James Street Records

BA Music students at the University of Plymouth ordinarily undertake a Professional Development module in their second year. During this module, they would find and undergo placements, typically within the music industry or local community. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, the students’ placement options were extremely limited.

As a result, Module Leader Lee Whittock had to find a new, creative way for students to develop professional skills and workplace experience, one of which being the creation of a record label.

Developing the projects

Students were given the opportunity to choose from roles in both the record label team and teaching resources team, where the students would create music-based teaching resources to be distributed to local schools.

In the record label team, there were four departments: Management, A&R, Marketing and Promotion, and Branding. The teaching resources team also had several departments.

Students chose a primary and a secondary role from the departments within the two available projects. Lee made the final choices and informed the group of the roles they would be responsible for. As a result, all students ended up with either the primary, secondary, or both choices they had made.

The variety of roles available meant students could develop skills in relation to their interests, as well as try roles outside their comfort zone. Moreover, the opportunity to carry out two roles allowed for more experiences to shape future career preferences.

Professional development

Lee designed the module to be as close to what the students could expect from a professional environment as possible.

Minutes were taken, and all aspects of this process were designed to be as professional in nature as possible. An agenda was monitored and upheld, to ensure each aspect was addressed.”

Lee Whittock, BA Music Programme Lead

Students were expected to hold micro-meetings within departments every week and fed back to the larger group every Monday in the group session with Lee. In these meetings, Lee and students would discuss how to attain goals and maintain a forward momentum to all aspects of the project.

Although remote, the professional nature of the projects allowed students to develop similar skills and experience as they would in-person. These include, teamwork, leadership (in their primary role(s)), working during stressful situations and conducting themselves in a professional manner.

Ellie’s journey

Ellie was one of two students that had two primary roles: one in the branding department of the record label team and one in the music resources team, focusing on accessibility. Initially, Ellie was more passionate about the teaching resources team as she felt it was more in her comfort zone, as she had prior knowledge of accessibility.

"I thought throughout the project I would do a lot more with the teaching resource group because that was initially where all of my interest was… but throughout it I got so engaged with creating the record label brand."

For Ellie, the skill most developed was researching; Ellie made use of the University's library resources and staff. Research into branding, with its reliance on facts and figures, was very different from the often opinion-based nature of BA Music essays.

Although Ellie has previous experience working in professional environments, working on branding was a unique experience that allowed for new creative challenges.

“I had so much scope to create what I wanted for this brand, but it was about controlling that and perhaps not being as wildly creative as I wanted to. That’s difficult to do and it was a really good technique, especially as a composer who often gets lost in ideas and runs with them!”
Ellie Scrivens, BA Music student

Networking and career preparation

Despite being unable to meet in-person, students were still able to expand a professional network; from workshops with industry leaders, such as composer Simon Dobson, to communicating with the Student Union with regards to transforming the record label into a society. Guest lectures from University of Plymouth staff also assisted professional development and allowed them to consider and prepare for graduate options.

Defining James Street Records

The team were provided with statistics from the University to inform the label’s demographic and branding. Accordingly, James Street Records will be marketed as a rock and pop label, and towards young adults. However, it will not be exclusive to this demographic. Anything from a string quartet to heavy metal bands can be accepted, but at least one person per act must be a student at the University.

The future

Rob Innes, a student involved in the building of the label, plans to take the record label to The Cube to develop it further. He hopes to gain funding for a start-up project, so that he can externally manage the label and work with PUPOS to generate development placements. Additionally, Rob is using this project in his third-year module MUZ608: self-employment, marketing & promotion, also run by Lee.

It is hoped that the record label will become an external small business that will work with undergraduates to create development opportunities, whilst the label is growing. Beneficially, this project coincides with the University new and well-equipped studio that is being built in Rolle building, providing the potential to be a fantastic graduate employment opportunity in the future.

 

This case study was written by Cassie Turner, a student at the University. Connect with Cassie on LinkedIn.

At Plymouth, we run a professional development programme, working exclusively with BA (Hons) Music students, providing professional opportunities, advice and contacts within the music industry or in music education.

We aim to:

  • provide music industry and education experience
  • provide professional networking opportunities
  • utilise voluntary and paid professional opportunities, from local, regional and national sources
  • provide industry and education advice
  • assist in PGCE application
  • help create a professional CV / PDP
  • generate opportunities to source professional references, contacts, further employment, further experience.
Find out more about the professional development programme