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Have you ever dreamed of launching a career in pop music but didn't know how to do it?

Or, do you secretly wish you could break into the music scene, but you're afraid that you don't have the right skills/the right look/the right age/(insert other insecurity here) to really make it?

In today's era of technology and high-speed internet, anyone with a laptop or smart phone can record a song and post it on YouTube and call themselves a singer.

However, to build a raving fanbase and gain the attention of producers, record label executives, and talent scouts, it's crucial to have a strategy that will get you noticed over all the other people who are also trying to do the same thing.

In this episode of Singing Sessions, I interview Adam Diaz, a chart-topping record producer and songwriter, on the ins and outs of launching your own music career. 

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • The challenges that new artists face when launching their career.

  • The three paths that you could take to launch your music career, plus the pros and cons of each one.

  • Important points to consider when deciding whether to work with a major record label.

  • What to do if you want to retain as much creative control as possible.

  • The first step in developing your own artistic style.

  • The first two things a music producer looks for when deciding whether to work with a new artist.

  • The best strategy to get major record labels knocking on YOUR door and offering you deals.

  • What it's like to work with a music producer and why that relationship is crucial to your music.

  • About the Hong Kong music scene today and what's lacking.

  • What to do if you want to stay competitive in the industry.
  • Why now is the best time to independently launch your music career!

Whether you want to be discovered and signed by a major record label, or you want to independently release your own album of original or cover songs, this episode will give you a head start on what you need to do and consider to get started on the right track.

​Check out the video by clicking the image below, or scroll down to read the transcript. You can also check out the description box to skip to different sections of the video. 

If you enjoyed the video, please do me a favour and hit the like button, and feel free to post a comment in the comment box of the video if you have any questions! 


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Wishing you a sing-out-loud kinda day!

With love, 

Krystal 

 

Free Vocal Exercises for the Contemporary Singer

Want a set of basic vocal exercises that you can practice anywhere, anytime? Available in both the female & male key! 

TRANSCRIPT

Krystal Diaz:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Sing Together, Learn Together. Today, I'm super excited because I have my brother Adam Diaz here as a special guest

Adam Diaz:
Hello.

Krystal Diaz:
If you've seen our previous episodes, you may have seen us do a reaction video.

Adam Diaz:
Once before.

Krystal Diaz:
Yes. Adam Diaz is a chart topping songwriter and music producer. He's worked with many of Hong Kong's top recording artists, such as Eason Chan, Gin Lee, Edmund Leung, Kary Ng, Ryan Hui. He's also an original founding member and songwriter and guitarist of the Hong Kong band Dear Jane with whom he released two albums, right?

Adam Diaz:
Yeah.

Krystal Diaz:
Later on, he also joined the punk rock band Hardpack as the lead guitarist. He also produced Hardpack's highly successful farewell album Never Be the Same.

Krystal Diaz:
Could you tell us a little bit about what are some of your recent projects?

Adam Diaz:
Recent projects, well, I'm working a lot behind the scenes lately, sort of project management and consulting work, working with new artists, who are basically looking to launch their music careers, but need some guidance. What I do is kind of like work behind the scenes and coordinate that for the artists.

Krystal Diaz:
It sounds like you're this one-stop-shop for new artists wanting to break out into the music scene.

Adam Diaz:
Well, because the process for releasing an album is quite complicated. I was an artist before, I signed to record labels myself, so I sort of had the experience of being in front of the camera and also to be behind the camera, and also doing the music business aspect.

Krystal Diaz:
I want to talk a little bit more about some of the challenges new artists' face.

Adam Diaz:
The challenges that face an independent is obviously going to be funding. That's one of many aspects you've got to consider. If you are a signed into a record deal, the challenge in the beginning would be ensuring that you have a fair enough of a record contract.

Krystal Diaz:
And often we don't even know what the jargon is, right? An artists might not even know what the implications are of some of the terms.

Adam Diaz:
Yes. Maybe even some professionals may not know because there's so much... It's so much room for interpretation sometimes. And then there's the third category of someone that's trying to get into the business, I think, at least from my experiences, is joint venture types of collaborations where, let's say, an artist brings their own quality, their own music, and then they find, say, a music producer, or maybe a studio owner, or maybe a potential artist manager who basically says, "Let's team up. You bring what you bring, I bring what I bring. Let's try to build something here."

