Career spotlight: Label Manager

Meet the business-savvy, big picture thinkers who guide musical releases from early planning stages into the marketplace.
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What does a label manager do?

Label managers coordinate, schedule and promote a record company’s releases. Working closely with artists, artist managers, distributors and external promotion teams, they are responsible for ensuring musical products are delivered on time, on-budget and on-brand. Label managers are involved in pretty much every aspect of a record’s release, so there are a number of responsibilities that may fall under their remit. These include (but are not limited to):


Artist and Repertoire (A&R) – Discovering, signing and overseeing the development of artists.

Marketing/ promotion – Promoting the artists and releases, whether through traditional advertising, social media or arranging media coverage such as interviews and television appearances.

Artwork – Designing album covers, insert art, posters, advertising and any other design work needed in the marketing and promotion of musical products.

Distribution – Liaising with various distribution partners and presenting them with release information to set releases up for favourable digital and physical distribution.

Legal – Drawing up contract agreements and licensing schemes.


Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute
“I’m in quite a lucky position where I get to focus quite a lot on working with the artists and the musicians – basically finding or supporting people as they’re sending music through. Then I carry that project through from the initial submission to the label, to getting the pre-masters, sorting out contracts, doing the mastering and the artwork before passing it over to my partner, who deals with the more promotional side of things.”

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute

A record company’s size will dictate the nature of a label manager’s day-to-day. Those working for smaller, independent labels may be directly involved in all aspects of a release, whereas larger labels have more resources to delegate key tasks such as marketing and promotion to sub-teams or departments. Managers working for major labels will instead supervise and coordinate the output of these different departments, ensuring everything is delivered to a high standard and in line with the release schedule they have planned.

Being across everything means that label managers tend to work irregular schedules and generally stay in constant motion. Tight deadlines are very common and the requirement to keep up communication with artists (often across a number of time zones) means keeping a strict 9-5 is difficult. Attending gigs to network and talent-scout also means label managers have to work some evenings. Those working in this role should be prepared to be on-call most of the time, but the good news is, if you’re passionate about what you do, this won’t alway feel like work.


Why become a label manager?

What label managers love about their work

“The sense of community. Being part of that network is really nice. I know how much time goes into making a piece of music, so being able to add to it at the end and to get to that point where everybody’s really happy, those are the things that I like the most.”

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute

Camila Mileme AKA The Lady Machine, dBs Institute alumnus and co-founder of Unterwegs Records
“I think for me the most important thing that made me want to have a label was to maintain my artistic freedom to release my own music without having pressure to send music to other labels. As an artist there is always a lot of pressure when you are sending demos or waiting for feedback. It’s a lot to take in. I think that’s the first thing that attracted me in the first place. But I also because I had been a DJ for so long, I have been playing for 20 years now, it made complete sense for me to want to promote other artists which I believe deserve space.”

Camila Mileme AKA The Lady Machine, dBs Institute alumnus and co-founder of Unterwegs Records

“When you see one of your artists doing well. That is such a magical thing to see and to know you have been able to support that happening. That’s never going to get old for me. You’ve supported someone on their journey to this really creative career. And for them to have that feeling of being fulfilled in what it is they’re doing.  And then also hearing new music and looking at new genres/sub-genres that are coming out of a certain scene and looking at the resurgence of different scenes is something that I find really, really inspiring.”

Laura Lewis Paul, Creative Director of Saffron Records

Where a career as label manager can take you

From the position of label manager it may be possible to advance to be head of the label. This would also prepare you to start your own label.

Alternatively, starting out by setting up your own label is a good way to explore different roles in the industry. This jack-of-all trades scenario requires a lot of effort, but will provide you with experience working across a range of capacities and media, any one of which you may choose to specialise in later down the line.

Given the close links between events and record labels, it’s a natural transition for some label managers to move into events management. Many of the skills required for these roles are transferable such as organisation, communication and project management.

Other considerations

Label managers working for established labels are salaried employees with benefits such as health insurance and paid time-off, though salary will be determined by the size and financial success of the label. Those setting up or working an emerging label are likely to require other income streams to support themselves.

The role of a label manager is diverse by its very nature and no two days are the same. Not only does the role draw on a number of different professional and creative skills, but it also offers the opportunity to work on and contribute to a huge range of musical projects.

“It gives me so much opportunity to listen to and work with other styles of music without having to focus so much on them myself.”

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute

Who is this role suited to?

Label managers tend to have distinct personalities, interests and skill sets. You may be cut out for this role if…

You are:

Organised – The ability to juggle projects and competing priorities, whilst meeting deadlines and keeping an eye on the bigger picture is key.

Diplomatic – Label managers must maintain relationships with a range of stakeholders, not all of whom will see things in the same way. As a result, tact and diplomacy are essential.

Detail-oriented – Label managers tend to be responsible for providing final sign-off on the musical product and all marketing materials so it’s important to have high standards and a keen eye for detail.

You like:

Listening to and analysing music – You must have a thorough appreciation of and commitment to the genres of music the label deals with. It’s also useful to have technical knowledge of production and recording so that you can offer valid and valuable creative feedback.

Keeping up to speed with culture – Having an interest in what’s happening culturally is really important, as this is what ultimately informs and shapes new music.

Helping/ nurturing others – Label managers open doors for musicians and contribute to their artistic development, so it helps if you get a kick out of helping others grow.

