive positions include president, vice president and director
  • Artist and Repertoire (A&R) is the department that discovers and signs new talent and works creatively with the signed artists on the roster
  • Label Manager – Who is responsible for the overall general operations of the business. For smaller indie labels, the manager could well where may hats including, sales, marketing, A&R, legal and design.
  • Public Relations (PR) is responsible for acquiring press and media coverage on the artist’s activities, releases and news
  • Marketing & promotions manager who is responsible for all aspects of promoting the label’s releases, which may include radio promotion, social media, streaming and advertising
  • Designer – this is normally outsourced, however, larger companies will have in-house graphic designers
  • Head of legal – responsible for all things legal-based, including signing, licensing deals and long-form contracts
  • Sales – responsible for all aspects of exploiting the records

Q: How much does it cost to start a record label?

It doesn’t cost a huge amount to set up a record label, however, it does cost money to run a label successfully, to enable artists to trust the company enough to sign their recording rights to them. Starting a small scale record label, simply require you to set up a standard company, brand and name. You will need to create a business plan, which outlines what you will do for your artists, including distribution, sales, promotions, marketing and funding of the artist’s recordings (advances). 

Work out who is going to run the label is this yourself, how will you live before any revenue is generated. A lot of labels start from a base point of a recording studio, so that reduces any costs of advances and recording the music, this could be part of your business plan, as an example in the states, you could expect to require twenty thousand dollars to fifty thousand dollars ($10,000 to $50,000) to get the ball rolling properly.

Q: Does a record label need a business license?

You can run a record label from your own home, and as self-employed or sole trader basis. However, most people would create a limited company, which offers protection to its owners, but it’s not mandatory.

It’s best to seek legal advice from a lawyer,  attorney or accountant to determine the right structure for your business.


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