Our friend, Meghan Brown, wrote this guest blog for Mic Check…
Earlier this month I had a chance to play “student” for a day when I stopped by GRAMMY Camp L.A. to hang out with some of the crazy-talented attendees as we were enlightened by some of the biggest names in the music business. Hosted by The Recording Academy, GRAMMY Camp is a program designed for high school students with a serious interest in pursuing a career in the music business—whether they’re set on becoming the next chart-topping artist, writing award-winning tunes, wowing crowds with their instrumental skills or playing an equally important off-stage role as an engineer, producer or journalist. GRAMMY Camp has a career track to coach them on how to succeed in the early stages of their professional lives.
Hopping between a couple of in-progress workshops hosted by influential professionals in each career track, I had a chance to eavesdrop on their best tips and advice for succeeding in the industry.
Speaking to an audience of enthusiastic students on the singer/songwriter track, Hollywood Records Recording Artist ZZ Ward shared anecdotal advice—pulled from her personal experience as an aspiring artist—on how to get started in the music business:
“Choose people you love working with and choose a manger who believes in you,” she said. “And remember that in the beginning there won’t be anybody from a record label knocking on your door—you have to make a name for yourself by yourself and that might mean booking your own shows and handing out your own demos to anyone who will listen.”
After years of dedication and commitment to her passion, ZZ Ward signed a recording deal with Boar dwalk Entertainment Group and Hollywood Records and found her name on the Billboard’s top 100 charts.
Next, the focus shifted to those who shine behind-the-scenes as I joined a class led by GRAMMY-winning engineer and producer, Ed Cherney who has worked with some of the most widely-recognized names in music, including The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson and Billy Joel, among many others. His advice to the wide-eyed group of engineering and production students? Be a jack-of-all trades, especially in the early days.
“When you’re getting started you have to be a writer, a producer, an engineer and an IT expert—you need to do it all yourself because you may not have the support of a label; but in order for anyone to mix, produce or engineer great music, they have to understand what goes into making great music first.”
As we headed into the day’s main event—the Master Panel—which focused on “How to Monetize Your Music,” I watched students eagerly soak up every ounce of information they could. Boy band megastar A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys joined well-known Music Supervisor, Alex Patsavas, ZZ Ward and Bill Silva of Bill Silva Entertainment and Management for a dynamic and engaging discussion. While the conversation spanned a wide variety of topics and viewpoints, the panelists could all agree on the importance of building positive relationships with colleagues, understanding the science behind music production and “selling you,” not the artist, engineer or producer you think your audience, a label, or your dream company is looking for.
When a student from the engineering track asked what the singer/songwriters look for in a studio engineer, A.J. McLean was eager to answer and said, “It’s just that connection, a certain vibe that shows they really understand your music and hear you,” he said. “Sometimes I prefer to be in the studio just one-on-one with the engineer and without the producer because the engineer is so dedicated to creating a perfect sound, but he’ll still let me be me.”
“Sound is so important to what we do—whether it’s in the studio or on the road—it’s a critical part of any performance and having an engineer you can rely on is so important,” ZZ Ward added.
Are you a high school student with a passion for the music industry? If you, or any high school students you know, are interested in attending GRAMMY Camp 2014, check out grammyintheschools.com for 2014 application information for both the L.A. and New York camps.