Today wraps up the 2015 New Music Seminar, and I probably learned more in the past three days than I did after two years of college. For everyone who couldn't attend, I've broken the conference down into one of my favorite mediums of education-- a top ten list.
Lesson 1: Fans Are Friends
The first panel of the conference was a how-to on DIY, which sounds contradictory but ended up being really rewarding. The enduring theme of the panel was how to treat your fans-- you treat your fans how you treat your fans, it's a two-way street and both sides need to put in effort. You put work into maintaining a relationship, you don't just expect people to stay around for no reason. People would rather hear from the artist and their closest team members than from PR teams and label executives working a thousand miles away. Reply to people's snapchats, acknowledge shoutouts and art from fans, know who loves you and love them back. Even if you just take an hour a day to interact with fans, you still have the power to make someone's day.
Lesson 2: Know Your Contracts
A band is a business. A creative, art driven business, but a business nonetheless. If you don't have a band agreement legally declaring the band as a business, you're going to get lumped into the general population of "general partnership," which means everyone involved has the same liability and rights, so when that asshole keytar player decides to quit because you won't give him a ten minute solo, he's probably going to be taking a good chunk of your money away with him. From the outset, you need to determine who is responsible for what, who owns what, and and who gets what. That keytar player never did anything but drink you beer, he better not be getting an equal cut of song ownership.
Lesson 3: "Copyright. Yo. Shit."
This lesson, exact spelling and all, comes from Robert Celestin (RAC Law Offices). And there isn't much explanation necessary. If you don't copyright your music, you don't have any right to it. Period.
Lesson 4: Melanie Martinez Is A Gift From Above
I'm always complaining about pop artists. You probably know that. This city is full of semi-inspired pop acts with whispy, inauthentic voices. Melanie Martinez is a miracle prescription-- her bubblegum exterior is just the candy coating on a pill that will tear all the cobwebs off your soul. She's Debbie Harry's lovechild with an angel. She's a wind up doll that became a real girl and owes nothing to noone. I was floored by her voice. Struck absolutely dumb. She goes deeper into herself than you would think possible. She isn't afraid to hurt and break open and scream-- she's a rock star in pop clothing.
Lesson 5: There Are No Right Paths
Everyone at this conference got there by following a different path. You can go to NYU and major in music business and do internships and get a degree, that's fine. You can drop out of college to go on tour and never get any "official" experiences. You can start booking shows and managing local bands as a teenager, that's fine too. You can spend your life working an office job and then decide you want to go to law school and become an entertainment lawyer at age 50. Every single one of these paths can lead you to success, every single one of these paths is one I saw in the flesh at the seminar.
Lesson 6: Bring Your Own Snacks
If you're like me, you lose steam really quickly when you get hungry. I personally get cranky, tired, and kind of annoying. Sometimes lunch breaks are built into your day. Sometimes they aren't. Those free pitchers of water can only do so much. Hotel diners aren't especially cheap, and Starbucks isn't either. I like Starbucks, but I also like being able to pay rent. A box of granola bars is cheap and easy to stuff into your backpack. And it'll keep you going after three or four panels in a row.
Lesson 7: "Just Do It" Is Great Advice
If you want to do something-- if you want to be a band manager or a photographer or a musician, then do it. Approach a local band and offer to help them out, snap photos at a show, meet up with other musicians and write music. There's no golden door for you to walk through, but there's always a window to climb in.
Lesson 8: "Just Do It" Is Terrible Advice
If you're a man in a room full of female professionals having a discussion about their difficulties in the music industry and how to address them, maybe don't stand up and say "I never let anything get in the way of my success, just go and succeed." Because, you know, we're already trying to do that.
Lesson 9: The World Is Small
First day of the seminar, I ran into an RA From my freshman year of college. He was headlining Monday's concert at The Delancey. A couple years and our relationship has changed from him busting my roommates for underage drinking to me photographing his show (which was fantastic). People you meet today may be small players in the game, but a few years down the road they could be the one standing between you and a record deal.
Lesson 10: You Can Be Successful And Still Panic
This year is my first time getting press passes and press releases regularly. I'm doing everything I dreamed of doing when I started this blog. And yet I found myself in the middle of day two with all the color draining from my face, saying "What am I doing with my life holy crap what am I doing." And I'm okay with that. I'm allowed to panic. I'm happy but I'm not content to just let things going at the same pace they are now. I'm going to keep working and keep hustling because that moment of panic means I know I can do even better. And I'm going to.
When I sat down to talk with Stalking Gia after her performance at Mercury Lounge on June 10th, I was not sure what to expect. She was a gorgeous singer with an epic voice, and I was still sweating from the M14 bus I had taken three hours ago to get to the show. I was worried that she would have an ego to match her talent—but I lucked out. Not only was Gia incredibly kind, but she was a wealth of musical knowledge and passion. In fact, the first thing she did when we sat down was gush about movie soundtracks.
