Since its October inception, Swamp Records has hosted a showcase, launched a blog and co-sponsored an event at Gainesville Fashion Week. Now, it’s partnering with artists.
The student-run record label announced partnerships with Gainesville bands Bells and Robes and The Savants of Soul on March 31. These partnerships mean Swamp Records will provide promotional support to the bands, both of which include members with ties to UF.
“Nothing is official yet,” Swamp Records head director Rachel Ring said. “What we can’t give them is money and a record deal like a major label, but we can help the bands get attention.”
The label collaborates with UF’s Audio Engineering Society, so it has the capability to produce and edit audio for the bands it works with. However, both bands were nearing the end of the recording process when they were approached by Swamp Records.
Ring said she doesn’t think the university is prepared to sign artists yet due to legal considerations and lack of precedent for this type of agreement, but the possibility is there for future years if UF decides to take on that initiative.
“They’ve never dealt with anything like this before,” she said.
Because the Swamp Records partnerships rely on unofficial verbal agreements instead of contracts, there is the possibility of accountability issues in the future. But Ring said she doesn’t foresee any issues with bands going back on their word or abusing the relationship.
“If they don’t treat us well, we don’t have to work with them,” she said. “If it’s not mutually beneficial, then we can end the partnership.”
The label could keep growing to a point where it could take on paid clients. But Ring said she doesn’t think money will ever be involved because the students “are not going to be professionals at any point.”
“Right now the purpose of Swamp Records is to help local musicians,” she said.
The Savants of Soul bassist John Gray Shermyen said the “very altruistic relationship” grants the band more freedom than a traditional record deal.
The lack of contractual obligation leaves the opportunity open for the bands to sign to a larger label in the future — a decision that Swamp Records would support and even encourage, Ring said.
“We’re still holding onto creative control and keeping all of our opportunities open,” said Shermyen, a 24-year-old UF alumnus.
Justin McKenzie, also a 24-year-old UF alumnus, said the partnership with Swamp Records was a dream realized.
“I’ve been trying to get signed since I was 13 years old,” said the vocalist for the 11-piece soul act.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 4/8/2014 under the headline "Swamp Records promotes — not signs — two bands with UF ties"]