Industry Vets: Young Guru and Sean C. Visit Berklee Valencia

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This week students at Berklee Valencia’s campus had the opportunity to meet and interact with two music industry veterans, Young Guru and Sean C.  If you aren’t familiar with their names, you’re most likely familiar with their repertoire. Young Guru has worked as a highly esteemed engineer and has also worked alongside respectable and notable artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West. Prior to meeting Young Guru, I indirectly felt as though as I knew him due to Hov’s various shoutouts throughout the years. One of my favorite Hov shoutouts was when he told Guru to “turn the lights down..let’s keep it smooth” on Party Life (American Gangster album) LOL

Our other industry vet, Sean C. is a Grammy-nominated producer and A&R that has produced for hip hop artists such as Diddy and Jay-Z.  I was especially interested to hear Sean’s perspective on the industry and the future as an A&R since my career interests are specifically in that field. There were various workshops held over the two-day period while they were here in Valencia. One of my favorite workshops was the A&R session that was held on campus in our studio on the film scoring stage.

Berklee Valencia Studio

(Berklee Valencia students pictured in the studio with Young Guru and Sean C. for the A&R workshop)

(Photo Credit: Disrupcion Records)

Both Sean C. and Young Guru provided feedback to Berklee Valencia artists who submitted music. I’m currently working as an A&R for my culminating experience thesis, so I was super excited about the opportunity because both of the artists that I’m working with were chosen to participate in the session.  It was such a humbling experience to receive feedback on their music from industry professionals and to use that info to tweak their projects and to make them even better! This was a great experience both creatively and professionally.  Another workshop focused on innovation within the industry.  During this panel, both guests answered various questions that students had re: career advice, music production/technology, the direction of the industry, and evolving with the industry to ensure your position/career. A highlight for me was Sean’s response in reference to being a woman in a male dominated industry. His consciousness about the issue was indispensable and re-emphasized some of the points that I’ve learned throughout my professional career.

Young Guru and Sean C

This experience was one that I longed for as a student in the Global Entertainment & Music Business Masters program.  The knowledge that both gentlemen dropped on us was absorbed like a sponge and truly invaluable.  It’s a great opportunity to meet people who are working in positions that many of us aspire to be in. The grind continues….

Flashback: 2014 MIDEM Music Conference

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Since my first day at Berklee Valencia, one of the highlights for all of the Global Entertainment & Music Business program Master’s candidates was the prospect of attending the Midem conference.  The annual music conference, Midem was held in Cannes, France from February 1st-February 4th.  This conference was the first official music conference that I’ve ever attended and it was also my first time visiting France.  Overall, these two factors contributed to a valuable and enjoyable experience.

Let’s briefly recap the events:

Initially on the first day I tried to remember all of the useful tips that had been driven and embedded to all of our heads. It could have been overwhelming at first sight—but fortunately I mapped out a game plan in advance and upon my arrival tweaked a few things with the assistance of the “Midem Smartphone App.”  My own personal interests were in the following areas: artist & repertoire field, music publishing, and digital streaming platforms.  I planned to attend events that catered to those specific areas.

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The “Midem Smartphone App” was my best friend over the course of the three-day period that I was in attendance.  It sent reminders/alerts for some of the panels and events, and you could also select your favorite events to add to your own calendar within the app.  This allowed me to use my time efficiently in order to maximize my experience by visiting the different exhibitors and attending the panels that were of interest to me.  Many of the topics related to growth, sustainability and innovation since the theme for this year’s conference was “Get back to Growth? Make it Sustainable.”

“The one peculiar thing that struck a chord within me was the lack of music.  We were at a music conference that didn’t play much music at all.  During the evenings on site there were live shows here and there, but music wasn’t heard throughout the course of the day.  On one occasion there was a brief dance number performed by Brazilian dancers and a few drummers.”

One of the Midem Talks that I highly anticipated on attending featured Lyor Cohen and was moderated by Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records.  I really enjoyed the dialogue between Lyor and Tom.  Although I had been following Lyor’s career for some time, it was awesome to hear him and witness him tell it/re-live those moments firsthand.  It seemed as though two good friends were just catching up on old times.  They discussed Lyor’s journey and briefly scratched the surface of his new venture, 300.

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Another highlight was the Midem Talk with emerging UK artist, Rita Ora.  I was somewhat familiar with her as an artist and I remembered her song “R.I.P” from a few years ago and of her Roc Nation affiliation, but outside of that I didn’t know much about her.  It was enlightening to hear about VEVO’s partnership with her to develop her as an artist while promoting her on their platform. She ended up debuting at #1 on the UK charts with the assistance of this partnership.  This showcased innovative ways of how artists are partnering with brands/platforms to assist in launching their careers.

