Conferences

Highlights of 2011

2011 started with a broken collarbone and a new album and is ending with new exciting album on the horizon. There were many highlights throughout the year… here are a few.

Voices Three

It always gives me enormous pleasure to play music with quality people at a great venue while raising money for a very worthy cause. For me it’s the best win/win situation, so starting the year with that was very satisfying.

One Tree Hill

Having a new song placed on One Tree Hill was so exciting. I think it is the highest profile TV show I have been played on so far and I am very grateful to Crucial Music Publishing for getting me that placement.

Vancouver Island Music Awards

This was probably the biggest highlight for me. Not only did I get the award for Female Songwriter (which meant more than you can imagine), but I also took home the Artist of the Year which blew my mind!!! And even better, I had my family there to celebrate with me.

Vancouver Island Musicfest

This is always a highlight for me. Not only do I get to talk a lot of rubbish with the very funny Todd Butler, but I also get to introduce some really amazing musicians onto the main stage. Looking forward to it again next year!

Conferences

I love all the conferences I go to. I always get something out of each one but The OCFF stands out because I got to be a music licensing mentor and found that I really like imparting the knowledge I have, and the Taxi Road Rally, where I got to be on the Member success panel which was an honour.

Exclusive

I had a big decision to make this year. For a while my main publisher, pigFactory has been wanting to sign me exclusively but I was hesitant as it was a big step. Finally in November I decided to take the leap of faith and am now exclusively represented by them. It has certainly uncomplicated my musical life and they are wonderful!

New album

Through my new arrangement with my publisher, we are moving in a new direction and I will be recording a new album in the new year. In the past I have produced most of my music. This new album will have a fabulously cool producer working on it with me and I am so excited to get to work!

So those are my highlights on 2011. I still can’t believe that I get to do what I do. When I arrived in Canada I thought it would be cool to play some local venues. I never imagined any of this and I will always be grateful to everyone that helps to make it happen.

I hope 2012 will be a wonderful year for everyone 🙂

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From BC to LA with Taxi.

This year has been the year of conferences for me and last weekend was the biggest I have been to so far.

In case you don’t know – Taxi is an independent A&R company and as a member you can submit your songs to be screened and then possibly forwarded to publishers, producers, music supervisors and ad agencies.

As a member you also get to attend their annual Road Rally for FREE… that’s right… no money!

So, as a 3 year member I thought it was time I took advantage of this, so I booked my ticket and hotel and flew off to hot, sunny LA for 4 days. Leaving BC in 5 degrees and arriving in LA at 90 degrees in Uggs and a wool coat was not the best decision, but thankfully I never left the air conditioned hotel.

I knew that around 2000 people usually attend the Road Rally. The other conferences I had attended I had some friends or points of contact so this time I knew that I was going to be entering a sea of musicians where I knew no one. This was daunting but I just told myself to breathe and relax and smile.

I needn’t have worried. Within hours of arriving and wandering aimlessly I suddenly hear “Hey, it’s Helen Austin, we love your stuff”. I look around a guy is introducing himself to me as Michael Laskow… only the owner and founder of Taxi. How cool was that! Then a few minutes later, the same thing happened again and it was Craig and Carl, a couple of lovely Taxi staff members. I had forgotten that they have the advantage of knowing what I look like from my Taxi profile and it turns out that, thanks to Karen McKinnon, I look a lot like my photos! This served me well at the mentor lunches where the Taxi screeners easily remembered me and my music.

Hooray! I have new friends. It just snowballed from there, meeting all sorts of new people, but somehow I always end up hanging out with sound guys and techies… must be something to do with the husband techie thing!

Next, I sign up for the open mic and play When We Were Young and got a lovely response, but before I could leave the stage, Carl, the MC, grabbed me and started telling the audience about my high ratio of Taxi forwards and how they were doing a class because of that the next day called ‘How to get more Taxi forwards’ (I found out later that they played my music in the panel as examples). Now I am just grinning from ear to ear thinking “I love this rally’!

I get an early night because Friday is a big day. The week before I had gotten selected to be one of the 4 songwriters to play a tune to be ‘Pimped’ by ASCAP’s Ralph Murphy, a man with hundreds of hits under his belt!

Friday morning was the start of the panels and it was opened with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Michael Lloyd, a guy who has done it all for 6 decades. This guy looks like he’s still in his 20’s and has the most amazing amount generosity and humility. It was an inspiration to hear him speak about the business!

After attending many of the very informative panels it was time to get pimped!

I chose When We Were Young and arrogantly went in thinking that this is my best song, what could he possibly change. Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. I think it was hard for all 4 of us to be told that our ‘babies’ weren’t up to scratch but with a little change here and a big change there they would be good. I decided to do as I was told, not resist and went away to make the changes. We had until Sunday morning to rewrite and it was already late Friday afternoon.

