Once upon a time, someone said to me “Wow, I could really hear your music in films!” Has anybody ever said that to you?
So I decided, with very little actual knowledge or experience to support me, that I wanted to write music for the Film and Television Industry. Thanks to the Hawai'i Songwriting Festival (aka KMF!), I’ve attended seminars with industry pros, publishers, composers, and music supervisors. I was able to start and get smart about creating and pitching my compositions.
But how did I learn about all that? Well...
I attended my first Festival on Kaua'i in 2009, and everything…changed. It was my first real exposure to the people behind the "business" end of music. My first exposure to formal song and lyric writing, to applying form to television cues, to adding elements that enhanced the ability of an editor to make real use of that piece of music in media. And my first exposure to production as an art in and of itself.
Only then, after that first festival, did I realize how off-track I was in my approach to writing, recording, pitching, and networking. That change I mentioned did not come fast or easy (nor is it going to be over anytime soon)! And even though I had occasional small successes at that first festival, my take away was that I had a lot more to learn about the business of writing, and of music. I had a long road in front of me.
A year later I had read voraciously (still do), invested in a small production studio, and began treating my music as a business.
So, at my second festival...I’m armed with my latest creations, ready to pitch. Then, enter that old time-honored friend: rejection. Thankfully hindsight proves that differently...it was actually advice. Solid advice, about every part of my music, coming from people who knew what they were talking about. People who were generous and thoughtful, sharing their perceptions with a nervous newcomer, and kind enough to deliver the truth gently. If I was going to get anywhere in this crazy industry, I figured I better pay attention. I did. After licking my wounds, I took their thoughts to heart and worked even harder.
Fast forward to now, five years and five conferences later. I have numerous publishing contracts in the Film/TV arena, with music placements on major networks; the amount I have learned is crazy insane and I cannot imagine missing this festival. Truthfully, it’s my annual measuring stick of progress. I am on the road, armed with good info and a slowly growing network of contacts, many established at this conference, year after year.
Can you meet these amazing people too? Yep. Get your demo CDs ready, rehearse your songs, print your business cards and lyrics, and get ready to smile. The benefit of attendance is amazing: hanging out with music publishers, supervisors, some of the most amazing songwriters on the entire planet, and of course through it all, hanging with your good musical friends you've just made (like me), because all of us are doing the same thing, with passion and grace and bruises and smiles.
So I challenge you to look in the mirror and tell yourself, with all honestly, that you are where you want to be musically, and you don't need to hang out with all of these incredible, giving, and talented industry people, at one of the best beaches in all of Hawai'i.
Get out the mirror and do it, I dare you.
The one thing I will do over and over again is attend the Kaua'i Music Festival (now known as the Hawai’i Songwriting Festival) every summer, and this year is looking to be another amazing one! I’m just glad that this is a blog and not a song that I’m writing, because this will be a wordy one since I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the last eight KMFs - and a lot has happened in that time.
First, I’d like to thank Charles Michael Brotman for introducing me to this wonderful event. While performing at a gig he asked me this simple question: “Do you write your own songs?” and then proceeded to tell me all about KMF. That night I was given the hook and line, and after checking out the kauaimusicfestival.com website and seeing the list of staff (especially Jason Blume, who wrote the first book on songwriting that I bought), well, I was sold the sinker, and I now plan every summer vacation around KMF.
I am a singer and musician first, so my experience with songwriting at that time was very minimal. I registered for the festival, waited for summer to come, and finally, with a couple of song demos in hand, I got on my flight to Kaua’i to attend my first KMF in the summer of 2007. Since then, my life has never been the same. The amount of things I learned, the inspiration I got, the people I met, and the friendships I gained made attending this festival so very addictive. Here’s a glimpse at the past eight years:
My First Time
Before my first KMF, I had no idea what to expect. I went by myself. I felt lost, but I had this feeling deep within me telling me that this is where I needed to be to better my craft of songwriting and to gain a better understanding of the music business. Since the music festival is open to all ages and levels of songwriters who write music in different genres, you are able to hear a variation of songs. That experience can be quite scary, especially if you are a beginner, but the great thing about songwriting is that everyone was once a beginner. I went to every single workshop, seminar, and panel discussion, I did one-on-one meetings, checked out the demo derby, and enjoyed myself at the hotel bar where the open mic was held. I didn’t have the courage to get up and sing a song of my own at open mic, but I did add that challenge to my songwriting “to-do” list at the time.
That year I left Kaua'i with a killer hangover (which I suggest not getting if you have an early flight), a killer hook because of that hangover experience, and most importantly, the intense feeling of hope and inspiration. It was so strong, it made me believe even more that songwriting was something that I needed to do.
