The song important enough to add his voice to it

“G.H.E.T.T.O” (Greatness Happens Even Though There’s Oppression) weaves elements of Siedah Garrett’s personal history into an empowering new song. Joining her is Common. “I was giddy with enthusiasm and joy that he found the song important enough to add his voice to it,” she says.
With an illustrious career that includes two Academy Award nominations (“Real in Rio,” from Rio and “Love You I Do,” from Dreamgirls, which was awarded a Grammy in 2008 for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media), Garrett is an accomplished recording artist and vocalist who has recorded and performed with an illustrious roster including Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and Madonna. This year marks the 30th anniversary of a monumental event in this history––the release of “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, a No. 1 song that she co-wrote with Glen Ballard for Jackson’s massively successful collection Bad.

She never set out to write, Garrett explains. “I wanted to be an artist period. I wanted to have a record deal. That went by the wayside when I got so much in debt, having been signed to a couple of different labels, changing A&R guys and record companies, and them going out of business. It was not a smooth ride as an artist for me, so I had to lean on other talents. And the writing thing ended up in my lap.”

Garrett first came to the attention of the legendary Quincy Jones as a vocalist when she auditioned for a group formulated by the producer called Deco. She remembers where, as an aspiring singer, she read about this opportunity. “In Music Connection magazine. Absolutely. That was my Bible.”
When her group signed with Jones, she had never written songs. “I didn’t want a songwriter deal. Quincy, in effect, said either you all get a contract or nobody gets a contract. So I ended up learning the craft of songwriting and that saved me.”

She learned from singing demos. “I guess the songwriters thought that if I sang it Quincy would listen. And it taught me different ways to write a song. Did it start with a chorus or did it start with a verse? Did it have an intro? Did it have a bridge? Does it have a double chorus at the end of the first verse? There was so much to learn about songwriting and arrangements.”

Garrett wrote “Carry On” to benefit The Race to Erase MS. At a Los Angeles gala where she performed the song, she revealed that six years ago she too was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. “I have a very mild version of a very deadly disease,” she qualifies. “I’ve blessed that this type of MS allows me to function normally 90 percent of the time. I came out because I could be an example to someone who is really dealing with severe issues. When I told the audience there was an audible gasp. I wanted them to think about me the way they did 30 seconds ago, not as a sick person on stage. I wanted to show that MS doesn’t look like Richard Pryor or Teri Garr, it also looks like me.”

Among Garrett’s new activities was a performance of “It’s Time to Listen” for autism awareness at a WNBA game at New York’s Madison Square Garden. She is currently writing a musical based on “Silent Night” with collaborators including Oscar-nominated composer John Debney, and is a co-writer and featured vocalist on “Aura” with Earth, Wind and Fire’s Ralph Johnson.

Anything until you have a lawyer check it out

It’s a show business warning that is as valid today as it ever was. By reading the following article, excerpted from his new book The 11 Contracts That Every Artist, Songwriter and Producer Should Know, entertainment attorney Steve Gordon will school you on how to proceed, what to look out for and what questions to ask the next time a sync deal comes your way.

Signing the Best Sync Deal Possible
This article focuses on the use of music in audiovisual works such as movies, television, TV commercials and video games. I will provide examples of the amount of money you can expect to make, explain the role of Performing Rights Organizations in collecting additional income on behalf of songwriters, discuss the key provisions in standard licenses, and describe the role of publishers, sync reps and other licensing agents.
This article also provides comprehensive comments on the following three licenses: (1) MTV’s “Music Submission Form,” (2) a license for use of music in a TV commercial, and (3) a license for music in a television movie. If you get a similar deal, you will know what to look out for, how to make the deal fairer, and how to decide if it’s still worth it if the company that wants to use your music won’t negotiate.

Two Types of Copyrights: Sound Recordings and Musical Works
“Sync” licenses are agreements for the use of music in audiovisual projects. In its strictest sense, a sync license refers to the use of a musical composition in an audiovisual work. The term “master use” license is sometimes used to refer to the use of a sound recording (sometimes referred to as a “master”) in an audiovisual work. While sync licenses can only make money for songwriters, master use licenses can make money for both songwriters and recording artists. It is possible for a license to include both a grant of rights in a song and a master if the same person wrote the song and produced the master.

