LAMC: Music Industry Tip #1, Story Is Everything

The Latin Alternative Music Conference hosted five panels last week to inform and inspire visiting and local attendees alike.  I donned my artist hat, took the wheel and sat down for a spin.The room was full of working artists and producers from Mexico to Argentina, and from Puerto Rico to Chile asking questions, and seeking a more complete picture of their industry.

Tip #1: Story Is Everything!

Licensing your music can be a good source of income for artists.  Carmelo Rodriguez from Vidal Partnership, an advertising agency, said that when he is searching for artists to license for commercial purposes, unknown artists are actually in the best position since larger artists tend to “eat” the commercial their music accompanies.  Most important is your skill at storytelling within the music. Besides the lyrics, does the music tell a story?

Also, can you tell your own personal story and does it translate to your audience and to corporations interested in using your music?  The way you talk about your journey is important.  Roberto Isaac from mun2 seconded the idea of story being vital to an audience “getting” the musician.  He said that people fall in love with an artist’s story and then they find the artist’s songs.

So, go crazy, tell people where you were born, where you grew up, what first inspired you to play and write music, who are your mentors and idols and what makes you tick.  Be generous with your life details and people will be generous right back.  Check out the Wikipedia, Last FM, and Myspace pages of your favorite artists to see how they did it.  Bands with good “stories” include Calle 13, Carla Morrison, 3BallMTY, Ximena Sariñana, and the list goes on.  Make it easy for people to learn about who you are.  The clearer your story, the easier it will be to promote and license your music.

Tip #2 will be about licensing your music.

LAMC: A Saintly Performance from La Santa Cecilia

The 13th annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in NYC started off with spunk and spirit at the Mercury Lounge Showcase where artists sang to a mostly packed and enthusiastic audience.  The MC gave away free T-shirts and microphones from sponsors, while concert goers and artists alike mingled and danced to what turned out to be a very 1980s inspired evening.  Latin Alternative music isn’t a genre per se, but a gang of varying popular genres from Spanish or Spanglish hip hop and synth-pop to rock infused rancheras, boleros, bossas and cumbias.  Nacional Records, headed by Tomas Cookman and Josh Norek, is the hosting motor behind the festival, curating the showcases and panels and fostering relationships with domestic artists and those across the border and beyond.

The sparky “CubaRican” songstress Xenia Rubinos kicked things off with broad and high reaching vocals in a Dirty Projector style delivery that sputtered and stalled like a video game complete with false endings toppling artfully into scat singing to match up with keyboard strokes on “Cherry Tree.” 

Miami hip hop ensemble ArtOfficial featured vigorous sax solos from Keith Cooper that, like fireworks, outshone the innocuous urban rhymed lyrics of the songs. 

Alex Anwandter brought his Brit-synthy-electro-dance-pop vogue moves to the party, all the way from Santiago, Chile, basking in the glory of his local fans eager to get down to his latest hit “¿Cómo puedes vivir contigo mismo?”  (“How Can You Live With Yourself”).

Uruguayan electro-cumbia song and beat-maker Martin Buscaglia came on stage accompanied by his loop pedals and guitar to slow the party down by a few BPM and deliver fervent and impassioned songs of love and intrigue, which were more of a sound-art piece than a musical set.

The mood shifted slightly when Monica Lionheart took the stage, still intoning a 1980s synth-pop feel but with understated vocals to counteract her overstated hair, and a haunting bilingual set of harmonies and dynamics to pull us close. 

And although La Santa Cecilia stole the show for me, Gepe came in a close second, performing solo like a Chinchinero, a Chilean street performing one-man-band, instrumentally adept and completely focused on words of longing that in “Alfabeto” matched perfectly the charango opening and quena flute close. Many of his songs are influenced by traditional Andean instruments and rhythms from the 1960s and 1970s that he fuses together with a pop ballad sentiment.

The band I was there to see didn’t appear until almost 1:00 am, but it was well worth the wait. La Santa Cecilia was effervescent, joyful and celebratory in its performance with two different accordions, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, drums and bass. The singer, Marisoul Lead, took over the stage with her broad smile, vintage cat eye glasses and colorful fashion palate, and her voice has that classic sound like Etta James or Sarah Vaughan that you instantly trust and recognize for what it is: naturally free. The band played cumbias, boleros, Rancheras, Afro-Cuban numbers mixed with rock and they even played their own version of “Tainted Love,” the song made famous by Brit synth-pop duo Soft Cell in 1981. 

Maybe it’s because I grew up in LA listening to that song, or maybe it’s because I’m a product of the New Wave era, but La Santa Cecilia’s combination of Spanish and English lyrics mixed with the Mexican American instrumentation and dance energy topped my chart for the night, the only band to play a begged-for encore. Check out their Grammy-nominated song and video “La Negra” produced by the multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy winning producer Sebastian Krys.

LAMC 2012 Shows

Nacional Records’ 13th annual Latin Alternative Music Conference is happening again July 11-14 at the New Yorker Hotel and all over NYC.  You can register online until July 1, but you don’t have to be registered in order to attend some of the amazing shows they have lined up. There’s something for everyone here from showcase to stadium-size shows.  Here are a few artist videos to give you a taste.

Performing Wednesday, July 11th at Central Park Summer Stage:

Latin Grammy winner, Mala Rodriguez, along with Ximena Sariñana, Profetas and The Sconek-T

Performing Wednesday, July 11th at the Indie Showcase at The Mercury Lounge:

Latin Grammy nominated La Santa Cecilia, along with Monica Lionheart, Martin Buscaglia, ArtOfficial, Alex Anwandter, Gepe and Xenia Rubinos

Performing Thursday July 12th at Gramercy Theater:

Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated La Vida Boheme, along with Carla Morrison, Psycho Realm, Javiera Mena, Adrianigual, Jot Dog and Cero39

Performing Thursday July 12th, The Acoustic Showcase at SOB’s:

No te Va a Gustar, along with Pamela Rodriguez, La Santa Cecilia, Las Acevedo, Carla Morrison, Ana Tijoux, Alex Anwandter, Adrianigual and Martin Buscaglia

Performing Friday July 13th, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park:

Ana Tijoux along with Calle 13 and Ritmo Machine

Performing Friday July 13th, Passport Fridays at the Queens Museum:

Paté de Fuá and Las Cafeteras

http://youtu.be/Iu9PQueAKzE

Performing Saturday July 14th at Central Park Summer Stage: 

Latin Grammy nominated Kinky along with Los Auténticos Decadentes, 3Ball MTY and DJ Raff.  This video was shot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, enjoy!

http://youtu.be/kSzeCP5lX74

 

Randy Merrill & Masterdisk in the New York Times

New York Times
The New York Times

Randy Merrill was quoted in an article that ran on Sunday, May 9 in the New York Times by Joseph Plambeck called “In Mobile Age, Sound Quality Steps Back”. Here’s the paragraph that quotes Randy:

“Randy Merrill, an engineer at Masterdisk, a New York City company that creates master recordings, said that to achieve an overall louder sound, engineers raise the softer volumes toward peak levels. On a quality stereo system, Mr. Merrill said, the reduced volume range can leave a track sounding distorted. “Modern recording has gone overboard on the volume,” he said.”

Read the full article here: In Mobile Age, Sound Quality Steps Back.