MAD Dragon Records, Drexel University’s student-run record label, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special concert that will take place on Friday, May 17 at The Trocadero Theater (1003 Arch St.). The show will feature a lineup of MAD Dragon artists that spans all genres and styles of music. Cheers Elephant and Hoots & Hellmouth will headline the event with special guests Kuf Knotz, Andrew Lipke & The Prospects, Matt Duke and Wild Rompit.
MAD Dragon Records is part of Drexel’s music industry program in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. When it was founded in 2003, it was one of the nation’s first student-run record labels associated with a degree program. MAD Dragon inked its first recording artist, Jules Shear, in 2004 and, since then, the label has turned out more than 32 titles, produced 17 artists and was named “College Label of the Year” in 2007 and 2008 by The Independent Music Awards.
“Drexel’s music industry program and its student-run record label MAD Dragon Records revolutionized a unique hands-on approach to educating students who are passionate about making careers in the music industry,” said Westphal College Dean Allen Sabinson. “The music industry has seen cataclysmic change over the past decade, but in today’s digital age, more music is created and distributed than at any time in history. Drexel’s music industry program and MAD Dragon Records are incredibly excited about educating the next generations of leaders who will continue to reshape the rich musical landscape and changing music industry.”
The anniversary concert will feature a one-time-only reunion of original MAD Dragon band Hoots & Hellmouth. Also headlining the concert is Cheers Elephant, a psychedelic pop rock quartet who have been working with Drexel’s publishing entity MAD Music. Kuf Knotz, one of the first artists to sign with MAD Dragon, will add his blend of hip-hop, funk, soul and rock to the show.
Andrew Lipke, also known for being part of the six-piece Led Zeppelin tribute band Get The Led Out, has released two albums with MAD Dragon over the years, will perform with his band The Prospects. Matt Duke, an emotionally charged singer-songwriter who released his first full-length album with MAD Dragon in 2004, will also perform during the show. As will Wild Rompit, another high-energy act that has worked with Drexel’s Bantic Media since 2012.
Admission is free for Drexel students with a valid ID. For all others, tickets are $10 in advance and $15 on the day of show and can be purchased online at www.thetroc.com/events or at the Trocadero’s box office located at 1003 Arch St. Everyone in attendance will receive a copy of “Ten Years of MAD Dragon Records,” a compilation of songs from the various artists who have released albums with the label over the past decade.
Including the artists who are returning for the concert, MAD Dragon has produced a number of top-notch performers over the last 10 years. One of the crowning moments for the label came in the fall of 2007 when Capitol Records recording artists The Redwalls signed with MAD Dragon to distribute their eponymously titled sophomore album. The band went on to make appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Most recently, MAD Dragon worked with the rock band Motion City Soundtrack to curate a series of seven-inch vinyl record releases from a number of emerging artists. The series, called “Making Moves” features tracks from Brick + Mortar, A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Goldrush, The Company We Keep and The Skies Revolt. The series kicked off with a showcase at the 2012 South-by-Southwest Music Festival and concluded with a limited edition box-set including each of the records and a 70-minute documentary film about the making of the series.
Since 2003, more than 140 students have graduated from Drexel’s music industry program with experience working at MAD Dragon. Many of those graduates have gone on to be successful in the music industry.
One of the program’s first alumni, Ryan Schwabe, is now a member of the Board of Governors for the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, co-chair of the Producers and Engineers Wing and a voting member of the Grammy Awards. Schwabe, who is also a musician, producer, DJ, sound engineer and music programmer, is now an adjunct faculty member in Drexel’s music industry program, a guest lecturer at The Curtis Institute of Music and the recording studio manager for MAD Dragon.
“Drexel taught me to take on projects and challenges that I thought might be beyond my skill level,” Schawbe said. “The University’s focus on industry is what got my foot in the door of a local recording studio and behind the mixing console with an artist who went on to win a Grammy for their work. I found that if I was proactive and willing to take a risk, Drexel would put me in the right place to turn that risk into a reward.”
Christianna LaBuz, a 2008 graduate of the program, went on to work as a booking agent for Fleming Arts in Ann Arbor, Mich. She is now a talent buyer at World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington, Del.
“There’s only so much you can learn while sitting in a lecture hall,” LaBuz said. “That’s why Drexel’s music industry program and my time spent working within Mad Dragon Records specifically was so invaluable because the curriculum is structured around real-life experiences. No textbook will allow you to get your hands dirty or make mistakes and learn how to fix them. Being afforded the opportunity to work with real musicians, agents, managers, club owners and producers in the flesh set me up for life after graduation and helped me to launch a stable career in an otherwise tumultuous industry.”
The success of MAD Dragon has also led to the creation of other student-run, music industry business entities at Drexel. MADKo Concerts is Drexel’s concert promotion division; DraKo Booking Agency lines up shows for artists; MAD Dragon Publishing is the music publishing wing of MAD Dragon; and Bantic Media is the program’s student-run artist services company.