Young songwriter launches own label in lockdown

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Sarah McBean has launched her own record label to support other young artists.

A young singer songwriter has launched her own record label to help other students to record and share their music.

Gateshead College student Sarah McBean combined her passion for music and her drive to support fellow young musicians to establish SJM Records in May last year.

The 18-year-old from Newcastle, who is completing a Level 3 Music Production course, explains why she spent two-years studying music production to start her own label.

“It’s really hard for young musicians to get their music out there in a way that protects them and their sound while generating an income.

“In the past I’d been offered recording contracts that would have seen me signing over the rights to my music and the majority of any income.

“I’ve taken my time to really understand the business and I’m really excited to have launched my own label - especially during the pandemic. It’s a very male-dominated industry too so I was keen to play my own little part in changing that.”

Sarah’s label doesn’t take the rights to any music and any revenue is split 50/50. Any income to SJM Records is reinvested for artists to travel, record, publish and purchase new equipment.

Four Gateshead College music students, including Sarah, have already launched their music through SJM Records. She’s published and marketed music for Patrick Smyth and Jack Dryden, an EP Crystals and a single Silly for Callum Arthur which was released on Christmas eve 2020. Their music can now be listened to on popular music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Her own single Dangerous Eyes, an acoustic track, has had more than 1,000 streams.

Sarah and her team (she’s recruited Patrick and Jack to work with her) are keen to get back to Gateshead College’s professional recording studios to work with more musicians who are keen to have their music published - there’s around 50 students interested in signing to the label.

Asked where her love for all things music started, she explains: “Music definitely runs in my family and I’ve always been involved in music in some way. My grandparents were members of the Sunderland Operatics Society and my sister also sings. I was given a ukelele aged three and was playing guitar by eight, then I started songwriting when I was 14.

“After school I joined Gateshead College to study music production because I wanted to be able to produce my own music. As I’ve gone through the course, my love for the industry has grown and I’ve really enjoyed developing my understanding of the business side and establishing my own enterprise.

“We’ve got a great little community at Gateshead College and having the ability to use the college’s recording studios and mixing labs is fantastic. I’ve also had so much support from my teachers, particularly Steve, who has lots of experience in the music industry and has helped me a lot.”

Steve Long got into teaching following a long and successful career as a bassist touring the UK with the likes of Kasabian and Maximo Park. A former Gateshead College student himself, Steve added: “I got into teaching because it’s so rewarding to be able to use my experience of the music industry to inspire and support young people. Sarah has really embraced college life and she’s used her passion to launch this amazing label which is supporting other young people like her to get their music out there. She’s an exemplar student with a really fantastic future ahead of her.”

After college, Sarah plans to go to Leeds Beckett University to study music production. She hopes to continue to run her own record label or work for a major record label in the future.

Wed Oct 20 2021