Screenshot from New Year x New Music x New Normal summit
New Year x New Music x New Normal: How Artists, Creatives And The Music Industry Learned To Pivot And Adapt During The Pandemic
To say 2020 has been the most unprecedented year for the music industry is redundant as well as an understatement. With all the upheavals that have come with the pandemic, not the least of which are the cessation of in-person live shows and lockdowns that have impeded studio sessions, have come many adjustments and changes in approaches to the creation of music. This has brought about a prolific time for the creators who have successfully pivoted, gaining knowledge and additional skills in the process, which they are taking with them into 2021.
The Recording Academy's Los Angeles Chapter summit, New Year x New Music x New Normal, which took place virtually Wednesday (Dec. 16), explored this topic through four panels that offered a range of perspectives from the various sides of the industry. Each of the 45-minute panels focused on a specific cross section of creatives, including artists, songwriters/producers/A&R, arranger/conductor/composer and music for visual media. Conducted in conversational style, the panel discussions saw professionals sharing experiences, trading ideas and finding common ground.
Hosted by the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Chapter, Qiana Conley, the panels featured guests and speakers like: the Recording Academy's Interim President/CEO, Harvey Mason jr.; GRAMMY-winning producer/music director and L.A. Chapter governor Gregg Field; GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producer Philip Lawrence; GRAMMY-nominated producer and L.A. Chapter advisor Jeff Gitelman; GRAMMY-nominated songwriter and L.A. Chapter governor Marcus Lomax; GRAMMY-nominated composer/conductor/music director and L.A. Chapter governor Ryan Shore; GRAMMY-nominated artists Bonnie McKee and Gallant; A&R executives and L.A. Chapter governors Amanda Samii and Nicole Plantin; music supervisor and L.A. Chapter trustee Julia Michels; and artists Leroy Sanchez and Whethan. Also speaking were the Los Angeles Chapter's senior operations manager, Nicole Brown, and membership manager, Brittany Presley, plus musician/producer, founder and CEO of Jammcard, Elmo Lovano.
Clockwise from top-left: Qiana Conley, Brittany Presley and Nicole Brown | Screenshot from New Year x New Music x New Normal summit
"We've all been impacted by the events of 2020 from the pandemic to social injustice to the continued advocacy efforts that we've been putting forward, fighting for music creator rights," Conley said in her opening remarks at the summit. "We take on these things together and music continues to unite us, both in our purpose and in the soundtrack of our passions. Our summit will allow creators to talk amongst themselves, to share and have conversations with each other about how they've been creating in this bubble, and to also sow what they expect from the New Year from the lessons that they've learned or the changes that they've made and how that will ultimately shape their creative process moving forward."
The A Conversation With Artists panel, moderated by McKee, began the summit with Gallant, Whethan and Sanchez. Some of the topics discussed included the creation of music remotely, schedule management, livestreamed shows, challenging parts of the pandemic, the effects the state of the world made on their sound and more.
"I need to keep making music," Sanchez said of staying connected to fans. "People are still listening to music. A lot of artists have realized that and we've already seen a lot of great music coming out. There's going to be a lot more creation that way. Since people can't do shows, there's a lot of audiovisual stuff. It's not a visual album, but it's some sort of movie or some sort of creative twist around the album that puts a spin on it and people can still consume it from their home and still get an experience that's not a show."
On keeping a schedule, Gallant commented, "I'm such a disorganized dude, the only way to get that clerical work done is if I really planned it out. I would think I wouldn't thrive without that structure, but when you have disorganization on top of world disorganization on top of mental disorganization, it's just a little too chaotic."
Clockwise from top-left: Jeff Gitelman, Amanda Samii, Nicole Plantin and Marcus Lomax | Screenshot from New Year x New Music x New Normal summit
The next panel, A Conversation With Songwriters/Producers/A&Rs, centered around the topics of creation during quarantine, breakthroughs with challenges and new practices and techniques. All panelists said they have been the busiest they have ever been during this time, with Zoom sessions and meetings allowing them to accomplish more, and more efficiently.
"Our artists are writing from the comfort of their own home," Samii said. "Educating them on new writers, new producers that I think could be really interesting with them so that once we're out of this pandemic, we're not starting from zero. Zoom sessions are not the sexiest thing to do, but they work. I can get an artist in Australia or London in with people in L.A. today, and I can grab somebody from Nashville. There's an advantage to this time where I can grab people and put them in a room where I would have to wait until like the stars aligned, which might take a long time."
