Senior class spawns record company

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Emerging from a class, Bell Tower Records was formed by a group of seniors to record local talent.

For students looking to revamp their iPods or MP3 players with some fresh beats, Bell Tower Records may be able to help.
Broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media majors are in the process of launching Bell Tower Records, Temple’s first record label.

Under the direction of local record producer Aaron Luis Levinson, BTMM seniors meet twice a week for their Advanced Topics of Media and Telecommunications class to discuss details of the music industry, such as venues, artists’ promotions and the Philly music community in general.

“Initially, it started out as a hypothetical for the BTMM practicum class,” said Anna Aupperle, a senior BTMM major. “It was never a real, functioning label, but it gave students an idea of what it’s like fulfilling the aspects of a real record label.”
From the course, Bell Tower Records emerged.

The small class size allows for creative collaboration. The nonprofit label pools its talents to offer free promoting, booking and recording services for up-and-coming artists.

“We come from lots of different backgrounds,” Sasha White, a senior BTMM major, said. “Writing, promo, engineers – collectively we form a fully operating label.”

Senior Rob Fruchtman had some experience recording before he joined Bell Tower Records this year. He said he feels the label will add to his own engineering knowledge and will thrive because of its focus on the Temple community.

“Let me put it this way – college students know college students better than corporate enterprises do,” Fruchtman said. “The market we are trying to reach consists of people of our age and mindset. That’s why I believe we will be a success.”
Bell Tower Records has already signed two local artists, Danny Janklow and Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds, and recorded tracks for both.

Janklow – whose specialties include everything from jazz to Latin to classical – performs on the alto and tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet. Originally from Los Angeles, Janklow is a sophomore at the Boyer School of Music and Dance. Shine and her band, who deliver a reggae-ska fusion, are from Philadelphia.

With these artists signed and recorded, the next phase is promotion, which is the record company’s focus this semester.

“The recordings are finished and ready to be released,” Aupperle said. “Now it’s about trying to get our [and the artists’] name out there, especially by managing our online presence.”

The label is working on having recorded tracks uploaded to iTunes U in an attempt to reach a larger audience.
Networking has also proved fruitful for promoting new acts – Shine is now booked for an Oct. 9 show at the Theatre of Living Arts with the Slackers.

“We’ve contacted Live Nation and talked to them about getting our artists into some scheduled shows with more well-known artists,” White said. “The Slackers are even one of Sonni’s favorite bands, so it will work out really well for them, and for us.”

In addition to working with Live Nation, the students are orchestrating a “Bell Tower Music Hour” on Temple’s WHIP radio station.

Terell Watts, another senior BTMM major, said he normally focuses on audio engineering but he is participating in the promotion phase.

“We’re going to go to live performances and set up info tables about the label and artists, as well as recording tables, including at Sonni Shines’ show at the TLA,” Watts said.

The group has seen great success in its undertakings so far, but challenges are in store for any collection of students establishing its own business.v

“Not only is it hard to guide someone who is unfamiliar with the recording process, but it is even harder to guide when we ourselves are unfamiliar with running a record label,” Fruchtman said. “However, the artists we work with [so far] are familiar with the recording process, and now that we have to the pieces of Bell Tower Records together, it’s time to rock.”
The opportunity to establish Bell Tower Records in the local music industry while working toward post-graduation plans is among the label’s more tangible benefits for those involved.

“Not only is it a really great experience to do what I hope to do after college,” Watts said. “But it’s also going to look great on a résumé.”

But for Fruchtman and others, overcoming challenges and running the label will be equally rewarding in the end.

“The whole experience is fulfilling because we are helping out talented and dedicated musicians,” Fruchtman said. “My goal isn’t to ‘launch’ a band, but to give them the tools and support necessary for them to launch themselves.”

Kara Savidge can be reached at kara.savidge@temple.edu.

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