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Adi Kum & Baby Satan Records: Obstacles, Opportunities & Tips on Starting Your Own Independent Label

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Adi Kum - Baby Satan Records Artist Photo

For many artists today, in order to make a living from their music they have to hustle and do a little (or a lot) of everything. This is especially true when it comes to leading your own record label, as evidenced by Berlin-based artist Adi Kum.

Adi is a musician, concert promoter, and co-founder of the female-led DIY record label Baby Satan Records, a label dedicated to putting power back in the hands of artists.

Adi knows what it takes to help artists succeed and help a label grow as she has her hands in everything from concert promotion to merch to physical/digital distribution to music video production. You name it, Adi does it. Furthermore, she still finds time to record, release and perform music in her two bands, Jealous and Dane Joe.

We recently sat down with Adi to gain insight into what it takes to run a DIY record label, the importance of playlisting, and tips for artists on how to promote their music in the modern landscape.

Baby Satan Records

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2017 Date of creation
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11 Number of artists
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19 Number of releases
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61k Streams
Baby Satan Records By Alex Howard

By Alex Howard

How, when, and why did you start the label?

The label was created about 2 and a half years ago. It started pretty randomly when I was releasing my own album and got asked often if I have a label I’m releasing it with so I decided to write a name of a made-up label on it, half as a joke and half to have a validation I felt was needed. Soon enough people started asking me about it as if it’s a real thing and ironically enough it became real. I used to work in the past as a promoter, as a sound technician, as a booker, and playing shows and DJing so I had some background working with other artists and it was an organic process to get to the point of having a label.

“The main motivation was seeing really talented artists around me struggling with the logistic and practical sides of being musicians.“

I know it doesn't come naturally to everyone, some people are great at creating while others are better at promoting than creating, but I think with the current state of the music industry it’s essential to understand how it works. So I try to get our artists involved as much as possible, especially since some of them are also naturally good at it.

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Are you doing it alone or do you have employees/friends with you on the label?

My best friend Paz joined me after that first release and we’ve been running it together since then. Paz is great with all the visual parts and makes many of our artworks and all of the event posters and videos. We have a similar vision when it comes to music or almost anything else, we try to ignore the idea of what labels are “supposed” to be.

For example, one of the first steps we did as a label was to create a YouTube playlist of things to watch when you’re stoned and made a fantasy list of bands that we would sign. We share a major lack of understanding of how capitalism works or why release numbers have to be chronological. It’s just the two of us, but since our first steps, we were lucky to have a bunch of amazing friends, labels, and venues to collaborate with.

Adi and Paz of Baby Satan Records

What was the first obstacle?

On our first official meeting we just made a list of all of our fears and hesitations, and then we made a list of answers for each one of those. I think we were afraid of not being taken seriously, so being in that zone of taking ourselves seriously, but not TOO seriously sort of helped.

What is your favorite experience with the label or with an artist?

Last year we got to curate a stage at Synästhesie Festival, and also had a series of parties funded by Musicboard. It was great to offer our bands bigger shows and to get to know a bunch of new people through those events. Also we just really love our artists, we know all of them personally and they are all hard-working, creative and sweet people

Tips on Promotion

How do you manage vinyl or CD pressing?

It’s 2021, so obviously, we mainly do cassettes! We got our own machines so it’s very DIY, but when an artist wants to have their release on CD or vinyl - we have a few contacts and we help them with that.

How do you manage the media/press/radio for your artists?

We have zero professional experience with that but we just try to learn as we go.

I make our press releases and send them to a mailing list we have, and we kind of bomb our social media with incoherent but hopefully entertaining content. Some of our artists are pretty good at doing PR themselves and helping with that, and sometimes we get approached by media people who are interested in our artists or events.

Jealous - Lover What's Your Damage Cover Art

Digital Music Distribution

Can you tell us more about digital distribution for artist on Baby Satan?

Since our first release (and way before I started working for iMusician!) we were always releasing digitally via iMusician. The digital music world is constantly evolving and there is a lot to learn, starting from how to build artist profiles or how to submit to playlists, and I’m super keen to know more to pass on to our artists so that they can do it by themselves.

In general, I think that artists often just want to create and have this fear or just a turn-off from everything around distribution or PR, but all the platforms at the moment are made in such an accessible way that I think each artist is able to learn how to do it.

Are playlists important to you?

I’m obsessed with making playlists and listening to playlists, and I often let the Spotify algorithm show me what it thinks I would like. It’s disturbing in many ways but I also enjoy it too much. As for being on major playlists - it could actually be one of the best and free exposure options out there right now.

Where do you listen to artists (Bandcamp, YouTube, Spotify…)?

