Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature / People

DU record label gets second spin

Malcolm Lynn Baker’s first stab at starting a DU record label didn’t go so well.

Fresh from a 10-week sabbatical during which he studied 32 college labels around the country in fall 2007, Baker, the director of jazz studies and commercial music at DU, returned to campus full of ideas. He envisioned auditioning musicians from the Lamont School of Music for a student rock band, which would then work with audio production majors to record an album in the Newman Center’s pro-level recording studio. By the time the CD was on the shelves, students would have learned the nuts and bolts of making a record, from writing and recording to marketing, promotion, publishing and booking.

“It just fell on its face — it gained no traction at all,” Baker says. “One of the reasons it didn’t gain any traction was that I came in as a hierarchical faculty person and said, ‘OK this is what we’re going to do — and now you students take over.’”

But jazz guitar major Christian Seith, who was involved with the label’s first incarnation, didn’t want the project to die. Seeing it as the perfect vehicle for his band, Bemused, and fellow Lamont-born band Petals of Spain, Seith took the label over for the 2008–09 academic year.

“I just let it crash, and after it crashed Christian picked it up,” Baker says. “Now it’s a lot more vibrant and a lot more like I wanted it to be than it was when I was trying to step in from above.”

Named Red Wing Records, the DU-based label doesn’t have any official releases yet, but Petals of Spain currently is recording some songs with DU audio engineering students that may make it on to a Red Wing record. There also have been a few concerts under the Red Wing banner.

Seith also hopes to get funding from the Student Media Board, which provides money to student newspaper the Clarion and student radio station KVDU. He envisions the legitimacy of a label as a tool the two bands can use in their marketing and promotional efforts, from booking concerts and playing at conferences like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, to sending out albums to radio and the music press.

“For now, without any official release, I’m pounding the pavement, trying to promote, market and get attention, build a draw,” Seith says. “Anybody can release a CD, anybody can book a show — it’s getting people to actually come to your show that’s the challenge. In order to tour you need a booking agent, but most booking agents will deal with no band unless they have a label representing them.”

Seith and Baker also are reaching out to other departments at DU — hoping to enlist some Daniels students to help with marketing and a handful of Sturm law students to advise them on publishing and copyright issues.

Though we’re living in an age when musicians can record their own music on their home computers and release it themselves over the Internet, Baker still still sees record labels as a vital part of the music business.

“Record labels are still necessary,” he says. “It takes an incredible amount of time and energy and connections to reach the people that are writing about you and are booking your bands — much more than most artists or bands can do for themselves, especially if they’re students.”

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