University’s Bent River Records launches opportunities for students and recording artists
Opportunities for MacEwan University students and local music artists abound with the launch of Bent River Records on April 6. Under the guidance of faculty members, students help local, national and international recording artists in all disciplines publish, distribute and market their music.
Getting the label to this point has been a three-year process that began when Assistant Professor Paul Johnston joined MacEwan in 2014 as Recording section head in the Music department.
“Most artists are doing projects independently now, and having a university record label gives the students a great opportunity to see what’s currently happening in the industry,” says Paul, who has produced a handful of Juno Award–winning albums. “I see this innovative project as helping students and artists at the same time.”
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The label opens the door for interdisciplinary collaborations within the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications (FFAC).
“Students in Arts and Cultural Management are always very interested in getting involved in the music industry, and some are focused on working for or with record labels,” says Associate Professor Rose Ginther, department chair of Arts and Cultural Management. “Because most record labels are independent, students need to get a sense of what that means—how do artists record their own work and get it out there? Bent River Records allows students to learn some key lessons about working with artists to bring their projects to fruition.”
To kick-start the idea, Paul and Rose established a label management team with a few students, alumni and faculty members. Over the past few years, the team has included students from Design Studies, Arts and Cultural Management and Music and hopes to work with other programs once FFAC moves into its new building downtown.
Innovative learning experience
Bent River Records is one of Canada’s few university record labels, and follows a different model than its counterparts in the United States and Europe. Envisioned as an “innovative learning lab project,” students work collaboratively with artists and faculty mentors to stretch their current skills and knowledge by working on real-world projects.
Students are currently tasked with keeping journals about their experience with the label to share as part of an active research and scholarly project that Rose hopes the team will present at industry conferences.
“Part of our goal is to be able to find new ways for artists to access recording because obviously the recording industry is never going to die—it’s just changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and our label is attempting to address those changes,” says Rose.
Paul says Bent River Records is not meant to compete with other labels. Rather, he hopes it will attract more artists to the province, build capacity in the sector and provide more opportunities for students to work in professional recording spaces. And the students’ involvement will be invaluable to artists.
“The artists on our label are provided with expertise and resources that are sometimes difficult to secure in today’s culture,” says Paul.
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