Copyright law protects “musical works,” such as songs and accompanying words as well as orchestral works, librettos and other musical compositions. Copyright also protects “sound recordings”; that is, recordings of musical compositions. Indie artists/songwriters who record their own songs generally own the copyrights of both their songs and masters. But once that artist/songwriter enters into a music publishing agreement, she generally transfers the copyright in her songs to the publisher, and the publisher pays her a royalty from the commercial exploitation of the songs, including “syncs.” If the same artist/songwriter enters into a standard recording contract, any record in which she performs during the term of the agreement is usually a “work for hire” for the record company. In that case (as explained in further detail below) the record company owns the copyright for the recordings, and pays royalties to the artist for both record sales and master use licenses.

The Good Wife and more

When Randy Frisch established LoveCat Music in 1999, he envisioned an independent music publishing company that licensed songs of all genres, from all over the world, that were available on a one-stop license basis. Today, LoveCat has licensed songs for hit films like Deadpool and Split as well as hundreds of television series, including Stranger Things, Gilmore Girls, The Good Wife and more.

“My inspirations included the great independents like Island and Virgin that had high-quality music across many genres. I wanted to reproduce that diversity on a smaller scale,” Frisch says. “I was a fan of rock, but also of popular music from around the world. One of our first clients was (the HBO series) Sex and the City. They were looking for Latin music, so we took off in that direction and licensed a lot of songs in that show.”

The company prides itself on signing developing, new artists and pushing not just American popular music, but Latin, German, Russian and other world music. Frisch says the company researches by reading trade publications, watching television to keep up with new shows and staying in touch with studios. When negotiating on film and television music placements, Frisch says “less is more.” “If someone is looking for music, it’s tempting to send them a lot of songs, but you should give them a few great choices rather than sending everything, because no one has the time for that,” he says. “Sometimes an older song works as well as a new one. Shows aren’t only looking for new music. It’s about what fits and what’s right. Also, Latin music isn’t just for Latin shows. Country music isn’t just for country shows. Shows are open to a variety of music.”

Challenges of the job include interpreting the client’s music needs and maintaining relationships with clients, he says. “You have to be hassle-free. To deliver on what you offered, meaning if you pitch a song, and the client bites, you must be able to deliver. The worst that can happen is a client wants a song and you say, ‘Oh, no, actually that’s not available,’” he says. “It may seem obvious, but that’s a relationship killer.”

The time they were newly signed to Lava

A whirlwind of activity has surrounded the burgeoning rock quartet Greta Van Fleet since they graced the pages of Music Connection in June 2017. At the time they were newly signed to Lava/Republic Records and rolling out their 4 song EP Black Smoke Rising to eager fans everywhere.

Twenty-one-year old twins Jake and Josh Kiszka (guitar and lead vocals, respectively), 18-year-old brother Sam Kiszka (bass and keyboards) and fellow 18-year-old Danny Wagner (drums) are, of course, very young, but collectively possess a classic and timeless view of the arts. They wanna rock! And with a sound forged in the blues and legendary artists like Led Zeppelin, the Who, Joe Cocker and Wilson Pickett, are single-handedly turning the music world on its ear.

Here are the facts: Leg one of the band’s first-ever headlining tour is completely sold out. The EP Black Smoke Rising debuted Aug. 17 at  No. 1 on both the American and Canadian iTunes rock charts. GVF was nominated for a 2017 Loudwire Music Award for Best New Band. Their debut single “Highway Tune” received 3.6 million Spotify streams. And the list goes on.

We recently caught up with guitarist Jake Kiszka, who shared insight into the band’s humble beginnings hailing from smalltown Michigan to their seemingly overnight catapult to stardom.

Music Connection: Can you talk about growing up in Frankenmuth, Michigan and how did that inform or influence who you are?
Jake Kiszka: It’s not the usual up-bringing coming from a small town. That certainly had a lot of influence into our musical selection. We grew up like 10 minutes outside of Frankenmuth in the country. We weren’t around a lot of modern influences so that contributed to our musical growth.