You're good at:

Communicating Strong communication is essential for label managers who have to liaise with a range of people and ensure everyone is kept on the same page. To build trust with your roster of artists, clarity, honesty and responsiveness are key.

Networking – It’s important to go to gigs regularly and introduce yourself to everyone and anyone. Label managers are constantly thinking about who they know and who they are working with and where the opportunities are to match them up.

Leading teams This role is all about motivating people, applying pressure, setting boundaries and managing expectations. The best label managers are pragmatic, calm and are able to lead by example.

How do you become a label manager?

There is no singular route into this role or a required set of qualifications. The most effective training is on-the-job experience, whether that comes through working for an established record company or starting your own.

One way to get started is to look for opportunities to contribute to smaller labels. Offering to set up a podcast to feature their artists or to support them with scouting out new music can be an effective way to carve out a position for yourself.

Larger labels often recruit for interns or entry-level positions. Acquiring skills linked to a specific department within a label (i.e. marketing/graphic design/project management) is beneficial here and will help set you apart from the competition.

Once you’ve got your foot in the door, you can either work your way up the ranks, take a similar position at a larger label or start your own.

Your next steps

Tips from the top

Laura Lewis Paul, Creative Director of Saffron Records
“Have a sound that excites you. Don’t try and think about it in terms of what’s going to make money. When people can feel your passion when you’re working with an artist that excites you, that’s what’s going to drive that music getting heard. And then I would say, get that signature sound early. We started as a varied genre label and that doesn’t work. People need to know what and why they’re coming to you. If you can be unique that’s got to be the way. There is so much noise within the industry, so if you want to get heard you need to have a reason for people to want to hear you, basically.”

- Laura Lewis Paul, Creative Director of Saffron Records

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute
“One of the most important things when you’re starting a label is having that branding and that image. If you don’t have a way of being identified then it’s a non-starter. After that, being realistic about what you want to do with the label. We didn’t start thinking we were going to release four different styles. I would imagine most labels start with one genre.”

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute

“I would say that the vinyl industry or the industry in general is always really tough. It can be really difficult to break through. It might take a while until you can see any results. But you just have to keep pushing it. You can’t think that with one record it’s going to be like bang and it will be amazing. It’s a really slow build up. It’s like bit by bit you’re planting a seed until you get to that point where you’re satisfied with it.”

Camila Mileme AKA The Lady Machine, dBs Institute alumnus and co-founder of Unterwegs Records

Building your skills & portfolio

A key way to build your portfolio in this field is to demonstrate the value you can bring. If you’ve done some work with a label or artist, keep tabs on the data. Look at how many streams and followers they were on when you first started working with them and compare that to now. Being able to evidence the financial or audience growth you can bring is a huge asset.

On a broader level, aspiring label managers should strive to observe everything and everyone around them. The jack-of-all-trades nature of the role means it’s important to gain exposure to as many different elements of a label’s function as possible. So, try to move around, meet new people and learn different ways of doing things. As you do so, always remember to work hard, be polite and impress everyone you meet. You never know who might be able to open a door for you later down the line.


How dBs can help

Many of our courses contain modules which are directly applicable to the roles and responsibilities of a label manager.

For those studying at degree level, our BA (Hons) Electronic Music Production and BA (Hons) Music Production and Sound Engineering programmes both provide teaching on Product Design and Product Delivery, whilst our FdA Sound and Music Technology degree includes a module in Professional Development.

If you’re looking at postgraduate study, both our MA Music Production & Sound Engineering and MA Electronic Music Production degrees have modules in Career Development and Electronic Music Enterprise, respectively.


“It says quite a lot that every single person that has ever helped me with this, I have met in an educational background. So, if people put themselves into a place like dBs and interact with the tutors and the staff and the support teams that are around them, those opportunities to find out information and get support are already there.”

Ben Jacob, A&R/ Mastering Engineer at Sub-Label Recordings, Technician and Tutor at dBs Institute

If you’re not at the stage for university study, the Access to HE: DJ and Electronic Production diploma contains content focussing on self-promotion, networking and the music industry. This is provided by our education partner, Access Creative College.

Useful Resources


Labels: Making Independent Music by Dominik Bartmanski and Ian Woodward

All You Need to Know About The Music Business (10th Edition) by Donald S Passman

Music Business Made Simple: Start An Independent Record Label by J.S Rusendenke and

J.P Denk

Factory: The Story of the Record Label by Mick Middles

Record Label Marketing by Clyde Philip Rolston


How to start a record label: 11 tips from two label owners

What is A&R and how does it work?

In a Changing Industry, Labels Adapt and Evolve

Saffron Records: the all-womxn project breaking open the music industry


How the music industry works – 4 lessons I learned from working at Columbia Records

Major Label’s Marketing Techniques Used to Break Artists – Chat with Virgin EMI Senior Marketer

How to Start a Record Label  – Rooftop Records

“It’s a creative industry so a lot of the artists are working in a very creative way. None of my artists are up at 8am to have a Zoom conversation. That’s not going to happen. So you are thinking about how you are working with them. And then, when and if you are working in different countries/territories you have to think about what is a normal time for America and what is a normal time for Australia and they may not be within a 9-5 capacity.”
– Laura Lewis Paul, Creative Director of Saffron Records
“If you love what you do it’s going to pay off and work out. Believe in yourself. Don’t listen to anyone else, just trust your guts.”
Camila Mileme AKA The Lady Machine, dBs Institute alumnus and Co-founder of Unterwegs Records