OK, who doesn’t love a trip to Universal Orlando? Who doesn’t also love the chance to rub elbows with the best and brightest in your field, all while learning the latest in industry trends…set to an awesome soundtrack? That’s what’s ahead for one and all as part of Momentum 2018. Nearly 10 years in, Christian Music Broadcasters’ premier event spans 4 days, drawing hundreds of industry luminaries representing no small fraction of listeners. (32 million weekly, to be exactish) It is after all the one and only conference devoted solely to the format. It all takes place September 5th-8th at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. Let’s also not forget that two of those elbows you’ll be rubbing could belong to our own Laurie Gail, VP of Label and Radio Relations. (So, make sure you say Hi and line up all those upcoming releases!)
Mz. Gail will also be on hand to capture the glory that is the audio from the always captivating keynote speakers. This year promises to be no exception. Sure to offer many pearls is psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman. Leman is the New York Times best-selling author of Have A New Kid by Friday and is also an on-air personality in his own right. He has appeared on Fox and Friends, Oprah, The View, and many more. The founder of Couples of Promise, Leman is committed the noble effort to helping couples remain happily married.
Leman joins a myriad of standout speakers, including Tony Banks, director of talent development at iHeartMedia, don’t ya know. Previously the Senior Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia’s Midwest Division, Banks cut his teeth as the Regional Programming Manager. The Rhode Island College grad is now iHeart’s go to for mentoring, coaching, and training existing talent, as well as recruiting new talent.
Erica Farber will be on deck as well. The President and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau is tasked with the formidable responsibility of increasing the bottom line, and effectively communicating radio’s changing digital landscape. Farber’s resume boasts all manner of Radio Sales and Management positions including Executive Vice President at the INTEREP Companies, where she landed following her days at KIIS-AM, KRTH-FM, and KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Farber also spent time in Boston where she served as General Sales Manager and General Manager of WROR-FM, leading to her role as Vice President and General Manager of WXLO in New York.
The aforementioned is just a sampling of notables due to speak at Momentum. There are more audio nuggets for you by way of, of course, musical talent. Dozens of performers are slated for the festivities, including Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Worship, Stars Go Dim, Casting Crowns, The Afters, and many more.
Todd Stach, WAY-FM Network Program Director, encapsulated the well-rounded event, sharing “Momentum is a place to either walk away with confidence or challenge the way you’re doing business. It reminds you to unite as a format, in an ever increasingly competitive environment, and to focus and refresh your life, station and career goals.”
While focusing and refreshing their lives, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in the Annual 4k and 1 Mile Run/Walk (no pressure!) through Universal Studios. In an effort to get the most out of the unique experience Momentum offers, participants may also employ the services of a “Momentum Guide.” Guidance may lead one to the scheduled “Digital Checkups,” courtesy of Jacobs Media. It’s a chance for attendees to meet one-on-one with a specialist who’ll assess station’s digital sich and note potential growth areas. (Suh-weet!) Also in the “more bang for your buck category” and always in high demand, Aircheck Clinics feature talent-coaching and feedback to on air peeps and Program Directors.
For more deets and your chance to register for this unmatched celebration of Christian Music Broadcasting, head to http://cmbonline.org/.
Like the bee girl finding her fellow bees in Blind Melon’s vibrant misfits-take-all video for “No Rain,” attendees of conventions–particularly format specific conventions- are offered a welcomed opportunity to frolic with their own, and perhaps win over potential converts.
As noted previously in MPE Today, Americana has, of late, soared via its eagle wings: Rolling Stone devoted some space to its rising popularity, noting recently that “it’s become a commercially viable format in the pop marketplace.” Sure has. Enough so, even, to cement itself in Merriam Webster’s annals, and secure a Grammy category of its own. Called by The New York Times “the coolest music scene today,” Americana is celebrated annually at, naturally, AMERICANAFEST. ®
This year’s AMERICANAFEST or American Music Festival & Conference goes down September 11th-16th in Nashville. Thousands will descend upon music city: artists, industry folk, and fans alike, to celebrate the genre, beloved for its broad yet unmistakable alchemy of folks, roots, country, soul and blues-based music. Revellers will include managers, agents, publishers, all manner of peeps behind the curtain taking in seminars, panels, and, of course, live music. Performers fittingly straddle genres and generations, from John Prine (and his friends), to Alejandro Escovedo, to The Band of Heathens, to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, this year’s AMERICANFEST promises live music spawning stories to break bread over this Thanksgiving.
