Case study

Record label owner — Michael Webster

After completing an electrical engineering apprenticeship at college, Michael decided to pursue a career in music. As well as running his record label, Bread Records, he regularly performs as a music artist and event host, while making use of his sound engineering skills

What course did you study and where?

I embarked on a six-month music business/business management course in Leicester, before choosing to study the BSc in Music Business and Creative Industries at Spirit Studios (formerly the School of Sound Recording) in Manchester.

Why did you choose to study a music degree at this institution?

I decided on this course because the interview went spectacularly well. The lecturer was really down-to-earth and took great interest in my work and what I wanted to do.

What did the degree involve?

I had to write a dissertation for my course, so I focused on providing 'An insight into the impact of musical and literary works upon the politics of a societal sphere'. This related to how music and art have impacted and influenced society and culture throughout history.

The full course involved a range of various modules, ranging from marketing and promotion, musicology (the science of music and how it pertains to society and culture), and live events and touring.

How did you get around to starting your own record label?

I started out by recording and producing my own music, and then working with the band I was in by helping them with the same. This snowballed into me thinking I should have a home for all the music. It helped as I was able to utilise the label for the releases as well as any live gigs and concerts I was hosting. It then became a hub for all the things I was doing - since then, we've really expanded out with more artists on the label, more gigs going on and even all of the online features we do to promote local musicians here in the North West via our website.

How do you balance these different roles and what's involved on a day-to-day basis?

Every day, as soon as I wake up, I write out a list of things to do. I have a whiteboard with longer-term goals I need to be working on, and then I also have a Google Calendar that's full of the things I'm doing each day. I've shown this to a few people, and they say that it's a bit of a chaotic mess, but it works for me.

The main thing each day is sorting through emails, and then working on the features and making sure that they're ready to post when I need them - often I'll be a few weeks ahead to ensure that I always have something to post. Through the website they give me a 'posting-streak,' which motivates me to keep doing things every day. I've just hit 688 days in a row. I don't want to break that streak, so I always remember to post on the website and social media every day.

What do you enjoy about working in the music industry?

The biggest thing for me is the community, especially within the Manchester music scene. I've made so many great friends through music, gigs and performing and it's lovely to have so many I can count on, people who accept each other for who they are and support one another. Plus, the feeling of putting on a gig or releasing music and seeing people really enjoy it or connect with it is second to none.

What are the challenges?

It's a lot of work. I spend six to nine hours a day doing this, and it can be easy to burn yourself out with it all. Motivation can be a huge factor, and if you don't take time to relax every so often you can really drive yourself crazy with the amount you have to do.

I know a lot of artists in the industry who often find themselves struggling with comparing themselves to others. Additionally, to make music your career as a songwriter, you often need to put your art and creativity out as a product. I don't really think it should be - but at the same time, if you're creating something, it's worth something. It's a hard line to balance between seeing art as something to sell, or something to give.

How has your career developed, and what are your ambitions?

Over the past few years, the interest in the label and our gigs have really taken off. We've been given a lot of great opportunities by venues to put on gigs and help provide spaces for up-and-coming musicians to perform and hone their skills.

Also, the artists on our label have been doing really well, gaining lots of streams and sales of their fantastic music - it's all moving forward and it's so great to see. My biggest ambition in the past would have been to have run a music venue, but nowadays I'd love to run a studio for recording and production, put on gigs and organise tours for the artists on the label and just keep pushing them to create their best work and art.

What tips would you give to others considering a career in music?

  • It's a very hard industry to get into, and you will get knocked back many times. If something doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to.
  • Don't give up on your morals and values for the sake of entertaining others. If you keep to yourself and your identity, then you'll surround yourself with like-minded people who love you for you and your integrity.
  • Don't rush things. Your art is a reflection of your unique creativity and making sure it's perfect will ensure that you love every aspect of it.
  • Give everyone a chance to show you what they can do or offer, but don't get taken for granted. The way you convey yourself can make or break your entire career.

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