Expert Talk with Emmy-winning Hit Songwriter/Producer & Publisher Michèle Vice-Maslin
Michèle Vice-Maslin is a powerhouse woman within the music industry! The California based songwriter and music producer has had over 5000 music placements, ranging from sync licenses to hit songs worldwide and as if this isn´t enough, she is also an Emmy Award winner. Most of all, from what I´ve witnessed so far, Michèle is a hard working music entrepreneur who knows exactly what she is doing while being in charge of her own productions and sales funnels.
The saying goes “Learn from the best” and that is exactly what we will be talking about in today´s interview. Michèle is opening gates to her next digital Masterclass “From Song to Sync” which starts September 30th and carries on for 5 months.
We talked to Michèle about her course and her experiences in the competitive music industry.
Michèle, it is a pleasure to introduce you to our readers. You have had massive career accomplishments since starting out in the late 80’s (if I am correct)? Tell us a bit about your journey. How did you get started as a songwriter?
First off, hi Katie and all your wonderful subscribers!
Thank you so much for having me here amongst you! Thank you for your very kind words about me and my work! I love your work as well!
I actually started out in the late 1970’s. But I am as youthful and cool as I like to be.☺
I think the first key thing to discuss is the word mentioned here “competitive”. I believe in only being competitive with myself. I believe that if we subscribe to this understanding and “call of action” we will set ourselves up for a much better, smoother ride in our lives and business. I believe that we must celebrate each other and each other’s successes! Not see that as competition but rather as community. What comes to us is meant for us and vice versa. We must always just keep moving forward, stay focused. There is lots of work to go around for all of us as long as we stay engaged and pat attention and really apply ourselves!
I believe my musical journey began in the womb. My mother loves to sing and my grandmother was a child singing star. My father is a visual artist and so lots of art and music in my background.
As a little girl my favorite thing to do would be to take a drive with my father in the car, anywhere, just so I could sing along with the radio. I always knew what I wanted to do. Be involved with music. I gave my first singing performance at age 5.
There was never any question about my aspirations. As my motto and one of my companies is called “Music Is My Air”. It is what I breathe and live to create!
I started writing poetry at about age 11 and at 13 writing songs. They weren’t very good, but they were from my heart and soul and they allowed me to express what I of course thought were my very deep thoughts. In high school and summer camp, like so many of us, I performed in any musical and musical theatre opportunities that presented themselves. At age 17 I formed a rock band with some school mates who were all older than I and we began playing in music clubs in New York City, where I great up. After graduation I moved to another state in the U.S. to go to college but ended up joining another rock band (hard rock/heavy metal actually) and going on the road touring and performing every night. I wrote songs for the band then as well. That lasted a brief time and then I moved to Los Angeles at age 19 and forged on forward on the journey, creating my own path in music and the music business.
Yes Yes Yes! I love what you said about cultivating a community/cooperation mindset vs a competition mindset! This is so important! Thank you for inspiring us!
So, you were also the lead singer of a performance art ensemble. Do you still randomly perform yourself these days?
Yes, in Los Angeles the band I formed was indeed a “performance art ensemble”. In addition to performing the songs I created I had slideshows and films I created accompanying the songs as well as actors doing skits on stage and reciting my poetry. It was quite an “event” to say the least. It was very alternative and avant-garde. That was what I loved and where my passion was at that time in the early 1980s. Then I started making more “pop” music as well; mostly R&B. I had my first major music placement and major artist cut in 1987.
As for performing these days, in addition to the music I create for others, I still create music for my own artist project yes and have two brand new songs I created from my own artist project for an album series called PHENOMENAL WOMEN and a company called MPATH. I have many songs for my new artist project created now and in various stages of production. I am excited to share them with the world for sure! It is always so creative, fun and magical to make music with no parameters, just complete creative freedom and passion. That said I rarely perform live anymore. I do appear for tons of public speaking events though, which I love to be a part of.
By the way big congrats on your wonderful new album release! You have a beautiful voice Katie!
This sounds amazing! I love that aside from running your business and working in music 24/7, you still make room for your own art! Also thank you so much for your compliment, Michèle! This means a lot, coming from you!! I´m blushing 🙂
You are quite a versatile songwriter and you seem very good at adapting to current “demands” from the market. What is your secret to staying flexible creatively? A lot of songwriters keep writing the same tunes over and over, almost like a signature tune. Changing things up comes with hurdles to them. Do you think anyone can learn to write more diversely?
