Student-operated record label growing
Leaders in the entertainment industry — people from companies such as California-based DreamWorks Studio, Lancaster-based Greenfish Inc. and Maryland-based Springwood Productions — were panelists for a conference in Lebanon County hosted by Vale Music Group LLC in November.
The conference is in its 12th year, but it has been hosted by Vale Music Group since 2014. The LLC is a student-run business based out of Lebanon Valley College.
Vale Music Group comprises Vale Media Industries Conference, Vale Records, Vale Live and Vale Publishing. Each branch gives students the opportunity to learn the details of managing a business — everything from day-to-day operations to balancing finances.
“The music industry is so huge. A lot of it now is do-it-yourself,” said Caden Myers, president of Vale Records. “Being president, it's shown me a lot. ... It gives me a taste of one aspect of the industry.”
And that industry is changing. For the first time in the conference's existence, instead of hosting only music-related panelists, this year's event highlighted trends pertaining to digital communications and its impact on the music business — a change that is pushing Vale Music Group beyond its original idea.
Implementing the idea
Vale Music Group started in 2005, but the idea to turn it into an LLC was part of an independent study course in 2009. Students Nick D'Angelo, Nikki Abbamont, Tyler Garrett, Deanna Berish, Rachel Lightner and Jacqueline Massey were awarded an Arnold Grant to research the feasibility of starting a record label at LVC.
The Dr. E.H. and Dr. Jeanne Donlevy Arnold Grant Program through LVC awards up to $50,000 per year to support student-faculty research, independent student summer research and independent student internships.
Vale Music Group has been operating as an LLC since 2013, and it is one of only a few programs of its kind in the country. The program at LVC is unique, Snyder said, because it has four segments and because it is a college-owned LLC run entirely by students.
“It's a real business,” said Jeff Snyder, director of the music business program at LVC. “They have to be able to fail — and they do” sometimes.
Vale Music Group is an elective open to students of all majors, and there is a spring and fall semester one-credit course. In the spring semester, students focus on the record label, and in the fall they focus on the conference. Each semester, new leadership is elected as upperclassmen graduate.
The label has signed two artists who attend LVC: Sheridan Ave and Kali Rodgers. It has also does recordings for faculty.
Vale Live, the booking agency for the group, started in 2014. Last year, Vale Live started the Vale Crawl, which it organized again this year: On the day of the conference, three Annville restaurants hosted live music.
Vale Publishing is run by a class dedicated to publishing. Students in this class help Vale Music Group collect royalties from radio stations, venues and TV networks. The organization then distributes the money to affiliated songwriters and publishers.
Katlyn Jumper, president of the Vale conference, said she attended the program one time with a friend and was so intrigued she changed majors. She now is an on-air personality for the Lancaster County-based radio station FM 90.3 WJTL.
“I believe Vale is the reason I'm a music business major right now,” she said. “The connections I made each semester got me to where I am now and gave me my love for radio and broadcasting.”
The newest focus of Vale Music Group is to incorporate the digital communications department into the program.
The trend of what digital communications student Elizabeth Allebach calls “code and music coming together” is pushing Vale Music Group forward and expanding it well beyond the initial idea.
Allebach is the president of DigiVal, the student club in the digital communications program. She worked with Vale to expand the conference with digital communications and more media industry topics.
By combining Vale Music Group with digital communications, the business can keep up with industry trends and move forward to areas such as marketing the record labels, enhancing social media and graphics.
There are plans to expand in every division of Vale Music Group.
The record label is moving toward online outlets for promoting its music, which is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, CDs and on download cards.
Vale Live plans to eventually expand its Vale Crawl off campus and create a circuit with other colleges.
The conference is moving to include more businesses and topics pertaining to the STEM courses, or “anything media,” according to Allebach.
“We already have our foot in the door with the conference for 11 years. Now we can expand beyond that. We can become something important to our area,” Jumper said.