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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

Oklahoma College Students Help Rock Band Land Record Deal

October 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Thanks to the enterprising students at the University of Central Oklahoma, indie rock band ARANDA has landed a deal with Wind-up Records.

The Oklahoma City-based band, led by brothers Dameon (vocals/guitar) and Gabe (vocals/keyboards) Aranda, had built a small following on the strength of a self-titled album released in 2008. They garnered some radio airplay and a handful of national tour dates. Kelly Clarkson re-recorded two of their songs for her 2009 album, All I Ever Wanted.

And while the latter earned the brothers a paycheck, that had been three years prior and now they were struggling to get by, playing shows whenever and wherever they could. Earlier this year, they scraped together the funds to record an album, but didn’t have the means to promote the finished product.

“Marketing an album can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and we were barely able to cover our personal bills,” says Dameon. “So we posted the album (titled Stop The World) online and emailed friends and family about it, hoping they’d help spread the word. But that only went so far.”

“I read an article that claimed over 75,000 albums are released every year and I started losing sleep,” laughs Gabe. “It’s like that saying: ‘if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ How were we supposed to compete with artists and albums that were being properly marketed and distributed?”

They found the answer at the University of Central Oklahoma, which has a program called The Academy of Contemporary Music. Gabe and Dameon cold-called Trey Rick, the school’s coordinator of academic operations and teacher of its “Music Marketing and Retail” course and asked if he and his class would be interested in getting hands-on experience marketing a real-life band. Rick jumped at the opportunity, scrapped the planned case study curriculum and instructed the students to create marketing plans to promote Aranda. He picked the six best proposals and set up a meeting with the band.

“It was exciting,” recalls Rick. “Suddenly, the students became an artist development and promotional think tank for an actual rock band. Talk about an invaluable experience.”

They put a plan in motion that saw the class overseeing Aranda’s social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, coordinating creation/management of the band’s website and branded store, and organizing street teams to promote the band locally. They launched a contest enabling a winner to see the band perform in Houston and even created a lyric music video for one of Aranda’s songs.

“We wanted to build a dynamic infrastructure through which the band could clearly communicate and build relationships with both existing and new fans. The students also logged a lot of after-hours legwork as they gathered and analyzed data, measuring user engagement and online conversations. For offline measurement, they took to the streets to hand out information about the band.”

Meanwhile, the group’s manager and some friends pursued radio airplay. Over the course of a four-month period, radio stations had latched onto an Aranda song titled “Undone,” which wound up hitting No. 23 on the rock charts. That led to a second single, “Satisfied,” which shot to No. 14 . Combined with the online and local buzz created by the students, Aranda wound up selling over 5,000 copies of Stop The World and close to 30,000 digital downloads of the song “Satisfied,” all of which attracted the attention of Wind-up Records, who signed the group to a record deal. Rick and his class spent a few weeks working with the label, as they took over marketing efforts and re-released Aranda’s album last week.

“We’re constantly trying to find inroads, and Aranda did that at radio and online,” says Wind-up GM Alan Galbraith. “Only after the fact did we learn about the school, but it’s such a cool story it piqued our interest further. They did it in a unique way. It’s a real example of a band putting themselves on our radar rather than waiting for us to find them.”

“It’s amazing how everyone pulled together to make this happen,” says Gabe. “We’re grateful to Rick and the kids and excited to see where this leads us.”

“I’m so happy for Gabe and Dameon and, of course, the students,” says Rick. “These kids helped navigate the band into the next phase of their career and that’s pretty neat.”

And though Rick is moving into a more administrative position heading up the school’s music business department, the college is going to continue using real-life music artists for course work. “I told my successor – my class helped a band get a record deal,” laughs Rick. “Let’s see you top that.”

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Source: PR Newswire