Guest blog by Michael Zimmerlich of 80/20 Records
2018 is a big year for me as it marks 10 years since 80/20 Records was formed. It’s incredible to think how far I’ve come and yet still how much I have to learn. But I’ve certainly learned a lot since I’ve started. As I look back, here are some revelations about staying in business for 10 years.
80/20 Records functions very differently now than it did 10 years ago, or even a year ago. It’s a constant change of discovering what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t working.
During the first year, I decided to offer management services to one of my artists that extended what I did for them on the record label, which turned into a nightmare. Last year, I re-thought on how I could provide this to artists and launched a management arm of 80/20 Records, which so far has been very successful on many levels.
For eight years, my company was a side-hustle and I had a full-time job. When I quit my day job to focus on my company, I moved in with my parents and cut my personal expenses. I’ve also looked into other ways I could make money on the side that wasn’t as demanding on my time, such as crowdfunding consulting, ghostwriting, creating one-page website templates for artists and more. Now, I’m focused on building management while maintaining the record label.
If I didn’t adapt to how the music industry was changing, as well as how my personal life was changing, I would’ve shut the doors of 80/20 Records a long time ago.
You can’t do it alone
Everyone needs help and I’m certainly no exception. I’m a co-founder of 80/20 Records, and my partner at the time had a big part on the philosophies of the company we created together that are still a part of the label today. In fact, my brother was a partner for a while, as well. He brought infrastructure to the company that I never had before that I still use today.
Every artist I ever represented took a risk on me and my company, which wouldn’t exist without them. I’ve had 16 interns that contributed in countless ways, everything from taking care of merchandise at shows to social media. Not to mention all of my colleagues that I’ve met over the years that opened opportunities to me, provided incredible advice, or offered their friendship. I’m extremely grateful for every single person that has helped me over the past 10 years.
Be kind to everyone
Cannot stress this enough. There is no question in my mind that the reason I’m still in business after 10 years is how I treat others. Anyone from the artists to my interns to my fellow colleagues, I try as hard as I can to treat them with respect and friendliness. I make sure to show my gratitude for those who helped me and to pay it forward as often as I can to others. This is a long-term investment into yourself and your community.
I’ve had falling outs with some of my artists, but I kept it professional and kept in touch with many of them. In fact, one of my first artists contacted me after three years and apologized on how they handled things. Most of my business comes from referrals from previous clients, artists and colleagues, who obviously wouldn’t have recommended me if I didn’t do my job and treat them well. Your community is much smaller than you think and word gets around, both good and bad.
It’s better to try and fail than not to try at all
Before I started 80/20 Records, I never worked in the music industry. I never did an internship with a music business company. I never took a single music business class. Instead, I bought two books: one on music business law and the other on record label marketing. From the record label marketing book, I took note of what I could do, what I couldn’t do and what I thought was just stupid so was going to do something else. I wanted to run a record label the way I thought it would be run.
My very first artist was a friend of mine that made electronic music. I found a sample contract in the record label marketing book that I had him sign. Then did a Google search on how to get your music on iTunes. This is how I started 80/20 Records, I just…did it.
Things will never ever be perfect. There will always be something that can be improved upon, but if you wait, you’ll never release anything. I’ve had artist sign contracts that could’ve been clearer, hosted events that could’ve been planned better, launched marketing campaigns that could’ve been executed better. But if I didn’t act, it would’ve taken so much longer to do these things. As a result, I failed a lot. I’ve lost money on events, lost artists cause I could’ve handled situations better, opportunities that slipped through my fingers. But none of that would’ve happened if I didn’t just go for it and see what happens. Life is too short to wonder what if this goes wrong.
Probably most important of all is to love what you’re doing. It’s going to be a pain at times, chances are you’ll probably get stressed out or depressed, but in the end if you endure the bad times to appreciate the good times, then you know you have something worth fighting for. I like to put it “if you don’t mind the ‘BS,’ then you know you found your place.” I love every single minute of what I do. And I look forward to the next 10 years.
80/20 Records is an independent record label and management company based in Phoenix, AZ.
With over 10 years of experience in the music industry, Mike has been involved with 15 album releases, as well as several music videos. The artists he’s personally represented have opened for acts such as George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Twenty One Pilots, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Maroon 5, Capital Cities, Phantogram, MR MS, Animal Collective and Beck.
To help raise funds to record albums for artists on 80/20 Records led him into crowdfunding. He successfully raised over $10,000 for his first campaign. Since then, he’s helped several campaigns successfully reach their goal amounts and now advise others to achieve the same. To date, the campaigns Mike has assisted with raised over $130,000.