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Ultimately, I met a lot of wonderful people from across the globe and received and handed out numerous business cards.  I had a few successful meetings with different people from different companies.  It was a realistic portrayal because it wasn’t all glitz and glamour.  Two of my other scheduled meetings were no shows for different reasons (one person sustained an injury and the other forgot about it).  These experiences helped to weed out the people whom I would want to keep in touch with after the conference was over.

It was an amazing networking opportunity, and there are people who I’m already in contact with.  I didn’t enter this conference with the mindset of securing a job, but I knew that I would meet people who could potentially share the knowledge and resources that I’ve been looking for in regards to my career interests.

Strategy: Innovation

Remember how cool the Polaroid camera was?

I fondly remember my first – oh how vivid the memories. With each fresh box of ten opportunities, I loaded that behemoth with confidence. Hordes of onlookers marveled at my ability to forego the darkroom, reviewing and enjoying the results of my framing within mere minutes of taking the picture itself. In essence, I held in my hands the future and by extension, I was the future. I had found the coolest thing – the newest, most innovative thing to hit the music photography industry for years. I was maybe nine years old at the time, but I’d say I recall quite confidently that all of my friends were after my camera!

 

So what happened? To where went the magic I’d once held in my hands? My friends all of who gravitated towards me for the machine I had – for what sudden reason had I none?

Long story short – the digital camera robbed me of my friends. Grr. The leather-jacket, slicked-hair, greased-lightning cool technology of the Polaroid didn’t sustain itself. It’s complacency as the most innovative camera at the time was the nail in its own coffin. Yes, it figured it out once. But it didn’t stay on board. Instead, the digital camera saw past the buzz of in-camera chemical processes and took a step in a new direction.

Don’t let that happen to you.

You’ve figured out how to stay afloat – but things are changing faster than ever. The way I see it, all of the technology, start-ups, ideas, consensuses, consumer moods, are drifting towards the artists – people are instinctively shortening the distance between themselves and the actual creators of the content they value. These days, the utility belt of tools you wear as an artist holds batarangs of options. But, these options won’t be the answer forever. In order to avoid becoming another polaroid camera amidst the vacillating unpredictability of the music industry, it’s imperative to be responsive and on the forefront of the doing things differently grind.

You just doubled your social media engagement by implementing an if/then trigger system, which aggregated and reposted fans’ instagram photos to Facebook based on your custom concert hashtag – effectively creating a fan-generating, artist-hosted stream of visual content effortlessly? Ballin’.

 

What’s next?

 

Buzz words are pervasive in the entertainment industry, but chances are if what you’re doing is buzzing too much, it’s not a very stable strategy. Being creative is what got us into this mess; it’s truthfully going to be the only thing keeping us in it.

Amanda Palmer earned over a million dollars on Kickstarter. That’s probably not going to ever happen again and should not be a fundamental goal in your indie-approach model. Instead, take a look at some of the newest services available to you and think about how your following might react. Compile an RSS feed and stay on top of some news sources that you find interesting. Don’t stop learning about new artists, businesses, and ideas. Filling the shoes of those who have succeeded before you is a nearly surefire way to guarantee career stagnancy.

I was devoted to my Polaroid. I showed it to all my followers on the playground. As a fan, I was committed to nurturing a viral spread through social. But if the product ceased to say anything remarkable, my friends would stop listening. You know how this metaphor relates to what you do. Best of luck!

Ya Está.

Thanks to those of you who actually do read these, I had a good time writing this semester (even if my topic of choice lends itself to being a bit vague.) I hope to keep blogging, whether it’s here or on a personal site. Feel free to send me thoughts, si quieres.

Most Cordially,

Kyle Billings

kbillings@berklee.edu

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Songwriting Platforms & Business Innovation: Sell Your Song Here

As I have written in my previous blogs there are many ways to get your music heard and there are also many platforms to sell your music. Researching, I came across two additional platforms that would be very helpful to the songwriter and helpful to the business minded leader in search for innovation.

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To start with, there is MusikPitch created by Scott McIntosh. The company is based in Nashville, TN and was launched in April of 2011. Scott McIntosh came up with an idea to offer songwriters a way to earn money with their music.

How it works is, as the songwriter, you sign up (for free) on the website and set up your profile. From there you search the database for contests that people or company’s present. When you have found an appealing contest all you have to do is submit you project in mp3 form and wait to hear back. There are options for other MusikPitch members to rate your song or project by giving you a number out of 6. Before submitting it you are able to read the license agreement that was created by the person or company who created the contest. Most agreements you will be agreeing to give all rights to that contest holder in exchange for a fee you will earn. You would have to consent to that agreement to submit your project. If you are the winner your prize is the amount of money the contest holder has listed on the contest profile. These prize money amounts can range from $100 to over $2000. Each contest holder makes his own price. This is a great way to earn some cash while doing what you love.