That’s such a cool question! First, I learned to listen. For instance, my first placement/artist cut was an R&B/Soul song. I had been in a pop band, in a heavy metal band, had my performance art project, and then an opportunity presented itself for a feature film with famous artists. To make a longer story short they were R&B/Soul songs that were needed, which of course I wasn’t yet creating, so I listened to a ton of R&B and Soul music of the time and earlier and created, with my writing partner, a song to submit that I made it into the movie. After that I became known as an R&B and Pop writer and had some more cool successes; major artist hit song, major artist cuts, more placements, producing them, etc. Then a few years later in 1993 I found my way to being on the music team of the American TV show “Guiding Light”. I was on that music team for 18 years and that is how I learned to be a chameleon so to speak. I love all styles of music and with that show I really got the opportunity to dive in and create all kinds of music for the show’s needs. I remember the most challenging time was when the music director called me frantically saying basically “OMG the dance club on the show is becoming a Latin dance music club immediately. She needed endless amounts of Latin dance music and ballads as well. I had no idea about creating this music but for days on end I listened to endless amounts of current at the time Latin Music. I had my main collaborator (who is still my main collaborator) Larry Treadwell listening as well. I went out and bought a bunch of Latin percussion instruments, I found an amazing Spanish lyricist Connie Blue Puche to translate the existing English lyrics to Spanish, Spanglish and day after day we would write and produce and fedex the music to the show. It was invigorating and crazy! That happened with different genres for the show as well. I have written with many artists who write in the genre they do for their projects and many other film, tv, and library commissions for different genres. In the early 90’s I also lived in Nashville off and on and was signed to a publishing company on music row. There, I learned to write country music. I have learned how to really listen to different genres of music past and present and have had so much fun creating in those genres.
These days I am always listening to current music and always interested in creating fresh cool songs in different styles. I get bored creating only one style. The styles I create in and have had success with are Pop, Dance, Edm, Alternative, Singer Songwriter, R&B, Hip Hop/Rap, Smooth Jazz, Country, Latin, Americana, Blues, Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk, Ballads, AC, Kids Music, Folk and I’m sure I’m leaving something out. ☺
As for your question “Do you think anyone can learn to write more diversely?” I do think any great writer and producer can learn yes, if they are interested and passionate about it! If not, then it is just fine to have their own niche and do what they do genre wise. That is just fine too! The great thing is that there are no rules. One should just create where their passions take them.
Wow- I love this story! I´m sure this will inspire so many readers! It takes a great amount of devotion and commitment to train your ear to pick up all those distinct nuances and styles, that make a song in any genre a great song! With so many songs under your belt, tell us, what are some of the songs that you are most proud of from your catalogue?
I am so proud of so many songs for varied reasons. Touching other people first off as well as financial gain, chart positions, awards, etc. I am proud of successfully rewriting and reproducing them countless times for the “powers that be”, Oh my! Not easy! The songs are all my “babies”, so it is really hard to say. Some have made me laugh while writing them; Some have made me cry. Some stumble all over themselves in the writing and production stages and are a bit irritating. LOL Usually I am always on to the next song and it’s go-go-go! I am very proud that my song “GET OVER YOURSELF” has been included on “Billboard’s Top 100 Girl Group Songs Of All Time” chart. That is pretty cool! I am so very proud of my producer/production recent nominations and of course my Emmy Award nominations and win. I am proud of simply surviving this crazy business and to still be here creating new and viable music all the time that touches others!
You can be proud of yourself for sure, Michèle! These are massive accomplishments! So, I´m sure our readers would love to know how you go about it! When writing a song, do you have a certain ritual or routine you follow?
No none at all. It always varies. I do prefer to write and produce in the evenings after the business day is over but it’s not imperative. I can write lyrics first, melodies first, both at the same time. It varies and is all fine.
That´s amazing! Seems like you just like to stay as open-minded and flexible as possible and that makes sense! Next to being a songwriter you are also a renowned producer. What makes a good producer in your opinion? What is the skillset you need to bring to the table?
I believe the most important skillset for producing/arranging is one’s “ears”. It’s like with a great chef for example…”taste buds”. If the chef doesn’t have good taste buds themselves the food will not be fabulous! One has to be able to hear well and understand what the instruments do and how they work with each other and how they work with the star of the show which in vocal music is…the vocals! One has to know what a great mix should sound like when it is completed. A great producer pays attention to the musicians and artists as well and allows them to add their greatness and innovation to the pie should there be outside musicians and vocalists and artists involved. One must take the time to study other music out there and develop their ears. Listening to the producers, arrangers, mixers whose work they love and admire. Great communication skills are also needed to be a great producer. The producer must be able to communicate their wants, wishes, desires well to the rest of the community involved. The artists, musicians, singers, engineers, etc. Becoming a great producer is completely possible if one continues to pay attention and keeps their ears sharp.
The music industry is still a male dominated market. As a female producer, did you ever feel like you had to work extra hard to accomplish your goals and get the same recognition as your male colleagues?
