Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm Back

I'm back.

Not only am I back to this blog, I am back in homeland. Yup! I've now come full circle back home after four years away, and I feel introspective enough to write about it.

I lived my entire life in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before leaving to Canada in August 2011 following my High School graduation few months earlier. That's when I was off to what I had no idea would turn out to be a very, very variable future. Back then, the plan was to spend four or so years studying Music at university in Canada, and if you were to tell me that I was going to drop out a year later to attend Harris Institute's Music Business and Audio Engineering programs to then work on this industry's business as an artist manager, I would have been a bit surprised. I say "a bit" because, well, I would have been much more surprised if you told me I were to change industries completely, but still, I've always thought of myself as an artist first and foremost, and I never gave thought to working in its business as an administrator.

Sure, I also did event promotions, but my experiences in that job were what I had expected: work with venues and talent and bring people in the clubs. The social aspect of it is definitely fun and, being an introvert, it served to shake the extrovert in me, but it was monotonous in the sense that it didn't trigger the life-changing realization that my experience with managing Mixail did - that what I want to do, what I aspire to do, is exactly that.

Artist management is pretty straightforward in theory - simply put, you consider the artist's interests, study the landscape to form a plan to achieve their goals, contact the people and make it happen. (Managers will cringe at this description, as it goes pretty beyond just this, lol)

Not to generalize, but, many artist managers like Art enough to be a part of it, but they aren't artists because... they aren't artists. That's the story of my mentor, Bob Roper, former A&R for Warner and manager of Supertramp, and it's what he'd repeatedly say.

But if you put an artist to do artist management, don't be surprised if you get what I did.

But to understand what I did, it's best to understand my past. This is gonna be one of those posts.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Michelangelo @ AGO

I barely caught this expo, as it runs until this Sunday the 11th at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've been living in Toronto for 4 years and only been to the AGO four or five times, and I shouldn't blame it on "being busy with school" because this experience is a priority by itself. Well, I'm done with college now so there is really no excuse now :) Coming back home, I went online to get a membership as I really do plan on going more often. I also want to go see the Toronto Symphony at the Four Seasons, I really miss going to see an orchestra. This is all stuff that brings me to tears, just thinking about us humans creating such beautifully touching pieces of Art. Thank God I've managed to make a career in the Arts, I can't see myself doing anything other than this with my life, be it creating Art or working for the benefit of Artists.

The expo is a bit short, but I recommend it - not surprisingly to me, it brought me to tears several times throughout, even for things that at first sight may seem so simple, and I didn't even try to repress it... the people who caught that must think I'm really sentimental, and I guess I am. But, good Art is powerful like that, it's life-changing, considering not only the art itself (and its message) but the artist's life and the history behind it all.  I personally need to do this more often given the futility-drenched world we live in nowadays. Life is Art. Filter the bullshit.

I don't think this is cheesy at all, I really do live by this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finishing my Studies at Harris Institute

That's it! I'm done! Finished. Yesterday was my last day at college. Solid three years of university-level education on the nuts and bolts of the music industry - all of it, from performance to the business to the engineering of music. Three years of meeting similarly-minded people and differently-minded people, and overall personal growth that I wouldn't have imagined for myself when I had first stepped in Canada back in August 2011. Seems like I've been here for a decade though.

Not surprisingly given how screwed up my sleep pattern is, I wake up at 3 in the morning after having a delicious meal with a great friend of mine who lives a couple of blocks away. She's a writer, and has been helping me in my transition to this new country ever since my arrival, and we get along well particularly because she loves music - Rock is her thing and, among other great stories of Toronto, tells me incredible stories of her younger self and how she would go to concerts all the time and meet bands, etc. She has a great heart and a mental and physical energy I've never seen before for someone her age. Very intelligent, interesting person to hang out with.

Well, I digress - after several glasses of wine, I wake up at 3am desperate for some water in my system and then I can't fall back to my slumber, making me open up my computer and realize that Joel Zimmerman is still streaming his work on a new track. He stopped just a few minutes ago, totalling 11 hours of nonstop work. His concentration is incredible.

It's also a great way of studying his creative process. The guy loves his ping pong delays too. It'll be another hit for him, and it's respectable how he can do this overnight. Of course, he's had contact with music even before I was born and he is what, 35 now? Still, listening to some of his work on Project 56 which he released when he was around my age, just a few years older I think, is proof enough that he has it in him and it's no wonder he is who he is now. However, and speaking of Project 56, I'm patiently waiting for him to release more experimental music. This track that he's been working on has that signature deadmau5 style which is what he set out to make but I did hear some Amon Tobin-ish sounds for a few minutes, which caught my attention. I'm all about that experimental stuff, although I do also love the deadmau5 style.

