Photo Credit: Landon Trust
Athens’ newest record label, Rock Lobster Records, is run entirely by college students. Not only that, it’s UGA-approved.
The idea for a university-sanctioned, student-run label was UGA sophomore Ashley Huynh’s. Looking at colleges as a senior in high school, Huynh was struck by Duke University’s label, Small Town Records. It was the first time Huynh realized students could actually run such a business. “It was something that I thought you had to be a real grownup [to do],” she says.
Huynh enrolled at UGA, but couldn’t shake the idea. Upon finding out about the university’s Music Business Program and speaking with MBUS students, Huynh discovered there wasn’t really a good liaison between student bands and the music industry in Athens, which added fuel to her fire.
Huynh shared the idea with her friend Izzy Ceron, who agreed it had promise, and in summer 2016, Ceron and Huynh co-founded Rock Lobster, named after the B-52s hit. Getting it started, Huynh says, took a lot of preparation, and resulted in a business plan in the form of a 20-page Google Doc. Huynh and Ceron met with MBUS Director David Barbe, who looked over their plan and encouraged them to move forward with the idea.
Back at UGA last fall, Huynh registered Rock Lobster as a student organization, had a few more meetings with Barbe and hit the ground running. The label soon held an interest meeting, at which 41 people showed up. Now, Rock Lobster has about 20 consistent volunteers who operate in six different teams that work to help the label’s artists: events and outreach, marketing, A&R, visual media, engineering and music.
The marketing team promotes the artist’s brand. A&R books shows and helps form relationships between artists in the community. Visual media produces content for social media and other promotional efforts. Engineering operates sound equipment in the studio and at concerts. Events and outreach focuses on planning and making sure gigs run smoothly. The music team acts as a demo committee; when artists record for the label, this team decides what song to release as a single, gives feedback to the artist and more.
These teams have been hard at work since Rock Lobster signed its first group, local progressive rock band Honeywheel. The band, formed in summer 2015, consists of UGA students Shubham Kadam, Jacob St. Amand, Jake Pokalsky and Blake Kole.
Signing Honeywheel was a collective decision. “I’m really into making sure everyone in the organization has the ability to speak on decisions of the organization,” Huynh says. Thus, she implemented a “voting registration process” to figure out what band or artist would be the label’s first. Bands who were interested applied, then members of the organization voted on the bands. One Atlanta group got more votes than Honeywheel, but Huynh wanted to keep things local.
According to Kadam, Honeywheel’s guitarist and vocalist, the relationship has been mutually beneficial. The band gives the students who run Rock Lobster an opportunity to practice operating a real-world record label, and the label handles most of the band’s administrative tasks. “They provide an extra hand of support,” Kadam says, giving Honeywheel more time to focus on writing.
Not only does UGA have its first record label, but it will soon have a recording studio, too. According to Barbe, a new, on-campus studio is being built for exclusive use by MBUS students. It will reportedly be in operation by the 2017–2018 school year.
For now, Huynh and Rock Lobster want to focus on their first signee, but if things continue to go well, Huynh hopes they will pick up another band by this fall. She says if UGA students are interested in getting involved with the label, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org.