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Balancing Act: Recording Academy Members Talk Work-Life Balance In The Music Industry

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Balancing Act: Recording Academy Members Talk Work-Life Balance In The Music Industry

"The average American working professional spends more time with their coworkers than their families—and to take a step further, we're in the music industry, so we're not your average professionals," said D.C, Chapter's Jeriel Johnson

GRAMMYs/May 9, 2019 - 03:30 am
If people with nine-to-five work schedules have trouble meeting the demands of career and family, how can those in the music industry—with its notoriously irregular hours and travel obligations—find balance?
 
On March 27, the Recording Academy's D.C. Chapter hosted a Music, Business, And Family panel discussion to explore that question. Producer 9th Wonder, audio engineer Daniel Shores, singer/songwriter Melanie Fiona, entertainment attorney Monika Tashman, and family therapist Maura Roll shared tips, tricks, guidance, but most of all, hope for those in the music industry who want to excel and thrive in both their personal and professional lives. 
 
"The average American working professional spends more time with their coworkers than their families—and to take a step further, we're in the music industry, so we're not your average professionals," said Jeriel Johnson, Executive Director of the D.C. Chapter of the Recording Academy and moderator of the panel. "Even those stats don't necessarily apply to our complicated lives and schedules."
 
A common thread among panelist advice was setting boundaries: All shared that setting boundaries, making rules to preserve family time, fitting in some self-care, asking for help, and being willing to occasionally say "no" to work obligations are all tools that have helped them manage. 
 
Married father of three 9th Wonder said leaning on his village, just as his family did when he was young, has helped him make time for his children and spouse while building a career. "I had to look at how I was raised," he said. "I always thought, even before the music industry, I can't do this on my own, I need a strong support system of friends to help me raise my kids. And they've got a lot of fake uncles and aunts running around in a 20-mile radius."
 
Fiona said that while she doesn't have the luxury of a large network of family nearby, she and her partner have become their own strong support system as they raise their son while supporting two music industry demanding careers. 
 
 
"I don't have the luxury of calling nana and pop-pop—my family is in Canada, his is in Florida," Fiona said. "Between me and partner, I have more flexibility; he has to go with the schedules of other people. I like to have one parent there while the other is gone. As a new mom, I feel comfort and security knowing my son is covered by one of us, even if a friend or auntie has to be there to help out."
 
Shores, who has three kids, said he has learned balance, in part, because his family has demanded it. "Years ago, I was running a label and engineering—it was a bad mix. Even if I got home in the evening after being in the studio all day, I had mountains of paperwork in the evening," he recalled. "I'd sit on the couch, instantly open my laptop, do that till 1 or 2 a.m., go to bed, and then by 8 a.m. the next morning I would be back in the studio. My wife stepped up and said, 'Your laptop is your biggest enemy.'"
 
He continued: "Now when I get home, my laptop is in my bag until the kids in bed....it's been the biggest change in my life. It was my barrier keeping me from everything else."
 
While something as simple as a no-phone or no-laptop rule for dinners or evenings can make a huge difference, attorney Tashman acknowledged it is more difficult for entertainment service professionals, such as managers and lawyers, to adhere to such bans when their success is dependent on being accessible to artists around the clock. Still, she said she has managed to set boundaries around her availability since having a child. 
 
"I now think of myself as [available] 24/6-and-a-half instead of 24/7," Tashman said. "and I tell my clients I try to spend ‘these’ two hours a day with my son, and I do everything I can in the world to preserve that time with him." 
 
Tashman said that setting those boundaries has, rather than causing a rift with clients, invited them to set parameters of their own. "I have a stronger bond with them," she said. "They feel more comfortable, saying, 'When you're negotiating an agreement with me, can you work around my daughter's birthday?' The world we live in is 24/7—you can always be promoting your brand on social media, always stay at studio another hour—we have to carve out time and ask the people who work with us to support us holistically." 
 
Rolle said those types of rules and structure, rather than being restrictive, can give busy industry professionals the freedom they need to connect with and be present with their families. 
 