Sure to be a standout among standouts is this year’s Americana & Awards Show, the “marquis event.” It’s a night to pay tribute to “distinguished members of the music community,” chosen by the Americana Music Association. The event includes 6 member-voted awards and multiple Lifetime Achievement Awards. And they mean business. (Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash performed together for one final time as part of the event). But, they’re not to be outdone by fellow legend alums Stephen Stills, Joan Baez, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, and Dr. John (with Dan Auerbach) to name a few.
The event features near countless parties to make all feel welcome, complete with a perpetual soundtrack. There’s the AMA UK Welcome Party, Tales and Ales with Paul Thorn and Tony Magee (omg, sign me up for anything thusly named); Sounds Australia at the BlueBird Cafe…we could go on! And we will! Alejandro Escovedo’s appearance is actually an in-store– at Crimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music. (And, ok, can I get a witness- greatest store name ever.)
P.S., Mary Gauthier hosts Songwriters in the Round. And as if all of this weren’t enough, the whole shebang culminates in something a bonus charity event: WoofStock. That star-studded affair happens September 16th at Ascend Auditorium, featuring Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt and the Goners, Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, John Paul White, The Lone Bellow, Ida Mae, Tommy Emmanuel, Elise Davis, and Jerry Douglas– whew!
And, all moolah goes the dog rescue founded by Mz. Emmylou Harris, Bonaparte’s Retreat, and to Crossroads Campus, a homeless animals rescue which teaches job skills to undeserved or at-risk youth. Come on! As if you needed more reasons to register now! So do so now at americanamusic.org!
Industry Spotlight: Henco Harmse
We had the sheer delight recently of speaking with Henco Harmse. He’s a promo powerhouse, based in Johannesburg, where he serves as Label Manager at Universal Music South Africa. Harmse caught us up on all things promo, and the interests that capture his attention outside the world of music.
“I was in the international department for about ten years and I’ve recently moved over to the Afrikaans department. The Afrikaans department is a local language division. Instead of working with the artists from overseas, I’m basically working with the artists on the ground in South Africa now.”
Harmse got his start in the giant world of the record industry like many a self-respecting teenager: at a record store. “I did that for about three years. It was a little bit like Empire Records, to be honest. Maybe not that wild, but it was fun. And then my big break in the music industry was I worked for a small, independent record company and I was a sales rep going from store to store selling CD’s. Started at the bottom and now I’m somewhere in the middle.” (Modest, for sure).
“It’s kind of strange that my time in the CD store was definitely the time when I learned the most about music, when you’re on the front line. I didn’t know anything about different genres of music, to be honest, and then when you’re doing on the front line you’re experiencing what people want. You’re figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. Even today, I still think about my time in the CD store when I’m thinking about marketing plans or strategies or anything like that.”
Harmse reflected on his notion of his future as an adolescent, invoking relatable memories that would make Holden Caulfield proud. “… I never really had a dream of working in the music industry. It’s almost like the music industry picked me. It’s sort of the other way around. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a kid. Working at the CD store was just a part time job and from there, it grew. As a kid, I was pretty obsessed with music. I came from a pretty small town and I didn’t really feel like I related to a lot of the people in the town and in the community and bunch of friends and myself, we started listening to punk and metal music and it became this whole thing where it’s like, ‘You don’t understand us and you don’t understand our music.’ It became a way of finding an identity or whatever. So music has always been important to me, but it was never a dream of mine to work in the music industry. I count myself very lucky, now that I am in it, but just sort of picked me, I guess.”
All those who relate, raise your hands. OK, attendance taken. We reflect, too, on the fact that our teenaged brains are wired to emblazon memories indelibly. Henco shares “There’s gangster rap songs that I can still recite off by heart. And today I can’t even remember that the song was called that I listened to five minutes ago.”