The Growing Years
During the next two KMFs, I was still trying to grasp onto understanding the business side of things while incorporating all the valuable lessons I learned about songwriting into my songs. I was like a sponge, soaking in the wealth of music information that is heavily dispersed at the festival. They say that “knowledge is power,” and by gaining more knowledge about the music business and songwriting, I gave myself the power to be the best that I could be. One of the songwriting instructors said “ no one is better at doing you, than you.” When I heard this, it opened an entirely different door for me. It made me question what can I do better than before. I was able to look at things more clearly and focus on what I wanted the songs I wrote to say and do to people. It also gave me a better picture of how I wanted my debut island music album, which I was writing at that time, to be like.
At the 2010 KMF, a lot of wonderful things happened. I finally gained enough courage to sit at the piano and sing one of my own songs at the open mic! Yes, it took me four years to scratch that off my “to-do” list, but it was a goal that I completed. It was quite a terrifying yet invigorating experience. So many thoughts flowed through my head at that moment, ranging from, “I better not forget the lyrics to my own song,” to “why is the room so quiet?” I’ll never forget that feeling, and now I look forward to singing at open mic.
The 2010 KMF was also the first time I collaborated with other songwriters. It was a new idea implemented at the festival that year, and I am so happy that they did so because I learned about the benefit of collaborating with others to create songs. After that year, I had gained so much more insight into songwriting. I made more songwriting friends and my musical network grew as well. But the number one thing that came out of that KMF was completing the song whose hook I wrote after my first KMF.
When KMF 2011 came rolling along I thought hey, I’m going to enter the songwriting competition. Why not? It won’t hurt and you never know. Well, that year was a game changer for me. My song “One Too Many” came in second place that year. =) I received a little Martin guitar to remind me of that time, and I was beyond stoked about that experience, but the most important part about that happening is knowing that if you work hard enough at something and you believe in yourself, something good will come out of it. I’ve been fortunate to place second twice in a KMF Songwriting Competition. The second time was in 2013 with a song called “End of the World.” With that win, I received another acoustic guitar…and all I need now is to learn how to play them so that I can accompany myself at open mic, lol!
My Life Will Never be the Same
Everything I learned at all of the KMFs about the music business and songwriting and everything in between was applied to my music career. My life would not be the way it is now if I had never registered and taken that flight to Kaua'i in 2007 for my first KMF. Since then, I released my debut “island pop” album and received airplay on island radio stations from Hawaii to Tahiti for seven of those songs and a single. Three of those songs were the #1 requested song on a couple of stations, which was a crazy thing to experience. =) By using the networking techniques gained at KMF, I was offered a job as a midday radio personality at NativeFM (a local radio station here on the island of Hawai'i) and most recently, I started doing the afternoon drive time on its sister station, KBIG FM.
The most memorable and biggest thing to happen to me because of KMF is having one of my songs placed in an episode of an international network TV show called “Sleepy Hollow!” I became friends with the show's music supervisor after we met at KMF. I wore a smile on my face from the moment I got the message about having my song placed until the episode aired in January of this year, and every single time I think about it still. I will always remember the feeling of waiting to hear it in the background of the scene. It was truly the longest 60 minutes, but best 30 seconds, of my life!!!!!
I believe that all of this has happened due to my attending the Kaua'i Music Festival. It takes practice to develop the ability to pen a song that tells a story that takes people to another place and time, to write a song that conjures up emotions that can bring tears to another’s eye or a smile to their face. Like with a lot of other things, songwriting gets better with practice and putting yourself in a place that will provide you with the opportunity to gain more knowledge, experience, and exposure. The Hawai'i Songwriting Festival can do all of that and leave you with inspiration and hope. The key is putting yourself there in the first place. If you are on the fence about attending the festival, I truly hope that by sharing my experience with you, it will lead you to take that leap of faith.
The number one thing I gained from attending this festival is OPPORTUNITIES!!! The opportunity to learn about songwriting from some of the best songwriters in the world. The opportunity to be vulnerable and to strive to become better at the craft of songwriting. The opportunity to have your music be heard. The opportunity to gain a better understanding of the music business. The opportunity to grow your network and to meet and make wonderful new friends who love music and songwriting as much as you do. And most of all, the opportunity to celebrate the art and craft of songwriting.
Aloha and I’ll be seeing you at the Hawaii Songwriting Festival next week....because I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
A hui hou –
When the folks at KMF asked me if I would write a blog post about my experiences at the Kauai Music Festival, AKA The Hawaii Songwriting Festival (I love the new name BTW), I was more than happy to. I have been to KMF 2 times. The first time changed the way I approach songwriting. The second time changed my life!