Ugh, extending my visa is turning out to be very stressful. My study permit ends in three months and I have all of the documentation I need to apply, but it's the natural significance of it to me that stresses me out. I'm asking to extend my stay here for 6 months come February, and in August I might go back to Brazil for a one month vacation to then... go to Scotland for a Master's degree in Music Business - if I'm accepted into their program, that is, which to be honest I don't think it'll be too difficult given the partnership that the university has with Harris Institute. It's quite something: to get a masters, in 99.9% of the cases you need to have an undergraduate diploma, which a college does not offer, but Harris's program caused such an impression on the director of this Scottish university that they are accepting graduates to take their Master's program, completely bypassing the undergraduate. Quite appealing, no? Especially when they are also offering to give financial assistance via scholarships. And this Master's would take me only 2 years. I'm thinking that this would be beneficial for me because of plenty of reasons, including the connections that I'd be making in the UK and the fact that having a Master's would certainly help nail a job in the US, which, frankly, is where you want to be if you're doing Music.

I'll have to wait and see, but for now that's the plan. In the meantime, I now have time to ultra-focus on my job, event promotions, and at the same time continue studying the industry (so much to learn!) and at the same time I want to learn more about... everything, really, from History to Pop Culture. I do feel like I've always lived inside my head all my life, relatively detached from the real world, and I should now take the time to immerse myself in my surroundings more. Of course, this is very subjective, and we do call it Pursuit of Knowledge don't we, so I guess it's normal for me to feel this way. Anyway - enough with the self-psychiatry! I'm off to a new day and a new chapter in my life now that I've finished school. -LM

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Productive Professional Progression!

In the last 2 years, so much has changed, yet so little. My surroundings haven't changed, it's my personality that has, in a way that I enjoy, and it has evolved specially quickly ever since I left Black Sunset a couple of months ago. I am now fully focused on concert promotions with Kultured, and I am proud to say that I have been productive in terms of developing my popularity as a promoter in this city. I am starting to know plenty of people in the Toronto EDM scene, and vice-versa, and it's quite an invigorating feeling. I am now the head promoter for Kultured. Nothing trumps hard work and playing your cards right. Maybe I overthink a lot of things, but it is natural for me to find myself being very critical of my flaws.

I am right now coming from a show that I promoted. I spent the entire day today promoting the show and responding to patrons looking for Safe in Sound tickets (I thought that my phone was going to explode at one point, since I was literally getting a text every 2 minutes. My room mate is a witness.) Safe in Sound is the current Flux Pavillion tour, also featuring Destroid. It was a good show, the crowd was friendly and the music was energetic, as expected.

I love my job, sometimes I think to myself that this is the job that any 22 year-old guy would dream of having. You gotta be very organized and, of course, like to socialize. It certainly has unearthed the social Luiz in me. Overall, I am doing what I like and I feel happy that things are finally stabilizing. Do what you like and money will always follow. I like doing this, but I don't consider it a powerful role in terms of impacting the Music industry. That's what I aspire to do, and I think that artist management will put me in that position.

Speaking of artist management, I have accepted having to have left Black Sunset Music, where I was managing Mixail. On the day I told my boss that I was calling it quits, I felt like I could be taking a dangerously big step back, given how I saw potential in the label and how I had put time and effort into Creative Artistic Direction (a fancy term for "branding") for the Mixail Project. I was passionate about what I had created for Mixail, and I knew that if I were to leave, the project would be left unattended. So, naturally, having to leave made me deeply upset, furious even, it was a feeling that I had never experienced before. It's like beginning a personally special project and stopping halfway because of certain unalterable circumstances. But now, it's done, I have come to terms with it, and... what else can I do other than move on to new, bigger things? And that's where Kultured comes in. I have good feelings about Kultured, the team is growing nicely and the ideas are strong.

What else is new? Well, I'm still at the Harris Institute taking Audio Engineering, I will graduate in early November. It's very hands-on; I've been working on some fun and interesting assignments such as audio post-production (specifically, foley and sound effects) for a video game trailer (I will upload the finished project soon!). The program is overall very comprehensive, and I enjoy learning the material, but I can't wait to finish school and get to focus on my own work. I consider myself an artist first, but my goal is to work in the business side of the music industry until I can make a comfortable living with the creative side, which would have been until then solely a hobby. Harris is an excellent school, but due to the nature of this industry, many of my current colleagues will unfortunately end up working unrelated jobs to sustain themselves until they can find a good employer or develop their own businesses to a self-sufficient level, which takes time. This is a difficult industry to make a living off of, but I feel like my strategy will work well. It was a good move to have taken the school's Music Business program first.

