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Singapore’s got songwriters!

2014 October 2
by Eric Ng

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Over the last weekend we’ve had Jessica, Creative Executive of Warner Chappell Taiwan over in Singapore for a regional visit and we invited her to our school to have a talk to share about the current climate for songwriters in the Asian Mandarin music industry. What we had was a very enthusiastic strong response from FM’s exclusive songwriters and trainees from our MDA-WDA “Career in Hit Songwriting” course. Jessica was surprised as considering the size of our small country that was a huge turnout for people who are interested to find out more about what goes on in the not so known world of pop songwriting.

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The 2 hour plus session was loaded with information shared by Jessica, Xiaohan, Jim and me where we all poured out our experiences, our mistakes, our observations on the past, the future so that these newcomers can learn, protect themselves and most importantly be inspired to write even more songs. Keeping your game on and constantly writing has always been on the tip of my tongue as that was the main way I saw myself and many of my peers who are still in the scene be able to get that important step into the industry.

During the Q&A, we had many good questions hard and fast popping up for us to answer to educate the curious and for the others in the room. I’m glad they took the initiative as it’s not everyday we have overseas industry insiders coming over to share their knowledge.

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Among the many questions, one of them which popped up was the viability of making a living out of publishing a song. Yes, the industry climate right now might not be as ‘bling’ as in the past. No, it’s highly unlikely you can sit back after selling one song. However these days if you can get past the 1st step of selling your 1st song, followed by building that consistency of generating a steady of catalogue of songs, you can build up your own library of published works which will accumulate in royalties. But if you’re still at the starting point, I don’t think thinking right away about all these will help you much in creating that 1st hit.

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Other issues include being wary of shady contracts and “can you write me something for free please” requests. Ultimately you have to achieve the balance out of following your passion and also knowing what you are entitled to. Many try hard to enter the music business without realising it’s actually a business. If you take some time to realise that, you’d probably save yourself from some hurt and much unnecessary dwelling.

I think what was really cool was the trainees and writers taking Jessica’s suggestion for them to network after the talk. With the melody writers stepping up to lyricists vice versa, to get to know each other to expand their songwriting network. As with many songwriters always asking during Q&A “I do X, how do I meet people doing Y and Z to team up?” The answer was just all around them on that special gathering. That itself I’d say was just as valuable as the talk.

With pop stars and rock bands being at the forefront of the public eye, to some musicians, songwriting might not be as glamorous or a well known route to take. Out of all the many hats that I wear, songwriting is still the most liberating, creative and fun part of what I do. Imagine just creating something out of nothing, pulling random notes out of air and the next thing you know, you hear it on the radio. That feeling is unimaginable.

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When’s the best time for one to be making music?

2014 September 20
by Eric Ng

As you might know, U2 released their latest album “Songs of Innocence” and thru a collaboration with Apple, had their album uploaded free to 500 million ITunes subscribers all over the world. I saw articles written about it and people bitching about it on social media.

Albums too expensive, complain, albums now given free, also complain. Social media has made complaining fun to some. With 22 Grammy awards and more than 150 million albums sold. I’d say U2 probably don’t even give a shit.

Was watching Beyonce HBO special with her talking about her life, other than watching in awe of how crazily committed she is to her music, she remarked that she was blessed that when she 1st started. There was not so many other distractions that take the attention away of music coming from a music maker. Nowadays people have easy access to the daily lives of artists, and most don’t pay attention to albums, or even the music anymore. As a result, artists just try their luck, release singles and singles till they burn out.

Closer to home, I was having a conversation with a veteran singer songwriter about the great times of the Taiwan music industry during the 90s. Where artists and songwriter advances were high, even enough to buy a house at that time. And the abundance of gigs everywhere where venues pay. Nowadays an artist might still be rejected even if they offer to play for free.

And of course, even for some venues that pay. If lucky, the rates are the same, if not they are even lower than when I first started almost 20 years ago. As if inflation never happened.

When I first entered the music industry, I recalled just a year later. I was told I could send my songs thru a *.ra(Real Audio) file. Shortly after, enter the mp3. Which then saw the end of the golden era of monetizing music thru album sales.

With all these tales of ‘waahhh, last time was so much better’, I started to wonder.

When’s the best time for one to be making music?

The answer came quick.

Right now.

The past will always be there and especially in these uncertain times, no one can predict the future.

But one thing I can be sure of, is that I enjoy making it!

