Young music moguls take a riotous road to success

11th July 2008 at 01:00
An independent record label, set up by a group of secondary pupils, is signing up some of Scotland's hottest new talent

An independent record label, set up by a group of secondary pupils, is signing up some of Scotland's hottest new talent

He founded Creation Records, the indie label that discovered Oasis, and is a former pupil at King's Park Secondary in Glasgow. So it is not surprising that Alan McGee, the music industry legend, has been an inspiration to six senior King's Park pupils who have followed in his footsteps and set up their own independent record label.

Riot Van Records (RVR), as the new label is called, began life as a one- off project guided by Clare Harker, the school's enterprise officer, and Archie Dickson, a music lecturer at Stow College, which runs an "enterprise through music" course.

During past projects, pupils had set up a record company in school and used school musicians to release a CD for charity. But the team behind Riot Van Records were unusual from the start. They decided almost immediately that they did not want to "play" at the music business, but rather to operate as real music promoters, working with real bands in the real world.

Now, after months of hard work, their dream has been realised. Riot Van Records has just released a 15-track album showcasing unsigned Scottish bands and has staged a sell-out concert at the ABC2 in Glasgow to launch the CD, which costs pound;5.

The small business will become a fully registered company over the summer, with the six teenagers at the helm, and if that were not enough, the label has caused a nationwide buzz on social networking sites such as MySpace.

"We are fans with a record label," explains Fraser Anderson, 17, one of the RVR team behind the album. RVR No1 is now on sale in Borders stores and will soon have an online distributor.

Fraser, who plays the guitar and has a Higher in music, says: "At first we were going to do an album of covers with backing tracks, which the Intermediate 2 music students did last year. Then we decided to look for new Scottish bands with their own songs and it just grew from there into this massive thing."

The RVR team placed fliers in record shops and recording studios around Glasgow, and set up a page on MySpace, inviting young bands to send in their demo tapes. They had to work on MySpace at home because social networking sites cannot be accessed at school.

"There are millions of bands on MySpace and lots of tapes started arriving in the post," says Fraser. "You could tell whether they were good after the first 40 seconds - eventually your ears are honed to just hear the good stuff."

The team received 120 demos from across the UK and Ireland, ranging from novices of the high-school disco to seasoned performers still searching for their big break.

Samantha Denholm, 16, part of RVR, explains: "Over the Easter holidays we listened to all the demos. It took about six hours. We disagreed at times, but eventually whittled it down to 15 tracks.

"Our aim was to showcase original, unsigned Scottish talent, so some good bands were rejected simply because they weren't Scottish. We wanted a varied album and the 15 bands we picked are the best ones. They all have something unique about them."

They include two groups from Holyrood Secondary, in Glasgow, and a singer- songwriter on the RVR team at King's Park who recorded their contributions at Stow College.

The team then pitched for sponsorship of around pound;1,000 from a pensions company, which wants to remain anonymous. The money financed the CD production and the launch concert.

But there were a few glitches: the CDs arrived too late to be sold at the gig and study for Highers "got in the way" of business. Still, the launch was a success, and was watched by key industry figures from Mercury Records and Warner Brothers.

Since then, the RVR website has had 4,000 hits in a week and the CD has been played on local radio. The album cover features artwork by Amanda Bernard, 16, one of the team. She used Ms Harker's VW van as her muse.

Fraser says: "At the moment Riot Van Records is a stepping stone, helping bands move on to bigger things. But we might do something different next year. Alan McGee has wished us well."

As for the label's name, Samantha explained that it comes from an Arctic Monkeys song called "Riot Van", which bemoans the often undeserved bad press that teenagers get these days. So far they have had no copyright complaints, but with business nous belying their age, they joke that they would welcome the publicity if they did.

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