For most freshmen, college is the first time away from parental authority, a chance to grow and learn beyond the traditional classroom setting. For Connor Murray, the creator of Pittsburgh independent record label Crafted Sounds, his time at the University of Pittsburgh not only introduced him to the local scene but also made way for a thriving small business.
What started out of Murray’s dorm room his freshman year at Pitt is now an active member of Pittsburgh’s music community. Crafted Sounds is also now a subsidiary label — along with Wild Kindness Records, Dadstache Records, and Epifo Music — of Misra Records, founded in 1999.
“At first it was me wanting to be a part of something bigger than [myself],” says Murray. “I tried to make music, but I sucked at it. At the same time, I was looking to still be involved in [the scene].”
On April 12, the eve of Murray’s 21st birthday, Crafted Sounds will hold a release party at Spirit for Bridges, a 21-song compilation record featuring various artists from Pittsburgh, many from the label. The release celebrates three years of Crafted Sounds and serves as a personal birthday present for Murray. On his 18th birthday in 2016, Crafted Sounds released its first record.
“I was satisfied freshman year when we just had a handful of releases,” he says. “We could have just been done there, and I would have been totally fine with it.” But Murray kept going. He was networking, learning the business, and growing his label. “To a point, the music stuff has opened up a social window that I didn’t really expect to have coming into college. I didn’t even think twice about the fraternity stuff because I had all these people. It’s cool because a lot of them are older. But it’s weird because I, in a sense, am managing them.”
Age has been a recurring issue throughout the existence of Crafted Sounds. Murray notes that his biggest challenge is getting people to take him seriously as a young professional. But he knows he is still learning, and outsiders will continue to question his ability throughout his twenties.
“Nothing’s going to be perfect, this has been a learning process entirely,” he says. “Sure, there were people that were there early that might not have gotten the same experience that I’m exploring now with these other artists, but it was definitely like ‘What can we do better?’ every time. I’ve grown up a lot through doing it because it’s a very personal industry.”
In 2017, Murray released a compilation, Have a Nice Day. In many ways, Crafted Sounds’ upcoming show and Bridges mirrors the previous release. The first time around, Murray determined proceeds would benefit Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania via a Twitter poll and did the same poll with the same results this time around. In addition, the artists on both compilations include Pittsburgh staples and along with budding acts — like AllegrA and Jack Stauber, who at the time of the Have a Nice Day release, were only starting to build their brands.
“In a matter of two years, it’s so cool to see what they’ve done. I wanted to capture that again because a lot of these bands are going to do similar things,” says Murray. “I think doing the show at Spirit is more of a visibility thing. Even though the show is 21-plus, it’s almost like a sense of symbolism like ‘Yeah, we're growing up,’ because I want people to take me seriously.”
Bridges will be available to stream via Bandcamp on April 13. At the release party, physical tapes and an accompanying zine booklet will be for sale. “We distributed disposable cameras to various venues across the city to document what goes on at a show regardless of whether artists are on a stage or in a basement,” says Murray. “Images captured from those cameras will be the focus of the zine.” Remaining tapes, zines, and shirts be available to purchase on Bandcamp as well.