More a music fan than a musician, Henco said his discovery was largely self-realized. “Growing up, my parents weren’t that into music. They would listen to the radio or things like that, but we weren’t a very musical family at all. Which is very, people find that sort of strange and when I tell people I work in the music industry, people go, ‘Oh, you must be really good at music.’ I’m terrible at music. I used to own a bass guitar and I can’t say that I played it, but I owned it.” It was later in life that Henco was really bitten by the bug– and he remembers the precise moment. ‘I remember being about 12 years old and I listened to an awful track by 2 Unlimited, ‘No Limits.’ And I remember that was the first song where I was like, ‘Whoa. I can feel something.’ That was the first time where a song actually made me feel something. I very rapidly moved away from European techno, luckily, but I was only about 12 or 13 the first time I actually feeling passionate about music.”
That passion brings us to today, and Henco’s role at Universal, and to Play MPE. “The reason I’m helping out in South Africa is genuinely because it’s such a fantastic product. It’s really, from a marketing and promotion side, it’s been a great tool. I started using it years ago when it was introduced to Universal Music and just loved it from that point on. It can sometimes be a struggle to get the media to try it because people are so in their ways and people are quite scared of change, in general. But every person that I’ve gotten to use Play MPE has stuck with it. They always go, “this is easy, and it makes everything so much better and easier. I think I’ll use this from now on. The whole reason why I’m trying to build it in South Africa and then later on, hopefully, across Africa is just because it’s easier. It’s easier and better for everyone; for the record companies that are using it, for the media guys who are ingesting the music. And the more people we get to use it, the more record companies that we get to use it, the better it’ll be for everyone. Sort of trying to make an industry standard across the board.”
Harmse is quick to share a fave among current projects on the docket. “We’ve got one project at the moment that I’m really excited about. It’s a rapper from Port Elizabeth called Early B. He raps in the Afrikaans language, but I always say he’s not an Afrikaans rapper; he’s a rapper in Afrikaans. He’s got some of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard of any rapper. He’s just so good, he so quick and if you know the Afrikaans language, his usage of words and metaphors is just incredible.”
As for Harmse’s regular day-to-day, when he’s eagerly pursuing outside passions and interests in history and archaeology, and when he’s not busy fighting the good Play MPE and Universal fights, or in the studio with artists (whew!) …well, there’s really no typical day. “Every day is different, which is great. I’ve been with Universal for ten years now and I don’t really ever get bored because every day is different, and I face different challenges every day. But there is the red tape, the grind, the minutia. I think that’s the one thing that people don’t realize about the music industry, is there’s a lot of admin. There’s a lot of nitty-gritty Excel sheets that you need to fill in. There’s budgets. So, it’s not just fun and roses all the time; there’s a lot of hard work that goes unseen sometimes…Basically, what I used to do was just promote and market and think of interesting and innovative ways of pushing international artists. Now, on the Afrikaans side, on the local side, I’m having to learn and relearn a bunch of new things, which has been a great learning curve that I’ve had to get through and I’m obviously still learning, but I’m really enjoying it.”
All one could aim for, in this crazy thing we call the music business, right?
Full Stream Ahead
So, ever since Al Gore “invented the internet”, we’ve moved about our careers with something of a real or imagined dark cloud (pardon the digital storage pun) overhead, signifying the end of record biz revenue. Well, Heraclitus was on to something with that whole “There’s nothing so constant as change” thing.
Reports flooding in of late show a far less bleak future, and a booming one perhaps for the likes of the digital world. Spotify and Apple have been in a healthy neck and neck race for world domination, while Citigroup has released something of a stealth white paper report delving into the world of music rights and revenue. An RIAA spokesperson recently told Billboard “We welcome investment community interest in the music business, but it’s unfortunate that some of the methodologies and analysis within this report are incorrect or incomplete…” The exhaustive 88-page undertaking is cleverly named, if daunting: “PUTTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER Remastering the World of Music.”
Confident predictions counter current data by claiming that streaming will plateau, while live music and artist-steered DIY approaches will reign. They predict too that platforms will consolidate, and blockchain will assert itself and its transparency further.
