We The MG: Breaking In
July 14, 2013
Music Gorilla in Breaking into the industry, Indie Music, Music Placement, Songwriting Tips, songwriting opps

Welcome to the debut of the official Music Gorilla blog, another feature of our site that will help you—whether you’re an artist, an industry pro or fan—to make the best use of Music Gorilla’s features.

Here, we’ll give you the skinny on the newest opportunities for our artists to submit songs (for Film and TV, for our live showcases); we’ll feature profiles of our artists, giving them a chance to tell their story and talk about their music; fans will be encouraged to engage with our artists before and after shows; bands, producers, and labels who have had success, through and independent of MG, will give their take on how to break in to the industry.

Feast your eyes on the many artists who want you to write for them: Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Eminem, Gaga, Avril Lavigne, Dixie Chicks, Katherine McPhee, Naya Rivera, Amber Riley, Tate Stevens, Nicole Scherzinger, Cassie, 2am Club, Sonyae, Fantasia, Mike Posner, Bridget Kelly, Jasmine Villegas. Oh, and Big Machine, Valley Music Co. and Universal are looking for records in the style of Taylor Swift/Tim McGraw/Martina McBride, because apparently Americans are into that Pop/Country thing.

So you’re the bassist in a metal band; you haven’t actively listened to Avril Lavigne since your middle school dance, and even then, you were cross-armed, in silent protest, as a gaggle of your tone-deaf classmates trilled along to “Complicated” while you were ready to sacrifice yourself on the altar of true rock&roll… Fine. But before you write off writing for the artists above, consider that 1) leaving it all on the floor is a tried and true way of making things happen, so the benefit of penning some Avril tunes could far outweigh whatever vague cost/hang-up you may be harboring and 2) you already know how to write these songs. How? Because you are—we all are—inundated with pop ballads, with strong, sick hooks, with catchy music. Still — do your research. Google and bandcamp and Facebook the artist or band you’re writing for. Investigate what kind of material they like to record. Having a side project is rejuvenating: escape by inhabiting another artist’s mind, another style, and take it seriously.

On the subject of writing—- while most of our future posts will focus more specifically on a band, a show, or an aspect of the business, this initial post will serve as jumping off point for dialogue between artists, ones who have worked successfully with MG and people who might be checking us out for the first time. I asked some of our artists to talk about how they write their own music: how to get started and how to get results.

John Thomsen of Grown Up Avenger Stuff chimed in from the road: when he and his band are writing, they “follow the song, rather than forcing [a] style on it.” This makes writing and producing new material more efficient. Lovebettie told us that what made writing easy for them was abstaining from judgment, with no one dismissing anyone else.

But what if you’re writing on your own, without a band to jam with? Bob Dee, who’s played at Music Gorilla’s NYC and showcases during SXSW, says that the ambient sounds of the city that he heard from his Upper West Side apartment inspired the energy on his first two albums. Xenia, by contrast, told us that the calm and the landscape of the Greek island Mykonos had inspired her best work. Bob Dee and Xenia both talked about the diversity of their influences: Bob Dee likens his own songs to the GooGoo Dolls, but draws inspiration from the “dark sound” of metal; Xenia, though influenced early by her training in classical music, draws on every genre, everything from Musical Theatre to Hip-Hop to House. The members of Cody Beebe and The Crooks, who started with Music Gorilla at SXSW in 2011, have differing taste, but they are all attracted, fundamentally, to “authentic” sound: any artist who unselfconsciously does their thing is a useful influence; Jack White, they said, is a good model for them.

After the initial new material is written, our bands talked about two important things: first, the importance of testing out their new material in a relaxed space, rather than rushing into the studio and, second, the importance of working with a great producer, one who really hears where the song could go and helps the band take it there. An industry associate, David Boxenbaum of Octone Records, gave his two cents about where a band should invest its (probably limited) cash money: recording. Given the choice, he said, it’s better to live in proximity to a large city, within maybe three hours, for the efficacy of touring, than in the city and in the market, racking up living expenses.

So now that you’ve heard all this—after throwing on Van Morrison, or Kanye, or Angelique Kidjo, or Miles Davis for inspiration, after hours of jamming, open-mindedly, with your bandmates, saving money on rent but investing in ProTools or studio time—you’ve got a great song. Mark Newman, who’s played at three Music Gorilla showcases, divests the only kryptonite to The Great Song: not working off everyone in the band. A crowd can tell. If the band’s working together, the crowd will get into it.

Write a song this week. For you, or for someone else. We’re here to listen.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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