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Think of a music world without Motown, Atlantic, Verve, Island, Elektra, Sire, Chrysalis, Virgin, Rough Trade, Mute, Def Jam, 4AD, Sub Pop, ECM, World Circuit, Domino, Bella Union, to name but a few…

These labels have all made a significant mark in the popular culture of the 20th Century. They are trusted brands. Their strong image is backed by impeccable artistic credentials. Their heritage is huge, and (at least at their beginning) they all abided by the independent ethos, financially and creatively.

One thing that links them all is that they can all be identified to one specific individual – Atlantic/Ahmet Ertegun, Verve/Norman Granz, Island/Chris Blackwell, ECM/Manfred Eicher, Domino/Laurence Bell…

To start with, none of the entrepreneurs who started some of the best-known labels of the past 50 years had millions in the bank and a good understanding of how things worked. It all happened organically.

But could the same success stories be replicated today? Is there a new generation of entrepreneurs ready to carry on the flag of independence?

To feed the debate, we have asked a series of “elders”, who have all started independent labels at some point in their career, to share their experiences. Their recommendations can be read in full below, and we have tried to sum them by putting them into “The 10 Commandments” (or shall we say the 10 “rules of engagement”?) for aspiring music entrepreneurs.

Click here for the 10 commandments in full, with input from Merlin’s Bob Frank, The Orchard’s Richard Gottehrer, PIAS’ Michel Lambot, Beggars’ Group’s Martin Mills & many more (email required).


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