We recently had a chance to catch up with Step Rockets, a Kings favorite. We named Step Rockets a top 8 emerging artist as well as a “Year End Best Artist. Step Rockets burst onto the international music scene with their single Kisser, a self-released indie pop anthem that shot to #1 on the Hype Machine charts just weeks after its release.The Minneapolis foursome has built a reputation for their cosmic recycling of music past and present. The band seamlessly blends New Wave, Reggae, and EDM through the lens of a psychedelic rock band, churning out indie pop gems that keep the listener coming back for more.
You have had lots of underground success. What was the pivotal moment when the press started taking notice?
Thanks! The big turning point was when our song “Kisser” went to #1 on Hype Machine late in the summer of 2013. It was a totally organic moment and surreal experience. A few blogs picked it up, and people started to really connect and retweet the song. It was a fun seeing all of our hard work finally pay off.
Just 13 days after the release of “Kisser”, the track hit #1 on Hype Machine garnering 200,000+ SoundCloud plays. Did that lead to major attention?
Yeah, things started happening quickly. A lot of people within the music industry reached out to the band immediately after the song hit #1. We had people from major labels contacting us, as well as agents, managers, and lawyers. We were completely DIY at the time, and I remember sitting in a coffee shop and sending out about 150 emails to music blogs to keep the hype going. After we had those initial numbers it was a great talking point for blogs and press to open up our e-mails and listen to our story. Since then we have toured the nation and been apart of some great festivals and have really found out what works for us. CONTINUE READING
At Kings of A&R, we get a lot of questions from artists about how to build their team, especially when and how to get a good entertainment lawyer. We spoke with Ben McLane from McLane & Wong to get some answers to these commonly asked questions. Ben McLane has published articles on the music business in magazines and books including, Alternative Press, & Billboard Encyclopedia of Record Producers, and spoke at numerous music and entertainment/media conferences worldwide, including SXSW and NAMM. He has participated in numerous and diverse projects involving, but not limited to, legendary artists such as Weezer, No Doubt, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Eagles, Guns & Roses, and many more.
What do you do for artists?
We are an entertainment law firm with a focus on music, and we represent artists, producers, songwriters, labels, publishers, etc. Essentially, we handle all of our clients transactional matters such as contracts, advice, negotiations, making connections, protecting rights such as copyright/trademarks, setting up a business entity, resolve/mediate disputes, and on occasion shopping record or publishing deals. Our firm does not litigate.
When should an artist seek out an attorney to add to their team?
It varies, but certainly once the industry starts offering contracts for the artist to sign it is a necessity. Before that, if an artist is serious about a career it might make sense to have a lawyer get involved early to maybe assist them with protecting their rights (trademark/copyright, help the get their band partnership agreement in place, and set up an LLC or Inc.), or to help build the team (i.e., manager and agent).
What do you look for in an artist?
Someone (band, solo act, or producer) who has a unique sound, writes great songs, has charisma, will perform live/tour, and has the drive to make it.
After an artist is finished recording a song, what would be the next step?
These days the best thing would be to post the song to all the relevant blogs, on Twitter, Facebook and also have it available for sale on iTunes. Having a video (even a lyric video) to promote the song on YouTube would also be wise. CONTINUE READING
Renowned music industry executive Tom Sturges literally wrote the book on creativity. In his most recent work, Every Idea Is A Good Idea, he explores the two primary types of creativity- individual and collaborative. While the book is a must-read no matter what you do, filled with excellent advice and exercises to help anyone find their creative center and learn to access it more efficiently, many of us work with artists every day in a non-creative capacity. We followed up with him to find out a little more about how to have a successful relationship with truly creative people, and see what creative turns he has taken to end up where he is today.
In the book Every Idea Is A Good Idea you talk about how deeply personal the creative process is, and how it shouldn’t really be discussed. When you said that a one-hit wonder will go on and on about how a song just came to them, I laughed out loud. We all know those guys. Can you give me a few questions one can ask to get a good read on whether or not a new artist is really tuned in to their creative center? Or is producing material the only way to really know?
True artistry is very genuine, and very truthful in its presentation. And you know the truth when you see, and more importantly, hear it. In a strange way, it’s almost as if the performer doesn’t really care if anyone is listening or not, as if he or she is so in tune with their own music and art that the presence of a witness is insignificant. Picasso could not tell you how he painted, but he could tell you how empty his life would be without his art.
