Attending Abbey Road's two-day festival, Abbey Road Amplify, really put the vastness of the music industry into perspective for me. On the 11th and 12th of November Abbey Road opened its doors to the public as it welcomed creative hopefuls into the studios and offered them the opportunity to mix with the masters.
I was fortunate enough to attend two sessions at this two-day festival, each session comprised of two talks that I will recap in this article.
STUDIO ONE 11/11/21 Steven Price in Conversation with James Newton-Howard & UMG Presents Music Publishing 101
Studio One's second session on the 11th welcomed an audience to a conversation with James Newton-Howard and Steven Price, two exceptional film composers at different stages in their careers. Newton-Howard has scored over 100 films, so you are bound to find him credited on one of your favourites. These films include King-Kong, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang and Batman begins. Meanwhile, Steven Price has found his fame much more recently as he received a BAFTA for his score to Gravity in 2013.
Newton-Howard took a retrospective look at some of his career highlights, talking of the fast turnaround for the King Kong score, which he completed in just a couple of weeks. He considered all the times he had hit a compositional wall and how sometimes just writing anything was better than nothing. He noted that something that he mightn't use still might bring another idea to life for be used for a later project. Thematic music can be distinctive and take on a life of its own. Currently, Newton-Howard is working on the next instalment of fantastic beasts; this has posed an unusual issue as the iconic Harry Potter themes can be hard to escape. Subsequently, Newton-Howard is considering how his score should echo the iconic wizarding world but also differ from John Williams' soundtracks for the Harry Potter films. Newton-Howard talks about moving away from Hedwig's theme and bringing his own flair to the series. Price talks admiringly with Newton-Howard throughout; although Price is his junior his career is no less impressive. In fact, Steven Price began his career learning from the likes of Newton-Howard and Hans Zimmer, as he shadowed and worked in close proximity to such composers. In an audience of hopeful composers, musicians, producers and publishers one of the key things to note was the path that both composers had taken. It was not a straightforward one and it was paved through complete dedication to music. Newton-Howard found himself in pop music before he stumbled over to the world of TV and film and Price had had programmer, producer and editorial positions on the way up to his current role as a composer.
Universal Music Publishing Group sent a group of professionals, including Jackie Alway OBE, to the stage to discuss the process of music publishing. Members of their A&R team discussed how they find and sign new talent, focusing on Bastille as an example Darryl Watts talked of when he first saw them play, to when they signed them. He talked about how Bastille were nurtured and grew at UMG, and the opportunities and partnerships they'd had there, and he of course bragged a little about having their 2019 release 'Happier' on repeat before it was even released - but who wouldn't brag about that? The Sync team continued the talk by presenting a new kind of artist, Keynvor (otherwise known as the Atlantic ocean). Stating "What better way to save our beaches than recruit the ocean itself." they detailed how Artist Sebastian Plano and music label Mercury KX teamed up to make. sound recordings of the Atlantic Ocean and produce a song from with those recordings. Both Plano and Mercury KX both pledged to donate 100% of their revenue from the piece to the conservation of the Atlantic ocean. Further conversation from the group highlighted the roles of those in Sync and Marketing and even how the average charting hit will have up to six writers credited - overall UMPG did an excellent job of showcasing the teams of people that go into creating your favourite artist, album or song and all the excellent ways that music can be utilised.
STUDIO TWO 12/11/21 MMF Presents: Managing Expectations - Producer, Songwriter and Artist Management & Sound On Sound Presents: Engineering Creativity with John Kurlander, Jeff Jarratt, Peter Cobbin and Jonathan Allen.
Studio 2 has heard the likes of the Beatles, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Adele and many more. On the second day of Abbey Road Amplify, a group of music managers shared their knowledge on managing different clients in the industry and the path to becoming a successful producer. All seemed to reach the same conclusion, the road was long and arduous but rewarding and in some cases, it does not provide immediate financial gain. Jill Hollywood, founder of Echo beach management does not manage artists, but rather producers and Songwriters. She detailed her path to this role as she worked previously in A&R and Artist management before founding Echo beach. Hollywood noted how her roster of 12 artists keeps her busy. Working with these established artists Jill no longer has time to build someone up from the ground and even if she did it would not benefit the new producer, but is, rather, more likely to make them more expensive to work with and employ. Sophie Bloggs, however, manages a roster of dance artists and DJs, including Kurupt FM. Bloggs made her way into the role of Artist manager through the events base, she started by putting on evening events and music at university and noted that sometimes when the financial gain was lacking, the reward for an event was the hype that it generated. Chris Grey (A&R and Artist Management at Problem Child ENT) quit his job to pursue his passion in music and he just kind of 'tripped into management' after leaving a recruitment job to pursue A&R roles.
Over 100 years of Abbey Road Sound and Balance Engineering in one room as SOS (Sound on Sound) hosted Audio Engineering and Creativity with John Kurlander, Jeff Jarratt, Peter Cobbin and Jonathan Allen. The four men gave some of their career highlights as they discussed how the genius, the weird and the wonderful ways they had realised an artist's vision through their engineering expertise. Jeff Jarratt, who began working at Abbey Road in 1966, recalled, with admiration, John and Yoko turning up to Studio two with a heart monitor. He laughed as he explained that John had just asked to borrow it from the local hospital. The newlywed couple were seeking to record their heartbeats for their Wedding Album and Jarratt had the privilege of recording those heartbeats. Jarratt started at Abbey Road at 17 as he pursued his biggest passion, music. Kurlander, like Jarratt, began his career at Abbey Road straight from school and has worked on the likes of the Beatles Abbey Road album and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Kurlander, when asked to relay the creative requirements of a Balance Engineer talked with excitement about a new video game, which he is working on currently. He explained that sounds are triggered by the gamers actions so two players will never hear the music the same way. With the narrative of the game heavily linked to themes of memory, the use of these brief musical modules is a great way to score the game. Each triggered motif is attached to a different action. Kurlander played a snippet of the soundtrack, it was frantic and tense but in the layered sound, each of the different modules could be picked out and followed. Peter Cobbin explained how the arrangement of an orchestra in a space and different mic placements can influence the depth and sound of a recording. He chose to play three isolated recordings of a set of drums, all from different mics at different places in Studio One. The difference in sound was immediately apparent and each one delivered a different emotive effect. He followed this by playing the three sounds together with some compression - showing how they could all be used in tandem for the final product. . Jonathan Allen shone a light on how music technology has progressed, and how these advancements offer new opportunities for artists and engineers, but perhaps, he says, 'all artists should only be given four tracks for their first album'. For him, the most important part of audio engineering is knowing the purpose of the music, then deciding how to create the right colours for the audio.
Abbey Road's Amplify was an amazing experience and a great way to learn about the ins and outs of the music industry. If you want to catch up on anything you might have missed you can watch the live recording here.