Michelle Lockey on Music Licensing and Songwriting for TV & Film

Michelle Lockey, singer songwriter, composer, Licensing Songs AcademyIn this episode of The Unstarving Musician’s Podcast, I chat with Michelle Lockey. Michelle is a performing singer songwriter and composer for film and TV. She’s also creator of Licensing Songs Academy, a community of songwriters & composers that are learning how to write & license music for Film & TV. But wait there’s more. Michelle is also a three-time Washington Area Music Award Nominee and Grand Prize Winner in the folk category of the 2013 John Lennon Song Contest. My interest in connecting with Michelle was to learn more about her as a music licensing and music business educator. As usual for the podcast, however, we also talk about her music influences, education and musicianship.

As a solo artist, Michelle devotes much of her craft to writing for film and TV, and the rest to recording, performing, writing and teaching music. She plays guitar, ukulele, banjo ukulele and of course sings. All of this, and she claims she didn’t have much formal education. That depends on your definition of formal. In reality, she’s taken a number college courses and private instruction lessons. When I asked how she got into educating others on the business of music licensing, she took me back to a time when she created a customer education platform to help deal with recurring questions for the biotech industry. As she gained knowledge and expertise in licensing, she started getting questions and meeting requests from musicians curious to learn what she could share with them. This lead to an idea for a workshop, which eventually lead to online courses where she’s applied much of what she learned in setting up education systems during her stint in biotech.

Her work for film and TV requires a broad stylistic range, which for Michelle means going from acoustic folk-indie to electric alt rock, from sad and dark to happy. As we discussed her early music influences, she talks about music on TV. I wondered if she’s made the connection between those early years of interest and where she’s now focusing her career. She also shares that the biggest factor in her music career path was nurtured by a community called Taxi Music, where she took workshops, learned about the artist side of the music business, and ultimately about writing for film and TV. She’s establishing herself within the educator community as a leader and mentor to others, partnering with the likes of Bree Noble, who was featured in episode 17 of this podcast.

If music licensing is a topic of interest for you, you’ll enjoy this episode.

Licensing Songs Academy
John Lennon Song Contest
Taxi Music
Episode 17 with Bree Noble


Robert Berry on Greg Kihn, Jason Bonham, Session Work, the Business and Serving Others

Roberto Berry, Owner at Sound Tek Studios, Composer, Producer, Arranger, Vocalist, Multi-Instrumentalist

Robert Berry’s resume includes work with The Greg Kihn Band, Ambrosia, Carl Palmer, Keith Emerson, Sammy Hagar, Jason Bonham, Steve Howe, members of Boston, and Night Ranger. He’s passionate about his classic rock holiday band December People, which does community service through food bank donations. He owns and operates Sound Tek Studios in Campbell California, which dramatically expands his resume. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, performer, composer, arranger, recording engineer, and producer. He’s also incredibly humble. He was recommended to me by a mutual friend, one George Brandau of Chrome Deluxe, a San Jose based quartet that plays what I like to call boogie woogie blues rock.

Robert was born in San Jose, went to school at San Jose State University, and lives and works his studio magic in nearby Campbell. He’s had a great career that spans several trends and changes within the music business. Our conversation touches on his music beginnings in San Jose, where a host of good people began to shape his life. The stories he shares are entertaining, sentimental and at times dramatic.

His aforementioned humility really shines when he talks about his music education, a fascinating aspect of which is that he never thought of himself as a very good musician. He started on piano at a very young age, but recalls hating it. He majored to be a music teacher, one of his many backup plans. Although he learned many instruments in college, he doesn’t reflect on his playing as all that proficient. He even goes so far as to say he was a lousy student. He reflects on his early years as a musician in a self-deprecating way, yet his stories reveal a pattern of others taking notice of his skills. As we spoke, I got a sense that it wasn’t just his musicality that people took notice of; I suspect people took notice of his giving personality. At times, he comes across as a bit puzzled by it all, but acknowledges that he’s always tried to deliver lots of value to his bandmates, clients and collaborators.

Today he’ll tell you that he’s all about the bass (and drums). He feels that if the bass and drums are tight, so goes everything else. His studio, which I hope to tour in my upcoming visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, is apparently a museum of instruments and recording technology. Among the collectables are 130 guitars, several amps, synthesizers, and other studio gadgetry. He attributes this collection to the fact that his dad owned a music store. That being said, Robert recalls that he had to pay for all the gear he acquired, despite the family music store. I think he appreciates it as part of his father’s legacy. His dad made him work hard to pay for every piece of gear he acquired in those early years. I actually love this part of our conversation, because it’s as though Robert doesn’t realize to this day that his father had devised a clever motivation game in finding work that helped Robert earn almost enough money for that next piece of gear.