So the questions to ask a new artist would relate to their inspirations, their artistry, their big dream, their favorite song that has ever been written (not their own, I hope), what they were like in high school, and that kind of thing. Come at them from the perspective of complete respect and see how they respond.
You have worked with a lot of very extremely creative people and in your book you share one particular story about an encounter you had early in your career with Carole King. You have picked up a lot of wisdom about creativity itself, but what can you share regarding what you’ve learned about working with creative people, from the business end of things?
Between an artist and the record, there are several intermediaries, including the producer, engineer, mastering engineer, mixer, a&r, etc. Between the songwriter and the song there is no one. When working with artists, the music is almost like a third person in the room, probably because it required so many others to successfully create it. When working with the writer and talking about the song, you might as well be talking about a family member.
The bottom line is that one must be completely respectful of a creator’s art, and allow plenty of room for ego and dreams to co-exist with the vocal, instrumentation, the lyrics and melodies. But, before sharing an opinion with someone about their work, find out if it’s the FINAL version, i.e., cannot be changed no matter what versus a DRAFT, i.e., still a work in progress. If it’s the latter, feel free to say whatever you like. But if it’s the former, pay a compliment relative to your view of the work and say no more.
What do you think it takes to have a successful working relationship with an extremely creative person when you’re not really a collaborator?
If you are working with someone and you are not a collaborator, you need to pick the role you intend to play. Possibly you are the sounding board (listen to all ideas and offer comments and suggestions), the enabler/facilitator (organizer of studio time and finder of musicians, but with no “creative” role to play), or the fan (who loves everything, no matter what). The thing I find most creators need most is believers. So if you cannot be any of the three above, just believe. CONTINUE READING
Wind-up Records has long been known as the house that Creed built. Although they are an independent label, they’ve been home to many chart toppers in the Active Rock and Alternative genres. Over the last few years, Wind-up has been branching out, picking up artists that seem out of place on a roster that once included Drowning Pool and Evanescence. Kings of A&R caught up with Wind-Up A&R director, Shawn Cohen, to find out more about their new eclectic roster that includes bands such as The Griswolds and SPEAK and how they are transitioning into new genres.
Wind-up has been picking up some surprising new bands. Where is all that coming from?
We have been known as the house of active rock for a very long time and we’re trying to be creative and showing the world that we can do mainstream, alternative, pop…we’re not just rock. We want to work with music that we love, no matter the genre.
What’s your favorite artist that you’re working right now?
Hands down, The Griswolds. Not just because I signed them, but they are just from fans to music the most intriguing, fun, exciting people and it shows all around. Their social media, their recorded music, their live shows, they are a very dynamic band.
How’d you find them?
I found The Griswolds in the blog scene. They had posted their first song , Heart of the Lion. It was under the radar when I heard the song and I was really into them. I did some homework and saw they were doing well on Triple J (Australian Radio). I listened to their other songs and I thought it was very creative and refreshing so I reached out to them. CONTINUE READING
When did you consider having a career in music?
I have considered having a career in music for as long as I can remember. From a very young age, I felt like this was what I was created to do. For most of my life it just seem too far out of reach. So, two years ago I decided to take the first step in actively pursuing the career I had always dreamt of obtaining….. and here I am!
What were some of the steps that you took to help shape the craft of singing, performing, and songwriting?
I never had vocal lessons growing up, so the first step was working with a vocal coach to reverse bad habits I had developed, and improving those that came naturally. I’ve been working with a choreographer to develop a great show/performance. Singing is one thing and dancing is another, both challenging in their own way, but doing both at the same time while engaging your audience and connecting to your lyrics is a completely different beast. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
Additionally, I have been working in the studio with award winning writers, producers and vocalists. There is no better way to grow and develop as an artist than by learning from and collaborating with some of the best in the business! They push me.
I am also teaching myself acoustic guitar to help with songwriting, putting together a great show with my band, and finishing touches on new music to be released at the top of next year! With each new project, there are new challenges and significant growth as person and artist.
Do you see yourself acting in the future?
I absolutely do! Acting is the element of entertainment in which I have the least experience, but I believe there is a natural ability within me that just hasn’t had the opportunity to be exposed yet. I’d love to do a comedy! CONTINUE READING