Meanwhile, the statistical meat of the matter is, according to Nielsen Music’s latest half way point report, this year’s U.S. market shows streaming’s, well, booming. There were 403.4bn total music streams in the States in the six months to end of June, up 41.6%. 41.6%! There were stream increases across both audio and video platforms. For those keep score, by the way, it’s Post Malone who boasts the United States’ biggest sales across all formats these last six months, per Nielsen/Billboard.
For the nitty gritty perspective, the leap from last year to this is in increase in streaming volume 118 billion plays. Yes, billion. From 295 billion in 2017 to 403 billion in 2018. And just to bring us earthward regarding physical music consumption, physical album sales in the U.S. fell 14.6%….although, vinyl is still experiencing its resurgence, with an increase of 19.2%. And of course, representative of the digital Rent-A-Center way of life we now call normal, as streaming increases, digital sales continue to decrease.
Predictors assert that Spotify’s stock value could, if the course remains as it is, multiply itself within the next 5-10 years.
As the great George Carlin said, “…That’s all you need in life…a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time…”
Despite my now paying Spotify and Amazon to rent a near infinite amount of music annually, my sentimental nature keeps me tethered to shelves of CD’s, vinyl, cassettes, reel to reels, not yet able to repurpose that real estate. But perhaps, I’ll rent some additional space from Spotify….
Some Are Hits
Albert James Freed was born on December 15, 1921 in Windber, Pennsylvania. The world would never be the same.
In 1945, Freed–now Alan- went on air at WAKR Akron, where he cut his teeth playing jazz and pop records. It was during his WAKR years that Freed met Leo Mintz, owner of Record Rendezvous, one of Cleveland’s largest record stores. Mintz shared with Freed something he’d noticed: an increased interest in the rhythm and blues records he’d recently started selling.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Via Freed, listeners were introduced to the very phrase “rock and roll,” and it’s no accident that the Rock and Roll hall of fame makes its home in northeastern Ohio.
In the decades since Alan Freed took to the air with Bill Haley & His Comets, The Platters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless other legends, an immeasurable audio tapestry of radio hits has been woven. And, it’s in the heat of the summer, with the windows down, those beats have resonated the most.
Summer hits have a way of either defining their era, serving as an escape from it, or standing completely on their own for decades to come. 2018 has served up a banquet of faves, from Cardi B, to Drake, to Kacey Musgraves.
And there’s of course a gift from Taylor Swift (and Sugarland), “Babe.” And while we’re on the superstars subject, Justin Bieber serves up “No Brainer,” via DJ Khaled. Post Malone continues to prove unstoppable, this time with “Better Now.” And truly, what summer (or season, really) would be complete without some wisdom from Kanye? “Ghost Town “delivers.
“One Kiss” from Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa joins “NC-17” from Tavis Scott in the perfectly named summer hits category. And Ed Sheeran would never leave us in the dark, gifting us with “Perfect.”
This year, as ever, the songs of summer serve as a veritable audio snapshot of where we are a culture, how we seek to relax and celebrate. A thermometer reading of why, when, and how we chill.
There are the obvious shoo ins, destined for greatness by hook and title: “Summertime” (1991), DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince; “Summer in the City” (1966), Lovin’ Spoonful”; “Summertime” (1957) Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong; “The Boys of Summer”(1984), Don Henley, “Dancing in the Street” (1964), Martha and the Vandellas.
And there are the endearing, lasting novelties: “Wipe Out” (1963), The Surfaris, “Drop it Like It’s Hot (2004) Snoop Dogg, featuring Pharrell; “Baby Got Back”(1992), Sir Mix-A-Lot; “Ghostbusters” (1984), Ray Parker Jr; “Macarena” (1996), Los Del Rio. Sandwiched in, though, are those songs that we may not associate with convertibles and daisy dukes, but that were forever burned our brains and our cultural consciousness from the moment they greeted our ears: “Every Breath You Take” (1983), The Police; “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965) The Rolling Stones; “When Doves Cry” (1984), Prince; “Waterfalls” (1995), TLC; “Shout” (1985), Tears for Fears.
There’s just about a month left of summer…so, get out there and roll those windows down, and turn the music up!
Make it A Triple
Like your favorite cardigan or a comfortable pair of classic docs (or Berks), the Triple A Summit returns to Boulder to once again unite Triple A’s best and brightest. It’s all happening at the gorgeous St. Julien Hotel and Spa, and of venues around town August 8th through 11th. (It’s not too late to get your registration on!)
