The 10 Commandments of running a moderately successful one-man indie label, by Sonic Cathedral


Sonic Cathedral began as a one-off shoegaze clubnight in 2004 and grew into a label a couple years later. Now, almost 70 releases and hundreds of live shows on, they are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a series of special shows. Very special guests are promised. Here, Bishop of the Sonic Cathedral Nathaniel Cramp gives us his 10 commandments of running a moderately successful one-man indie label.

Thou shalt not give up the day job, otherwise thou shalt starve. Running a label is not a way of getting rich quick, or even slowly. If you’re in it for the money, you’d be better off doing something else. This is a label/labour of love.

Thou shalt not expect to have much fun. As proud as I am to have released some incredible records over the past few years (I won’t pick favourites), running a label isn’t always as fun as it might seem. When you’re filling in spreadsheets of metadata at 2am it can be completely soul destroying.

Thou shalt not be short-sighted. With so much focus on the here and now –blog buzz and first week sales – it’s easy to forget that the records you release will be around forever. Most of my favourite records weren’t bought in the week of release. I wasn’t even born when some of them came out, but they speak to me more than anything. It’s a good idea to always keep this in mind.

Thou shalt not chase success. If you release records you don’t believe in, it shows. The good things always seem to happen organically – when one band leads you to discover another band. Five-year plans, or any plans for that matter, always seem to result in disappointment. Just go where the music takes you.

Thou shalt not underestimate the importance of labels. The role of labels might have changed, but they’re still vital. There’s so much music out there, someone has to pick out the good bits. The best labels have always been the ones you can trust: Elektra, Factory, 4AD, pre-Oasis Creation, Captured Tracks…

Thou shalt not forget the small details.Take time over things like your logo, website, design aesthetic, catalogue numbering system and even what you etch into the run-out grooves. If you take care of these small details, they make all of the bigger details seem much better. This is a labour of love, remember.

Thou shalt not believe turnaround times. Always assume that everything will take about twice as long as you’d expect. Turnaround times of four weeks can soon turn into five, six, seven… The more time you give yourself, the less stress.

Thou shalt not release a record anywhere near Record Store Day. See above. And double it.

Thou shalt not spend money thou doesn’t have. Try and budget sensibly at all times. It’s very easy to waste money on things you don’t really need; it’s a lot harder to make that money back – especially by selling records.

Thou shalt not pretend to know what thou is doing. Over the past decade I’ve made every mistake imaginable, but I’ve learned from them. At the launch party for the very first single I released I sat at the merch table with a cardboard cutout of the sleeve, because the records didn’t turn up until three weeks later. But the longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realised that no-one really knows what they’re doing.