Gitelman juxtaposed not being able to be in the same room with an artist and not having a creative and intimate setting to connect with them against the convenience of being able to call someone, like Lomax, and have them quickly help in a session.
"It's been revolutionary where certain writers have been able to give me two hours and then they'll do two hours somewhere in another Zoom session. A challenge, but something I believe we have to push ourselves to adjust to," Gitelman said.
Lomax said what helped him break through this challenge is continuing to work with the same people he has for the last few years. "The core same people that pretty much I've been doing music with, I've been very familiar with for the last few years so that was an easy way to get into it for me," he said. "Once I got into it, these sessions aren't going as long. I can be available to more people more frequently and maybe be more effective and more efficient in a different way."
"It's allowed us to use our time differently than we would have used it in the past and that's not a bad thing," Plantin added. "We've been able to pour a little bit more into ourselves, dig into ourselves a little more and do things that we may not have had the time to do before."
On the topic of inspiration, Gitelman said, "It's an important time in history right now. Are you going to be on this side of it? Or are you going to be on this side? All of us need to evolve and push ourselves a little more. If you need to learn a DAW, Pro Tools or Logic, if your career depended on it, wouldn't you be able to do that? I'm a fighter. We're going to get through it. We're going to make it happen. I encourage other people to embrace the evolution."
"It's been a testing year, but it's been a great year for music, and I think we're going to see some great music come from this. A lot of people have a lot to say and I'm looking forward to hearing that," Samii concluded.
Ryan Shore (L) and Gregg Field (R) | Screenshot from New Year x New Music x New Normal summit
The A Conversation With Arrangers/Conductors/Composers panel was a one-on-one between Shore and Field who have a unique perspective from the composing side. Shifting relatively easily into the post-pandemic way of studio recording, Field spoke on one of the major changes he experienced. "If I've got a vocalist, I want to be in the live room with them, one-on-one. The worst thing for me is to leave an artist alone in a room when they've got no energy to come back and forth, so the emotional opportunities for the singer to feel something are missed."
The Los Angeles Chapter leaders came in with some remarks, noting the many ways creatives could engage around advocacy as a member. Conley, who frequently hears members asking about how they could get involved, suggested to "contact Congress."
"We are still in the fight, on your behalf, for getting the correct relief that we need for music creators that have been impacted by COVID by encouraging your Congress people to support the HITS Act or the SOS Bill or the Restart Act," Conley said.
Clockwise from top-left: Julia Michels, Philip Lawrence and Harvey Mason jr. | Screenshot from New Year x New Music x New Normal summit
The final panel of the summit was A Conversation With One Project, Three Voices: Music For Visual Media. This panel revolved around the Netflix smash holiday musical, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. The three voices of Mason, Lawrence and Michels, who moderated the panel, are responsible for creating the unforgettable music of David E. Talbert's Jingle Jangle, mainly during the pandemic.
Michels asked Lawrence about the speed in which he wrote the songs to which he replied, "I fell in love with the story. I was moved by the script. And I fell in love with David and his energy. He's this infectious personality that you just want to be around. Understanding the story and narrative and wanting to do justice to these characters was the catalyst for me to be as spontaneous and in the moment as possible. I've built a career on freestyling. I try not to overthink."
In contrast to the spontaneous and in-person interaction of Lawrence with Talbert, Mason's experience recording for Jingle Jangle was wholly dictated by the pandemic's fluctuating restrictions.
"At certain points we could gather 10 people, so we would rush and get as many people in the room as we could," Mason said. "Then they said now you can only have two people, so we would put people in different booths. At one point we tried to record a choir. Fortunately, in my studio we have five isolation booths, which gave us 10. We stacked it so we ended up with 40 or 50 voices by the time it was done. It was laborious for sure, to say the least. It was not convenient. But it was a challenge, and like the rest of this movie, it was big fun."
Much like the Songwriters/Producers/A&R panelists, Michaels also found that, "I have more access to musicians because, unfortunately, people aren't touring. People are willing to write, and I'm getting a lot of 'yeses' where I think I would have gotten 'nos' on some other projects."