By Meredith Maxwell

The goal of every aspiring musician is to sink their teeth into the music industry and make a mark.

That’s no easy feat, but some Mavericks may have an upper hand. At Minnesota State University, Mankato, aspiring student musicians can not only pursue their passions and build their careers, but they may have a chance of getting on the road to success with the help of MavHouse Records.

Take it from the top

MavHouse Records, a Recognized Student Organization at MSU-Mankato, is a fully functioning student-run record label. Since its establishment in 2015, the RSO has helped students with an interest and passion for music get real-world experience in the music industry.

Photo by Don Lipps - MavHouse Records president Will Keebler at the control console
Photo by Don Lipps – MavHouse Records president Will Keebler at the control console

MavHouse is headed by its current president and MSU student, William Keebler. Keebler, a well-versed and experienced touring drummer, is well-suited for the position, having mastered the performance side of the music industry. Now, he’s ready to widen his perspectives.

“With MavHouse, I’m on the business side of the industry,” Keebler explained. “It’s really helpful to have both perspectives because I can better understand what each side needs from each other and how they work together.”

With MavHouse, I’m on the business side of the industry. It’s really helpful to have both perspectives because I can better understand what each side needs from each other and how they work together. Will Keebler

As president, Keebler would typically take the lead of meetings and oversee projects concerning student artists, but his focus has shifted during this unusual year.

“This year, I am more focused on planning for next year and trying to prepare the group to be as successful as possible in the future,” Keebler said. “We anticipate a boom of new opportunities in the music industry after the pandemic, and I want to make sure the group is positioned well to grow.”

Alongside Keebler is the vice president, Julie Tonsager. Together, Keebler and Tonsager run MavHouse with one word in mind: opportunity. For student artists, opportunities present themselves in many forms.

Photo by Don Lipps - MavHouse Records VP Julie Tonsager
Photo by Don Lipps – MavHouse Records VP Julie Tonsager

“We want to provide our members with as many opportunities to experience different areas of the music industry as possible while helping develop student artists in the process,” Keebler explained. “We help with everything from recording and production to promotion and social media, [and] to live booking and getting radio placements.”

Among the services MavHouse provides, it places the most emphasis on the promotion of its student artists, a change from the original focus of the student organization. Within its first few years of inception, the organization focused on regional tours to build a student’s business as an artist but has since shifted away from that idea.

“We did this because we were noticing that in the age of social media, effectively promoting yourself can be more beneficial to young artists than going on a regional tour,” Keebler said. “It’s also more practical for the group and is more inclusive of everyone.”

We want to provide our members with as many opportunities to experience different areas of the music industry as possible while helping develop student artists in the process. Will Keebler

MavHouse has also changed their policy of signed artists: they no longer have them. In 2018, there were four signed student artists, but in 2019, the organization moved towards a more open model of business.

“We found that having specific artists signed closed the door on other projects, and we tended to focus [solely] on the signed artists,” Keebler explained. “Now that we don’t have artists in the traditional sense, we are able to move more freely between projects and assist more people.”

Because MavHouse currently operates with a more open model of business, it’s willing to take in and help passionate student artists with varying levels of experience.

“MavHouse is open to any student passionate about music; you don’t need to be a music student to be involved,” Keebler said. “We are welcoming to everyone and encourage anyone interested to reach out and be a part of the group!”

Photo by Don Lipps - MavHouse Records Secretary and recording artist, Cole Marshall
Photo by Don Lipps – MavHouse Records Secretary and recording artist, Cole Marshall

Star of the show: COVID-19

Like much of the world, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the studio’s music operations. With the music department turning almost entirely virtual, MavHouse followed suit. The plans of working on department concerts and with guest artists are no longer possible.

“At the moment, we don’t have any projects we are working on,” Keebler explained. “It’s really difficult to run a music RSO when we can’t have any live music!”

It’s also difficult to run an RSO with limited student engagement due to COVID-19. With very few students on campus, there are even fewer students looking to participate in MavHouse’s operations, and that’s without considering COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s not recommended that several people meet in a small studio,” Keebler said. “We don’t want to take the risk of exposing anyone to the virus by meeting in person.”

While COVID-19 is a new challenge that MavHouse is currently facing, student engagement is a recurring problem that has affected the organization in the past.

“Some of the things we do aren’t the coolest and [most] fun things in the industry, like researching venues and creating contact spreadsheets,” Keebler explained. “Because of this, we tend to have some members lose interest if they were expecting something different.”

Despite any challenges that may arise, the positive impact the organization has on its student artists outweighs any of Keebler’s concerns.

“There’s such a mix of skills and interests in the music program, and this group provides a way for everyone to work together, contribute, and learn from each other,” Keebler said. “We can genuinely help people build their careers, and I think that’s really cool!”

Photo by Don Lipps - MavHouse Records president, Will Keebler
Photo by Don Lipps – MavHouse Records president, Will Keebler

Finding the perfect key

Before COVID-19, MavHouse and its student artists had experienced their fair share of musical feats over the years. From regional tours to hit singles, opportunities for student artists have turned into successful business endeavors in the music industry. Keebler touched on two musical artists that had once been a part of MavHouse: Irie Minds and Drawn to the Sky.

“We put Irie Minds on a successful regional tour [and] Drawn to The Sky recently had a single pass 1 million streams on Spotify,” Keebler said. “It’s really exciting to see our artists continue to grow after they leave school.”

While Keebler may not have been a part of the organization during the era of Irie Minds and Drawn to The Sky, he had a front-row seat to the successful student artist Anastasia Ellis.

“I got to be on her artist team and help plan, book, promote, and play drums on her statewide tour,” Keebler explained. “It was really cool to be involved in every step of the way and get to see our work come to fruition.”

Photo by Don Lipps - Guitar case flair by MavHouse Records secretary Cole Marshall
Photo by Don Lipps – Guitar case flair by MavHouse Records secretary Cole Marshall

Looking towards the future

It’s easy to look towards the future at MavHouse when you’ve had a successful past. Keebler and Tonsager will continue to help student artists learn new skills and build a foundation for their music careers, but they ultimately hope to work more with MSU-Mankato’s music department on a larger scale.

“We plan to get more involved with the Performance Series concerts hosted by the music department, helping with production, promotion, and content creation,” Keebler said.

On a smaller scale, they hope to further their content creation and promotion abilities for more than just its student artists.

“We’d also like to create more content with student groups and guest artists for social media, as well as grow our ability to promote music from our members and the greater community,” Keebler explained.

Although some of the future has been planned out, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the air, and while it may be intimidating, it doesn’t deter Keebler’s future hopes for MavHouse.

“We have talked about putting together an arts festival with other art-related RSOs on campus, but I don’t know if that will happen or not,” Keebler said. “Either way, we want to continue to create new opportunities for our members

Author

  • Meredith Maxwell

    is an undergraduate student at MSU-Mankato, studying mass media. She grew up in Winona, Minnesota, with her mom and two brothers and now lives in Mankato full time.

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