How FAU’s recording studio works

Hoot/Wisdom Recordings doesn’t operate like a traditional record label.


Alejandro Sanchez-Samper, faculty supervisor for Hoot/Wisdom Recordings, working at the recording studio’s control board. Thomas Chiles | Features Editor

Thomas Chiles, Features Editor

If you’re a student musician trying to make a name for yourself, it can be hard to make it big. A good place to start though is finding a local recording studio that can provide the professional sound that you need to get noticed.

FAU has its own record label, Hoot/Wisdom Recordings, and a recording studio on its Boca campus.

“The goal behind the record label has always been to provide students with practical experience in as many areas of the record industry as possible,” Alejandro Sanchez-Samper said, the faculty adviser for Hoot/Wisdom Recordings.

Commercial recording studios operate for a profit, but FAU’s record label and studio serve as learning labs for students. Everyone involved with the label is an FAU student.

“The engineers, producers, managers, are students from our program,” Sanchez-Samper said.  “On the student side, we only take acts that are affiliated with FAU. Some people see that as a limitation, but I think there’s a lot of talent here on campus.”

Over the years, the label has received more student interest. When its first compilation album was released in 2010, the label received 30 submissions. Last year, the label’s fifth compilation album received over 120 submissions.

How to start recording

Right now, the only way for a student to record at the university’s label is to follow the application process on the Hoot/Wisdom Recordings Facebook page.

“We can’t rent out studio time. Some students want to just record a song and go,” Sanchez-Samper said. “We have to be picky on the talent we choose, and then after we pick you it’s not just recording the song and you’re done.”

He made it clear that the facility operates as a complete label, not just a recording studio. And the label is only interested in working with students who take their craft seriously.

“Everyday I have students call me and ask, ‘Can we book the studio?’ and I say, ‘No, we’re not allowed to do that,’” Sanchez-Samper said. “We have the potential and talent to crank out hits, but that’s not what we’re here to do.”

Essentially, the label is looking for students wholly dedicated to music who aren’t just in search of a free song recording.

One of the commitments artists make when signing onto the label is agreeing to attend the commercial music forum class every Friday at 3 p.m. This is where the artist will work with student producers, engineers, and marketers to complete the release of their song.

“We are trying to develop the careers of our students, the people that want to look at this seriously,” Sanchez-Samper said. The label isn’t interested in “someone who just wants free studio time … to do their thing.”

One of the main criteria the label uses for picking talent is checking to see if the person already has an established track record of recording music or performing live.

Artist Khallid Benson, aka Element Jetson, had his first ever single “To Ya Neck” featured on last year’s Hoot/Wisdom’s compilation album, “CompOWLation Vol. 5.”

Benson is an example of the type of student talent that the label is looking for through its submission process. He already had a rough version of the single with one verse that he submitted to the label, and he said they loved it.

“Right after that, I wrote the other verse and recorded it all in, like, a week,” Benson said. “The engineer we had really brought it to life.”

Reflecting on his time at the label, Benson said he learned a lot from the experience.

“I definitely learned different strategies that go into pushing a single and album and how important time management is,” Benson said.

Benson graduated at the end of 2016 with a biology degree, but he is still pursuing his passion of making music and is currently working on an album.

The Label Structure

In the past, Hoot/Wisdom Recordings has worked on a three-semester cycle: the first semester goes into finding talent to record, the second semester is focused on recording and producing, and the final semester goes into marketing and release of the music.

Every third semester, the label would release a compilation album, with all of the singles that various FAU artists had been working on with the commercial music forum students for the previous semesters.

Now, the record label has switched up its tactics, hoping to release music every semester instead.

“The only thing I didn’t like about the model we were working with is that we were releasing product every three semesters,” Sanchez-Samper said. “Now we are continuously looking for talent and trying to release singles every semester.”

When compared to other university record labels, FAU’s label covers almost every aspect of the commercial music business.

“A lot of university record labels will just license tracks from other people and they just try and market it,” Sanchez-Samper said. “We start from trying to find the artist, to completing the whole production because that’s what the students need to learn. Not just grabbing a finished track and putting it out there.”

He says that other professional music educators are impressed when they find out that FAU produces all of its own music from scratch.

“You can’t improvise quality,” Sanchez-Samper said. “When you have to record real instruments with the drums and bass and editing, that takes a lot of time.”

Payment and Copyright

Spending hours in a traditional recording studio would cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. At FAU, students accepted to the label never have to pay a dime.

“We are offering full service … to the best of our abilities, a marketing campaign and everything that goes with it,” Sanchez-Samper said.

In return, the university retains copyright ownership of the recording, while the student artist is able to maintain ownership of the song’s composition.

This means that if a song recorded at FAU were to become a popular hit, the university would reap some monetary gain. But if the student artist doesn’t like the recording, they are free to take their composition and record it elsewhere.

“We aren’t in the business of taking students’ copyrights,” Sanchez-Samper said. “I understand if you’re getting all this for free, then it makes sense that the university keeps the sound recording. But the intellectual property of the composition that’s a whole different ballgame.”

Thomas Chiles is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].