Philadelphia is one of the best cities for live music in the country. Unfortunately, many Penn students have a hard time finding ways to enter the music scene. Penn Records is trying to change that. In just a few months, Penn Records went from an idea to a full–force organization with over 40 members, an executive board, and a list of successful live shows. But for president Johnny Vitale (C ’20), this is only the beginning.
An avid music lover and member of the band Pico, Johnny realized that the live music scene at Penn was lacking. To fill the void, he decided to make his idea of creating a middleman for student musicians a reality. He considers his greatest success so far to be “forming the group and adding members and creating an executive board.” More major successes are the concerts held during the fall semester, one of which took place in October 2017 and featured a partnership with the St. Elmo Club. The aim of the shows was twofold: expose the larger student population to bands and to raise money for charity. The October show benefited the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Johnny aims to make Penn Records shows an inclusive experience, where all students can come to relax, unwind, and listen to some good music.
Even though success for Penn Records comes in many forms, like the monetary success of having more shows and reaching out to the larger community, Johnny says that for him, success is “just having a coherent, cohesive group that works well together and the members enjoy one another, and seeing a collective effort towards promoting music which we all love.”
Johnny has been extremely impressed by the talent he’s seen from Penn’s student musicians. One of the biggest surprises was hearing the band Ratio, which consists of all freshmen. Upon hearing them in rehearsal, and later in their first show, Johnny was “blown away by how talented and well–practiced they are,” and became committed to helping them develop. Some other bands Penn Records represents in addition to Pico and Ratio include Brew and Peachy (which recently performed at Fishtown’s Kung Fu Necktie.)
This semester, Johnny hopes to represent new groups in order to expand the group’s portfolio and range of musicians. Johnny encourages more student musicians to reach out to the group, even if they don’t have a full band behind them. The label hopes to form bands by connecting talented musicians with others by having them list their tastes and goals. It's mostly looking for live music acts, and preferably those with their own original music. Johnny hopes to give every musician on campus the opportunity to play in bands, which he considers an invaluable experience. He wants to let students know that careers in creative fields are possible, saying that “the entire group is structured to, one: serve those musicians, and then two: create a group dynamic and develop skills that might be applicable to later creative or media industry careers.”
Next up for Johnny is tackling the music scene of Philadelphia by setting up an increasing number of gigs in the city. In addition, the group plans to record their bands and begin to release singles and albums in the future. Johnny hopes that through streaming sites like Apple Music, Spotify, and Bandcamp, the groups will “extend beyond Penn and Philadelphia’s reach.”
Penn Records' next show is coming up in early February and will be a collaboration with the on–campus group V Day, which raises money for Women Organized Against Rape, the only full–service rape crisis center in Philadelphia.
As a group whose motto is “good tunes for a good cause,” Penn Records continues to deliver.
*An earlier version of this article stated that Penn Records represented Acrillics. While the band Acrillics has DJ'd for the group in the past, Acrillics is not one of the bands Penn Records represents. 34th Street regrets the error.