We are the Curators: Kieran & Harrison, Off-License Records

Tom Aston

Welcome to our brand new series, We are Spirit Studios. 

Over the course of the series, we will be interviewing our ever-growing community of music-makers, creators, curators, producers and engineers to showcase their creativity, share their stories and explore the opportunities you can experience as a student at Spirit Studios.

To kick things off we have Kieran and Harrison, Curators of their very own record label, Off-License Records. The Electronic Music duo have honed their skills and veered into Music Business, and we had the opportunity to chat to them about their experience setting up their label, what to expect from venturing into the unknown, and advice they have for others looking to do the same. 

Thanks for chatting to us today guys. Since we last spoke, you two have curated your own record label, Off-License Records. Tell us about it, how did that come to be?

We make a lot of music together, but we still release under separate aliases, Enigma and High Demand. Originally we came up with the name Off-License as a group name where we could release music simultaneously under all three aliases, but instead we created a record label.

That’s quite a left turn! Take us through the process of setting up your record label, what were the first steps to get it started?

The first thing we had to do was create the theme and brand for the label, so Harrison came up with a rough design that we both liked, and then I created a professional logo using a vector-based design program called Affinity Designer. After we had a logo we liked, we started contacting artists to see if they would be interested in releasing with us. This proved to be the most difficult part as we were not yet established, and some artists were not keen on sending music to us or dedicating the time to work on something for us. The creation and debut release of our Various Artists EP is really what got the ball rolling.

That’s very interesting. Take us through the process of writing your business plan for the label?

A lot of the content within the business plan was difficult to make because the label had not launched at the time. However, for the majority, we used the business plan template provided by the Prince’s Trust.

Tell us, have you trademarked the Off-License name? Talk us through the process of getting that signed off.

We still need to speak to the Prince’s Trust and get advice about what kind of business we need to set up before we go ahead with trademarking the name. But we know that our name is unique, and we already have all the relevant social media handles secured, as well as a website in the making, so we’re not too worried. 

You both studied electronic music with us, so how did you get down the music business route?

We feel like the two go hand in hand; we always knew that producing and DJing would take a long time to turn into a career, and we are both creative people, so it only seemed right to start a record label. 

And so, how do you think your time at Spirit Studios prepared you to take on such a big project?

Our career focus module in the final year of our course was the most valuable in terms of helping us start our label. Music Business & Creative industries tutor, David Cameron-Pryde was a massive help to the business as he is experienced within the industry and the overall support he had for our idea was very motivating. Shoutout to Dave for that one!

Very cool. Let’s talk setting up your social accounts for the label, were there any surprises along the way?

This was one of the easiest steps in the setup process as we both already had the experience of doing it for our own alias’. To keep our feeds exciting we work alongside a graphic designer who designs unique artwork to coincide with each of our releases.

How have you built up your online presence as a new, independent record label?

We are still growing our online presence and currently don’t have a large following, but social media is hard, and you have to let the growth happen naturally. On Facebook we invited all of our friends to like the page which brought in a decent-sized following, and on Soundcloud we launched the label with a free download of the EP, and used a download gate so that each time the track is downloaded we receive a follow alongside the artist for that particular track.

That’s great! What genre will your label be focusing on?

Off-License Records will be focusing on the full DNB spectrum, from Halftime to Rollers to Liquid to Minimal and Experimental, if we like what we hear we will sign it, but it has to be within this spectrum. If anyone currently reading would like to submit a demo, then please do so to our email, offlicense.records@gmail.com.

What’s your goal for the record label for 2020?

Have a consistent release schedule (one EP a month), and grow our following to around 1,000 people per social media account which will take us nicely into 2021. Achieving these goals will help our reach for our first year of trading.

Tell us, are there artists you have your eye on at the minute that you’d like to sign?

There are a lot of artists we’ve got our eyes on, but we can’t say too much at this point.

If you could talk to your past selves now, is there anything you would do differently when you first started down this road?

Contact more artists from the get go. We did not anticipate the time it would take to get a 7 track VA and a further 2 EPs to start the label, which slowed down the initial launch process. Apart from that, a lot of it seems to have come quite naturally to us.

What are some lessons you’ve learned as you’ve worked on setting up your business?

Always make sure you are 100% happy with what you’re putting out there and don’t settle for anything less. If something takes longer to make then that’s okay, you’ll be grateful you waited. 

Before you go, what advice do you have for other people looking to set-up their own business?

Ensure you have a Unique Selling Point, and kick off your business with the professional standard that you intend to maintain throughout. Think about the mistakes similar businesses have made, and ensure that you don’t make the same ones. Designing a unique and original brand is also key to standing out against your competitors.

Thanks for chatting to us guys! We’re so excited about your label and can’t wait to see where you both take it!