Here is a screen shot of the license deal that was offered by a contest holder.

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Here is a screen shot of contest that they have run. It gives the time it will be running and the date it will end, how much money you will win, other MusicPitch members who have submitted to the contest ( you can also listen to what those members have submitted), about the company or person offering the contest and all the requirements of the contest.

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MusikPitch FAQ’s HERE

Second, we have Ramen Music, which was created by Sadura Williams. Ramen Music is based out of Vienna, Austria and is a site where Songwriters present their music on the profile they have made. An online issue of Ramen will be released every 2 months. On this issue will be downloadable tracks of the chosen artists of that time span.  So if your music is chosen you will be featured in the issue of that period with information of yourself and your music.

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There are two types of Ramen members: the Artist, who produces the music and the subscriber, who buys the subscription. The subscription cost is $39 annually and it comes with 6 issues for the year. In case of a subscription cancellation, Ramen Music refunds 100% for all subscriptions within 60 days of purchase. After 60 days, they issue refunds to paypal accounts.

20110607-pwjywa9jj21rwxytb5ck2x8gp9.png (an issue that was published)

Sadura and his team launched RamenMusic in 2010. As an innovator, Sadura created this platform for songwriters to have more options for pushing and distributing their music online. Sadura also has a platform called alonetone used for musicians and writers to distribute their music.

The members who are selling their music keep all rights and only grant Ramen Music non-exclusive and non-terminating rights to publish and distribute the music. This brings no harm to the writer, but as a company Ramen Music wants to have your music readily accessible for its consumers forever. Those chosen for the issue also get paid. Ramen pays its artist members right before that artists published issue. The members receive funds by paypal account, transfer or direct deposit.

Sadura is a musician and understands the struggle musicians face in creating and releasing an album or any music for that matter. He wanted musicians to be able to get their music out to the public easily and for free.

Ramen Music FAQ’s HERE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXdq8Div3VE&feature=player_embedded

http://ramenmusic.com/faq

http://alonetone.com/

From Songwriting & Artistry to Innovating

New Projects                                                                                                                     Alicia Keys has been one of my favorite singers for a long time. I love and appreciate her knowledge of and passion for music. She sings, plays piano, composes, performs well, acts, and now innovates. She has owned her own business, AK Worldwide for a few years now and together with her staff Bento Box Interactive Holdings LLC, she has recently released her own app. The app is called The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee. It is a children’s storybook with stories that read aloud to you. The different stories are told from different cultures to spread the awareness of other cultures. The app also has games that you can play, a journal you can write in, pictures you can color, a piano you can physically play and music you can listen to, of course composed by Keys.

This being her second app, she is now a pro at entrepreneurship. Her first app released is her Open Mic App, by Sony Music Entertainment, where you can play the instrumental track and sing along to it. You select the song, choose the level of difficulty, and then begin singing. While the tune is playing there is a little bird icon that shows the placement of the pitches by going up and down along with the notes you are to sing and the duration of the note to give you guidance (as shown in the photo below).mzl.gvhsjtxa

AK Worldwide                                                                                                             Keys is definitely broadening her horizons and truly delving into the business world. She has now launcher her own company, AK Worldwide, which assists her in her business affairs including her new apps.

“It [AK Worldwide] really explores the ways I can affect the world in a positive way, even outside of music,” says Keys. They are “in the business of inspiration”. The mission statement is “Be the architect of and invest in businesses that inspire the world”.

She has a website that will be starting up soon. It’s called I Am Super Woman. Here woman can encourage each other and share helpful information to each other. Keys calls it a “fresh new source for positive and inspiring news—a destination that empowers and unleashes the super woman in us all”.

Keys is the new Global Creative Director for BlackBerry. She has also partnered with Reebok Classics and has launched sneakers.

Keys is a philanthropist and is involved in many world-changing causes such as  Keep A Child Alive, where she is their co-founder and Global Ambassador. Keep a Child Alive uses its voice to raise awareness, mobilize people to take action, and rally resources in the global response to HIV.

 The Superwoman is On Fire                                                                                        With 5 albums, 14 Grammys, a viral video and biggest hit “No One” that has over 130 million views, a new album “Girl on Fire”, all of the business opportunities she has stepped into, a marriage and a beautiful baby boy when does she sleep? “This girl is on fire”, lyrics from chart topping single off that album, and she literally is with all that she is accomplishing. She is success in human form.

Alicia-Keys

 

http://aliciakeys.com/

https://twitter.com/aliciakeys