A student-run record label: run by musicians for musicians. A pretty catchy strapline and one that’s got students and alumni alike excited. Alumni Records was set up in 2012 by Classical student, Miranda Harmer, and Production student, Ted Westwood, and has been showcasing talent from Leeds College of Music and the rest of the city.
Following a successful launch of their first compilation album A this month, Heather Iqbal caught up with them to hear tales of broken wrists, radio shows, and their plans for the future.
So, what exactly is Alumni Records and how did it get started?
Miranda Harmer (MH): At the start of our first year we were both doing the 'Working in the Creative Industries' module, and worked together on a project where you set up a record label in theory. When the assignment was finished and we’d presented it to the rest of the class we realised that we really wanted to take it a step forward and see it work in practice.
Ted Westwood (TW): We were both really interested in doing something where we could make a business and do music – make some money alongside doing what we love. It’s a record label that represents unsigned performers across all genres.
MH: Our unique selling point is that we only have the rights to one mastered version of the tracks that we represent – so there are no publishing rights involved, we want to act as a platform and a launching pad for other musicians. I’m also a massive fan of the fact that we’re both directors. There are not that many women in director positions – especially in music – and it feels really good to be part of something that starts off on the right foot in promoting equality.
What were the first steps taking it out of the classroom?
MH: Well, we already had the network, being at Leeds College of Music, but it took quite a bit of extra research to get a handle on the business side of it.
TW: a LOT of bedtime reading!
MH: (laughs) We had a kind of soft launch in the spring of last year, but before it happened I had to leave Leeds and take a few months out of education because I broke my wrist and couldn’t play. I spent the whole summer thinking about ways to develop it and when I came back in September I was like “right guys! We’re going to have a mass-compilation album ready this year”. I went to the library and got out a big pile of music management books, and we both used online resources quite a lot to build up our knowledge, then we kind of hit the ground running and started working on recruiting people as part of the Alumni Records team and as artists.
Pretty ambitious stuff! How did you get it into action so quickly?
MH: From September we’ve recruited a great team to help us get started – we have two interns, resident producers and mastering engineer, and help with promotions and design. Adam (Winch-Furness) presents the Alumni Records radio show on Leeds Student Radio every Thursday at 8pm, which is great exposure and has had a fantastic reaction.
TW: We approached a couple of people and put a call for submissions out, and I guess the open nature of Alumni made us approachable and a lot of people came forward. Some really great tracks came through!
MH: Yeah – I was actually gobsmacked at times when we were sitting in the studio and listening back to it and choosing the tracks to include – they were just so good.
Once you had all the tracks selected and promotion done, how did you pull the album together as a piece of work in itself?
TW: We were part of the whole production process – we curated everything. It was great to really oversee the whole journey, to be part of making the album and also running the promotional end; also thinking about running the launch night at the New Conservatory; and thinking about how to deliver the end product. There are a lot of aspects to it. For me as a Production student it was pretty useful too.
MH: Yeah – the production part of it was really good – it gave me quite a hands-on way of learning in the studio. In a way it’s been so ideal running it as a project here because its already a professional environment – you have the network and people with the skillset plus all the facilities you need – so you just have to get stuck in and make what you want out of it.
Have you found you’ve been approached by more of one kind of artists or has it been a varied spread?
TW: We were sort of following the genre pathways at Leeds College of Music – Classical, Pop, Jazz and Production – as a structure, but for the first album it’s been a bit harder to get classical artists on board and into the studio.
MH: We did manage get Rebecca Frodsham and BEL Trio though, who are all doing big things – Egle (Vasiliauskaite, cello) is auditioning for Leeds Concerto Competition and won the Principal’s Prize here, and Lauren (Hinds, violin) has been part of recording music for the Tour De France music, so that’s pretty exciting!
All sounds quite exciting! What else is in store for the future of Alumni Records?
TW: We definitely want to keep working on it and developing it. A was just the first album – so there’s plenty more to come!
MH: We’re hoping to run a few nights to go with the radio show, maybe push out some online content and one day some print stuff. I’m also really keen to make some music videos – I want to collaborate with the Northern School of Film because they bring out some brilliant stuff.
Well, I know I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing and hearing more. What other stuff are you getting up to around running Alumni and studying?
MH: Where do I begin?! I’m too busy sometimes! I’m in the Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra, I’m currently running for SU Vice President and have been applying for internships with the BBC. I do a bit of film-making on the side too.
TW: I do a lot of additional production and mastering alongside the course. My guitar and saxophone have sort of taken a back seat since I’ve been so busy with producing and working on Alumni!
Meet the team
Find out more about the faces behind the label. Hover over the pictures to learn about the Alumni Records team.
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