Day two of Song Summit brought with it some fantastic panels, and closed up with an amazing night of music. The talk which brought the masses in was a surprisingly insightful conversation with Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, who’s in town as part of the immensely successful TV show The Voice.
Madden was a surprisingly good chat, opening up about his affection for the Beastie Boys (how they made him want to start a band), how he and his brother are bonded as songwriters for life, and how much he loves working with emerging talents. Given his style of music, he probably wasn’t the most applicable of talents to look up to for many, but all the same a great example of someone who strived to achieve something specific and accomplished that goal. As he pointed out, he always wanted to make the sort of popular music they are today. And given his paycheck for The Voice, not to mention the music itself (which he credits Australia for helping kick off - "We came to Australia and it was the sort of confidence boost we needed (to keep going after our first record flopping in the USA)", I would say he’s not doing too bad on any level for having reached that goal.
After brief and wonderful performances from Kelly Menhennett and Mel Parsons as we enjoyed our lunches, Millie Millgate from Sounds Australia led a discussion with manager Dave Batty and Planetary Group's Adam Lewis to discuss the international success of The Jezabels. The discussion didn't look so much at their early days, but specifically on the impact their international focus had on their careers overall. The emphasis on the talk was that if you are going to go overseas, to do it right - make sure you're ready (go over and check events like SXSW out BEFORE you play - or at the very least have your management go over), but don't wait until it's too late. It can take years to establish yourself in any new market - even Gotye has been doing the hard yards...
A highlight later in the day was the QUT 100 Songs Project panel, which although quite an odd format (the creator of the project - Professor Phil Graham - in conversation with other people around it, rather than the other way around), it worked well in creating conversation about music based projects in general and ways we can promote new music.
Michael Taylor of Island Records was among those on the panel and had a lot of great things to say. Here was what Michael had to say about the Channel Nine TV sensation The Voice (which we touched on briefly earlier): “I think The Voice is great television, it’s just shit music… Good singers come out of it, sure, but so few good artists who come out of these sort of shows. They’re two very different things… these kids are not ready for the fame that has been thrown at them. At the end of the day it’s a singing contest – take with that what you will – I just like to see artists pay their dues.”
He also revealed how important Vevo is in the revenue streams for Universal artists – mentioning that it’s the fifth highest source of revenue in the current industry. For those not in the know, Vevo is a YouTube based service that allows musicians and their labels to make money from their music videos. As Phil Graham went on to point out: "it’s pointless to produce music without video… even you just put up an image with song behind it… get something on YouTube." As the vast majority of internet users use YouTube as a source to listen to music, this is definitely advice worth listening to.
Another event of interest was the daily “Listen to Music” discussion, where a few brave musicians put their tunes before a songwriting panel, where their lyrics and musicality were broken apart in front of a captive audience. Though sometimes painful to witness a musician’s music getting torn to pieces, it was a fascinating look at the realities of having your music judged, and an insight into what the expectations are from the people in the industry who make all the decisions. Good on all those who sucked up the courage for the criticism - that ain’t easy for any songwriter.
After a long day of panels and discussions (not to mention networking), it was time to celebrate the music itself, with the second and final night of Song Summit LIVE, which this year was held at the Convention Centre itself (rather than at Home Nightclub across the way). The highlight of the night was the East Canadian Music Showcase, featuring Henry Wagons as the MC, alongside a group of Canadian musicians, and no stranger to the Northern shores, Australia’s Ray Beadle. They jammed for hours and it was a joy to watch.
With three stages to choose between, it was hard to see it all (and honestly quite difficult to pull ourselves away from the Canadian showcase), but we did manage to catch the last few tracks of Perth kids (and triple j favourites) San Cisco, who pumped out their ever popular track “Awkward” to close out an energetic set that was well received by the industry crowd (you’re not going to see much jumping around here – most of the crowd was sitting respectfully cross legged on the floor; heads and feet bopping and tapping along to the beats).
The LIVE program closed with a very special performance from the UK’s Imogen Heap, who played a brief set that featured her solo on the piano, playing about five tracks in between a good amount of banter. Amongst this set were here ever popular tracks “Hide and Seek” (we can thank The O.C. for that can’t we?) and Frou Frou’s “Let Go”, made famous by the film Garden State. It was a brief, intimate and phenomenal set that showed a brilliant songwriter at work. And at the end of the day that’s what this weekend was all about. Songwriters talking to other songwriters about songwriting, and having spoken to several songwriters during the course of my time at Song Summit, this opportunity was definitely worth the time and expense. More than anything, it’s just nice to know that there are others going through the same struggles as yourself.
Though the LIVE evening sessions had come to an end, there was still one more day of the conference to go, which included some fascinating discussions with Missy Higgins and the one and only Neil Finn.