I like the layout of Bandcamp, and it’s the best way to support smaller bands because you can buy their music directly. But the rest of the time I listen to Spotify and like to exchange playlists with people. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. At the moment I’m into “Slow Burn” which is a great podcast about Watergate, and I often listen to the playlist “Light In The Attic”, which is in my opinion one of the greatest record labels of all time. I watch YouTube sometimes because I love music videos.

What are the top 3 releases you would recommend to people who don't know Baby Satan to check out first?

I'd probably just recommend starting with one of our 3 eclectic Compilations and take it from there, or one of my personal favorites “Avishag Cohen Rodrigues- One Winter, One Hunter” - who is a super talented friend, based in New York.

What tips do you have for artists who are looking for a record label?

I would suggest finding a label that has similar artists (both musically and at a similar stage in their career), send them a release after mixing/mastering stages, write a personal email (not DM in Instagram! haha) and the most important is - not to take it personally if it doesn’t fit or if no one replies. You could always just make your own label instead!

Baby Satan Records at Indie market

"Researching the evolution of record labels and the changes in music consumption would be a good start point if you want to start your own label, so that you can better understand the options available to you, what you are able to offer, and to visualize what could come next. Find a few artists you truly believe in (or your own project), have a solid idea of what the vibe is, and go one step at a time."

How did you start the label (in an administrative way)? Was it an association? If it's a company, what legal status did you chose and why?

To be honest we never registered as a legit business cause we are never really making money. We invested what we sold from tapes back into making more tapes, stickers, or taking part in label markets which were great for exposure in our first year.

Did you start off with physical (cassettes) or digital distribution?

The first release was pressed on vinyl (only 30 copies) by a small company of friends who made them one by one. It was fun to have it made but obviously it was not economical in any way. It was also the first digital release we’ve made.

Adi Kum of Baby Satan Records with a Cassette

Why did you choose iMusician and how has it helped you?

I met a couple of lovely people who were working for iMusican, they knew the label and told me about iMusician's distribution offerings. When we just started, we were wondering how we could get distributed, cause it seemed like we would have to be a solid label in order to work with a distribution company. So releasing via iMusician was way easier than I anticipated distribution would be.

Besides the accessibility, one of my favorite things was the tutorials for how to create an artist profile or how to submit to playlists.

How did you finance the label? What budgeting advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own label? (crowdfunding, investing their own money, investors, start with no money...)

We are super DIY so we always invested whatever we could from our own pockets. Sometimes even the income from our band went straight to the label. Luckily for us, the lo-fi look really suits the general vibe so it’s half intended and half from circumstances.

For our events, we got some support from Musicboard Berlin.

What types of contracts do you sign with your artists and why?

The closest thing we ever did to a contract was when we approached a band (Palm Squirrel) after their gig and asked them if they wanted to be on the label. They said yes and we all licked our palms and had a good handshake, but that was pre-COVID!

We don’t really have contracts, the artists own the rights to their music and they also pay for their own physical copies. We usually pay for the number of copies we want to have with us for sale/giveaway and for digital distribution. Some of our releases were also shared with other labels. We are pretty open and flexible to whatever suits each artist.

Did you get any help on the legal/business stuff or did you learn on the job?

Not really, we just asked some other label owners for advice, listened to some podcasts, and read interviews by labels we liked. I think we came to terms in an early stage that it’s definitely not gonna be an income source. But that’s also why we make events and make T-shirts, it balances out.

Baby Satan Records Compilation Cassette

10 Steps to Create Your Own Record Label

Come up with an idea- name, look, vibe

Make an imaginary list of all the bands (dead or alive) that you would have signed if you had a chance. It helps to visualize what you are looking for.

Collect a few artists around you that are devoted and invested in their work, who represent your vision for the label, and check with them which of your skills could be beneficial to them.

Social media: like most people, I have a hate-love-hate relationship with those platforms but if you use them wisely and cynically - they could be super helpful and enjoyable. We’re personally into making content that is trashy/ silly/ gory /romantic cause that what fits our music.

Events are a huge promotion opportunity for a label. During the pandemic time it’s obviously more complicated or impossible but think of creative ways to express your taste as posting DJ sets by artists, having live-streamed shows, or making playlists by artists

Do whatever you are able according to your budget and free time, but only start if you are truly committed.

The music industry is constantly changing, so it helps to get rid of the idea of “what is normal to do” or “how it usually is”.

Make a timeline of your first releases and plan when and how to promote them before and after.

It’s supposed to be fun (:

All pictures in this article are by: Alex Howard, Diego Delgado, Monique Woolen-Lewis, Paz Bonfil and Adi Kum

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