“I’m obsessed,” she cooed. Soundtracks, particularly Donny Darko and American Beauty, influenced her first album, which she admits took a long time to write. She spent two years in LA putting the album together.
But after spending all that time in California, Gia has returned to New York and completed her third show in the city. Why did she leave LA?
“I had to get out of there before San Andreas happened,” she joked. “That earthquake is way overdue I don’t want to be there when it happens.” More seriously, she notes, “there’s nothing like a New York show.”
Her Mercury Lounge performance was number three in her triumphant return to the city, and she has evolved rapidly in her short time back on the East Coast. She has made drastic changes since her first show at Pianos, moving from long setlists with no drummer to shorter, more immersive shows with all live beats. She describes her end goal for live shows as “a reenactment of Snow White.” She believes shows need to be not just heard, but felt. In the studio, “it’s more electronic,” she says. But eventually she hopes “to hire a full band, an orchestra, and have a really epic, evolved sound.”
We discuss what makes her music so transformative— “when you’re writing for publishers you have to have this word and this sound¸ they have to be in control… but I sneak in my own ideas.” She concludes, “people want authenticity.” And that’s exactly what she gives them.
Check out the full photo gallery here!
Many songs have been written about New York City, from sources as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Jay Z. But after living in the city for three years, only one song has come close to capturing the physical feeling of walking down Broadway in the middle of the night and looking up, only to see the city surrounds not just you, but the stars. And it might surprise you to learn that this song comes not from a Manhattan band, but from British rock outfit Young Guns, who just debuted the track “Infinity” in preparation for their third studio album Ones and Zeros¸ due out June 9th.
I recently got the chance to talk to Young Guns' Fraser Taylor about Infinity, writing, and their new album.
Before you start, could you please introduce ourselves?
I'm Fraser, I play guitar and keys in the band.
What Was The Writing Process Like for Ones and Zeroes?
For the first time ever for us it was a lengthy process. We started writing some of the songs back in the beginning of 2013. Aside from time and travelling to different places it was relatively similar to writing our previous albums. Either John or myself will usually start off with a rough idea, be it a riff, a progression or a beat. Then, we'll take it to the other guys and let everyone add their stamp to it. We've always written in quite a democratic way and we generally don't use something unless we are all happy with it.
You've Mentioned in your release of "Infinity" that it was inspired by being in New York-- do you think that grounding music in a physical space makes a difference in how the song sounds?
I definitely think travelling has had an impact on how these songs sound. We spent a lot of time in New York recording some demos in a studio basically above Time Square and I think it would be difficult not to feed off that energy. However we wanted a British sounding record so we finally settled in Bath in the UK, probably the most quintessentially English place you'll ever go.
A Lot of your songs- not just "Infinity"- conjure up a feeling of being somewhere when you listen to them-- is this intentional?
There wasn't any intention to make our songs ground the listener in a certain place. The chorus lyrics for Infinity were written by John and Gus sitting out of the window in the apartment we were staying in and it was very much centered around that moment. I would say rather than wanting to conjure the feeling of being in a certain place it's more about relating to a moment and the emotions you get from that.
Young Guns have been compared to The Killers and Rise Against, and I would definitely say Interpol-- a lot of bands try to avoid being compared to other musicians, do you shy away from the comparisons or embrace them?
People will always have their own opinions on what a band sounds like. If comparing us to another musician gives someone a way in to listening to our music then it can only be a good thing. The Killers and Rise Against are two very different bands and we've never been compared to Interpol before and whether I agree or not, I'll gladly accept all three.
When writing an album, what are you hoping the listeners will get from your music?
I always remember back to the way albums made me feel when I was younger. Music can be so powerful and leave such a lasting impression on people. On a basic level all I want from this record or any of our previous ones is that people connect with it. It's so rewarding getting messages of how a song has helped people through a hard time, inspired them to do something for the first time or even just knowing it's playing at a house party thousands of miles away. That's what it's all about.
What specifically do you hope Ones and Zeros will convey?
I can't speak for Gustav from a lyrical point of view but for me the overall feeling of this record is a positive one. We've spent the last 5 years touring the world with everyone and anyone of all different genres and no matter what the show is people just want to come away having had a good time. There's a song on the record called 'Memento Mori' which means 'remember you will die'. So in other words make the most of every moment you have. That's something I hope people will take away from listening to this album.
Do you have a favorite track off of the upcoming record?
My favourite is a song called Lullaby. It's probably the most intimate song we have ever recorded. We started writing it in 2013 but we didn't actually decide on the finished version until we were in the studio in Bath. So it's been a real labour of love - countless different chorus and beats to get the right one but I'm so happy with the way it turned out.
What are your plans for after the release?
The album comes out half way through the UK headline tour we are on at the moment after that we head back to the states for a tour with Three Days Grace then back for a few European festivals and a show in Taiwan. That's about all the information I can divulge at this point in time but we just want to be out on the road seeing all the fans we haven't seen in a while.
Ones and Zeros comes out next week, and if you want to keep up with Young Guns you can check out their Facebook, or watch more of their videos on Youtube.