However, all that being said, there is only one thing making me nervous: my Canadian visa. It expires in a few months, and it is complicated. I want to stay here, especially since I have grown well as a promoter, which of course is a very local job. If my fate is to go back to Brazil, so be it, but all of this work that I have put into building a reputation as event promoter among club goers in Toronto will, sadly, fade quickly once I leave. However, going back will have its positive sides too - Brazil's music industry is strong and there is a big company looking to interview me, which I will not name yet.

Overall, life is good. It's quite a thrill, really, to be working in the Music Industry nowadays. I see it as the Entertainment format that is evolving the quickest. No surprise there, since there are so many people able to make music now. Also... fuck genres, the true gatekeepers are becoming the fans now, not radio working alongside labels. Radio is less and less powerful now, and direct-to-fan interaction methods are more.

Sometimes I feel like I focus too much on my professional life. But what are my other priorities right now? Maybe... it's time for me to find a girl. If only I lived alone, though... Yes, I should make that be my next goal, if I remain in Canada: finally get a place for myself where special guests can feel comfortable at.

I haven't been in touch with my older colleagues with whom I studied the business of Music, nor have I heard anything about them. I occasionally wonder how they're holding up.

- LM

Friday, July 25, 2014

A New Chapter: Leaving Black Sunset Music

Yep, I left Black Sunset Music. Wait... what!?

I worked there for exactly one year, and now it's time to move on. Working as manager for Mixail was way more exciting than I had anticipated when I was first brought in (creating the story line was tons of fun), and I've learned quite a great deal about how to operate a record label from this experience. But things developed in such a way that I couldn't continue. Mind you, I wasn't fired; it was my decision. It's complicated and I don't feel like getting into details.

I have tons on my mind and if it weren't for my status in Canada, I'd open up my own artist management agency. Since I can't, I'm now in search of a job and, with the knowledge I got from Harris Institute and the experience from Black Sunset Music and Kultured, it shouldn't be hard to find one. I have an interview coming up next week, and I have my eyes on other options too. A Russian record label that releases Trance has also invited me, it's a big gig and I'm considering.

Overall, it's a mixture of feelings. On one hand, I like the label, I think it has potential given the team, the talent, and the ideas. I hate to leave and I would have stayed if I could, but I had no other choice. On the other, I can now focus on college and event promotions, and use my spare time to learn and experience new things I couldn't before since it was a pretty busy time for me. Hopefully the Mixail Project will continue strongly without my help. When I left, he had a pending release on one of the biggest record labels, which leaves me more comfortable with leaving.

This also means that I can post here more often!

In the meantime, my final term at Harris Institute has recommenced and this means that I'm four months away from attaining my second diploma at this college (the first being my Music Business one), Audio Engineering. It's interesting, and my favourite course, not to my surprise, is Game Audio, where we, uhm... learn how to sync audio to games. My instructor does audio for Ubisoft, which is very cool. I should have graduated this month, but I decided to stretch out my last term into two so I could juggle work. It worked perfectly.

So many changes ever since I began writing this blog, no?

- May 2012: Moved from Waterloo to Toronto after dropping out of my first year of Wilfrid Laurier University, where I was studying Music Performance. (Very interesting material and the uni was offering me to study for free for all years - VERY difficult decision there, but I made the right choice.)
- June 2012: Passed the selection process to attend Harris Institute in Toronto, the #1 college in Toronto for Music Business and Audio Engineering, two separate programs, and began the Artist Management Program (my first of what I didn't think would develop to be two programs, since I ended up liking my first year so much).
- September 2013: After working at a shitty promotions company for a few months, I left for Kultured, another event promotions company while I was studying the Artist Management Program and, after finishing AMP, started my 3-month trial with Black Sunset Music as artist manager which later in November turned into a job.

And now we here. I've gotten used to big changes, they have all been given good thought and I'm happy with everything that's happened to me so far. And the lack of monotony in this industry is thrilling.

I have to tend to my Kraft Dinner now. It may actually serve as a hint as to why I had to leave, and why this situation with the label may be temporary.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Mixail 005 - Art vs. Deadlines

Can you guess what this is?

