Mistakes and Failures #1: LaunchALabel.com

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Although I don’t like dwelling on past mistakes or failures (especially because failure doesn’t exist), there is always something that can be learned from them. I get a lot of requests for information about mistakes or failed projects from my past. They are a plenty!

The reason for that is simple: when I have an idea I believe in, I go for it.

If I believe in something I do whatever I can to take swift action. It’s important when we have an idea we’re excited about to get the ball rolling quickly, because getting started is the most difficult part of any project. Once the ball’s rolling, momentum builds, and we’re more likely to see a project through to the end.

I have enough stories on mistakes, failures, and lessons learned to create a whole series. Depending on how this goes over, and how much I enjoy dwelling on the past for a bit, I will continue it regularly.

Part of the problem with past failures is I don’t have backups/notes with me so I’m relying on memory, Google, and archive.org for help.

The Failure: LaunchALabel.com

Unfortunately, I can’t get a screen shot of the site. Here’s the archive.org link. I spent about $2,000 on design and backend aspects of this project and it looked great.

I launched LaunchALabel.com in August of 2007.

The concept was: Get 50,000 music fans to each donate $25 to a new record label that they would control. They would choose the bands, the marketing, and decide where the money would go.

50,000 x $25 = $1,250,000.

The goal was to use $1 million to sign bands and $250k to run the actual label (Just Paypal fees on the donations would’ve amounted to ~$50k). The idea was to sign 5 bands, and allocate $200k to each of them for the purposes of recording/touring/marketing.

Here’s the copy from the home page of the site:

It’s Your Label. You Choose The Bands. We Make It Happen Together.

From: Karol Gajda

If you’ve ever thought you could run a record label better than the corporations who currently control our music industry then this may be the most important Web site you’ve ever visited.

Join 50,000 like-minded music fans who want to make history. As a community you will launch a brand new record label. The World’s first Social Record Label.

  • You choose the first 5 bands the label signs to packages worth $200,000 PER band! These bands will be taken care of as they should be.
  • You will receive a copy of each of the first 5 label releases. Based on iTunes costs that’s a $49.95 value.
  • You choose the label’s name.
  • You make the decisions on tours and everything else that goes into launching and running a successful record label.

This Is Your Label.

Nobody can sway your decisions. Not me. Not any music industry “big wigs.” Nobody.

Once 50,000 music fans join for free each will be sent an official invitation to LaunchALabel.com and be asked to make a $25 donation to raise the necessary cash to rock the music industry.

From there you will start voting on label names and the first band to sign to your label.

To learn more check out our How It Works and FAQ sections.

Or click here now to join our music revolution.

Karol Gajda (that’s Carl not Carol)

Was it incredibly ambitious?

Yes.

Could it have worked?

Yes.

Did it work?

No. :)

Results

I sent out press releases, I e-mailed bloggers, I e-mailed friends, I did everything I could think of … it all resulted in ~300 free signups after a couple of months.

I did get a write-up at CMJ.com, which was pretty cool. But it was a tiny write-up and it resulted in no traffic. :)

Why It Didn’t Work

I knew going in it would be an uphill battle due to one word: skepticism.

I got a lot of e-mails from people thinking I was just going to take the money and run. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do to overcome this at the time.

What Should I Have Done Differently?

In other words, what should I have done to overcome skepticism and establish trust?

The obvious choice would have been to partner with someone who had a public profile.

I could have offered a nice chunk of money raised, maybe $10k-$50k, to either a celebrity or someone already well known in the music industry to join in on the project.

This would have given me instant credibility and more opportunities for press.

Closing Thoughts

I honestly believe this project could have worked. And I actually believe something similar could work well today. I’ve often thought about revamping the idea a little (100 people each donating $1,000 to sign just 1 or 2 bands).

That said, other sites have sprung up that totally blew my idea out of the water.

Enter: KickStarter.com.

KickStarter has proven that crowd-funding for artists and entrepreneurs works like gangbusters.

I’ve helped fund 3 projects so far. 2 of them musical acts.

You can following my KickStarter here if you’d like.

How Would You Have Made LaunchALabel.com A Success?

