Label makers 

The brand new Central Coast Records is launching through ACM@UCO as a label by the students, for the students.

click to enlarge Tar Creek

Jesse Edgar

Tar Creek

For a couple generations of musicians raised on brutal public disputes, scene veteran horror stories, and way too many episodes of Behind the Music, it’s often felt like record labels were the enemy.

In an age loaded with hyper-indie sentiment and a prevailing DIY mentality bolstered by social media and YouTube, the question, “Why do I need a label?” seems to be coming stronger than ever from young artists and music students.

To find the answer to that question, a group of students at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music have taken an unexpected approach.

They started their own.

“Towards the end of the semester, our entire class was wondering why ACM didn’t have its own label,” said Ashton Lippel, acting Vice President of the newly-formed Central Coast Records. “It just really felt like something we should be doing.”

The idea that would become Central Coast floated out of a record label operations course at ACM overseen by Program Director and part-time Flaming Lips drummer Nick Ley.

click to enlarge PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • Photo provided.

“The idea had apparently kicked around for over ten years,” Lippel said, “But Nick was like, ‘You know, we've tried, and we just haven't been able to figure out the logistics of it, but I'm willing, and I know [ACM Executive Director] Scott [Booker] is willing, if we can figure it out.’”

With that tentative greenlight, Lippel and friends started putting together an idea of what a student-run, school-adjacent label could be and how it could help to not only promote young Academy artists, but to prepare them for the realities of the label game in the wider world.

“Our class as a whole just kind of started building a foundation of what label services we would want to offer,” he said. “And we have a teacher on staff, Cara Dehnert, that teaches music law and contractual law, and she put us in contact with someone running a college record label, and they were able to kind of get us the framework of how they do it.”

The result is Central Coast Records, a joke on the glut of coastal pride running through so many indie labels and scenes from the country’s edges, and perhaps a sly reference to the “no-coast” descriptor often thrust onto Midwestern punk and emo.

According to Lippel, the immediate goal is to set up distribution and promo channels for completed releases from bands and artists enrolled at ACM, but future plans hope to see them utilizing the school’s impressive recording and production resources as well.

“None of us at the school really have experience releasing music,” he said. “The whole point is to coach the people who come through on how to do it, so that once they graduate past the needs of Central Coast Records, they can either handle themselves or know what they're looking for when they go to a bigger label.”

Operating a label with the full cooperation of UCO offers them a wealth of important resources, from legal advice and training through the law school to open collaboration with the school’s visual arts students to create album artwork alongside UCO’s graphic design studios like InkTank.

“It’s really about getting that kind of ground-up experience,” Lippel said. “I think that the whole point of us doing it from scratch was so that we can learn how hard it is to actually do it and learn what it takes because a lot of these people have expressed interest in starting their own labels eventually.”

Lippel says that might be in the cards for him in the future as well, but for now, his longer-term sights are set on the performing side of things.

The debut album Consumed by his band Tar Creek – a brutal hardcore outfit writing songs inspired by the 20th-century environmental disaster of Picher, Okla. – was Central Coast’s first official release.

“What happened was that the organization was started, we had a constitution, we were on paper as a UCO organization, and it was like ‘All right, we have to do something now,’” he said. “And my band had just finished recording our album, so I was just like ‘Eell, if anyone’s interested, my album is ready.’ So we all voted and it was a unanimous ‘yes,’ and we decided that we would test this all out with the Tar Creek record.”

click to enlarge Tar Creek - JESSE EDGAR
  • Jesse Edgar
  • Tar Creek

Seething political metal might not be what’s in most people’s heads when they think of ACM, but that kind of diversity and unexpected output is exactly what Central Coast Records hopes to spotlight going forward, even after Lippel graduates and hands the reins off to the next class.

“We want it to be as eclectic as possible,” he said. “We all agreed that one of the premises of Central Coast is that we’re not going to genre discriminate. If it’s good music, we’ll put it out.”

For Lippel, that’s the principle that he hopes will keep the label relevant and supportive for students and artists even long after he’s gone, and that’s what he hopes will change the image in young performers’ heads of record labels as an enemy.

“There are just a lot of people trying to do something new and fun and unique,” he said. “And that’s really what ACM is. It’s a melting pot.”


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