It's Mixail's first album, being administered for release. ohsnap.jpg

Of course it's biased to say, as his manager, but I personally like the music in this album very much. He on the other hand doesn't feel it the same way as I do. And I wasn't surprised when he told me this. When he did, I wrote to him Ira Glass's famous quote:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

An artist who makes Art his profession needs to understand that there is no right or wrong in what they make, perfection does not exist. You are working with creativity, which is completely intangible and comes from within, and when it's not perfect to your standards, which is just like what Glass explains, you don't want to publicize it.

This is why deadlines are the curse of the professional artist. It is my job to enforce them so that they can make Music become a profession in the first place (who wouldn't love to make music for a living?) but I bring out the patient psychologist in me whenever an artist says "I have writer's block". It's not easy, and adding stress (deadlines) to the creative process makes it worse. 

However, there's gotta be a limit, of which the both of us have to be consciously or subconsciously aware. Here's where the psychology gets interesting: if you're an artist, you totally get what I'm saying. So, you understand that I understand. When I know that you understand that I understand, it forms the perfect relationship, one with mutual understanding of our individual responsibilities in relation to one another. Business and art are two very different animals. But if you want to make it in the music industry, it can't be a Tom & Jerry relationship.

I'm saying all this, but, with Mixail, it's not been stressful. He gets things on time - the important ones at least :) (Explorator and Among Stars were made in 5 hours... once he's in his element, he works quick!)

Keep an eye out - June 30 is the release date for Prologue ;) 
I'd love to continue writing but I have to buffer tweets. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Currently in the Life of an Artist Manager

Life is awesome. Seriously, I love my job. I think it matches me perfectly.

Sure, I spent 4 hours today doing "Label Recorded Repertoire Registration" which is data administration for Black Sunset Music's released music, it's robotic, it's the epitome of monotony... but I don't mind.

Notice how I went on to talk about work after saying that life is awesome? Bluntly put, pretty much my life is revolving around that. My boss tells me to take more breaks and not overwork... I refuse... I'm happy to get work done, and we are seeing results. Out of the plenty of good news, here's one that I'm allowed to write about: Richard Durand, who took over the yearly In Search of Sunrise compilation from Tiesto some years ago, chose to sign a track by two of our most talented producers, Assaf and Jeremy Vancaulart, and... wait for it... place it as the third track in the compilation.

Continuing on the subject of producers, as of Mixail, we've hired a designer to work on his debut album artwork. The idea should look great on a vinyl cover, but we're not printing vinyl of it... In the future? That would be cool. This album actually has an interesting storyline, and I have it all in my head for a music video ala Interstella 5555. Did it really take Daft Punk $4 million to create that? ...this will have to wait. When the time comes to publicize the Mixail storyline, it will actually be perfect timing to do it, it will be some time from now but it will be a good way to introduce new fans to his (at that point in time) earlier work. Indie game developers are springing up all over the place, could it be cheaper to make a video game out of it? This excitement drives me nuts.

I'm also at school for audio engineering which is extremely interesting, and there's plenty of work to do there too. Learning about recording consoles and recording techniques, designing sound for movie trailers, audio post-production, learning about audio electronics... the list is pretty deep. There's even a web development course which I want to learn to make websites for the artists at the label.  For startup labels, multitasking is key. (I also want to do a redesign for this blog which looks like shit.)

So yeah, just a quick update on what's been going on. I wish I had some more time off to really focus on writing more profound opinions of mine about the music industry, but I can quickly say this: I think a lot of what's being put out is straight up monotonous. The gatekeepers are afraid of creativity, taking risks, and so in turn are the labels and managers. Too much focus on sex, partying... which is fine, but ALL the time? I understand that sex sells, but it gets irritating/annoying. I won't mention any examples. How about something more profound and innovative in the mainstream?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mixail 004 - "Saw" Track List

#5am post. For those who are reading this as it's being posted: hello Eastern World!

I'm becoming nocturnal on weekends because I like this time so much. I slept a bit through the day and now I've been choosing the tracks for Mixail's debut album which we're titling "Saw". It literally took me a few hours to get it perfect.

Why so long? Track list is important and there are many things to consider. Not only do the tracks need to be organized based on quality, their names should be taken into consideration too. Remember Daft Punk's Interstella 5555? A music video animation for the entire LP was developed that synced well with the names of some tracks. Some, not all. I think I've hit the nail on the head with this one though. Oh how we'd love to have an Interstella-type video for this album, but this will have to wait. At least Extraction is getting its own video, which should serve to introduce the storyline in very subtle way. It's under development still, and this needs to be done asap because we will be using a screenshot of the video as the artwork for the album.

I'm listening to A New Love now, it's the closer of the album. What a great track. Call me biased, but they are all so good. Emotional, melodic, certainly musically unique. Some have called it a new genre.