Super and AMPed presents Storey Telling with Kenny Khoo 邱鋒澤

2014 September 16
by Eric Ng

On the 8 of August 2014, Kenny had an exclusive showcase of his album “Ten Storeys” where he shared and sang stories of his songs with his fans, performing with a full live band that compromises of Clement on bass, Adam on drums, Peh Linde on keyboards, Jin An on acoustic guitar and me on electric guitar.

The mood was high as Kenny performed to a packed audience which included many industry friends who came over to show support at Beep Studios. It was a great experience for Kenny to stretch his performance chops.

We are proud and grateful for this healthy collaboration with Super and AMPed, 2 great local homegrown brands to present this showcase. This is definitely the way of the future for artist development, giving them an opportunity for them to get closer and engage with their fans thru live performances.

For those who missed it. Here’s the video link of the show that went down!


周华健 《江湖》 tour rehearsals begin!

2014 September 11
by Eric Ng

Was in Taiwan last week getting ready to go for the 1st rehearsals for Wakin’s upcoming tour next year. Though I was involved in producing half of the album last year, I’d say it’s not gonna be a breeze performing it on tour as it is not your straightforward commercial pop album. Meaning convenient repetitive mainstream pop arrangements are not your order of the day.

As you might know, I don’t read scores. Gotta start working on my memory muscles!

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Singing competitions…

2014 September 3
by Eric Ng

I’d say singing competitions have been a popular topic in the recent few mths and I myself just finished judging 2 episodes of our own Project Superstar.

When not accepted or sent away, some take it in stride, some take it heavily, some even start to resent. I’m very sure there will be some unhappiness, some disappointment when one doesn’t get what one wishes for. And I’m sure some of the audience or the competitors themselves might find they didn’t deserve to leave or it’s not fair for XXX reasons.

Whether it’s a singing competition, or whether it’s the reality of being a full time recording artist/musician in the music industry. Talent is not everything, there are chances, there might be politics, there are definitely rejections. There is also that all important factor of whether people like you or not.

Most who you see are successful today, no matter how greatly talented, has had doors closed and sometimes even rudely slammed in their face. It’s their perseverance that led them on to learn from each experience, work harder, come back stronger while always looking out for other opportunities.

Singing competitions might be unfair, so is life. Can we change that? No.

But what we can change is within ourselves and in our means to reach our goals.

Music Journey 2014 : San Francisco in pics!

2014 August 19
by Eric Ng

Our musical journey continues in San Fran! We went to the usual touristy Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town etc which I’m sure you can find anywhere on the net. So here’s sharing our musical findings :)

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Jimi Hendrix Red house!

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At Amoeba music store, it’s a shame that CD/Record stores are closing down everywhere in the world, however Amoeba is still going strong with one in San Francisco and an even bigger branch in LA.

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woaahhh…

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Gigs Gigs Gigs…

The Lower 48

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Dresses

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Au Revoir Simone

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And we watched the Neighbourhood at the Oakland Theatre. Such a pretty venue!

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The Neighbourhood far surpassed what I heard in their album. Such a great live band.

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That sums up our musical journey in LA and San Fran. What a nice and inspiring break! Hope to be back soon!

A music journey in pictures Part 2 (Los Angeles)

2014 August 14
by Eric Ng

More gigs! More teenhood musical idols.

I got to watch Tori Amos!

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At the Greek Theatre, what a beautiful outdoor venue.

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Tori Amos’s Bösendorfer

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Armed with 2 pianos, the Bösendorfer grand and an electric piano. That was it, no band. Yet she totally killed it, usually playing both pianos at once! Without looking?!

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My only gripe was she never sang ‘Silent all these years’. It’s like 华健 doing a concert without singing 朋友! Other than that, her free timing, story telling performances of ‘Crucify’, ‘Winter’ and ‘Cornflake girl’ brought back so many memories.

Last but not least, we managed to catch ‘Once’ the musical. I thought the musical did manage to match up to the movie. It was super cool to see a strong cast that made up the band as well, all on stage, performing a very strong set of songs.

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We watched the musical at the Pantages Theatre in LA. It was such a beautiful venue!

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And with that wrapped up our gig tour in LA. After hanging out at the Santa Monica beach, it was time to head off to San Francisco!

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A music journey in pictures Part 1 (Los Angeles)

2014 August 11
by Eric Ng

Everyone needs a getaway once in a while, some travel to explore, some travel to sight see, some travel to shop. Me? I love travelling for music.

Last year I travelled to LA as I saw that John Mayer was having a show at the Iconic Hollywood Bowl, so we thought, why not? And flew over there.