At Sound Tek Studios, he does sessions Monday through Friday, arranging, producing, engineering, and playing parts for clients. He currently plays bass and sings with Greg Kihn, referring to him as the greatest and warmest person he’s ever worked with. Together, Berry says, he and Kihn are filled with ideas. Our conversations about Kihn go pretty deep. Robert also shares his perspective on the music business and the many changes therein. In spite of it all, he seems genuinely happy doing what he does. Frankly, he sounds like he’s on top of the world, catering to studio clients on a Monday through Friday daytime basis, and touring with Greg Kihn. It’s clearly given him much appreciation for others who truly love what they do, something I found to be one of his endearing qualities.

On the marketing side, Robert says (and I paraphrase), “You at least have to go out and act like you’re better than anyone else. People want to live vicariously.” I gathered this is something he’s not personally comfortable doing, but that he admires those who do it well.  While he seems to think that a bit of this rock star narcissism would have served his career, he has clearly done quite well on a philosophy of giving more and serving others.

Show Notes

The Greg Kihn Band
Robert on Facebook
Sound Tek Studios
December People
Aiden Hatfield, In Music We Trust
Chrome Deluxe

Looking for more gigs? Check out my book The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs to learn the methods and tactics I used to play as often as I wanted, with people I admired and respected.

Alyssa Trahan on Recording, Sponsorships, Merchandising, Marketing, and Getting to Nashville

Also available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

In this episode, I chat with Nashville based country singer songwriter Alyssa Trahan. She and I were introduced by another Nashville singer songwriter, Mira Goto (episode 13). I must admit that I’m blown away by how much Alyssa has accomplished, and by the amount of expertise she’s amassed at the young age of 22. She’s driven, smart, and talented. I suspect she’s going to do big things in country music, despite the droves of talented people with whom she’s forced to compete.

Alyssa Trahan, Country singer songwriter, producer, sound engineer, multi instrumentalist, Breedlove Guitar artist

I got to some firsts in terms of topics for the podcast, including sponsorships and an enlightening perspective on gigging in and around Nashville. We also touch on her endorsement with Breedlove Guitars. In some regards Alyssa’s not doing anything incredibly unique where the business of her music is concerned. She is, however, very methodical and thoughtful in the way she’s getting things done. As you listen to our conversation, you’ll hear what I mean.

Alyssa shares her story on getting to Nashville from her home in New York, a journey that began with a cleverly orchestrated family vacation. She also explains how her visits went from vacation to business, and why she knew she’d live there someday. She recorded and co-produced her latest single Pickle Jar at Sound Emporium in Nashville, but not in its entirety. In fact, after recording it she took the track home, edited it, recorded vocals, sent it off for mastering, and approved the final mix. She’s been doing things this way since she was 16, and shared with me that her involvement in the recording process came about because of a bad studio experience long ago. While she did obtain a degree in audio engineering, she’s mostly self taught.

We backed into the topic of sponsorships when I asked about Yummies coffee (my research told me that she was a big fan). The coffee comes from Yummies Frozen Yogurt, who sponsored Alyssa’s Over You video. This was her first sponsorship, and it all happened because of her relationship with Yummies as a customer and friend. It was also a first for Yummies. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Alyssa also scripted the video, with a list of shots and props, showed Yummies what she needed, and then simply asked what they’d be comfortable with. Check out the video below to see the end result.

Judging from our conversation, Alyssa’s music business network has been a valuable resource. She was very gracious in sharing her knowledge during this interview, and I suspect she’s very much as gracious in paying it forward to her circle of friends.

We also talk about her recent GoFundMe campaign, merchandising, her views on marketing, income streams, why she doesn’t gig much in Nashville proper, and lessons she’s learned from the music business. She refers to the business as a beautiful struggle, and sees it as a triangle of Talent, Passion and Money.

Please enjoy my conversation with this all-around music entrepreneur.

Show Notes

Mira Goto, Episode 12
Jane Bach
Pickle Jar on Spotify
Sound Emporium
Pro Tools
Yummies Frozen Yogurt
Breedlove Guitars
Over You
music video
Hoselton Chevrolet 
The Unstarving Musician Resource Page

Looking for more gigs? Check out my book The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs to learn the methods and tactics I used to play as often as I wanted, with people I admired and respected.

