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VOL. 127 | NO. 67 | Thursday, April 05, 2012

Joyful Noise

Visible Music College launches nonprofit label Madison Line Records

By Andy Meek

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Memphis has a major new advocate of live, original music.

Kirk Smith, head of music production for Madison Line Records, second from left, does a sound check during a recording session of the recently signed band She Said. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

It’s Madison Line Records, a locally based full-service nonprofit record label launched by Visible Music College, which itself offers a variety of music industry programs and classes.

The label had its official coming-out party with a showcase of the label’s six artists at the beginning of March. Madison Line’s first six artists – Until June, Cayerio & Speakerboxx, J&R, Jo, She Said and Visible Worship Band – all were signed within the last couple of months.

Those artists also span genres that include pop, rock, hip-hop and metal.

Madison Line Records CEO Sam Garrett predicts that by the end of the year, the label’s artist roster will have doubled with the addition of roughly another six artists.

Long-term, Madison Line’s “sweet spot” will probably end up between 15 and 20 artists, Garrett said.

Along with that, Garrett sees the new label, which has studio and office space at 287 Madison Ave., also becoming a major advocate and supporter of the local music scene.

Garrett said he ventures down to Beale Street multiple times a week to hang out, listen to cover bands, enjoy original music, and that he’d like Madison Line to be part of that homegrown scene.

“At 287, we have Madison Line Café, which is a venue, a singer-songwriter venue, that holds 65 to 70 people,” he said. “It’s 10,000 square feet, and as you go back in there we’ve got offices, administrative space and studios. We have a small studio and a medium-sized studio there.

“We definitely want to be known as a big advocate of live, original music in Memphis.”

In the short-term, Madison Line has five CDs that are going to be released soon and five groups that will be on the road this summer. The label also is finishing up several other CDs and projects right now.

About a half-dozen full-time employees plus several contract employees work for Madison Line, the space for which at 287 Madison Ave. is about two blocks away from the Visible Music College space at 200 Madison.

“This really is an overflow of the strategic plan of Visible Music College, which started in 2000,” Garrett said. “Part of the desire Ken (Steorts) had when he started the college was to have a full-service nonprofit record label. Because of financial constraints and staffing and other issues, it really wasn’t able to be the full-service record label until today.”

Steorts, the founding guitarist of Christian rock band Skillet, is the founder and president of Visible Music College. In a video posted on Madison Line’s website, he said Visible has long noted a need for the full suite of services Madison Line now provides.

“Over the past decade, we’ve connected with artists locally, nationally and internationally,” Steorts said. “We’ve seen the artists need continual development. (Things like) strong support, music production, management and booking throughout their career.”

To that end, Madison Line has its own in-house booking professionals. It manages a number of stages and venues in town and also does booking for artists. In addition to its staff of engineers and producers, Madison Line can take an artist and do everything they need to get started.

“Normally, an artist would have a manager and then they would negotiate with a label and then they would negotiate with someone else for a booking agreement,” Garrett said. “We bring everything in house.”

Madison Line’s services include recording, booking, publishing, management and production. Madison Line also will work with any artist in any style.

Its studios and video services are open to anybody, Garrett said.

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