As ever, this year’s conference promises a bevy of performances from both rising newcomers and Triple A stalwart stars. Brandi Carlile, Moon Taxi, Matt Costa and more flesh out an ever-growing list of not to be missed talent.
In addition to the musical treats bound for the Fox Theatre (and across the street), attendees can expect thought-provoking panels and discussion including nuggets from this year’s keynote, Thirty Tigers leader of the pack, David Macias.
Recently hailed amongst Billboard’s 100 Country Power Players, Macias is the man at the helm of formidable AAA success and a whole new business model with which to be reckoned over the past 16 years. John Ettinger, founder of the Innovation in Music Awards, recently shared this about the inaugural IMA executive award winner. “David Matias has become one of NASHVILLE’s most compelling characters, with a sense of imagination for what can be accomplished outside the normal path. I cannot wait to hear his angles on innovation.”
The marketing/distribution/publishing/merch all around beast Thirty Tigers boasts a roster that boasts Amanda Shires… John Prine, Trampled By Turtles, Low, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, The Avett Brothers, and Boulder performer Lissie…just to name a few. Lissie joins a list of nearly 30 announced artists…so far. As FMQB’s Jack Barton told Play MPE, “We’ve tried to truly curate the music that comes in. It’s not just been an exercise in commerce.”
The Summit (gotta love that, btw) is also an opportunity to reward the talent behind the music. Industry peers can tip their hats to their fellow programmers and promo peeps with a standout nod at this year’s awards. On the radio side, this year’s contending Top 10 stations include KBCO, KGSR, KINK, and WRLT. On the promo side, Brian Corona (Atlantic), Dan Connelly (Capitol), James Evans (Interscope), Karen Durkot (Concord Music Group), and Lisa Sonkin (Columbia) will await word re. the honors.
So, make sure you register for your chance to take in the panels, the live music, the music meetings with yummy beverages, and of course the face time with Play MPE’s own Laurie Gail!
Below is a list of performers on deck as of this printing!
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Blue Water Highway
Greta Van Fleet
Nalani and Sarina
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
The Devil Makes Three
The Mother Hips
The War and Treaty
Industry Spotlight: Flying On The Concord – Ayappa Biddanda
Amidst CMAFest, Bonnaroo, and with Boulder just around the corner, Ayappa Biddanda, Sr. Director, National Roots, Video & Tour Promotion at Concord Music, was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions.
Did you always have your eyes and heart set on working in the music? If not, what brought you to it?
I always had music in my heart, but growing up a first-generation Indian kid in Knoxville, I had no clue you could work in the music industry. I just thought music was something that magically appeared on the radio or on vinyl or in a cassette (that I would occasionally have to spool back in with a pencil).
While at the University of Tennessee, I was part of the Cultural Attractions Committee and the Issues Committee booking artists and speakers from around the globe. That gave me a taste that there was a possibility of providing a stage for world-class talent. Then I had the opportunity to help Peter Stuart (of the band dog’s eye view) sell his CDs & promote his shows as an indie artist. He signed to Vanguard Records and told them about me, which led to me joining the Vanguard Street Team while in San Diego. I moved to LA to pursue a Master’s of Public Policy at UCLA and also ended up interning at Vanguard where I was later offered a job in the Tour Marketing/Street Team department. After a few years, I moved to the Promotion Department under the tutelage of Art Phillips and eventually went on to run the department for Vanguard & Sugar Hill Records. The labels eventually became part of Concord Music where I joined their Promotion Team under the leadership of Jill Weindorf. I’m fortunate to have worked with all the amazing people I have!
What have been some of your most memorable experiences in music? (either personally or professionally)
It’s humbling to admit there are too many to list! Professionally speaking, the first time I heard a song I was working played on the radio (a Peter Stuart song on Indie 103.1 in LA), I pulled over and ran around my car in joy. In fact, each time I’m with a Band/Artist and they hear their new single on the radio for the first time (especially their first single), it’s always extra special. Being at a show and having the entire audience singing along to an Artist’s radio hit is also thrilling because you know there is a personal connection that’s been created.
