A student-run record label isn’t new to MTSU, but over the summer the recording industry department decided to take it to the next level and turn the label into a practicum opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience outside the classroom. Hence Match Records, which was officially unveiled Nov. 27 with a performance by the label’s first recruit, local blues-and-bluegrass band Copper Into Steel, in front of the campus Center for Innovations in Media. The music industry is tough, to put it mildly, and it’s a business where job opportunities rarely open up without hands-on experience, but opportunities for experience are often hard to come by. Match could be just the thing to help students avoid that old predicament. Here, the label’s executive manager and senior Music Business major Josh Carlton discusses Match Records’ ins and outs.
How did the idea for Match Records come about?
MTSU has had a record label, at least in some capacity, for years now. In the past, the label has been either a class or a student-run organization, but it was never really offered as a practicum that operates outside of the traditional classroom setting. Marketing Professor Amy Macy is the faculty advisor to the label, and she handpicked her staff based on previous experience with us in class, by recommendation from other faculty members or in at least one case, by an expression of interest from a student.
Why is it called Match?
We chose Match Records because our mission from the beginning has been to spark a flame of awareness and support for the many talented and creative students in the MTSU community. We wanted the name to separate us, in a way, from the school by making it seem less like a class and more like a legitimate independent label, but all the while still bear some resemblance or relatable mark that could tie it back in to MTSU. So, it kind of worked for us on two levels. The word contains the letters “M” and “T” and also commonly means “an instrument or tool used to start a fire.” Plus, who doesn’t love to play with matches?
What services does it provide for artists?
The label operates the same way as most present-day independent or major labels. We offer bands and artists the opportunity to work with a team of dedicated individuals whose purpose is to develop, promote, produce, market, distribute and otherwise support them in accelerating their musical career as an artist. This could mean anything from building up their fan base or helping them shape their image and style, to recording and producing a radio single, demo or full album.
How many artists do you hope to have? Just locals?
We haven’t really set a limit or a goal that we’d like to hit. It would be great to have as many as five to ten bands on the roster during any given academic year. However, as you sign more bands, the growing concern becomes whether or not the staff will be able to manage everyone efficiently and still give each group or artist the level of attention that is necessary to really launch an effective campaign. As of right now, the label is dedicated to promoting and working with bands that consist primarily of MTSU students or alumni.
Who works with Match Records and what do your jobs entail?
This semester, the label has a staff of seven students, myself included, working alongside Amy Macy, Bill Crabtree and the entire student media housed in the Center for Innovations in Media. We recently celebrated the addition of an eighth official member, Wei Xu, who joined the team late in the game as we added the Recording Industry Department’s Listening Night to the label’s agenda for this semester. Wei is helping us plan, coordinate and execute Listening Night because of her experience organizing the event in the spring semester.
As for the others, we all tend to wear more than one hat at a time. Officially, Shelby Lowe is the A&R manager and has spent a great deal of time seeking out and communicating with potential talent. Alex Roberts has worked both as A&R representative and with merchandising and promotions. Maria Ayerbe-Barona is the production manager in charge of overseeing the recording, engineering and production side of the label. Danny Apple and Grace Black are the promotions managers in charge of social media marketing and website development. Grace has also helped with shooting and editing photos and videos. Kristen Brassel is our business manager, tasked with keeping us organized, accounted for and on schedule, and helping me coordinate the label as a whole.
What are the stipulations for working with Match?
The requirements for joining the label are that you must be a current student in good standing with MTSU, financially and academically, and you must be a recording industry major with candidacy and an outstanding student with a strong work ethic, great communication skills and the ability to work well in a collaborative environment.
Why was Copper Into Steel chosen as your first recruit?
That’s an easy one . . . because they are awesome. It was a unanimous decision to sign the band based on their amazing live performance skills and the rapidly growing fan base that the band has been accumulating over the past couple years. We are always on the lookout for exceptional talent and anyone generating that kind of buzz will quickly catch our attention. Copper Into Steel was a no-brainer decision for us as a young label, because they have original songs with a divergent, appealing sound, a solid live performance, memorable personalities and above all, motivation to work hard at what they do.
What will the Dec. 7 Listening Night entail?
Listening Night is an event held each semester by the department for the entire community to attend, which showcases the best work done in each of the audio tech classes. The professors that teach those courses choose their favorite projects throughout the semester, and we’ll be giving awards for the best student recording projects, highlighting the most notable ones and playing them for all to hear. We’re also giving away door prizes to a few lucky guests that night in a random drawing. It’s free to attend, and everyone is welcome to come and join in on the fun. We’re very excited to be sponsoring the event along with the Department of Recording Industry and MTSU.
What are your goals for Match Records?
Personally, I would love nothing more than to see Match Records grow and flourish into something that inspires students in the RIM department to work hard and to stand out. It seems that all too often there are incredibly talented individuals roaming the halls around us and for whatever reason they go unnoticed. I hope that as the label matures and creates a reputation for itself that it transforms into something students aspire to participate in and be a part of. I think that this is exactly the kind of program the department has needed all along. With the right combination of creative students who share a passion for developing and nurturing talented artists, anything is possible. I envision Match Records becoming something of an incubator in which students have the opportunity to gain the kind of real-world experience they can’t get in the classroom, but without actually leaving the “safety net” of the Mass Comm building. And it is my sincere hope that the small contribution I was able to make during my final semester in college helped to facilitate that progression.
The Dec. 7 Listening Night takes place in room 160 of the College of Education building and is free and open to the community. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show is from 6:30 to 8.