Krystal Diaz:
With a big major record label. You're just dealing with the record label and, obviously, the team internally with that, but with a joint venture type of deal where there could be multiple people putting their resources into this, then you're dealing with different companies.

Adam Diaz:
A lot of moving parts. If you're doing independent, of course, you have all the freedom in the world. You don't have to deal with so many people's opinion that say, "Well, you have to lose 10 pounds before I help you out," or "Oh, you're not singing well enough," which in some cases, in many cases it's very subjective. What is singing well? Eventually, sometimes, you know...

Krystal Diaz:
Exactly. Also with subjective, with things like that, you're talking about also some song restrictions.

Adam Diaz:
Yes. They would say, "Look, I need you to plug this song," but it may be totally out of your identity. Like say, you are really into Green Day and they force you to be Britney Spears. Do you know what I mean? I mean, yeah.

Krystal Diaz:
I find that hard to imagine, how would that work out, Green Day cross Britney Spears. From what I understand, would you say that if you do do that third option, which is the joint venture option, in some ways you actually still retain a lot of creative control? Because obviously the people who are investing in you are investing in you and they're put pooling a lot of resources specific to you, as opposed to a major record company who are actually dividing their resources amongst many different artists.

Adam Diaz:
That's one of the things as well. You don't know when it's going to be your turn in a record label. In the joint venture, I think there'll be more sort of like an urge to get it done because you may be the only one on their roster.

Krystal Diaz:
And they want their return, obviously,

Adam Diaz:
Yeah, they want their return.

Krystal Diaz:
Yeah. How did you break into the scene as a music producer?

Adam Diaz:
I basically had a dream. I wanted to do Canto punk rock. I had this vision and I found a few friends, put them together and created what was basically the beginnings of Dear Jane. In the beginning, I recorded all the demos.

Krystal Diaz:
How did you record that? Actually, out of curiosity, where did you record it?

Adam Diaz:
I recorded it on my computer in my bedroom. All the band members in Dear Jane actually didn't know each other, the original members. So I actually got them all together.

Krystal Diaz:
That's interesting that you got into a record deal that actually allowed you to do all of your own producing.

Adam Diaz:
Yes. We're lucky. I think the execution of the demos enabled us to basically build the trust with the record executives to know that we sort of know what we're doing.

Krystal Diaz:
Essentially, the ideal scenario is that you go into a record deal, say, if you're going to be signed as an artist, but you go in with some kind of demo that already illustrates or demonstrates your unique style and the kinds of music that you want to produce. As opposed to singers, and this happens all the time, who get signed and come with zero idea of how they want to be presented, how they want to present their music in the world.

Adam Diaz:
Yes.

Krystal Diaz:
And that's actually very, very challenging. Even for me, when I work with students of that nature and they always ask me, how do I have more style?

Adam Diaz:
Yeah, it's a tough one.

Krystal Diaz:
That's a tough one to miraculously come up with them. I mean, it really does take experience.

Adam Diaz:
Maybe cheesy, but a lot of profound thinking.

Krystal Diaz:
It's true. That's not cheesy at all.

Adam Diaz:
Like, you need to reflect...

Krystal Diaz:
You have to know who you are as an individual.

Adam Diaz:
Exactly. In commercial music, I mean, a lot of things have already been done already, quite honestly. Right? So I think all the more you have to almost... It's going to take a little bit of extra effort to really create or craft or hone a very unique sound.

Krystal Diaz:
 Well, I think that's why that self-reflective piece.

Adam Diaz:
Yeah.

Krystal Diaz:
That part of really knowing who you are and really understanding yourself makes a big difference because there will never be another you, you know?

Adam Diaz:
Yes.

Krystal Diaz:
Aside from music producing, I know you also develop talent, which we talked about. You work with undiscovered singers, and you talked about mentoring them through the entire process of becoming an artist. So what are some of the characteristics that you look for in a singer when you're considering whether or not to work with them?

Adam Diaz:
Probably the most obvious is, if they're a singer, do they actually have the ability to sing, right?

Krystal Diaz:
Right. Hopefully, we got that part covered, right?

Adam Diaz:
That is....

Krystal Diaz:
Kind of important.

