The New Music Seminar was a 3 day music business conference in June, jam-packed with music performances, speakers, panel discussions, and networking events, held in New York City’s biggest nightclub, Webster Hall in the heart of Manhattan’s famous East Village. If I mentioned all the exciting things I experienced at this conference this would be a 100 page blogpost, so I’ll just give you a few highlights.
Here is the schedule of events. If you see anything that interests you that I don’t mention, which is most of it, feel free to ask me about it!
I drove there from Bloomington, Indiana, picking up a friend in Indianapolis who was moving back to the Big Apple. She is way into pop music, so as we traversed the corn and soybean fields of Ohio, the beautiful hills of West Virginia, the faceless service plazas of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, driving in the dark through New Jersey, and finally into the bright lights of Manhattan, we listened to hundreds of current and oldies pop songs on the radio.
Little did I know that I was about to meet or hear speak many of the songwriters, producers, engineers, booking agents, DJs, company founders and owners and CEOs and other representatives from every aspect of the vast music world of many of the songs that powered our way through the highways!
On the first day, Desmond Child led a Songwriters in the Round performance and discussion, in the intimate Studio Room of Webster Hall, with Claude Kelly, Jodi Marr, and Eric Bazilian, in which they played songs they had written and told the stories behind them. We got to hear Claude Kelly sing “Grenade”, the song he had written with Bruno Mars, and Jodi Marr sing “Grace Kelly”, a song she had written with Mika, and Eric Bazilian singing his big hit, originally written for Joan Osborne, “One of Us”, and Desmond sing “Living on a Prayer”, the song he wrote for Bon Jovi.
In another panel of songwriters led by Peter Asher, who has worked with the Beatles, James Taylor, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, etc., Desmond Child shared something that really has struck a chord with me. He said that when people tell him they are a songwriter, he asks them how many songs they have written, and they usually say 20 or 30. He usually replies to them that if you want to be a successful songwriter, you need to write a lot more than that.
Desmond has written 4,000 songs. 1500 of them have been produced, 70 of them have made the top 40, and 7 or 8 have charted #1. He studied songwriting with Bob Crewe. They would meet for lunch at a little restaurant in Manhattan called Coq au Vin, and by 1pm they were writing songs, without many breaks, until 6pm, in a little apartment that Bob had just for songwriting, on West 56th St. There was only a piano, a piano bench and a stool that had arms on it. There was no couch. They met like this Monday through Friday, for two years, without fail.
Desmond also told a story about when he was hired to help Aerosmith write songs for their comeback. He asked them if they had any ideas that they were working on, and they said they had an idea for a song with a chorus with the words, “cruising for the ladies”. They worked on it with Desmond for awhile, but it didn’t feel quite right. So Desmond asked them if there was anything else to it, and they said the words were originally “dude looks like a lady”, but they changed it because it was too weird.
Desmond told them that he thought this idea was more promising and interesting, and recommended that they try going with it for awhile. They hesitated, saying that they didn’t want to insult anyone. Desmond informed them that he himself was gay, and that he would not be insulted by these words. So they went with the idea and it ended up being a big hit!
Each evening there were lots of performances in Webster Hall and all over Manhattan. One of my favorites were The Fiery Sensations, who thrilled the audience with an acrobatic dancing with fire, LED lights, and live snakes!
As I am deep into recording and mixing my second CD, and will need to have it mastered soon, I was particularly enthralled by a panel discussion/demonstration of some of the top producers, mixers, and masterers in the music biz. Bob Brockman, Andy Wallace, Ryan West, and Bob Ludwig shared much valuable info. You might not recognize any of these names, but to give you an idea, Bob Ludwig has mastered the records for people like Paul McCartney, Madonna, Radiohead, Green Day, and many others.
There were two very helpful YouTube presentations. Julie Perry from BlastMedia presented “Seven Habits of Highly Effective YouTubers”. Here is a pdf of that talk, which is worth its weight in gold. And Jeremy Welt, head of marketing of Maker Studios, led a discussion “Video Innovators: Big YouTube Hit-Makers Talk about the Art and Science of Making Successful YouTube Videos,” which featured Vivian Lewit, the director of YouTube and Google, partner content, and several musicians whose videos have consistently gone viral: Ian Wolfson, Tyler Ward, Mike Tompkins, and Noah.
I learned a lot from them, and am encouraged that most of them posted videos for a year or two, improving their product and strategy before they were able to go viral.
There were also great presentations by Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, Steve Savoca, head of U.S. content for Spotify, Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel, Tony van Veen, CEO of Discmakers and CD Baby, and Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, in which he talked about how singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer raised over one million for one of her projects.
One of the best books I have read on the music business is Moses Avalon’s “100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business” In fact, I found out about The New Music Seminar from being on his Email mailing list. He gave a thought provoking presentation called “Google Bubble”, in which he talked about the probability of Google stock dropping tenfold, and other possible scenarios in the entertainment industry, and their impact on those making the transition to media’s digital age, and how it could be a rude awakening for what he calls “freetards”-those who believe everything should be free.
His blogs are always worth reading: On the last night, I was fortunate to be invited to a little party he hosted at the bar at The Standard Hotel at Cooper Square, in which I got to hang out with Moses, Liz Leahy, CEO of Section 101, Eric de Fontenay, founder of MusicDish*China, Neeta Ragoowansi, vice president of business development and legal affairs for TuneSat, music lawyer Tim Fry, Darryl Ballantine, CEO of LyricFind, Maya Solovey, and many others.
Earlier I got to hang out quite a bit with Vicki Garrisson, the manager of a promising young singer/songwriter Jas Patrick, and Jody Mulgrew, another singer/songwriter, who was awarded an Abe Olman Scholarship from the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the conference.
I am still enjoying the process of following up with the dozens of wonderful people I met!