EVENT REPORT: Song Summit 2012 – An Artists Perspective
SONGSUMMIT 2012, where to begin? This past weekend (26th-28th May) saw around 1100 individuals attend a conference in Sydney’s Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, where as many as 400 speakers represented different sectors of the music industry.
Prior to the main conference, the Australian Institute of Music in Surry Hills hosted a ‘Backstage Pass’ for SongSummit, where students ranging from the age of 9-19 came to the college to workshop with music industry professionals. The workshops ranged from songwriting to singing and fine tuning the skills for playing their desired instrument. From what I saw, there was a lot of musical talent that was aided by the help of Tim Levenson (Urthboy); Josh Pyke and Jake Stone; Rai Thiselthwaite, and Erina Clarke.
The main ‘SongSummit’ conference began bright and early Saturday morning, starting with a welcome from Brett Cottle, CEO of APRA|AMCOS. As the days unfolded delegates got the privelage of hearing a variety of keynote speakers, and were the audience for numerous live interviews with well-respected musicians and individuals such as Imogen Heap, Missy Higgins, Joel Madden, Kev Carmody, Arnthor Birgisson, Gary Calamar (music supervisor) and lastly the legendary New Zealander, Niel Finn (Crowded House).
Unfortunately, yet understandably, guitarist and songwriter Steve Cropper did not attend, following the death of his close friend, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn.
Amongst the interviews were live panels which focused on issues facing the music industry such as copyright and content. The first panel looked at ‘Australian Content’, and did that get heated! It was great to see the panelists clearly passionate about their roles in the industry and strong in their beliefs. There were many other panels that delegates could choose ranging from DIY record labels; Meet the Managers and Publishers; Listen to the Music; Talk About Pop Music; and Digital Distribution. Personally I chose to go to ‘Songwriting and Coaching’ as I could not pass an opportunity to work personally with some of the most influential and talented songwriters that the industry has to offer. The list of songwriters was overwhelming and it was hard to choose who to spend those precious two hours with.
I fortunately got the opportunity to work with singer/songwriter Megan Washington, and top-line writer/producer, Arnthor Birgisson. After having heard Arnthors story in his interview earlier that day (Sunday), I could not wait to converse with him and see what feedback he had for myself and those in my group. It was the simple things Arnthor said such as ‘Focus’ and ‘Deadline’ that connected with me when put in context with finishing a song. Explaining how to make a pop chorus have impact by placing the melody an octave higher than the verse, or playing a melody backwards – so simple, yet it can be the difference between having a ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ song.
Working with Megan made me realise how the world around can be inspiration for a melody or harmony. An example she used was how the outline of the way birds sit on a telephone line, could be transferred to staves on a piece of sheet music to become the melody of a song. These workshops also allowed for delegates to perform their songs in hope for feedback, and like ‘Backstage Pass’ on Friday, I was impressed and inspired with what I heard.
One of the other sessions I chose to go to were the Berklee sessions with teacher and writer Pat Pattison. Pattison too, said the simplest things (five steps to be exact), that transform the way you a song is delivered and received. I never got to go to all the sessions but speaking with friends and others I met, I heard only good things. That segways into one of the most important things of the whole weekend – networking.
Whether other delegates, industry professionals (both business side and the creatives); the people I met over those three days inspired me, gave me a sense of belief in my work, and were overall just interesting to speak with. SongSummit gives you an opportunity to get speak to people you may never have heard of prior, or thought you would ever get the chance to meet. I left the weekend with a bag full of EP’s and business cards from contacts I made, that I will no doubt use in the future both within Australia and Internationally.
Putting aside all the positives that left me ending the summit on such a high, there is always that level of expectation that sometimes is not met. Having attended a couple of the songwriting sessions, as great as it was to speak with the artists and hear feedback, a part of me wanted to watch them work, and see the process that takes place to make that ‘winning’ song. In saying that however, the tips and feedback they provided was nothing but invaluable, and for them to spend their time with us, truly deserves a thankyou.
Like Willie Nelson sings ‘its funny how time slips away’, and I think I speak on behalf of many that time flew by over the past three days. Many of the 1100 attendees I believe would be happy to spend a whole week at the least on the Darling Harbour grounds if it meant getting to experience each session. Reading through the different options of session’s available to attend, it is hard to decide where to go, and which would benefit you best. There is a part of you left wondering ‘what if’ you went to another session, yet unless you wanted a quick ten minutes of each, there is no way to attend them all!
One thing everyone who attended did have the option of going to were the performances, and there are only good things to say about those! The performers ranged from Megan Washington; East Coast singer/songwriters from Canada (David Myles, Henry Wagons, Matt Anderson and Tim Chaisson), ‘The Line’ performers throughout all the networking breaks and lunches; and in between getting to watch ‘up and coming’ performers such as Adam Katz and Donna Jordee. Each performance left you wanting more, but nothing was as moving as listening to Imogen Heap on Sunday Night where she discussed and performed her songs in an intimate setting; just her and the piano.
For any aspiring songwriters, musicians, or those just wanting to further their understanding of the music industry, I would strongly recommend coming next year, it is a priceless opportunity!