How To: Set Up Your Own Label Like Tough Love

A lot of artists are looking at setting up their own label to keep creative control and to help other similar artists, but it can be a tough road. Luckily, Tough Love have given us some insider info on setting up your own label just as they had done with their label ‘Get Twisted’.

With an amazing debut single ‘So Freakin’ Tight’, a string of live shows, a super talented roster and an exciting sophomore single ‘Pony (Jump On It)’ on the way, we couldn’t think of any other duo more qualified to impart some words of wisdom!

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What inspired you to get into music?

Alex: We both grew up in musical families. My mum was a dancer and my dad was in a rock band and ran a small independent label. I was exposed to it from a really early age.

Stef: My mum was a singer in Ireland and I got into DJ quite young at about 13 and moved into music production. I released my first vinyl independently in 2001. I sold 15,000 copies by hand, which was pretty impressive in those days.

What made you decide to set up your own record label ‘Get Twisted’?

Alex: Most artists face a similar struggle when you first start out. You make a list of these labels that you think your music will fit with. Our contact base was non-existent and we had some really good records that just didn’t get signed. We decided to set up the label, not only to support our own music but also other artists that we were supporting that we liked their records and that mightn’t have been looked after the way they should have been. We opened the label in 2011 and didn’t start trading until 2012. We also ran events at the time called Twisted Disco, so they all sort of blended.

How do you choose who and what to sign to your label?

Stef: Demo submissions are hard to sift through and find. We have high expectations and even if the quality is high, it has to be something we can support as both Get Twisted and Tough Love because the label is the extension of our sound. If we can’t play and promote it, there’s no point in signing those records. The ones that we do sign are very much what we’d like to make ourselves or play. We always listen to them for a while before signing, maybe for a week or two. Then we give them feedback and help A&R tweak them.

Do you find it difficult to be critical of your own music?

Alex: We always try our music out a couple of times, we can listen to it ourselves and then if we need to perfect it we can always manipulate it and edit it and go back to the drawing board. Most of the time we experiment with the record and play them.

Stef: People are a bit too nit-picky with their own music and they get this thing we call ‘demoitis’ where they are like chugging through the record and by the time you finish it you lose the whole element of what the record was about in the first place. Most of the time we do it stage by stage, we have some records about two years old that still haven’t been finalised. We’ll always hold onto a record until its ready.

Alex: Timing is critical. You can have a great record and if you release it too early, it’s completely wasted.

Stef: We believe it works in a “Law of Three”. By the third single, people should know your brand and are more likely to have a proper listen. We are fortunate enough to be able to hammer our own music in our own set, which set us a part form a lot of other DJs. When you’d come see us, you’d see music that no one else has. Most other DJs would be playing the Top 100 Beatport tracks and that gave us an advantage when we kicked off.

If you had to pick, would you choose to be Tough Love or Twisted Records?

Alex: I’ve fallen in love with label. We had always dreamed of having like a 360 hub with publishing, label, management and that’s pretty much happened now.

I love it when you get a success story find someone from nowhere and you manage to build them up to a top 40 hit off the back of it.

Stef: Some acts who have a label, establish themselves an act and then everyone else is underneath them, whereas we want to find artists that are apart of our label that are global superstars. If we hit a roof, and that’s on purpose, we’d love to have other acts that we can keep propelling into the stratosphere.

What’s the most difficult thing about being an artist and running a record label?

Both [together]: TIME!

Stef: Definitely time. Time management is tough. We have our residency, shows, commitments to press, and gearing up to our single release and then listening to demos, plugging new singles, setting things up with management. The schedule for Get Twisted is tough.

Alex: We really need to perfect our schedule and get our time management down. For example, Mondays we might do our radio show and get admin out of the way before we get to the back end of the week, which is mostly touring.

What advice would you give someone looking to set up their own label?

Alex: Do research first and find a little niche. Discover your sound and direction. Understand business side and speak to distributors. There’s a lot of politics involved in the back of it. Also, you need to make sure you can at least cover your costs. It’s not common to have financial gain straight away and setting up your own label can be very expensive.

Stef: You need to make sure your branding is right and that you get in with the right people too.

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You’ve collaborated with Ginuwine on ‘Pony (Jump On It)’. How important is collaboration between artists?

Stef: Collaboration is great. Fanbases amalgamate and build both fan bases… sometimes.

Alex: It’s important to be open-minded. Some people are like “I make dance. I’ll only work with dance people” and that’s quite narrow-minded. It’s important to tap into other markets to look at the creative process, to see what the public like and what you do or don’t like. Eventually that’s what it comes down to.

Stef: You have to push boundaries. Get elements of other sounds. Other genres are filtering in at the moment such as trance music and trap music, it comes from dance or hip-hop or R&B and then it just starts its own little scene. You never know what’s going to happen

What advice would you give an artist looking to get discovered?

Stef: Social media seems to be the way. Soundcloud is really big at the moment.

Alex: It’s all about trying to get the right people playing your music. One of the ways the people get things wrong is through demo submission, we get so many demos that are sent to so many other labels on cc and it’s just like “here’s my demo”. As soon as a label sees other labels on cc, they are going to delete it. You need to work out the labels you like and they fit your sound. Make the label feel special and tell them why you like the label, why you’d be a good fit, “this is my journey” etc. but keep it short and snappy.

What would you say are your career highlights so far?

Alex: ‘So Freaking Tight’ is about to go silver, which we didn’t think we could ever imagine.

Stef: We did sit down with management two years and say this record has something because we could see the response first hand when we were playing it and you know in your heart that something has clicked.

Alex: Also, the people. The friends we made and the journey is more important than financial gain. All these people, like Ginuwine and Roger Sanchez are on the same touring schedule.

Stef: It’s also amazing to see all these people that were so small to begin with and to see them do their thing. To see these people who were pioneering a particular scene are getting the props they deserve is really great.

For more artist advice, check out Example or Ellie Goulding’s experiences of getting into the industry. If you want a little more label related guidance, here’s a look inside a record company.

Check out the video for ‘Pony (Jump On It)’ below:

New single, ‘Pony (Jump On It)’ ft Ginuwine out August 7.