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Breaking into the music industry is no easy feat.
But Berklee Valencia’s student-run record label, Disrupción Records, is tearing down the barriers for rising artists and music industry professionals. Through practical application and community involvement, the record label creates career pathways, both for those who run it and the artists who sign with it.
What launched in 2014 as a campus club with the help of veteran music industry professionals has transformed into an independent record label for up-and-coming artists.
Disrupción has massively expanded over the years into Berklee Valencia’s largest practicum. The record label once had only three to four students running it and signed one to two Berklee student artists per year.
But now “it has almost half of the master’s students running,” says Peter Dyson, professor of Berklee Valencia’s Record Practicum course.
The label has 12 signed artists based worldwide who are within and outside of the Berklee community. It also distributes its artists’ music through Sony’s the Orchard—a music distribution service—like full-fledged independent record labels do.
The label is 100 percent student-run and has Berklee Valencia master’s program students operating as executives and staff, with Dyson’s help each spring term.
The students collaboratively use their skills and academic knowledge to cultivate and support new talent. Many also use the Record Practicum as their culminating experience, such as Julianne Wilson M.A. ’22, CEO of Disrupción Records, and Alexa Silverman M.A. ’22, the label’s head of marketing and branding.
As a student in the campus’s global entertainment and music business program, Silverman applies the skills she gained from her A&R (artist and repertoire) and Data Analytics classes to help new talent reach their career goals and successfully market their music.
“A&R and the Data Analytics courses have been really crucial for understanding the artist from a creative and artistic perspective, but also understanding their potential to be successful with the manpower that we have,” Silverman says.
Her global entertainment and music business classmate Wilson attributes her leadership skills and decentralized-yet-supportive approach to Professor Alexandre Perrin’s Global Leadership course. She also applied many of her lessons from Dyson’s Copyright and Contracts and A&R courses as the label’s CEO and co-imprint lead.
“I think that people do best when they feel like they're empowered, because everyone is taking the same program and doing the same classes, and I'm here to provide support, infrastructure, and advice and step in when I need to,” Wilson says.
Dyson explains that the course is a synthesis of everything the students learn in their other courses. They maintain an ethical approach to signing artists and a technologically innovative approach to running the label.
The team aims to convey these ethics by creating artist-friendly, short-term contracts and remaining honest about the resources and time available to support artists. It also operates as a career accelerator by providing artists with essential music business knowledge and resources to help them move on in their careers and to other major record labels.
The team achieves these goals using a unique business strategy, welcoming innovative ideas from each new student member.
The 2022 executive team built its business strategy upon these goals by establishing imprints, or sub-labels. By doing this, the group says it was able to better handle company-wide resources and delegate responsibilities.
The executive team also built connections with its surrounding communities and diverse cultures while maintaining inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability. This helped the team receive its first diversity, equity, and inclusion grant.
“Making it very clear that it's a community that everyone can be involved with and be a part of, and just doing what we can in terms of making it feel like a very inclusive and approachable environment is something that we’ve prioritized in the executive team this year,” Wilson says.
Each of Disrupción’s six imprints connect with different cultures and genres. These include the label’s Japanese imprint Nikko, South African imprint Poetic Beats, the student-focused jazz/hip-hop imprint Redgota Records, Peruvian imprint Parasol Entertainment Network, LGBTQ+ and Latinx imprint Way Up High, and Valencian imprint Ruzafa Records.
Meanwhile, the label is creating deeper connections with the Berklee community by signing Berklee students and preparing them for work after graduation.
The label also collaborates with students in other departments and courses, such as those in the Master of Music in production, technology, and innovation program and in the Live Practicum. These students help with technical elements for Disrupción’s live events and pitch entrepreneurial ideas that the label can apply.
The next bridge Disrupción aims to build is with Berklee Boston with the aim of sharing its accomplishments with its sister campus.
“I think there's just so much potential for collaboration with [our Boston counterparts], and we really thrive when we have brains from different parts of the world working together,” Silverman says.
To link with the music industry, Berklee professors and students provide direct connections between industry professionals, students, and artists to help accelerate their careers.
One such partnership is with the New York–based music publisher Mano Walker. With the help of Wilson, who is Mano Walker’s head of A&R and sync, artists can sign to Disrupción to have their music pitched to a broad network of music supervisors and producers for sync and custom-scoring opportunities.
The new department is also partnering with Analogue Records, an unaffiliated Berklee student-run record label founded by Jordan Quin, a professional music major at the Boston campus. Together they will promote a Berklee music catalog by signing sync deals with Analogue’s artists.
Finally, Disrupción is implementing several initiatives to connect with its artists’ audiences.
Silverman says that the label is creating Twitch and Discord channels “to engage [with fans] on a more personal level and [allow them] to get to know the people that are behind all of the things we’re doing.”
The label is also organizing a benefit showcase of its artists on June 24 at Valencia’s Radio City. The executives will pair artists from different imprints to perform together and show music videos of artists based outside of Valencia. The concert will serve as a fundraiser and create awareness about the negative effect of the music industry’s carbon emissions on the environment. The label plans to partner with an environmental nonprofit to sponsor the event and implement steps to reduce its carbon emissions.
Disrupción aims to showcase how they build bridges across their communities and promote new artists in ethical and innovative ways. They hope this legacy continues in the coming academic years.
“We're trying to be more sustainable in our practice,” Silverman says. “We’re trying to be more inclusive and just be more cognizant of inclusive practices, and we're just trying to keep the diversity of the different artists that we sign alive.”
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