In an attempt to recover lost ground from Los Angeles and Nashville, a group of New York-based executives from various publishers are staging a songwriter camp in the Big Apple this month.
The reason: To retrain a spotlight to New York, which has maintained its stronghold as the corporate home of the music business for the most part but has lost ground as a creative force.
“Songwriters we work with think they have to go to Los Angeles to make it,” says Imagem A&R executive Amanda Schumpf, who’s coordinating the logistics for the camp, which will happen the week of Sept. 9. “We are trying to bring the creative music community together and to remind people — especially young up-and-comers — that despite the industry hype there is as much talent and business here in New York.”
The organizers believe that one of the problems is that although much creativity still happens in New York, the community isn’t as connected as it used to be, hurting the city’s image as a creative center. To help rectify the problem, these New York publishers envision the song camp as the first event in an ongoing campaign to revitalize New York’s reputation.
The initiative has been dubbed Back to Brill, after the famous Brill Building in Midtown Manhattan, which was home to legendary songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Neil Diamond and Marvin Hamlisch. At its peak as a creative center in the ’60s it offered a vertically integrated platform where a songwriter could pitch a song to the publishers in the building until it was bought, book time at a demo studio, hire musicians who hung around the building and cut a demo. The demo would then be circulated throughout the building among labels and radio promoters. Brill at one point housed more than 165 music businesses, dominated by song publishers.
New York faces tougher competition as a music business center than it did in the ’60s. In recent decades, Nashville, for example, has established itself as a key music city, particularly for songwriters. In a recent music-city survey it topped other U.S. locations as a place to work in the music business, particularly because of the higher concentration of companies than larger cities like New York and Los Angeles (Billboard, Aug. 17).
Almost 30 songwriters have signed up for the initiative, including Shea Taylor, Twilight Tone, the Legendary Traxster, Alex Dezan and Angel “OnHel” Aponte, as well as songwriters from Imagem, 4 Song Night, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Downtown Music Publishing and Primary Wave, Secret Road Music Publishing, Mighty Seven Songs, Nettwerk One Music, Razor & Tie Publishing, Wind-up Songs and Universal Music Publishing Group.
The costs are split proportionately among the publishers, with the sessions held at Atlantic Studios, Downtown Music, Wind-up’s Rewind Studios and UMPG-affiliated Dee Town Entertainment Studio, with synch-writing sessions planned for Razor & Tie.
Artists who could benefit from the results include Ludacris (Island Def Jam), Kendall (Atlantic) and Junior Prom (Elektra). There’ll also be a day where Atlantic VPs of A&R Lanre Gaba and Riggs Morales meet with producers and writers to hear their music and consider it for Atlantic’s urban roster.
Other songwriters expected to participate include Kevin Bard, Michael Grubbs, Rebecca Jordan, Melody Noel, Music Man Ty, Cara Salimando, Rockwilder, Bless, J. Dens, Fredro and Sam Bisbeee.
The three publishing rights organizations — ASCAP, BMI and SESAC — will co-host a cocktail mixer for participants.