Do you have any ideas on how this project could have worked out successfully? Let’s brainstorm in the comments.

Additional Questions For You

- Do more of these kinds of articles interest you? Would you like me to create a Mistakes and Failures series? In this article I focused on one major mistake I made, but there were others as well. Do you want me to go into more detail on the mistakes?

- Do you have any stories of failed projects where you learned a thing or two? Give us a brief synopsis of the project and tell us what you learned …

Photo Credit

{ 42 comments }

Austin Hatfield

Hey Karol I loves this post and would love to see more like it. I think learning from our mistakes is the best way to learn anything, but the next best thing is to learn from other people’s mistakes. :)

Karol

Hey Austin,

Thanks! Glad you’re into it. Unfortunately the reaction to this article is almost non-existent and I probably won’t continue with this series. It was a good test though. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Austin Hatfield

Maybe this would be something a smaller niche group of readers would like. Like your freedom fighters

Karol

Thanks Austin. That is a possibility. :)

Shawn

This is a great dialog to get rolling…mostly because of the after effect of failures for many…some people take it really personal and it drags them into the pits of hell and makes them feel the spectrum of negative emotions…what if you let people down financially, mid business and it begins to fail? This is a huge thing for me!!!

The second thing…pre-launch jitters of the overwhelming platform of launching an idea, and the protection of the idea from those that have tons of cash to the existing giants that could easily sweep up the idea and matriculate it once getting wind of it??? How do you deal with that? That is more of failure before failure because it doesn’t get off the ground?

This is a good series and I plan to follow and contribute until we are all successful-!

Shawn

PS. I think the only reason the social record label idea didn’t work is because of the fear of people not having a sound tracking structure for their money, you may have understood it all clearly in your mind, but the layout would have had to have been simple and clear, they would have to be sold on the financial structure of the idea, even if it is a risk, the financial parameters need to be defined for people to the T. Yeah the star power would have boosted it for sure…but what a cool idea…I would just need to know what is the risk and possible return—

I would also add that with the directions you have gone in, and how you are helping people right now, would the overhead of all the management that concept needed served the essence of who you are? The universe knew this answer…look what you have done since!

You are like this “LIQUID IDEA GUY” that makes success simple in a very accessible appealing way. And it seems the blossom opens the more you go down that road. The unawareness of the gift you are giving with this blog is truly humble and admirable. From what see between the lines and having been impacted is that your personal power is in the free spirit of living you have branded by the evidence of your life and reflections…

Karol

Hey Shawn,

Thank you.

There was no financial benefit to being in the label. It was all explained on the Web site. The donations were just that, donations. The risk was $25. Return was putting it to the corporate record labels. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Josh Kohlbach

Maybe that was part of the problem? The “What’s in it for me” factor…

Great idea, but yeah, I can see why you would have had a hard time addressing people’s objections with it. You’re right, it was ambitious and sounds awesome. Shame it didn’t work :(

Karol

Thanks Josh!

As Dejan stated in the comments, the What’s In It For Me was well laid out. The “who is this dude who wants my $25″ wasn’t. :)

Karol

Hey Shawn,

You can’t worry about others (those with more money or whatever who will “steal” your idea). Just get shit done. :)

Karol

Marty

Re: the first “Additional Question”: yes! yes! and yes! (And thanks.)

Karol

:) Thanks Marty!

Charles

Hey Karol,

I enjoy hearing how people have learned from their mistakes. It improves my way of thinking… It helps me to develop new ideas. Everybody makes mistakes, so we all have something in common. Thanks for sharing.

Charles

Karol

Thanks Charles! :)

Josh Kohlbach

Alright, since no one else is going for it I’ll throw out my failure (geez, I have to pick just ONE?!)..

I started a website called SellYourInstrument.com where my plan was to get people to sell second hand musical instruments online (sort of like an ebay for music stuffs). I spent about $1000 on software and marketing to get it off the ground. I emailed music stores in an attempt to get them to list their return stock, opened, and display stock on there with not much success.