A few other highlights that spring to mind: booking Matt Nathanson on The Howard Stern Show; booking Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats on The Grand Ole Opry; setting up an album event for Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; coordinating an unprecedented video premiere across MTV Live, MTVU, CMT Music, BET Soul, and BET Centric for Valerie June; being with O.A.R. on Capitol Hill in DC for Arts Advocacy Day alongside Norman Lear and Rep. John Lewis; booking Melissa Etheridge on the Power 106 Morning Show in LA to discuss her tribute to Stax.
Moments where we can showcase Artists to new audiences who embrace their talent—that’s special and something every member of the team works to deliver. Really, every day I’m creating new memories as part of the Concord Music Promotion Team. Each member pours every ounce of his/her energy and talent to serve our artists while also lifting up their team members. Being part of a team that delivers artists their greatest successes to date is a rush every time. What can be better professionally than that?
Personally speaking, I once found myself on-stage in San Diego with my favorite band Counting Crows clapping along to “Hanginaround” during their encore—with Dennis Rodman also on that stage. All sorts of surreal.
Which 5 artists would make up your desert island soundtrack?
– Counting Crows—between their official catalog and the…oh, 150+ live bootlegs of theirs, I’ll have plenty of music to fill the island airwaves.
– Matt Nathanson—with him, I’ve been able to witness first-hand the passion, intensity, and heart that goes into creating albums, and we’ve also shared a lifetime of memories criss-crossing the country breaking his records.
– Indigo Girls—their songwriting and thematic range will give me plenty to feel—and think—about; plus, they’ll inspire me to harmonize with animals on the island.
– Oscar Brown, Jr.—his range of voice and extensive subject matter always challenge me to think about the greater world and how we fit within it.
– Tracy Chapman—the way she balances the political & the personal is awe-inspiring…and her song “The Promise” would be a fitting anthem while being stuck on an island.
What do you feel are the keys to success in the music business? (Related– what keys do you think are “universal” and what are unique to industry?)
A few keys to success across fields: dedication to the respective craft; follow-through; and respectful treatment of all those you encounter. A unique key to success in the music industry would include understanding why a good Tour Manager is so valuable—and ensuring s/he has the information needed to succeed.
Best advice you’ve received, and/or advice you’d share with those seeking to break into the business?
Advice nugget I’ve received: “Whether you think you can or you can’t…you’re right.” Advice I’d share: Love music, work harder than you ever thought you could, and don’t be a jerk.
When you’re not hard at work, what’s your ideal day?
The recent Father’s Day which was my first as a Dad was pretty ideal. I got to hang out with my wife and daughter, who just turned 7 months old. We listened to music, ate some good food, and I tried out some Dad jokes. I’m pretty sure she’ll get the humor when she’s older. Same with the baby.
Greatest challenges faced during your day to day?
Time! Every. Single. Day. A perpetually ever-growing To Do list and yet only 24 hours. That certainly keeps me looking forward to tomorrow!
What has been most rewarding about Concord Music in particular?
I had mentioned the exceptional Promotion Team I’m a part of earlier so that’s one. But also the range & quality of artistry at Concord Music is unmatched. Where else would I have the opportunity to work with artists ranging from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, St. Vincent, Valerie June, The Record Company, The Revivalists, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness to Marilyn Manson, Ghost, and Underoath to Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Cody Jinks, and I’m With Her to William Bell, Indigo Girls, and Chris Hillman to large portions of the Stax and R.E.M. catalogs to Denzel Curry, Kidz Bop, The Sound Of Music…all while we develop great emerging artists?! I’m still that lucky kid from Knoxville.
Industry Spotlight: Making it Rehn
We recently enjoyed the distinct opportunity to catch up with promoter extraordinaire Daniel Rehn. An entrepreneurial spirit to the core, Rehn was passionate in recalling a career path marked by successes within and beyond Scandinavia. Approachable and down-to-earth, Daniel is passionate in describing his appreciation for artists and dedication to their success. Having already launched Stockholm’s Artery: Music Group with producer Thomas Rushak and releasing works by Mwuana, Orkid, Cotis, Bellhouse to name just a few, Rehn has partnered once again with Rushak in launching NEXT of KIN CREATIVE.