The first time I attended the KMF was in 2005. I had just come off of a long hiatus from songwriting and performing and thought that attending KMF would be a great way to get back into music. Honestly, I really thought I was going to fly over to Kauai, play my demo for industry people, get “discovered” and be on my way to the big leagues. That did not happen - not even close. What did happen is that my idea of what it takes to write songs was spun 180 degrees by listening to, and learning from, the truly amazing songwriters and industry professionals that were there to share and teach. These folks are incredibly knowledgeable, successful and are really there to help.
The second time I attended KMF was in 2007. I had taken what I had learned from my first experience there and done my best to apply it to how I approached songwriting. I ended up winning the songwriting competition that year and as a direct result found myself with 2 publishing offers. One of the staff that year took my demo to EMI in New York, they offered me a multi-song deal, and I ended up having the opportunity to work directly with Jim Ed Norman - a relationship that ultimately let to a staff writing position with Sony/ATV publishing in Nashville and then to my current deal with Jim Ed Norman and Curb Publishing.
I’ve had songs cut by Nashville recording artists, I’ve written songs with some of the most successful writers in country music and I’ve made some life long friends along the way. Eight years in, I know I’m really just getting started, and even though it’s a tough business I feel like I’m on track to have some real success as a songwriter.
The Nashville Songwriters Association’s (NSAI) motto is “It all begins with a song,” and while I couldn't agree more, for me it really all began with the Kauai Music Festival - there’s truly nothing else like it anywhere!
Music Director (Pictured left, in background)
Although we missed him last year, Chris is a familiar face at KMF and he said he enjoys watching attendees progress and develop, especially when he can find a way to help them continue on their path. "Some of the most meaningful moments come from working with an artist when you can make a real and tangible difference in their career," he said. "Knowing that I can contribute in some small way to someone's new or continued success is what keeps me motivated.
At KMF this year, he hopes to "connect with old friends, meet some new ones, and discover some new talent that's willing to work within basic cable budgets," he joked. The continuing downward pressure on fees and revenue streams, he said, is his biggest challenge right now because of how much harder it's become to source, negotiate, and exploit the use of music in their content.
Chris's advice to artists: You'll have to find him at KMF to get advice, that's what he's there for!
Source: Chris Jackson
Biggest contribution to KMF: The desire to pay it forward, introduce "unknown" artists to the world and offer his assistance in any way that he can. "I've been blessed with the opportunity to work in the 'major league' of the music business," Frank said. "I'm willing to take a chance for someone else's dreams the way that someone once took a chance for mine."
Recent projects: Acting music supervisor on the following:
Frank Palazzolo came to us last year via Liza Richardson, music supervisor for a number of shows including Hawai'i Five-0. Fortunately for our local musicians, he said after last year's KMF he was "delighted to see how much great music there is coming from the islands," and he hopes to gather as much music from Hawai'i as possible to "spread the love" on season 5.
Frank has become a talented and successful music supervisor, especially with the projects (listed above) he's taken on since he first graced our presence last year. His work does come with challenges; he said one of the biggest is working with a producer or director falls in love with a song they can't afford.
Despite any hurdles, he reports that he loves his job. "I hang out with Liza Richardson and Marc Mondello every day and we nerd out on awesome music we've heard and awesome bands we've seen," he said. "We then stick them in scenes on TV and in movies and show you how awesome they are, all the while helping those musicians make careers out of what they love. The best job ever!"
Frank's advice for artists:
Source: Frank Palazzolo
Biggest contribution to KMF: Giving folks a little peek into the world of music supervision, providing insight on the process and lending guidance on how you might best position yourself to get your music used. If you see him roaming the grounds, feel free to stop and say hi!
Recent projects and accomplishments:
Dondi Bastone is a true music lover. Though different projects lead him to different types of music, he is always searching for "a record that has elements that elevate it beyond just a background source cue," he said. "Something that can help underscore a desired emotion."
For Dondi, music supervision combines music and film, his two passions. "It gives me the opportunity to be creative in my own way, have a meaningful impact on a film, while working directly with the filmmakers," he said. He loves what he does, though he said his level of involvement and the people he works with make each project different. The biggest challenge he comes across working with music is dealing with budgets that are getting tighter and tighter all the time. "Working with independent labels, publishers and artists is a boon to the process," he said.
He and his daughter, Ella, are both joining us at KMF for a second time. After their first visit, he said his favorite thing about Kaua'i was hands down "the people, the people, the people." His biggest highlight since we saw him in 2012 was seeing Ella graduate with honors from UC Berkeley in May (congratulations, Ella!!)
Dondi's advice for artists:
Source: Dondi Bastone
Biggest Contribution to KMF: Bringing seasoned and in-depth perspectives coupled with fresh and innovative sensibilities to new or aspiring songwriters - built on 50 years of understanding how to find and reach an audience with an art-form as essentially abstract as music.