Then late last year, Motley Crue, a band that I grew up with, announced that they would be having their final tour. So I thought, YEAH! Let’s go!

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It was such a great gig with an equally interesting looking audience coming from all walks of life, even LJ who’s never heard of any of their songs enjoyed the gig :) Motley Crue 1981-2014. You will be missed.

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And as usual, during our trip there, we just went on the net, looked up any one playing anywhere and went!

Sunset Strip – The Viper Room

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More pics to come!

A visit to Oceanway Recording (Studios) Los Angeles

2014 August 5
by Eric Ng

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I must say this year has been quite a trip, after visiting Sarm Studios last month. I just got back from a great LA/San Fran trip where I got a chance to visit Oceanway Recording. And reason why I had this honour was because I was dropping in on Steve Lillywhite’s mixing session 2 weeks ago while I was in LA, it was really gracious of him to invite me to view his mixing session with Ross Hogarth. I find that only true masters will be so generous to allow others to view their craft, watching them at work, as they have nothing much to prove for themselves as they have already achieved so much.

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For most, a recording studio is just a few rooms with tweedly knobs that captures some sound. But to me, it’s such a joy stepping into a place where so much heritage was shaped. Music is not just a bunch of sounds mixed together that makes us feel great, it’s also a time machine that allows us to return time and time again to the memories that occur while we were experiencing it. And I feel especially overwhelmed when I step into a place knowing that a certain song that meant a lot to me was recorded there. If you’re a musician and get a chance to visit places with a musical history, try picking up a guitar, playing a keyboard/piano or banging a drum there. Trust me, you feel different.

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However, of course, it was Steve’s session, so basic studio courtesy is you don’t just treat it as your home and start having your little mini concert when you’re visit a session. (I’ve seen some do that, picking up a guitar or messing around w the mic etc without asking)

Ok, who’s recorded in Oceanway? Rolling Stones, Brian Wilson, Aerosmith, with albums that were vital and life changing to me such as Thriller, Bad(Micheal Jackson), Room for Squares, Heavier Things(John Mayer), Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby (U2) etc.

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Was having a chat with the guys and Steve mentioned to Ross, Oh, Eric and LJ’s flown all the way here to catch Motley Crue’s final tour in LA. Steve never heard Motley Crue’s stuff as he was probably too busy producing legends of his own during Motley’s peak period and Ross pulls out “Girls, Girls, Girls” from his phone and plays it to him, casually mentioning “Oh! It was a big hit then”. It was after I left the studio and did a little search on Google and realised he not only worked with Motley Crue on that same song Girls, Girls, Girls, he also engineered that unbelievable drum sound on “Primal Scream” by Motley! Other than that, he’s also worked on albums that I grew up listening countless times by Van Halen (!!?!), Jewel, Hall and Oates, Belinda Carlisle, Cheap Trick to Miley Cyrus, Brandon Flowers etc.

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Just like Steve, guys like these are always open minded, generous and unassuming. Life sure is great at that stage where you see no need to overtly prove yourself.

Yeah, so that was a cool high light from my little getaway, more pics from the trip to follow!

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A visit to the legendary Sarm Studios in London

2014 July 13
by Eric Ng

2 weeks ago, I went for my shortest trip ever to London (4 days), however it was all worth it as we were there for a recording session with Ming for a collaboration with a yet to be announced artist. The studio that we stepped into was called Sarm Studios.

This studio was built in the 60s by Chris Blackwell who started Island Records (U2, Bob Marley etc) and the albums that were recorded there were life changing for me. We’re talking about like from Led Zeppelin IV (”Stairway to Heaven”), Queen (We’re the Champions), Bob Marley(who stayed upstairs of the studio for a year), the Rolling Stones to modern day legends like Muse, Coldplay, One Direction, Rihanna etc.

We were so blessed to be recording there as the engineer broke us the sad news that they will be pulling down the studio in a couple of months, converting it to condos due to practical reasons. It’s really tragic and shows how the recording industry is changing.

Nevertheless, it was such an honour to step into a room knowing that once upon a time, songs that shaped my musical identity were recorded right there. If there ever was a truly mystical vibe that fills you with inspiration when you stepped into a room, this was it. I can’t really put that thick vibe being in that room to words but that live room just sounded like any sound you made in it will sound great.

Sarm Studios, you will be missed. R.I.P.

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This is ain’t just a rotting old couch in front of the reception of Sarm Studios, it’s Bob Marley’s rotting old couch!
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