Dance label Cr2 Records was started in 2004 by Mark Brown, and has since released artsts such as MYNC, Fedde Le Grand, Nile Rogers, Eric Prydz & Steve Angello and Chuckie. They recently celebrated their 10th year in the business, so we sat down with label director Chris and label manager Calvin and asked them to share some of their tips for indie labels.
1) Be passionate about what you do
“It’s definitely a passion industry”, says Calvin. “If you haven’t got a passion or affinity for the music that you’re working with then it’s not going to work.” “Our philosophy has really always been just to sign any music that we’re really enjoying”, explains Chris, “so as long as the track is good and it’s working in club-land we’ll be interested.”
When it comes to A&R it’s important to trust your instinct and sign music you believe in. Chris describes a time when Mark discovered a huge hit: “Mark was DJing every weekend and started playing a B-side on a record he’d picked up. He realized it was massive, so he ended up signing it and turning it into a number one hit (Fedde Le Grand – Put Your Hands Up For Detroit). That’s really A&R at its best.”
2) Be individual
As Calvin says, “No two labels are the same, so the kind of music that you sign, the kind of personality that you are, those are the kinds of things that are going to come across.” The indie market is all about personality and differentiating yourself. “I think we straddle both sides of commercial and underground really well, and I guess that’s something that shapes and makes the label unique”, explains Chris.
3) Diversify your income streams
Cr2 have successfully diversified their income streams in a number of creative ways, including third party partnerships with brands such as Blue Marlin Ibiza and Space Ibiza. “We also established a compilation business called ‘Live & Direct’ around 5 years ago”, explains Chris, “and we’ve grown to be one of the biggest selling compilation brands competing with companies such as Ministry of Sound, Defected, and Ultra Records in America.” They also launched a successful new area of the business last year called ‘Sample Tools by Cr2’, selling bespoke production tool kits in partnership with Beatport.
Sync is obviously another important income stream. “We’ve had quite a number of high profile syncs over the last few years”, says Chris, “including advertising placements for Lloyd’s TSB, Smirnoff, Brahma beer, as well as computer games, film and TV.” As with most aspects of business, this is all about nurturing relationships. “The relationships you build are essential, especially with the video game companies and film studios”, explains Calvin.
4) Create your own rules
“There used to be a step-by-step system of releasing a record”, says Chris. “You would have a 12 week cycle and everything would just slot into place. That doesn’t really work now so we’re constantly tweaking the system to try new things.” One of the main benefits of being an independent label is the ability to make your own rules. As Chris describes, “You can move quickly and make your own decisions, you don’t have to rely on someone else holding the cheque book.”
“In terms of setting up a new label you have to think outside the box and look at what’s available to you, such as YouTube – there’s a marketplace there ready and waiting. I guess that’s the biggest challenge now – being creative and moving with the times and not getting caught up in “this is how it used to be” or “we’re getting hard done by.” You’ve just got to face the facts, move quickly and be creative with the stuff you do.”
5) Evolve with the market
“Access to music, especially when you’re talking about streaming, YouTube, and other internet radio services – those are the areas that a lot of the music industry is putting a lot of time into”, explains Calvin. “You’ve got to stay abreast of the technology and make sure that you’re in a position to be a part of it.”
Awareness of emerging markets is also really important. As Calvin says, “Looking at these territories that we might be a bit cut off from such as Brazil – those are the places that you need to be aware of and make sure that you’re catering for.” “You have to look at the market”, continues Chris. “In the last year we’ve branched out into America, and have also set up in Australia and Brazil. We work with local club promotions companies in each territory and manage it all centrally from here (London) which is working well.”