Adam Diaz:
Yeah. It sounds like we're poking fun or joking, but it is such the cold hard fact. A lot of people may have told you you could sing, but you don't know until you really deal with professionals, such as yourself who are vocal teachers who could provide the most objective opinion, right? Even for artists who are not quite there yet technically, they could get better over time. I've heard students that you've taught and, like night and day difference, after a year of training with you, for example. Right? Sometimes it works the other way around. They could have so much talent, but they think they suck.

Adam Diaz:
I think the next thing for me that's really important is their attitude. It sounds like an old fart talking to you, but the attitude is so important. I mean... We can get the top music producers, but if you have really poor attitude, close-minded or really self-centered or prima donna for that matter, who wants to work with someone like that? As much talent as you may have, I would still reconsider.

Krystal Diaz:
I think there is a difference between knowing who you are and knowing what you want and knowing the vision that you have, and being totally inflexible. The reason why you will want to work with people is so that because they can see things that you as an artist might not be able to see and provide you with the best advice to give you the best chance of moving forward to achieving your goals.

Adam Diaz:
Yeah.

Krystal Diaz:
I know that you most recently worked with a new artist, Lewis.

Adam Diaz:
Lewis, yes.

Krystal Diaz:
You created a song for him, you found a song for him and actually you shot the MV as well. Could you tell us a little bit about that project, and how you worked with him and what that process was like?

Adam Diaz:
The interesting situation about Louis is that I think he had the potential to either be signed or release independently. The only thing is, if you're hoping to be signed, you don't know how long you could be waiting. It could be years. Just the negotiations of that contract could be a year. You know, by that time, you're a year older or two years older and you may not even have your first single out for that matter.

Adam Diaz:
What I suggested to him, basically, is that you could release independently first, show what you can do, get yourself out there. It'll be an organic audience in the beginning. Nurture your fan base over time. Imagine now the bargaining chips that you have if now you are working with a record label that, say, wants to do joint venture with you or take you on to be one of their artists.

Krystal Diaz:
From your point of view as a music producer, what advice would you give a singer who is new to studio recordings that might help them to navigate that relationship between a singer and music producer and how to make that process a lot more efficient?

Adam Diaz:
The artist hopefully has a rapport with the music producer. Because if it becomes like a very cold relationship, like, "Oh, record this now. Okay, that's it. Okay, we're done. Goodbye," type of thing, then you can imagine the dynamic, the magic that should happen in the studio may not happen as organically.

Krystal Diaz:
So you're saying that, in order to get rapport, one of the ways would be to meet with the producer...

Adam Diaz:
Just hangout, talk.

Krystal Diaz:
...beforehand and not just...

Adam Diaz:
Yeah. That's best case scenario rather than like...

Krystal Diaz:
The first time you meet.

Adam Diaz:
It's the first time you meet and you're recording a song. Like, literally....

Krystal Diaz:
Even a phone conversation would be better than nothing.

Adam Diaz:
Yes. I think it's too important. You could be in there doing 50 takes, you know, and if you're feeling, "Oh, man, I'm really wasting everyone's time here," and then if the producer doesn't communicate with you or tells you, "No. It's cool. Don't worry." Because for whatever reason you guys are not sort of clicking, it's hard to create something that's very impactful.

Adam Diaz:
And, obviously, the second thing, I would say that's as equally as important, is actually be able to perform the song, which is hiring someone such as yourself, a vocal teacher. You don't want to spend time learning how to sing it, you have to already know how to sing. And it's about getting the best take by that point in time.

Krystal Diaz:
 As a vocal coach, one of the things that I've encountered is students, singers who are signed artists getting songs that they're asked to sing that they just can't sing. They maybe will spend hours and hours, days and days at the recording studio, and finally getting it. And then they have to promote it and have to sing it live, and they're like, "I can't sing it the way that I sang it in over a week in the vocal recording studio." That becomes really challenging.

Krystal Diaz:
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the Hong Kong music scene. For those of you who might not be familiar with the history of the Hong Kong music scene, back when our parents first started out as performers, Hong Kong pop music was incredibly, incredibly influenced by music from North America. We're talking about like the golden era music, I'm talking about the '50s and '60s, you know, Elvis, Beatles, Motown. Basically, whatever was popular in North America during the '50s and '60s, Hong Kong audiences were right up in there. But I think things really started to shift around the 1970s and that's where what we know of Canto pop music essentially originated from, which is in the 1970s.

