MacEwan University launches school-run record label

MacEwan University launches school-run record label

With MacEwan University's west-end arts campus closing, it's only fitting one of the last performances in the building will be the launch of a new chapter.

The Edmonton university has started its own record label, Bent River Records. It's not the first record label started by a Canadian university — but it's currently the only record label operated by one.

The launch party for the label is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the John L. Haar Theatre.

Paul Johnston, the head recording professor at MacEwan, started brainstorming the idea when he began teaching at the school in 2014.

"I saw the opportunity to start a label," Johnston told CBC's Radio Active Wednesday.

'A really huge undertaking'

He spoke to various program heads about the possibility, looking to collaborate on a project that he thought could be mutually beneficial for students, staff and musicians.

"The first big step was to figure out what the university label would actually be," he said.

Three years later, Bent River is launching. But according to Johnston, it wasn't easy.

"Starting a label is a really huge undertaking, a very big job," he said. "Doing it independently myself wasn't something that I was very interested in doing."

The label mainly works with MacEwan artists and other Canadian acts looking for their start. Three artists — Mallory Chipman, The Obsessions Octet and Acid Bunny — are the first acts working under Bent River Records.

Johnston said the label operates on a per-project basis, where all the intellectual property remains with the artists.

"I think the main advantage is we don't take any of their publishing," he said.

Johnston said he hopes the label will produce between three and five records every year, which he thinks can double as a learning experience for students in the recording and production undergraduate degree.

"There's kind of a responsibility for universities to step it up and create more opportunities for people," Johnston said. "I just see more mentorship for the students [and] more interaction with the actual industry."

As for being the only university-operated music label in Canada, he said he hopes other universities follow his lead.

"I would like to see it start a trend that more universities start record labels."