I emailed 300+ music stores around Australia to try and generate interest, and before the site launched I also collected consumer emails around 50 or so in a couple of days from targetted adwords advertising. Looked to me at the time that people were sort of interested so I proceeded…

Looking back now, it wasn’t really a strong reaction which is why the idea probably never took off. With 20/20 hindsight, I can see I also lacked the time, money and experience to pull it off.

Comments on where I went wrong??

Ps. Karol I think this is a good series, I’d love to read more about your business adventures, and if not contact me about guest posting on my site.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Josh. It’s tough competing with eBay. Interestingly, there is a site that does it well. Daddy’s Junky Music: http://www.daddys.com/ I haven’t browsed there for a long time and their prices were always very high. I never knew how they stayed in business, but they’ve been around since before I started playing guitar (as a print catalog) 16 years ago.

Josh Kohlbach

No problem. I think it’s important to learn from mistakes, and boy did I learn from that one.

I think it probably helps to already be established with owning a music store, or a second hand sales business, then make the leap online. Competing with eBay is generally something only crazy people want to do :) hehe

paurullan

I find this stories pretty interesting because it allows me to know you better and helps me understand more the mindset you need to do business. I would like more on the series.

The funny thing is that you may not be able to measure the reaction of the article since maybe people feel «ashamed» of their stillness and are terrorized about running a business on its own.

Karol

Hey Pau,

Thanks for your thoughts. In theory it’s a good series, but because I’m not a fan of dwelling on the past and the reaction was very small I probably won’t continue it often. I might actually flip the script and come out with a Successes and Successes series. ;)

Cheers,
Karol

Maarten

Very interesting to read! Please do more of this.

Karol

Thanks Maarten!

Dejan

Hi Karol,

I love the idea, and YES I’d love to read more on this.
First, it shows that success doesn’t come over night. It helps an average person create a proper mindset and stop being scared of failure. What usually happens is that an average Joe/Jane sees all these successful people, gets motivated, tries, fails and then retreats to his/her cave never to be seen again.
You’re doing a hell of a good job in changing that already so don’t stop now ;)

Second, as everyone already stated, it helps us learn from these stories.
Just give us some time and I know that nice discussion and brainstorming will be born :)

Regarding your story:
I don’t think that the problem was “what’s in it for me” factor. Since it was supposed to be community-driven label the “what’s in it for me” factor was already there: making a huge change in the music industry. As Seth Godin said: “Seek out apostles, not partners. People who benefit from spreading your idea, not people who need to own it.”

The trust…yes, it looks like you definitely needed that. Or you just e-mailed the wrong people, people that weren’t that interested in the idea.
Also, maybe you should have first find enough bands with demo/youtube recording so people can hear them, find favorites, get involved and then offer them a chance to sponsor the label. Involving the bands first would result in bands themselves promoting the site in order to create a fan base.

Cheers,
Dejan

Karol

Hi Dejan,

Thanks!

You have some good ideas. As far as the bands/demos/etc: it was the member’s job to submit bands for voting on who would get signed. If I were to showcase any bands it would make it seem like I was either playing favorites or running the label myself. Which would’ve caused more problems with trust. :)

As for “giving time”: in the blogging world 80-90% of comments appear in the first 24 hours of a post going live. I like testing though so I’m glad I tested this series at least once. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Casey Friday

Hey Karol,

I absolutely love the idea of your sharing past mistakes and failures. I’ve had my share of attempts to start a business that went bad, and I think the main thing I forgot to learn from them was – why didn’t they work? This type of series is PERFECT for the aspiring entrepreneur.

As far as LaunchALabel.com goes, perhaps there was something missing in the delivery of the product’s objective. Perhaps you could have included examples of record label companies taking advantage of artists and why your model would get rid of most (if not all) of the dregs of the canonical formula.

Thanks again, for the fantastic post!

-Casey

Karol

Thanks Casey!

As for examples about labels taking advantage of artists: good idea. Although I think most people hate record companies as it is, so it’s not hard to get on the Us vs Them bandwagon. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things

Thanks for sharing Karol. It’s always a little disappointing when an idea doesn’t turn out like you wanted it to, but at least you learned something.

