Edge Hill University’s indie record label ‘a cultural statement’

Farm bassist and lecturer Carl Hunter says The Label Recordings uncovers ‘exciting music’ and is ‘bespoke work placement’ for students

January 7, 2016
Carl Hunter, Edge Hill University, The Farm
Source: Alamy

“As a working-class kid growing up in Liverpool, music was a door opener,” said Carl Hunter, bass player in The Farm and senior lecturer in media, film and television at Edge Hill University.

“So it wasn’t just about music…it was a way of getting into clothes, into politics, into art and into music itself. Buying seven-inch records by The Jam or The Clash or The Buzzcocks or The Undertones…those bands were important to me and they spoke to me.”

In terms of giving students professional experience in all the creative industries associated with music, something of that ethos is behind Edge Hill’s The Label Recordings.

Set up by Mr Hunter and fellow Edge Hill film lecturer Clare Heney two years ago, it is an independent record label without contracts that aims to promote new music and to give students industry experience.

The Label was highly commended at November’s Times Higher Education Awards after being shortlisted in the Excellence and Innovation in the Arts category.

Graduates include Chester band Hooton Tennis Club, who put out their debut single on The Label as unknowns, then signed to indie label Heavenly Recordings.

“And now Hooton Tennis Club are probably the coolest band in Britain, I’d say,” states Mr Hunter. “They’re never off [BBC] 6 Music.”

The whole project has “been incredibly successful”, he said. Every record we’ve released has had national airplay – [on the] BBC; they’ve all had international airplay as well.”

After art school and touring the world with The Farm – who had top 10 hits with All Together Now and Groovy Train in 1990 and are still playing – Mr Hunter started a new career as a director and producer in film and television (he co-wrote and produced the 2007 film Grow Your Own).

Seven years ago, Mr Hunter started teaching at Edge Hill, whose campus is in Ormskirk, close to the pop powerhouses of Liverpool and Manchester. Looking at the students, he contrasted their interest in music with that of his own growing up. “I thought, well how come there aren’t that many bands here? Or why aren’t people more engaged with music?”

So he and Ms Heney pitched to Edge Hill the idea of setting up a university record label. The idea was to not just focus on “finding new and exciting music”, but on “identifying young graphic [design] students who have an interest in art direction and in design” to produce artwork for singles, “film students who have an interest in shooting music videos” and “production and management students who are interested in gluing all this managerial headache together to make it happen”.

Mr Hunter said that “it’s not a student-led record label; it’s an industry-focused label”. The idea was always to “run it as the industry would run a small, independent label” while also to “mentor students all the time”.

He called The Label “a fantastic bespoke work-placement programme”. Being able to say that they have worked with an act featured on 6 Music, or in the NME, or with 10,000 views on YouTube gives students “cool, interesting, fairly high-profile additions to their CV”, said Mr Hunter.

“The university is fantastic to work with on this project,” he continued, describing “a slight Factory Records mentality in the way it’s run" (referring to the famous Manchester record label that signed bands such as Joy Division and New Order). The university isn’t interested in recouping any monies from the bands or from any project,” Mr Hunter said.

All rights to recordings stay with the acts, he added. What the university does want is to raise its profile “in terms of its engagement with popular music and art and culture”, said Mr Hunter. “And equally, making sure our students achieve something that’s incredibly difficult to do – which is to improve your CV with some pretty good and pretty powerful additions, whether it’s making music videos, record sleeves or films.”

He called The Label “a massive cultural statement. What it’s actually saying is, ‘We recognise as a university that pop music and alternative music is dead important.’”

He described the experience of Edge Hill students who shot a video for Oranj Son’s Psycho Disco Face, The Label’s latest release, as well as for Liverpool band The Sugarmen (it was Mr Hunter who told the students that they were seeking someone to make the video for their latest ­single).

“If you put yourself in the position of those three students now, 14 days ago their CV was empty. Fourteen days later, they’ve shot two pop videos back-to-back. How good’s that? People leaving film school after three years, you could never say that.”


In numbers

2 – the number of years that The Label Recordings has been up and running

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