Swamp Talk: Why Musicians Are Weary of Student-Run Record Labels

By Kendrick Brown

The Alligator published a story on Monday that said Student Government Productions is in the preliminary stages of starting Swamp Records, a student-run record label that will produce hip hop, EDM and indie music.

According to the article, the record label will operate completely in-house, with its 20-member team controlling promotions, recording and distribution.

The idea of student-run record labels has become increasingly popular recently. Syracuse University in New York and Goldsmith University in London started their own labels earlier this year and the Intercollegiate Record Label Association lists 36 different record labels across the nation. In fact, FSU, UM and FAU all beat us to the punch.

Although there doesn’t seem to be much talk about the label amongst the general student body, it is something several of my musician friends have been talking about and the conversations have all had weary overtones.

Here are five questions some student musicians need answered before they are willing to sign to Swamp Records.:

1. Will you still be working with the label after you graduate?
Students graduate, move away and move on with their lives. The label’s founder is a senior, and if the label doesn’t officially launch until next year, she’ll only be leading the label for a semester before management changes, and when management changes, company cultures change. A passion project for the last executive may be a waste of time to the next. A student-run record label probably isn’t ideal for you if a constantly changing executive team doesn’t sound efficient.

2. Do these kids have any experience with handling the business side of music or are they just ambitious fans?
While it is great for the person promoting your music to genuinely be a fan, it’s just not enough. And it’s worth noting that SGP previously tried to launch a record label, but it released no music.

3. Does my career come after your social life?
We’re in college. If the students aren’t getting paid, what would be their incentive to put my music before their partying habits or their significant other? I know you have a midterm coming up, but this is my career we’re talking about.

4. Are you serious about furthering my career or is this just something to put on your resume?
Seriously though.

5. So if I make a hit song, the university can stake ownership?
According to UF’s Office of Technology Licensing website, the University of Florida will own this “intellectual property unless specifically waived back to the funding agency and/or the inventor(s).”

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