Bree Noble on Women of Substance Radio, Going Pro and Making Money

Bree Noble, Indie artist, songwriter, Founder Women of Substance Radio & Podcast, and Female Entrepreneur Musician

Also available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

Bree Noble and I were introduced to one another by super-connector D Grant Smith of Appetizer Radio Show, who is featured in episode 5 of this podcast. Man am I thankful for the introduction.

The phrase “value bombs” comes to mind when describing this episode, because Bree is a value bomber. She’s also an advocate for female music entrepreneurs.

Following an indie career filled with life lessons, Bree founded Women of Substance Radio, The Women of Substance Podcast and a platform she calls Female Entrepreneur Musicians, all focused on, you guessed it, female music entrepreneurs. In spite of primarily catering to women, she did allow me to sneak into one of her online courses recently. She assumed I was doing research for this interview–I was. The content was Facebook Ads training, which she did via Facebook Live. She’s definitely hip to social.

There’s a twist of irony in her story. Bree had a point in her music journey where she wanted to go pro, but felt she hadn’t a clue as to how to make it happen. She fell back on her business education, went about a career in accounting and finance, joined a few bands in her spare time, and hit a wall (musically). In frustration, she started her own band. Then one day, it dawned on her that she needed to treat her music like a business. This is, I suspect, the pivotal moment that lead her to her present day work.

In our conversation, we talk about that pivotal moment, her radio station, podcasts (plural), podcasting, house concerts, doing your thing as an indie artist with or without a band, business, marketing, performance venues uniquely for women, and much more.

Show Notes

Looking for more gigs? Check out my book The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs to learn the methods and tactics I used to play as often as I wanted, with people I admired and respected.

Bill Lonero on The Defiant Machine, History, Music Licensing, Songwriting, and Sleeping 8 Hours

His band’s latest album The Defiant Machine was recently recognized by Guitar Player Magazine as one of the most noteworthy albums of the last 50 years. I’m talking about my new friend Bill Lonero. His band LoNero has also become known for creating the genre Guitar Core, which is a special brand of instrumental music that has a metal edge. Bill is also the founder of Straptight, a company that has innovated the concept of strap locks for guitar players.

Bill Lonero, Guitarist, LoNero, Founder at Straptight, Guitar Core

Our discussion traverses several topics, including but not limited to, Bill’s views on history, roots and influences, how bread-ties became the basis for a new business idea, music licensing, fan appreciation, where the music industry and many musicians “get it wrong,” songwriting, getting ripped off, getting 8 hours of sleep every night, the politics of music, and fun stories about Joe Satriani and Michael Burry, both of whom are among Bill’s friends.

Bill has amassed a wealth of experience during challenging times in the music business, and he shares his valuable insights in this episode. I took some great notes, and hope you will too.

Also available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

Show Notes

Looking for more gigs, check out my book The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs to learn the methods and tactics I used to play as often as I wanted, with people I admired and respected.

UMP-15 Lee Oskar on His Lowrider Band, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Jimi Hendrix, Lee Oskar Harmonicas

Lee Oskar, Lee Oskar Harmonicas, Low Rider BandBorn in Denmark, Lee recalls one of his earliest influences being the Crying Time album by Ray Charles.  He found his way to New York at age 18 to pursue a career in music, and eventually found his way to LA where people took quick notice of his unique skills as a harmonica player. This is about the time he met one Eric Burdon who went on to be his bandmate in a little funk rock fusion ensemble called War. The ensuing string of hits include “Spill the Wine”, “The World Is a Ghetto”, “The Cisco Kid”, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, and “Low Rider.” Lee also has an impressive body of solo recordings.

Also available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

In the late 70’s Lee began working on what would become Lee Oskar Harmonicas, out of frustration with the subpar harps available to him at the time. Lee has always seen the harp as not just an instrument, but as his voice. Naturally, subpar harmonicas were a big problem. What better reason to get into the business of designing and manufacturing world class harmonicas?

Our conversation is wide ranging, traversing mutual acquaintances, early influences, War, gigs at Ronnie Scott’s famed Jazz club, jamming with Jimi Hendrix, business, following your heart, believing in oneself, persistence, hype and a lot more.

I recommend you grab a pen and notepad, because you’re about to hear a voice of true wisdom and unique experience. Please enjoy my conversation with the gifted Lee Oskar.

Show Notes

Looking for more gigs, check out my book The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs to learn the methods and tactics I used to play as often as I wanted, with people I admired and respected.