On Wed., March 14, Maize Collective — in partnership with Universal Music Group and Innovate Blue — hosted the first of a series of three music business panels titled “Industry Insight: Songwriters, Producers and Studio Musicians.” Held at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s auditorium, the panel provided aspiring Ann Arbor artists with tips for success in the music business and featured an array of musicians, including Yungblud, a new signee to Geffen Records and rising hip-hop star, Evan Haywood, a musician and multimedia artist based in Ann Arbor, Kasan Belgrave, a Jazz Studies sophomore concentrating in clarinet and alto sax and DeNero Montez, a Detroit native singer and songwriter who has written for Justin Bieber.
The panel, moderated by Veniece Session of Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone, addressed songwriting techniques, royalties, musical influences and the overall daily life of a career musician. Yungblud, who performed a few hours later at the Majestic Theatre in Detroit, was given the most immediate attention before leaving early for his show. His charismatic persona and unfiltered stream of consciousness was enticing, providing an example to the many aspiring musicians in the crowd of a young and fresh musician who successfully “made it” in the music business while maintaining his rambunctious attitude. When asked by Session — who herself has experience working with independent artists — if signing to a major label has hindered his creative process, Yungblud replied, “To be honest, I figured out who I was before I got signed. And, if you know that and you deep down know who you are, then how are they going to change that? They signed you for a reason, because they like you and like your sound.”
Next, Session asked Montez to elaborate on the songwriting process. He offered an easy-to-comprehend explanation of songwriting and the business of copyright, stressing the importance of submitting your work to BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) or ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) as well as registering your lyrics with the Library of Congress. Haywood also interjected, advising the crowd to always run paperwork by a lawyer before signing, avoiding any chance that you as a songwriter would lose the rights to your masters.
Later, after Yungblud left for his show and the panel grew more intimate, the floor opened for audience questions and the panel was asked to speak on how they remain original in their music while having artists they admire. Belgrave raised a point that was met with nods of agreement from both the panelists and the audience, saying, “Automatically, we are subject to music that comes before us so we are automatically paying homage to music before us. Music is always moving, always evolving so I think you have to hear things from the past to create new sounds.”
The panel closed with Haywood offering young musicians a word of advice: “Keep making music, keep putting it out in any way,” he said. “No one will hear it at first and eventually you’ll start getting traction and building a fan base. Those fans will stick with you if you’re a nice person. Be kind and open and caring. Support your friends and make a community. Then, when you get that success, you will have friends holding you up.”