Rupert Hine has seen it all, and he's still constantly looking for more! He has been involved with writing and/or producing for Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Bob Geldof, Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Howard Jones, The Fixx, Rush, Chris de Burgh, The Thomson Twins, Underworld, and many more! He also masterminded "One World One Voice" with Kevin Godley and the "Art of Peace" project for the Dalai Lama. See his website (above) for the full list of accomplishments.
Rupert said he feels lucky to have spent a lifetime doing what he loves. He made his first album when he was just 16 years old, and hasn't stopped since! The biggest challenge he comes across working in music today, he said, is "trying to clear out the destructive influence that the TV-talent show virus has had on young writers and artists around the world."
Aside from the great climate, scenery, atmosphere, and people on Kaua'i (and the coconut shrimp at Shrimp Station!) he said this year he is looking forward to seeing and hearing completely new and fresh 'unsigned' artists and their ideas. The coolest thing he's done since we last saw him, he said, was becoming one of two patrons of the United Kingdom's "Songwriting Charity" which works to introduce "the power and fulfillment of communication through music to children who are, by either circumstance or disability, less fortunate than ourselves."
Rupert's advice for artists:
Source: Rupert Hine and REBOOT
Biggest contribution to KMF: Guiding artists, songwriters, and producers to identify and develop their primary skill set.
Marlin Bonds, better known as Hookman, didn't get enough of Kaua'i when he first joined us two years ago. He's ready for more, and we're thrilled to have him back! This year at KMF, he said he hopes to help people take steps in the right direction to reach their goals. Focusing on the areas where we are at our absolute best, he said, is key in the competitive business of the music industry. "In the process, if I find great songwriters, producers, and artists to work with," he added, "that's icing on the cake!"
His success in songwriting comes from a love and passion that runs deep. "Creating music feels natural to me," he said, "Like flowers blooming in sunlight. It's automatic. It's natural like breathing. To me, that means God gifted me. It gives me a sense of purpose."
Hookman's advice for songwriters:
Source: Marlin Bonds
We want to help student KMF attendees with a chance to win a $150 voucher to be used at the Courtyard Marriott during the conference! KMF provides important and valuable resources for student songwriters, and this is one way for us to offer our support. Instead of packing spam musubis for lunch and missing out on open mic while you search for affordable dinners elsewhere, use this voucher to enjoy meals at the hotel while you schmooze with fellow attendees and get to know your staff members. We want you to get the most out of your KMF experience and take hold of every opportunity that you can, and we think a little extra spending money at the hotel can go a long way!
How to Win:
Generate a short video (no longer than one minute) explaining why you write songs and why music is important to you. Feel free to get creative - if we like what we see we'll put it on the website and share it with other attendees at the conference!
Upload the video to the Kauai Music Festival Facebook page timeline (https://www.facebook.com/kauaimusicfestival) by Wednesday, July 30th. In the post, please include your first and last name, grade level, and name of the school that you are currently enrolled in. One video per person, and one person per video please - band members are welcome to work together, but videos must be submitted individually and each must be unique.
The winner will be selected at random and announced at the start of the conference.
Students of all ages who can provide a valid student ID card or other proof of current enrollment are welcome to enter. You must already be registered for KMF 2014 in order to win. By submitting a video, you agree to let the Kauai Music Festival use any and all parts of your video for promotion on the Kauai Music Festival website and social media pages.
Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your participation!
Biggest contribution to KMF: He works on records from the beginning stages of writing through final production, so he can give attendees a very real perspective on the way records get placed and the whole process of writing.
Recent Projects: "Suitcase" - Mary J Blige http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgaad9UEYoY&feature=youtu.be
Mark Feist is a truly talented, experienced, and passionate songwriter and producer. Since moving to Los Angeles from Australia in his 20's, he's worked with stunning artists including Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland, Natalie Cole, Hot Chelle Rae, The Spice Girls, John Legend....the list goes on; check it out in full on AllMusic: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mark-j-feist-mn0000830686/credits
With an impressive career like his, it's no surprise that Mark said his biggest challenge is always trying to outdo his last record and take everything to the next level again and again. His motivation and love for making music, he said, come from the way music can become a part of your soul. "Music is the only true universal language," he said. "There are no barriers, no color line. A melody with lyrics can touch someone's life. That's why I do it."
Coming into his first KMF, he said he's looking forward to connecting with people and helping those with doubts and questions. "If I can just help one soul to find or tweak their journey as they navigate through it to help them get there faster, that's what it's about!"
Mark's advice for artists:
Source: Mark Feist
Welcome and Aloha! This is the KMF Blog, and we hope it can be a source of information and idea exchange for songwriters and KMF attendees. Julia Brotman, our board member and director of social media strategies will be moderating and encouraging others to join and comment!