Many people tinker around with music, but only a talented — or wealthy — few manage to set up deals with record companies, a feat unattainable to many new musicians starting out. However, a project is in the works that may give the College of William and Mary its own record label, allowing student musicians to record and distribute their music.
Paul Gibson J.D. ’11 submitted a proposal for a college record label to Publications Council Feb. 11. WCWM, the College’s radio station, is requesting about $5,000 in school funding to support the endeavor. The label would aim to produce 800 CDs per semester. While WCWM already has the recording studio and much of the equipment, it would need funding for duplication and distribution of tracks produced for the record label.
“I’m in my final semester of law school, and I wanted to do something big for the community, to distinguish myself in that field [of music],” Gibson, who initiated the project, said. “It will encourage student artists to achieve.”
Gibson, WCWM’s station manager, is also in a band called Space Expert, which is based out of the College. He said he is very connected with the college music community.
“You can be involved in music and not really have something to show for it,” Gibson said. “[If you produce your CD’s,] you can hold your hard work in your hand. It feels more real.”
Gibson’s proposal is that the record label will allow musicians to record in the studio and also provide them with a cohort of student experts to help with the technological aspects of recording, such as using electrical equipment and mixing tracks. This is where T.D. Crowley ’13, the production and technology director at WCWM, comes in.
“If this gets off the ground, my role will be to coordinate recording and production material for bands,” Crowley said. “We’re going to try to get a lot of people from the radio station to help out.”
Crowley said that he will also spend time training other students to use the equipment.
“It’s a lot to manage. There’s definitely a learning curve,” he said. “It’ll be a learning process for all of us.”
After the tracks are recorded and put onto CDs, student artists will create cover designs. The band and the label will each receive a share of the CDs that are produced. While the label will distribute them in various places, the band will be able to do as it wishes with the discs. Gibson said that giving the bands free reign with their CDs will allow for differences in band maturity and popularity.
“Some bands could probably sell CDs, but we don’t want to restrict [recording privileges] to just them,” said Gibson. “It gives them all an opportunity to get heard. Maybe someone will make it.”
The elusive dream of “making it” in the music industry has been a cliche for young musicians almost as long as music has been an industry. If the College had a record label, student and community bands would have a greater chance of doing just that, Gibson said.
“In this age, it’s really easy to record a track and upload it onto the internet. Then it’s there, free, for anyone to download,” Gibson said. “[Because there are so many,] it’s hard to make people care about an MP3 on a website.”
With a physical CD, bands can give people more to care about. Giving out discs at shows can also create more long-term fans.
“For bands who gain most of their fans through playing shows, it’s an asset to sell or give out CDs at the show,” Crowley said. “It’s easier to keep their attention with a physical object than if you just tell them to check out your Myspace site.”
One central quality differentiates this prospective record label from large companies that produce popular artists: the label will not be a money-focused institution. Though Gibson and Crowley do not know exactly how the finances will work out, their ideal situation would be to allow bands to record for free, Crowley said.
“It’s not going to make a profit,” Gibson said. “It will be a subsidiary of student achievement, not a business.”
“[We] want to create something that lasts to make it a sustainable project,” Crowley said. “We want [the label] to be seen by the community as a core function of WCWM.”
Gibson will go before the Publications Council today to ask for funding for his project. He wants to have continuous funding for the label, but for now he is concentrating on money for the spring 2011 semester. While there is only a request for funding this semester, Gibson hopes that if the program is successful it can be expanded in the future.
“If we get funding now, we can do this. We can make it happen this semester,” Gibson said. “I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes.”