I made some more friends and got to say hi to Ariel Hyatt and Carla Lynn Hall from CyberPR. What lovely ladies they are!! And very smart!

Friday evening I finally got to meet one of my publishers, Keatly Halderman, co founder of pigFactory publishing. We had a great dinner and very interesting talk about my career and they are very interested in having my whole catalogue of songs which left my head spinning for the rest of the evening.

Saturday was packed with more amazing panels and lots of chances to get my music played in front of some really big guns, but hundreds of musicians put their CDs into the drop boxes and it’s just luck if you get picked. I didn’t get picked, but felt I had already had plenty of luck so far so that was okay. Saturday evening I finally got to meet up with Hans DeKline, who does all my mastering. I made him stand in line for an hour so I could get a spot in the final open mic, which he very graciously did. We had a great time chatting and it’s always nice to finally put a face to a name and a facebook conversation!

Sunday morning it was time to present my new version of When We Were Young. While making the changes I kept thinking that it was all wrong and that those changes were taking away the heart and pathos of the song. But when I performed it, the new changes came to life and it was worth it just to see Ralph Murphy beaming when I had finished. We were both very happy with the results.

One of the Sunday panels had Tanvi Patel from Crucial Publishing. Crucial is my other publisher, which has gotten me placements but has thousands of songs and many artists, so I didn’t have the same personal relationship with them as I did with pigFactory. Well that’s changed. When I met Tanvi she was immediately enthusiastic about my music. We ended up having lunch and discussing my career and she hated the idea of losing any of my songs. I told her it would have been much easier if she had been stand-offish and dismissive, but she wasn’t. I asked her lots of hard questions and we had a lovely lunch. I can’t tell you how wanted I feel by both my publishers. I really am a lucky girl!

So what have I come away with from the Rally?

First of all, I have come away with a beautiful new Blue Blueberry microphone courtesy of West L.A. Music.

I have a whole heap of new friends both Taxi staff and Taxi members.

I have more knowledge than I can fit into my brain right now… which is why I have a computer.

But most of all I have come away knowing that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. Knowing that is everything.

Thank you Taxi for providing such a great service and for really caring about your members… and for the FREE Road Rally.

I will be back next year and recommend to anyone who wants to seriously further their music career go too!

And here’s a pic of Michael Laskow at the end of it all still smiling and having time for everyone! Michael, you put on a great event!

Saying Yes and the Dewey Beach Music Conference

Something happened to me last year that turn me into a YES person and it’s funny what you end up doing when you say yes to stuff (not quite in the same way that Jim Carrey did in the movie, I’m not insane!).

After saying yes to going to New York in the summer to see the movie showing of Mayor Cupcake, that has 3 of my songs in it, Vikki Walls, the same person who placed my songs, said “Hey, why don’t you come down to the Dewey Beach Music Conference and I’ll give you as many showcases as I can”.

I immediately said yes, even knowing that just the logistics of getting there from Vancouver Island would be a nightmare. but it sounded like a fun thing to do and a chance to play somewhere new.

This last weekend, after four flights to get there, I went to DBMC. I knew no one except Vikki, but decided to immerse myself in the panels and watching some fabulous bands. And sitting on your own from time to time, just taking it all in can be an interesting experience.

While there, not only did I get to play three shows and attend some inspirational panels, I also met some amazing people. Yes, there were a LOT of young dudes in skinny jeans and at times I felt a little old, but the people I did connect with really made a difference to the experience. One was a panelist, an industry veteran, who really made me laugh and we rarely spoke about music at all, which was refreshing in music packed weekend.

The other was a group called Davin McCoy and the Coming Attractions. Davin, the vey cool, young front guy with a southern accent that could charm the pants off any girl (but not mine as I am old enough to be his mum) for some reason took an immediate shine to me and I hung out with his group for a lot of the time (along with the music vet, who shall remain nameless). I loved the Davin’s voice and songs and was thrilled when half an hour before their main show he asked me if I’d like sing with them.

I said YES!

So I listened to the songs a couple of times on his beat up iPhone, wrote out the verse to one of the songs on the back of some scrap paper and got up with them and had the best time. As much as I love playing my own sets, this type of spontaneous collaboration is the thing that really appeals to me. I just wish that Atlanta, Georgia was a little closer so we could collab again sooner but I am going to do my best to get them to Vancouver Island Musicfest one day…

I have to thank Vikki Walls for putting on such an amazing conference/festival. The amount of astoundingly good bands, great panelists and all the free food and drink made for an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. Here are some of the bands that I thought stood out… and it was a tall order to stand out!

Davin McCoy and the Coming Attractions
Avi Wisnia
Find Vienna
Rachael Platten
Anthony Walker

If I’m asked to go again next year, what will I say?