MC: You’ve had a tremendous amount of success in a relatively short period of time. Can you talk about that experience from the inside?
Kiszka: I think that none of us expected such an immediate reaction to the music we were making. It’s very difficult to perceive what’s going on because we’re in the midst of it. In a way it’s sort of like being in the eye of the storm. There’s a lot going on around you, but it’s pretty stagnant in the center. But I think all of the attention and the overwhelming reaction to the band stems from the truth in the music. I think just making pure music in a world, where there is so little pure music anymore, could have something to do with it certainly.

MC: Was working with Al Sutton and Marlon Young of Detroit’s Rust Belt Studios a big part of your crafting that pure music sound you were going for?
Kiszka: Yeah, I think they helped us get to where we wanted to go as far as crafting a sound. We are very live-based musicians, and I think we’ll always be. But I think there was a great deal learned in the studio in the last two years. And those two guys certainly trained us to be better studio musicians.

MC: How did you hook up with Sutton and Young?
Kiszka: We had worked at a few different studios, with Metro 37 being one of them. It was all about finding the right producer who could produce the kind of music we wanted to make. And I think the closest we could get was Al Sutton. We sent him some of our music and he decided to work with us. We started demoing songs and it took off from that point.

The Mundi Jungle Hut

Founded by Crystal Fighters guitarist Graham Dickson in 2014, Axis Mundi Records provides a haven for developing artists. Entirely independent, their Brooklyn, NY studio, The Mundi Jungle Hut, maintains an open door policy.

Organic Origins
After touring for a few years with Crystal Fighters, people started asking me to produce their music. People were looking to me for creative advice and how to navigate life in the music world.

After one summer of doing festivals, a band named Psymon Spine, who’s now on the label, reached out to me. I was on tour with Crystal Fighters (we were supposed to play a show in Albany, NY) and they were going to college [about] an hour away. They sent me a song, said they liked my band and were friends with other friends of ours, a band called Is Tropical. They’d remixed one of our songs, so they kind of made the connection and asked if we could hang out if they came to the show. I listened to the song and thought it was amazing. I invited them and they came; we really connected and partied all night. That night, they asked me to produce their album. I asked them if I started a record label would they want to put it out with me. And they were like, totally, we’d love that.

On the same tour, another friend’s band, DrugzNDreams, also asked if I’d produce their record and I threw out the idea of a label. In the fall of 2014, I moved back to New York and overnight signed three bands, including Is Tropical.

A Mission of Unity
Our mission is to work with likeminded musicians. So if you’re in line with our ethos, we will happily work with you. Axis Mundi is a place where music and fun come first and everything else comes second. My label partner, Bill [Toce], and I consistently ask ourselves, “What do we wish our favorite labels would do?”

What sets us apart is that we really focus on unity, having the bands work as a collective. A lot of our bands produce each other’s music, engineer it or are involved in it one way or another. We like that.

Copacetic Contracts
I was inspired to break the mold a bit with contracts. With Crystal Fighters, I’d never signed a deal that was just one album or project. Signing a multi-record deal can have its benefits and its downfalls. We’re uninterested in keeping a band with us if they don’t want to be, so everything is very short-term. We’re not trying to fool anyone with the language in our contract.

A Nurturing Environment
Once you get to a certain point, you need a major label to get to the next level, but not all bands are aspiring to reach that level of fame. We’re focused on the birth of music and long-term development of projects. We’re aware of the peaks and troughs of anyone’s journey in music.
We don’t love just one album from a band; usually, we love years and years of their output, rather than just one moment. It seems the majors aren’t taking as many risks and are less interested in artist development or giving bands time to evolve. We like to watch bands grow and do what we can to help.

Stay True
You’ve got to have a voice, stay true to it and try not to worry too much about what other people are doing. Make sure to develop your sound so it’s exactly what you want it to be before you start pushing it out to the world.

Inside and Outside the Industry
We’re not trying to be a totally punk, D.I.Y. label and reject everything that is the music industry. We don’t throw money at something and hope it sticks. We only spend money when it’s necessary. Sometimes, that’s paying for a PR company that’s known. Other times, it makes more sense for us to use our own resources. We have enough of a following that we can introduce a new project just to the Axis Mundi fan base and have that create a bit of a wave.