"It doesn't sound romantic, but the reality is that it's like running a mini business," she said. "These things make life calmer, so you're not getting pulled every which way." 
 
As a therapist, Rolle said that she hears families talk about the same issues every day, but that the issues facing music industry families have "a different spin—most families can make a plan and keep systems manageable," she said. "I'm learning tonight that it's not like that [in the music industry]. Tomorrow you might have to go wherever. You can't always plan and schedule, so how do you find balance? You have to say no sometimes; otherwise, you have no time for your partner for yourself, or for your family system."
 
Shores said saying "no" includes being willing to pass on work—even really great opportunities—if it means canceling on his kids. He mentioned a recent opportunity for a session with two prominent name artists that conflicted with a hockey game he had planned with his son for months. He was firm about his available dates, and the artists eventually accepted them. 
 
"Most people are human beings," he said. "You have to be pretty cold to say, 'You want to spend time with your son?! That's horrible!'"
 
9th Wonder said that, as a working father, part of what he does is help others by welcoming their children to sessions with him. "The rappers and R&B singers I know have children anyway, so most of the time the studios I'm in are kid-safe environments. My kids grew up in the studios. Artists will sometimes call me and say, 'Hey, I've got my son with me." I say, 'We've got Candy Land, we've got video games—we're kid-friendly and kid-ready." 
 
In the end, all agreed that finding balance is a process and very much a work in progress as they move toward a model that feels right for their respective families. Stories of missed family milestones—birthdays, celebrations, even funerals—were shared, but also ones of moving mountains for their families, such as when 9th Wonder flew thousands of miles in just a weekend to both make it to his daughter's basketball game and fulfill his work obligations.
 
"We're all still figuring it out," said Johnson. "Even at the highest level of success, there is still so much to learn."
Tyga Talks Inspiration Behind "Go Loko" & Collaborating With L.A. Rappers Like YG

Tyga 

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Tyga Talks Inspiration Behind "Go Loko" & Collaborating With L.A. Rappers Like YG

"Growing up in L.A., it's a really big culture here, Mexican culture," the rapper said. "So we really wanted to do something to give back to the culture."

GRAMMYs/Jun 8, 2019 - 04:16 am

Tyga's latest collab has him paying tribute to Los Angeles' large Mexican community. The rapper is featured on fellow L.A. rapper YG's  leading single, "Go Loko" off his latest album 4REAL 4REAL and when asked about his take on the song, he says much of it was inspired by Mexico's cultural impact. 

"Growing up in L.A., it's a really big culture here," he said. "Even YG could tell you, he grew up around all Mexicans, so we really wanted to do something to give back to the culture."

The video features visuals and symbolisms inpired by the Mexican community, including mariachi, but also by the Puerto Rican community (you'll easily spot the boricua flag). The song also features Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. Tyga mentioned the diversity of Latinos on the different coasts and wanted to make a song that also celebrates the different Latin cultures in the country. "We wanted to do something different to kinda try to bring all Latins together," he said. 

Watch the video above to hear more about the song and the vibe when he joins forces with other L.A. rapppers. 

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Quarantine Diaries: ARI Is Cuddling With Her Cat, Making Her Own Tea & Preparing For Her Debut 'IDIOT GRL' EP Release

ARI

Photo: Nicole Davis

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Quarantine Diaries: ARI Is Cuddling With Her Cat, Making Her Own Tea & Preparing For Her Debut 'IDIOT GRL' EP Release

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors

GRAMMYs/Aug 12, 2020 - 02:59 am

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, rising singer/songwriter ARI shares her quarantine diary. ARI's debut IDIOT GRL EP is out Aug. 14.

[9:40 a.m.] A late start to the day. I just woke up to my cat Malakai licking my face and snuggling under my chin, desperate for cuddles. I reluctantly gave in before diving into my morning routine, which starts by going through all of the daily news on my Snapchat feed to see what’s going on in the world.