Yes, unfortunately you are absolutely correct. The music industry is completely male dominated. Only 12 % of professional songwriters are women and even worse only 2% of professional music producers are women. So yes, I have to work extra, extra – EXTRA hard to accomplish my goals and be recognized and…respected. The “powers that be” do not seem to want to hire female producers. Often times they just hire us by default. Meaning they want the song and production and it just happens that it only exists in the hard drive of the female producer, therefore they can either use that production by the female producer or hire someone else (a male) to reproduce it. They can do that but if they want exactly what they hear then they have no choice but to use the work of the female producer. In addition, many times I am hired on to create from scratch for a project as the writer/producer but I will have to make endless changes to the arrangement and production countless times, much more than would be asked of any male counterpart. My husband who is a famous record producer will attest to all of this. He will even tell you how on occasion when he comes into the studio while I am producing an artist that the artist will then thank HIM for producing them, which he did not. I have endless specific stories I could share. That said, I don’t let it get me down or stop me. Producing is my absolute passion! Even more than songwriting. Perhaps the problem is that there are so few women who have proven themselves as music producers that the “powers that be” are not used to trusting the production work of a female producer. Therefore, they second guess the work of that producer and second guess themselves. In a way it can be understood as it is not a tried and true commodity in the way the work of a male music producer is. I am optimistic that a change can come!
Yeah, I agree with everything you said! I can imagine how frustrating this situation can get…and yet, as you said, it is also probably a matter of not being exposed to enough female producers as of yet! I personally really hope that female songwriters and producers to be will take a leap of faith and launch themselves into this industry despite the current status quo! I love that you pointed out the numbers! That´s truly eye-opening!
Alright, let´s talk pitching songs to sync agents, libraries or publishers. You teach all the ropes in your Masterclass starting September 30th. What is the overall curriculum of the course and how do these online classes look like?
The classes are on Zoom. 20 weeks. A class a week. A live online office hour a week. M-F email office hours for Q&A, song listening and critique, etc.
I teach about pitching to artists as well as media placements. The overall curriculum includes the very important, necessary information about music publishing and music business which is vast and varied and so necessary before anyone can really successfully get their music out there and be effective pitching. I teach how to build one’s network of connections, how to pitch and place music to all abounding opportunities (and there are lots), including to artists, films, tv, games, trailers, promos, instore retail, music supervisors, sync agents, song pluggers, managers domestically and internationally as well as ads and music libraries. They will learn all the tools necessary in a “hand holding” environment to really be able to “hands on” do it!! …not just by passively watching fabulous videos and webinars as they might be doing but by learning the HOW TOs…How to utilize and put into action all that amazing information they are ingesting by actively participating.
I am teaching how to do exactly what I do and have done to make it work in all my years in the “school of hard knocks” so they will not have to go through what I have but in 20 weeks can learn and be well prepared for the opportunities. After the 20 weeks are completed, they will still have access to me included with the course for further guidance.
The curriculum also includes writing and recording and creating great songs and productions optimum for pitching.
My current students are now all doing amazing things with their music and I couldn’t be more excited for them and proud of them.
Wow! That sounds great! Who is this course for exactly? What are the minimum requirements you should come with as an aspiring songwriter?
The course is not only for aspiring songwriters or songwriters only.
The course is for seasoned songwriters as well who have never had to navigate the DIY world. Those who want to get educated in how the biz works and how they can take hold of their catalogs and well manage them.
The course is also for music producers.
The course is also for non-creators. Those who have or want to create their own music libraries. Those who are or want to be managers, publishers, music supervisors, A&R, attorneys, agents, filmmakers, etc. In my current course and by private consult I work with many in all those positions to help them move even more forward in their careers or to pivot and add other aspects to their work.
The course is also for those who need more info on music publishing, PROs, royalty collection, Income tracking, Royalty statements, licenses, contracts, etc.
It is a very diversified and complete course covering all that is necessary to excel in the music industry creatively and business wise.
Is there a limited number of seats in your course?
I will keep the class very small as I want it to continue to be very hands on with me and not teaching associates, as some courses have, so I am thinking in the area of 30 people more or less.
What is the pricing for this masterclass?
The price is 1997.00 USD for all that it includes.With early-bird registration and payment before Aug 15 attendees will receive two 1 hour additional private consults (a 400 dollar value) which can be used in prep for the course, during the course or after the course through February 28, 2021…however they like, but we recommend using them before the course starts to really get a leg up on the process and possibilities. In addition, early registration includes a $200.00 discount off the full tuition which will make it 1797.00 USD.
That seems like a great deal! It sounds like you learn all the ropes you need to stand a chance in this business! A lot of people would consider this industry like a lottery if you have no massive network. Would you agree with that?
When people ask my father what I do for a living he always tells then “She plays the lottery”!☺
This business is playing the lottery no matter how massive one’s network is or how many successes one has had. It never changes It is always the same. One must always keep building their network and be creating content and putting it and themselves out there. If one does that, it can be done with the lottery tickets becoming winners!
I love that you are always honest, Michèle! That makes all the difference!
Last question! What is one piece of advice you would like to give to songwriters, especially female songwriters, who are serious about building a career in this industry?
Learn all you can about the business of music. It is a business! Learn all you can about the creative as well! Pay attention. Be involved with advocacy, keep creating new content. Knowledge is Power. Don’t let your gender or anything or anyone stop you! Just keep moving forward and great things can happen! They will happen!
Thank you so much, Michèle for this interview and much success with your “From Song to Sync” Masterclass!
Follow Michèle online:
Book your seat in the “From Song to Sync Masterclass” here: http://www.sweetersongs.com/musicismyair.html
Brough to you by Katie Wellenberg
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