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Independent Release Requirements

by Ben McLane, Esq.

One option an unsigned act can pursue to gain notoriety is to record and sell their own CD. In essence, the artist acts as its own record company. However, selling CDs is doing business. Therefore, there are some preliminary matters that need to be dealt with prior to entering the fray.

First, the artist should obtain a UPC barcode to put on the packaging so that sales can be tallied. There is a fee and the process is not immediate. Call 1-800-543-8137 to obtain a UPC manufacturer number application kit.

Second, the artist must file a fictitious name statement (aka DBA) in the county where the business will be operating. This allows the act to do business under an alias (e.g., Crazy Records). The forms can be obtained at the county clerk's office without charge. Within 30 days of filing, the statement must be published in a local newspaper once a week for four successive weeks. Then, an affidavit showing proof of publication must be filed.

Third, the artist should obtain a local business license. This is required by the city and provides a source of income to the city. For the sale of CDs, a retail sales license will be needed. There is a fee. To obtain fee information, call the local government information number and ask for business licensing.

Fourth, the artist should obtain a resale license (seller's permit). This allows the artist to buy and sell CDs without paying any sales tax until after it is collected from the consumer, or in the case of records sold through stores, the store will pay the sales tax. This will avoid having to pay a separate sales tax on the CDs ordered from the pressing plant, the CD artwork, the printing of the package, etc. This can be procured from the State Board of Equalization.

Fifth, the artist should open a separate bank account for the business to make bookkeeping easier.

Sixth, the artist should get stationary and business cards printed up with the business name on it.

Once the above are in place, the act can concentrate on selling the CDs to the public. An independent distributor may be interested in selling the CD for the artist. Otherwise, the artist can place the CD in local record stores that carry independent releases. Moreover, mail order and independent record catalogues are other avenues to sell CDs.

Although initially it seems like a lot of work, in the long run it is advisable for an artist selling a CD to take the steps mentioned in this article to professionally achieve maximum sales and respect.

Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
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