[11 a.m.] Just out of the shower and into the kitchen for the usual: tea and avocado toast. I don’t typically like tea or coffee, but I had this amazing tea from Starbucks once and fell in love with it. I ended up finding the recipe and making it myself, and to be honest, I like my version better. Once I boil the kettle, I start part two of my morning “meditation”: watching one of my favourite shows while I respond to emails. With the IDIOT GRL EP coming out next week, I can tell you there are a TON of emails. I turned on "Gilmore Girls" (my guilty pleasure) and opened up my laptop to go through my calendar.

[1:45 p.m.] Recording session time. Zoom calls have become my everyday life. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, you could actually be in a room with people. Now the most social interaction I get is virtually. On the positive side, I get to set up my little home studio from the comfort of my own bed and I find the sessions to be really productive with no outside distractions.

[3:30 p.m.] Malakai is meowing at my door. As I try to sing over him, eventually I can’t ignore his cute little voice. We take a quick break and I have a little playtime with him. I can hear my song playing in the living room—it still weirds me out hearing myself. My guess is my roommate aka my manager is sending off final approval for the “IDIOT GRL” music video, which comes out the same day as the EP. Super excited for everyone to finally see it!

[6:00 p.m.] Time for dinner. It may just be my favourite part of the day. During my session, my roommate cooked us some delicious pasta. We eat dinner together every night, which is really nice. Usually, after dinner, we wind down and watch TV, but we decided to try doing an arts and crafts project tonight. I watched this TikTok video of a DIY way to make music plaques. You take a screenshot of a song on Spotify and use a marker to trace out the name of the song, artist, play button, etc. Once that’s done, you simply add the album artwork of your choice, frame it, and voila! I thought it would be a cool idea to make a wall of each of the songs off of my EP.

[9:00 p.m.] After an eventful day, I decided to go watch a drive-in Maple Leafs game (wearing a mask, of course). My sister works for the TSN network and started hosting drive-in game nights to promote the network and social distancing events. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest hockey fan, but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to spend time with my family.

[11:30 p.m.] I finally get home and hop straight into bed. I feel like I haven’t spent much time on Instagram today, so figured I’d open it up before getting some shuteye. I launched the pre-save link for the EP today and told my followers that I would DM anyone who pre-saved it and sent me a screenshot. I always love getting to interact with my fans and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to see how excited people are for my debut EP. It’s a great feeling to end the day with.

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EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: Mexican Institute Of Sound Takes Gaby Moreno Into New Musical Territory With Mystifying "Yemayá"

Gaby Moreno 

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EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: Mexican Institute Of Sound Takes Gaby Moreno Into New Musical Territory With Mystifying "Yemayá"

Listen to the synth-infused track blending pop and Latin sounds that's named after the Afro-Carribean goddess who represents fertility, water and self-love

GRAMMYs/Jun 25, 2020 - 08:56 pm

Anything Mexican Institute Of Sound (MIS), a.k.a Camilo Lara, touches turns into musical gold. The Mexican producer and artist proves that with celebrated GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Gaby Moreno in "Yemayá."

Moreno, whose soothing voice we have heard magically adapt to a range of genres including Americana, Latin folk and R&B, continues exploring her creative range this time with GRAMMY-nominated Lara in the synth-infused, mystifying track blending pop and Latin sounds. The catchy song about the overpowering feeling of love is named after the Afro-Carribean goddess who represents fertility, water and self-love.

Moreno told the Recording Academy she and Lara wanted to capture the deity's essence in their collaboration:

"She's a powerful woman of color taking all forms. It's a universal theme and we wanted to incorporate this mysterious and mystic figure into the song, since it's part of the folklore of many different cultures." 

The song, which Lara brought to Moreno and was written in one day in 2019 at Red Bull Studios, takes Moreno into new territory. 

"I’ve been a big admirer of [Lara's] work and esthetic and the way he blends Latin folk music with electronic and hip hop. I come from a fairly different musical background, having very rarely experimented with synths and those kinds of sounds, so this was a really fun and different collaboration for me," she said. "I got to step out of my comfort zone and bring forth something a bit unusual but very much enjoyable, nonetheless."

