The Single Life Is Not For Me

I’m sorry,” says the bloke from the royalties collection company, finger poised over the button marked Record Call For Training Purposes: Dealing With Lunatics With The Business Sense Of A Crack-Addled Icelandic Banker. “You’re starting the label to put out how many songs?”

“Just the one,” says my representative, with the shifty embarrassment of Gary Glitter’s legal defence team. “Does the system allow for that?”

I can’t blame the man from PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited, since you ask) for doubting my sanity. Clamouring for air from beneath the mountain of paperwork, contracts, invoices, lottery tickets and Dragons’ Den application forms it’s taken for me to launch Year Zero Recordings, I think I’ve gone a bit Coolio myself.

I mean, who the hell goes to the trouble of starting a limited company to put out one download track? It’s a project as foolhardy as an ITV2 show called George W Bush’s Iraqi Best Friend.

Nonetheless, by the time you read this, Prego’s single ‘The Longest Calm’ will be rutting the post-pop pants off all major download services and my drunken mission of honour/insanity will be fulfilled.


So now the excitement builds to its release this week – John Kennedy’s on board, howl the radio reports! Nick Grimshaw’s a fan! There’s been a spot play on Radio Suffolk!

And what have I learned from this wild, impetuous ride into the skewed and sordid realm of the independent record label? Well, it’s become clear just how daunting it is for a new label to start up in 2009. If you’re not put off by the major labels droning on about the vast amount of money they’re losing, the hassle you have to put yourself through to lose that money is frankly staggering.

My vision of a few months ago, wherein a new era of bedroom labels flood iTunes with home-recorded albums for as little as £50 a pop, has been revised due to rampant naivety; yes, you can put your music up for sale for next to nothing inside 10 minutes, but if you want to collect one cent of royalties from it you need to register as a member of the music industry revenue collection company PPL.

And that means filling in a membership contract stretching to 50 pages. And that means hiring a lawyer to help you wade through it. And that means setting up a limited company to make you eligible for membership. And that means getting directorship partners, a company secretary, a registered office address and a Justice Of The Peace to witness your application to Companies House. And that means hiring another lawyer to wade through that.

Of course these start-up hassles are all very well if you’re the bastard punk son of Alan Sugar with a business plan that involves a hostile takeover of Geffen. But if you’re Tarquin from Doncaster College Of Art thinking of founding Spunkykeks Records to put out a few mates’ tracks, it’s shockingly discouraging.

Y’see, the music industry structure only allows for major-owned labels and real independents are just not part of the equation. I’ve come to see the music business as a golden-glowing fortress built to protect its dwindling profits, while I’ve felt like desperate vermin having to gnaw its way through the gates to get a nibble of some cheese-flavoured poison.

And once inside, to mix my metaphors, there’s nothing but fattened leeches – producers, pluggers, studios, manufacturers – so used to sucking away their pound of flesh from the industry’s withering carcass that they refuse to acknowledge they’re down to the dry bone.

So as I sit here weighing a great single I put out in one hand against the stack of bills and paperwork in the other, would I do it again? Not in a billion years, I like eating too much. But just as I have faith that Prego will make someone millions, I believe, once the current music industry kingdom has crumbled to rust, the bedroom brigade will rise again.

What I’ve Been Listening To…
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
Exlovers – ‘Photobooth’
Billy Boy On Poison – ‘On My Way’