Krystal Diaz:
But if we flash forward to today, it seems that when it comes to the younger generations, I feel like we're starting to see another shift away from Canto pop music. Younger generations now seem to be listening more to music outside of Hong Kong, mainland China, others are listening to Japan, songs from Japan, Korea, Taiwan. So as a person who works behind the scenes, what advice would you give to a new artist who is based in Hong Kong but who may want to break into the industry during this interesting climate of shifts?

Adam Diaz:
Obviously, the shift that you mentioned, it's probably been happening for quite a while already. My own personal advice for people in Hong Kong that are trying to get sort of the career or basically launch a career in music, I would say right now is the best time to do it. Right now.

Krystal Diaz:
Really?

Adam Diaz:
Yeah, I think so. Why do you need to be anywhere to be international?

Krystal Diaz:
That's true.

Adam Diaz:
To be very honest, right. This doesn't really only apply to Hong Kong obviously. For example, there are a lot of successful YouTubers in Hong Kong, who are based in Hong Kong, but have a very international fan base.

Krystal Diaz:
That's true.

Adam Diaz:
So I'm thinking that is literally what you could do in the music side of things. If you're not a YouTuber, let's say, vlogging on a regular basis, you could be a music artist still based in Hong Kong using the internet as a vehicle to get your work out there, and then hopefully tapping in or building up an audience that's probably predominantly North American, in the North American continent, right?

Krystal Diaz:
If that's where you want to be.

Adam Diaz:
Yes, yes, yes. North America. Yeah, exactly. That's where you're focusing. But sometimes you may not even have a particular focus. You may want to just get your music out there and then you may be huge in Germany for all that matters, you don't know.

Krystal Diaz:
Yeah.

Adam Diaz:
Definitely, it's a great time to release your own stuff right now I think because there are no more gatekeepers as like in the beginning... In the earlier days, you have a lot of gatekeepers basically tell you whether you're good enough and then sign you and then launch your music career. But right now you can totally create your own audience.

Krystal Diaz:
As a final question to wrap up this interview, what kind of artists would you like to see coming out of the Hong Kong music industry? Or put it another way, what do you think is lacking in the Hong Kong music industry? What is the market ripe for?

Adam Diaz:
Personally, what I would like to see? I would like to see more rap, hip hop. I know friends in the industry who are quite prominent hip hop figures in Hong Kong, but I think the scene could use more. I enjoy hip hop. I actually listened to a lot of hip hop before I started listening to Green Day.

Krystal Diaz:
And Britney Spears.

Adam Diaz:
Yeah. I think rapping in Cantonese is quite difficult.

Krystal Diaz:
Right. It is challenging.

Adam Diaz:
But actually the sound is great, though.

Krystal Diaz:
It's challenging to sing in Cantonese.

Adam Diaz:
Yeah. I think there's a lot of talent out there that probably they just need to meet the right joint venture guy or the right project manager.

Krystal Diaz:
Right. It almost sounds like if you want to become an artist and you want to break into scene, you almost have to think of yourself as a startup. A lot of what you're saying, joint venture, you have to decide if you want investment, if you're going to self-fund it, then get some seed capital. And that stuff is what's going to help you to stay competitive in the marketplace and to get much further to stay in that industry.

Adam Diaz:
Exactly.

Krystal Diaz:
However you get there at this day and age is what's going to get you the result that you want. If the result that you want is "I want to be tied under a major record label, I want to be in their roster of artists," then that would be the right choice for you. But if your ultimate goal is to get your music out there as fast as possible and to start building an audience, then maybe going through the record label route might not be the best option for you and maybe the self-funding is the best way.

Adam Diaz:
Self-funded, I would say one of the biggest benefits of being self-funded, basically initiating your own career is that you get to take action now. You can wait until, who knows? Until you're 30 or 40 for that matter until you get the best deal possible, it may never happen. But when people see that you're moving and you're shaking and you're building an audience, all of a sudden they come knocking on your door.

Krystal Diaz:
Yeah, deals come to you.

Adam Diaz:
Exactly.

Krystal Diaz:
How can people connect with you if they wanted to see some of your work or be in touch with you?

Adam Diaz:
I think what I'm really trying to do is start my own YouTube channel, I've been talking about it for too long. So I'll probably link to a YouTube channel link or my IG link or something like that.

Krystal Diaz:
Thank you so much for watching. I hope you liked this episode. If you did, do click like and remember to subscribe so that you can stay in touch with us. I'll see you again next time.

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