The Guatemalan singer/songwriter will also soon be releasing "Fire Inside," a song she wrote with Andrew Bissell. The song has already been featured on ABC’s "Station 19", TLC’s promo "I Am Jazz," UK’s "Free Rein," NBC’s "American Ninja Warrior" and recently on YouTube’s "Dear Class of 2020."

Moreno is also working on an upcoming album she will produce herself and is also producing other artists. 

Listen to "Yemayá" in full above. 

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Lil Nas X's No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice

Lil Nas X

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

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Lil Nas X's No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice

"We get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay us to use their song," Devain Doolaramani, who manages over 20 TikTok users, recently told Rolling Stone

GRAMMYs/Aug 27, 2019 - 01:22 am

Whether or not you've ever downloaded the app, it's likely you've been hearing about TikTok more and more this year. Though it may be most popular among teens and pre-teens, the short-form video app is not one to brush off as a mindless youth trend. Its users upload 15-second videos set to music (denoted in text at the bottom of the clip) onto the platform, offering the chance for both the uploader and the artist of the song to gain viral fame. And while striving for your moment—however brief—in the spotlight is nothing new, teens' obsession with the year-old app is already making waves in the music industry.

Last month, 20-year-old Lil Nas X broke records as his viral Billy Ray Cyrus-assisted "Old Town Road" took the longest run ever at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, holding its reign on the all-genre chart for 17 weeks in a row. Back in February, the then-unknown rapper, two months after self-releasing the original version of the country-trap song, uploaded it to TikTok along with a "challenge": to change into Western garb before the drop. The song went viral on the app as users like Michael Pelchat, a.k.a. NiceMichael, added their own versions. A month later, Lil Nas X signed to Colombia Records and in April they released the record-breaking remix.

Lil Nas X is not the only notable artist to effectively harness the power of TikTok. Lizzo joined the platform in June and offered the #DNATest challenge, featuring her 2017 bop "Truth Hurts"—she opens the song with "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch." This month, the two-year-old song became her first top 10 track on the Hot 100, hitting No. 4 on Aug. 10. "Juice," from her latest LP Cuz I Love You, is her only other song to date to make the all-genre chart, reaching No. 9. The newfound viral moment of "Truth Hurts," similar to that of Lil Nas X, led Lizzo to release a new remix, featuring DaBaby.

A recent Rolling Stone feature examining the app's rapid growth and impact on the music industry highlights the move for labels and artists to push their music on the platform. "We get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay us to use their song," Devain Doolaramani, who manages over 20 TikTok users, recently told the outlet. The article explains that the Chinese company Bytedance purchased the lip sync video app Musical.ly in late 2017, and, in August 2018, shut it down and migrated its user base to the new TikTok, giving it a starting point of 500 million monthly global users.

Speaking to both active uploaders and people who support its uploaders, like Doolaramani, Rolling Stone found that the algorithm better supports the chance for 15 seconds of fame, as it "is constantly searching for new clips, rather than just pushing out the latest videos from already popular users." The algorithm also seems to push videos and challenges—and their featured songs—that are already doing well to the next level. Doolaramani noticed that songs featured in around 3,000–5,000 videos seem to get more a bigger boost once they reach that point.

The platform even offers "creator partner managers" for popular users invited into their Creators Program. Pelchat, whose profile says he has over 922,400 fans, is part of the program. As he told Rolling Stone, his manager can help push his videos with lower views to the next level.

"Within the hour, [the video] had 80,000 more likes than what it had before. They have some magical button that they can press and just promote [a video] to the world," Pelchat said, when describing what happens after he reaches out about a video. He added that managers "have a very key part in pushing what [TikTok] wants to do."

Yet, while record labels are currently paying popular TikTok-ers to promote their songs, they could require the platform to pay for the rights to use their music in the future. The article points to a recent Bloomberg report that Universal, Sony and Warner are all renegotiating their existing deals, which expire soon, with the platform.

While it's not clear exactly what the future of TikTok will look like, it is clear that the way young people consume music is ever-changing, and the short-form video app is a major part of that.

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