Sometimes the timing is just off and some ideas [like kickstarter] catch the wind at the right time…

Karol

Thanks Joel! It is a little disappointing, but I’d rather be disappointed than never make an attempt. :)

Sherry

Hi Karol, I really liked this post! So many people write about successes especially after something has worked. For me, it was interesting to read about your idea, how you envisioned it and what made you finally give up on it. It sounds like the main problem was lack of trust, perhaps you could’ve tried it on a smaller scale so that people didn’t have to risk too much but got a chance to see how it worked? I hope that you’ll continue this series :)

Karol

Thanks Sherry!

Yeah, I definitely could’ve tried a smaller scale, maybe 10,000 fans or $10. I don’t think that would’ve helped with the trust issue though.

Karol

Henk

Hey mate:)

Great post! Its awesome your so open, Admitting your earlier mistakes, helping others to prevent them. way to go!:)

ps:you actually make alot of vegan stuff that looks awesome to eat. Maybe a nice vegan cookbook for your next project?;)
Henk.

Karol

Hey Henk,

Thanks!

No vegan cookbook from me. I only have one of my own recipes (chili). The rest are from books/web sites. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Lach

Hey Karol. This is the first post I’ve read on your blog and it’s a bloody ripper. I think LaunchALabel, or something like it, is a frickin awesome idea. I love the idea of crowd funding something; not just for entrepreneurs, but also for investors. It could be a really low risk, low barrier way for regular people to get their toes wet in an entrepreneurial venture. A similar model is now being used to finance ventures and alleviate poverty in the developing world (kiva.org).

What are the other sites you alluded to that ‘blew you out of the water’?

Karol

Thank you Lach! I appreciate that. :)

I’m very familiar with Kiva. I actually have their button on the bottom sidebar of my site: http://www.kiva.org/team/ridiculouslyextraordinary

As for other sites: http://www.sellaband.com is one that’s more closely aligned with what I was doing. They rock it.

Karol

Ana

Karol, this was a really helpful article. I have 3 euh…less than spectacular “launches” under my belt and you are 100% right to chalk it up to a learning lesson and move on. thanks for the post! Ana

Karol

Thank you! :) And congrats on launching your blog Ana!

Anthony Feint

Personally I would have started much smaller, just seeking out a single artist and a small amount of funds. Using the success of the first artist to leapfrog future signings. I’m a big believer in launching with a minimum viable product. And then growing out.

btw, at the time you were doing this project there was an interesting startup Fundable doing crowd funding (and a couple of others that preceeded the current gen of crowdfunding tools) that you could have used.

Karol

Good point Anthony. I was shooting for the moon on this. :) It may very well have been successful starting with a smaller crew of people and focusing on just one artist.

I was not/am not familiar with Fundable, but good to know there are organizations that made this type of thing possible!

Leszek Cyfer

Hi Karol,
This post reminded me of some action points from Brian Tracy: When you did sth – doesn’t matter if it was a fail or a success, think it over, write down what you did good and are proud of, then write down what you would different and how.

Don’t dwell on what failed and why etc. because if the situation repeats you will be more likely to repeat mistake if that was what you were concentrating on – instead concentrate on an possible alternative way of doing the thing that went wrong. This way when similar situation comes up you will immediately use the alternative method – even if you long forgot the exercise.

So to wrap it up – “Do it, write what you did well, and write what and how you would do different next time”.

Pozdrawiam
Leszek Cyfer

Karol

Hey Leszek,

I’ve noticed a lot of people in Poland use sth. It’s an abbreviation I’ve never seen before and I’m not sure what it means … maybe it means “something”? In which case, weird abbreviation! :)

Thanks for your thoughts on failure. I use it here as just a word that lots of people can identify with. I learned a lot from this particular project.

Cheers,
Karol

Leszek Cyfer

Lot of people who use learner english dictionaries use the abbreviation sth (in the dictionary it’s ‘sth.’)

It’s long proven that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Failure makes you think, success quite opposite :) That’s why the best word for failure is “learning experience” – because that’s exactly what it is :)

Karol

Thanks Leszek, although I still don’t know what sth means. haha

Leszek Cyfer

Something :)

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