Though his start in the industry was quite early, Daniel was initially charting a course towards a career in sport. “I started out playing basketball when I was eight years old, and basketball was my biggest passion outside of music. And being 5’10”, I realized that maybe basketball wasn’t the best option for me, especially in Sweden. We don’t have the same type of system as in the U.S. with basketball in high school. You actually have the teams outside of school. And one of my basketball coaches, he was doing music videos and he always saw me being in the gym, being a real gym rat. I’ve always been just completely submerged in myself, and in my passions, regardless if it was basketball or music. I was always trying to get better.”
It proved to be quite the fateful turn of events. “He asked me if I wanted to help out with some music videos. I was 16 at the time. Nothing major in production, I was just basically getting coffee and doing whatever was needed to make everything flow perfect. And that led to another video, and another video. And then he had this big opportunity to shoot an artist that was signed to BMG in Sweden.”
It was during a video shoot in Sicily that Daniel began to glean the ins and outs of A&R, speaking with the artist’s manager. “I just started stalking him with questions in regards to the music, like the industry. I didn’t know what A&R was, I just knew that I wanted to work with artists in the creative sphere. I wanted to be involved in helping them succeed and reach their potential. I knew that that was really what I wanted to do, but I had no idea about A&R. I had no idea really about any position at a label.”
Take note, those pondering the merits of Nike and “Just Do It.” This…is clearly how it gets done. “He introduced me to the head of A&R for BMG Scandinavia, who became my mentor. His name is Peter Swartling, and I’m still working with him to this day actually. And I was 17, about to turn 18 when I went up to his office and he asked if I wanted to be his assistant. And so I started out being his assistant under BMG Scandinavia. And he developed, her name is Robyn, she was pretty big.” One could say that!
While Rehn clearly cut his teeth and learned a great deal in the role, almost apprentice style, he yearned to take on more. “Being an assistant, I felt that I needed more responsibility because I wanted to start to develop my skills. And if you’re an assistant, at least in my world, it’s hard to develop any further because at the end of the day, the responsibility’s not yours, which means that you’re always safe. So it doesn’t really matter what you do because you’re always going to be safe, because it’s not going to fall on you. I like to take calculated risks, and I feel that that’s where I do my best, when I have my back against the wall.”
It’s that spirit that appears to guide all aspect of Rehn’s process, including his approach with artists.
He spoke in particular about Mwuana. “He’s amazing with melodies, the way he phrases words, and the way his whole output, his charisma. And so I put the strategy together with him. We worked hand-in-hand. We went to Portugal to a little harbor village. We shot the first video with just him, me and his little brother Kevin. And I was hands-on and everything, because I like the grass roots. I love that, the whole thing about being involved in all aspects, I love it. You can’t always do it. And I did it with him, and we released EPs in 2015.”
Mwuana is one of many artists to whom Rehn has applied his unique philosophy. 2018 has seen the dynamo work with Alex Sparrow, described as a “triple threat” across film, music, and dance. The Russian-born talent has even appeared on Russia’s The Bachelor, Dancing with The Stars, and The X-Factor!
While Rehn clearly has clearly blazed quite a career trail, he’s not keen to spotlight it. After all, it’s about the music. “I never focused on myself as being its own brand. I always focused on the work will show and prove what I’m about and my capacity. I don’t have a Bio. I know it’s something I need in a sense in this day and age. But it also proves something, that I’m really about what I’m saying. You know it’s about the artist.” As NEXT of KIN CREATIVE’s Instagram proudly announces, “We Do Not simply aim to build careers, we focus on establishing entrepreneurs!”
Faces of Play MPE: Claire Carreras
The newest face around the offices of Play MPE belongs to Claire Carreras, Office Administrator/List Coordinator. We caught up with Claire about her new role, and her “double life” inside and outside the Play MPE’s walls.
“My career path has been…convoluted I suppose. I’ve been all over the place. Mostly due to the fact that I’m a musician. My early 20s was all about just finding work that would be flexible enough to allow me to still pursue the music and tour when need be and that sort of thing. Music has always been such a huge part of my life.” I ask what her band is called and she giggles “I’m currently in two bands actually. Two full-time touring bands. One’s called HEDḰS and the other one’s called BRASS.”
