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Newcastle University conference puts record labels in the spotlight

The rise and the fall of the record label and its struggle for relevance in the digital age will be explored at this international conference

Mike Urwin Matthew Ord, organiser of the international conference at Newcastle University
Matthew Ord, organiser of the international conference at Newcastle University

The rise and the fall of the record label and its struggle for relevance in the digital age is the theme for an international conference at Newcastle University.

All aspects of record labels will be examined at the two-day One Century of Record Labels: Mapping Places, Stories and Communities of Sound.

Subjects will range from the DIY ethos of 1980s hardcore punk to whether today’s hit records could learn something from Pete Waterman’s PWL label – home to Kylie, Mel and Kim and Sinitta - when it was in its 80s prime.

Along the way it will also take in a wide range of topics including how to sustain a micro record label and the Welsh folk revival.

“Record labels inspire real loyalty and you often see people wearing t-shirts with their logo on,” says conference organiser Matthew Ord. “They are something people identify with, and can instantly conjure up a time or a place. Motown is an excellent example of this – mention it and people know exactly what kind of music it represents, the era it came to define and they immediately picture the acts it represented.

Mike Urwin Conference organiser Matthew Ord
Conference organiser Matthew Ord
 

“Others like Virgin have become part of a bigger business story while Creation means something anyone who became interested in music in the 90s.

“But the world has changed and the record business has been affected by new technologies and ways of sharing music. They’re having to look at new ways of doing things and to find out if record labels as we know them still have a future.”

Offering a unique insight into these questions will be keynote speaker and Newcastle graduate, Dr Peter Dale, founder of the iconic DIY label Slampt, which represented artists such as Kenickie, fronted by the now BBC TV presenter Lauren Laverne, and the Yummy Fur, which included Paul Thomson and Alex Kapranos, who would later become part of Franz Ferdinand.

Now senior lecturer in music at Manchester Metropolitan University, his work with the label has been the subject of retrospectives at Newcastle’s Star and Shadow Cinema and London Pop Fest.

His keynote address ‘Unpacking my Record Collection’ will reflect on the enduring legacies of his work with Slampt and the future of DIY music-making.

Mike Urwin Conference organiser Matthew Ord
Conference organiser Matthew Ord
 

Newcastle University alumnus Terry Ellis, co-founder of Chrysalis Records, who has guided the careers of music legends including David Bowie, Blondie, and Roxy Music, will also be on the panel.

Terry will be joined by Professor Catherine Moore from New York University and Mat Flynn from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, to discuss the changing shape of the record industry.

“It’s certainly a diverse line-up,” said Matthew, who is studying for PhD in music at Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies. “We think this is the first conference of its kind and we’re delighted speakers from as far away as the US and New Zealand are coming along to share their expertise.”

One Century of Record Labels: Mapping Places, Stories and Communities of Sound is organised by Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies and will take place in the Devonshire Building on November 6 and 7.

For more information visit: www.ncl.ac.uk/nicap/news/events/item/conference-one-century-of-record-labels-mapping-places-stories-and-communities-of-sound

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