Producing the Future

Photo by Maddie Schroeder

Photo by Maddie Schroeder

Grace Dearing

Behind every successful musician and every radio hit is a team of professionals focused on producing, recording and marketing the music. Ohio University’s School of Media Arts and Studies provides students interested in the production side of the music industry with hands-on experience through the premier student-run record label Brick City Records.

When Josh Antonuccio joined OU’s faculty full-time, he took over Brick City Records as the adviser and reimagined the entire experience for the students.

“[I wanted it to be] some kind of cumulative experience where all of the production students and all of the business students could come together,” Antonuccio says. “[To] have a chance to really see the whole process through signing [artists], recording, publicity materials, marketing plan, mixing and mastering all of the singles and then ultimately doing music videos and hosting a release show at the end of the year.”

Brick City Records was offered as a senior capstone course for the first time in 2016-17. During the first semester, students in the class learned about the development of the record label, organization of each department and how to make a marketing and production plan to use for the rest of the year. As the year progressed, Antonuccio says the learning became more hands-on for students, allowing them to work with high-end outboard equipment, speakers and software.

Many of the students who were involved with Brick City Records found their own success in the music industry, including Marcus Meston and Zachary Crandall. Meston was the music production supervisor of Brick City Records and is now a producer, composer and songwriter in Nashville. Crandall, former Brick City Records president and director of artists and repertoire, now works as the artists and repertoire at Warner Music Group.

Both Meston and Crandall were involved with Brick City Records the first year that it ran as a capstone class. They both attribute their successes to the lessons and techniques they learned at Brick City Records.

“I was doing [artists and repertoire] on a super small scale with Brick City… but it prepared me,” Crandall says. “It just helped me develop my ear and helped me get a better idea of what makes an artist, what makes a great song, how to develop and ultimately establish an artist’s career.”

Brick City Records taught Meston how to collaborate with artists by allowing him to work with artist CLUBHOUSE during the 2016-17 school year. The band taught him to use new software and techniques when producing their synth-heavy music.

“It’s something that I still use today and actually pretty heavily rely on, so working with them was awesome,” Meston says.

The most obvious necessity for the team was to find artists willing to sign and work with the label. Crandall says they had a lot of freedom to mold the process of signing and recording artists because it was the rst time the label counted for academic credit.

“We were creating our own rules, but that made things super interesting and fun,” he says.

That year, Brick City Records signed four artists, which became the standard moving forward. During the 2017-18 school year, the new Brick City Records team signed Sarob, BaileyRP, Allie Austin and Sylmar.

Similar to how the label gives aspiring producers creative freedom and hands-on experience, it also gives the artists the opportunity to change their sound and produce new music.

“I tried to take a different direction [with the music],” Sarob says. “We had live musicians in [the studio] and I was playing keys on most of the parts in each song… It was a completely different direction, and I was excited that people enjoyed it.”

The students at Brick City Records are dedicated to catering to the needs of their artists. Sarob says he remembers the students in the studio worked hard to bring his visions to life and were exible with his ideas.

That attentiveness isn’t limited to the studio. After a year of production, recording and social media marketing, Brick City Records hosts a live show uptown at The Union, where each artist plays for an audience who may never have heard of them before.

“Athens has a lot of young adults that really enjoy music and enjoy the arts and being able to play in that city, it’s a wonderful place full of love and creative energy oating around,” says Brian McCullough, vocalist for Sylmar.

While the musicians focus on creating an entertaining show for the community, Brick City Records producers, marketers and managers spend the night making sure the show runs as smoothly as possible.

“It was cool because I didn’t have to worry too much, other than just doing my thing, which, that’s the goal for every artist,” Austin says. “Out of all of the gigs I’ve done, it was different because I could just only focus on what I needed to do.”

Luke Glaser, guitarist for Slymar, noticed Brick City Records’ attention to detail as well.

“They even ran our merch table for us, which is honestly incredible,” he says. “Normally, you get done with a set and you have to run over to the merch booth sweating… and try to talk to people.”

The end of the year showcase at The Union not only celebrates the new music each artist records that year, but also all of the hard work done by the Brick City Records team.

While Brick City Records offers extensive creative opportunity for students, Crandall says it’s a challenging experience. Meston elaborates that the benefits of the months of hard work are dependent on how much effort is put into the label.

“We took it pretty seriously and tried to make it a body of work where we had deadlines,” Meston says. “[In] this industry, deadlines are huge and you can’t miss one and I felt that was something we were really trying to do; be strict and work late nights, and I felt like it was good preparation for the [future].”

Antonuccio says the whole point of the program is to teach students real-world lessons before they leave school and begin applying for jobs.

“The near nine-month experience provides an incredible opportunity [for students] to actually put their skills into practice,” he says. “It’s not just theory, and really they have to live and die by success.” 

*An error in this article in the print version was corrected before posting to the website