Claire clearly has both the head for music and for business, so it’s clear how perfectly suited to her role the position is. With a background in administration and inventory accounting, Claire set her sights on a business degree, all while continuing to play in bands after hours, a lifestyle she also feels uniquely suited to.
“Growing up I had an outside of the box childhood. We moved constantly. My stepdad was a flamenco guitarist. I grew up with a lot of classical guitar in the house. Other than traditional music, we really weren’t allowed to listen to a lot of music, like mainstream stuff, radio, certainly Much Music and other programs like that were strictly forbidden in my household when I was growing up.
After moving back to Canada Claire was introduced to a whole new world of music- and an entirely new guitar sound.
“My friends were listening to all this music and I’d go over to their house and I’d discover all of this stuff that I’d just never heard before and it blew my mind. And I decided, man, this is what I want to do. This is where it’s at. Electric guitar!? omg. Because previously, it was classical piano lessons two hours a day, ballet and classical flamenco. And that was all great and it really enriched my ear and my preferences but when you discover Korn for the first time, dude: You mean, I can do that too?”
Claire doesn’t limit herself to music, though. She’s also an avid artist, and an entrepreneur. “I’m actually launching a backpack line in the next couple of months. So I get to be creative in that regard again. I figured it was time to get back into the fashion a little bit, fashion and art. I’m a rabid artist. I draw and paint. I went to art school as a kid and all that kind of thing.”
The work/life/creative balance is one to which Claire pays close attention. “I’ve toured with a lot of really amazing bands that really inspired me in terms of their work ethic and how they manage to get their music out there and make touring work. How they manage their personal relationships when their constantly under stress and their attention is being demanded. That really inspires me.”
With the researching, data analysis and people-skills required in her role as List Coordinator, balanced with a mind for business sense, it’s clear that Play MPE has their gal!
Automatic for the People
Just when we thought, in the words of Barenaked Ladies, it’s all been done, in the way of streaming services, a new kid comes to the party by way of The National and Bon Iver.
As told to The Guardian recently, The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner have teamed up with pal Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, in other circles) to launch P-E-O-P-L-E, born of the 2016 Berlin festival of the same name. The two have partnered with entrepreneurs/hoteliers Berlin hipster hoteliers Tom and Nadine Michelberger in the creation of what they’re calling a “publishing platform.” Off the bat, tuned in Redditors are comparing it to BandCamp, but notes though “you can’t buy or download the music. It’s about “streaming and discovering.” Others have commented on the unique perspective the space offers non-musicians to get inside heads (and ears) of their favorite musicians. Currently, it’s not yet open to the masses, but, like Soundcloud, as Tom Michelberger shares, it’s “also not fully curated.”
True to their festival roots, the founders of people are promoting the launch by way of a week-long residency in Berlin featuring approximately 160 artists. The event promises known and unknown music with “the work itself lighting the way.” (Performers expected include Damien Rice, Nick Zinner, Lisa Hannigan, Anaïs Mitchell, Canny Leaneagh (Poliça), Camilla Staveley Taylor (the Staves), Kurt Wagner, Erlend Oye to name a few.
Bryce Dessner shared, “It’s trying to deformalise some of the artifice and structure that goes into releasing music, and to get a little bit closer to the creative and collaborative process, and to the people.”
Peeps can geek out to the lo-fi beta version of the site now, with the full launch happening in August. Beta.p-e-o-p-l-e.com promises “We want to create a place to evolve and share ideas around the year. That’s why we are in the process of building our own digital platform where the music from recordings, sessions and live events as well as visual art, podcasts and essays can find a home. For all the raw, the unpackaged, the experiments and the evolved ideas.”
In a statement, the team promises “We are a steadily growing group of international artists who have come together to create and share our work freely, with each other and everyone. We call it PEOPLE. It was born of a wish to establish an independent and nurturing space in which to make work (generally around music) that is collaborative, spontaneous and expressive in nature and where all unnecessary distractions or obstacles that get in the way are removed.
PEOPLE is for the benefit and development of the artists involved and just as importantly, for those who would like to access and enjoy the output. It is as much about the process of making work and showing all that openly, as the final outcome.”