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Northern Vermont University’s Student-Run Record Label Produces Fifth EP
Students in Music Business Degree Program Learn in Real Music World
Lyndonville, Vermont — Eneekay Records, Northern Vermont University’s student-run record label based on the NVU-Lyndon campus, celebrates its fifth anniversary with the launch of a three-song EP for the NVU Lyndon-based rock band Mad Mesa.
The record label, which grew from NVU student desire to support Vermont talent, is run by the students who take the Record Label Practicum courses in the Music Business and Industry (MBI) degree program. The fall course is Music Production and the spring course is Music Marketing. Through these courses, students learn the entire music production and distribution process hands-on, from artist selection through recording, mixing and marketing.
During the fall, “students do their own talent scouting and each class is like a board meeting,” said MBI Assistant Professor Brian Warwick, and instructor for the Production course. “It’s one of the most challenging courses I teach as there’s no set curriculum. The class knows they have to find talent and by the end of the course they have to have three songs recorded. But how to get from point A to point B changes each year,” Warwick said.
Max Heck, ’22, one of the MBI students in the fall course, volunteered to serve as the record label VP for this phase — which put him in charge of making sure that everyone gets a role in the production. Those roles include a producer for each song, audio engineers, a mastering committee, social media, songwriters and an A&R (artists and repertoire) representative – who is responsible for making sure the artist is communicating well with the label through the manager, Heck said.
The first step, of course, is to choose the band, and the entire class votes on this piece. Students pitched artists to the class, the group voted, and Mad Mesa — made up of three MBI students plus a singer from the NVU Visual Arts Department — was chosen, Heck said.
Once the talent is chosen, preproduction begins with reviewing all of the music the artist has produced to find the three best songs. “Since the artist wants to sell to the age group of the students in the class, the process serves as a focus group, too,” Warwick said.
Next, each song is assigned a producer who works with the record label and band to modify it as needed. “The producers know they have to work closely with the artist and get feedback from the label — every week,” Warwick said. “It’s like a job, and students gain real-world experience,” he said.
Demos are created in the NVU-Lyndon studio and revised until the class is satisfied with the performance. “The artist comes up with the ideas for the music, but the producer touches it all up and adds to it to give it that little sparkle,” Heck said.
Then the engineers head to Old Mill Recording Studio in East Arlington, Vermont, where they record the band. “It’s a larger facility and produces a higher quality drum recording with the Solid State Logic board,” said MBI student Nathan Wright. “Brian likes the class to learn about multiple facilities and use all the information we’ve been taught,” he added. Then it’s back to the Lyndon studio to finish it up.
“We had a setback this year,” Wright said. “We got the guitar sound that the band thought they liked; but when we listened as a class, we didn’t like it. So, we had to rework it. In the end, we ended up getting some really cool sounds,” he said.
Wright found the experience to be “a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. It takes so much communication, and I realized how important the littlest details were. We have a really good product; we’ll see what will come of it,” he said.
Student involvement in the product extends beyond the MBI program, too; we “tapped into the other majors at NVU” in producing the work, including photography and video support from the Visual Arts department,” Warwick said.
“It’s large-scale project management. Sixteen students got together with the band to create something from nothing that people will hopefully connect with and enjoy for years,” Warwick said.
During the spring semester, Eneekay Records will promote the album and the band through the Record Label Practicum: Marketing course; this work is underway now.
For more information on NVU’s Music Business and Industry program, see NorthernVermont.edu/MusicBusiness.