SongHubs 2018: who, what, when, where and how to make a hit

Friday, 16 Nov 2018

G Flip at SongHubs The Tower at Studios 301 (photo by Belinda Hedges)

It's one of music's most elusive questions: how do songs get written? It’s a frequently asked, hard to answer question that journalists, fans and even songwriters ponder.  

If you have just one word to answer it with in 2018, it would be collaboration.

APRA AMCOS’ intensive songwriting residency program SongHubs is all about collaboration and also connecting Australian and New Zealand members to top international talent. Each day at SongHubs, the 'curator' - who also selects participants from the applicant pool -  decides on the day's different creative combinations and tasks the groups the same assignment: turn in a commercially-viable song by day's end. Here's how it works:

And, five years on since the very first SongHubs took place at producer Robert Conley's studio in Redfern, here's what all those days in the studio have delivered:

  • 55 SongHubs in 11 countries 
  • 400+ Australasian members have worked with over 200 internationals
  • 144 commercial releases
  • 700+ songs produced
  • $1.5 million in songwriting royalties for the collaborators of SongHubs releases
SongHubs opens up connections that can last a lifetime. Now is an exciting time to have SongHubs as it accelerates Aussie talent onto an international stage. - Phebe Starr, SongHubs LA 

THE PLACES

2018 has been an ambitious year. Twelve SongHubs in five countries, including partnering with the Bali Invitational and 50 Songs in 5 Days workshop. Top of the charts songwriters like Sarah Aarons have worked alongside up-and-comers like bassist Eddie Benjamin. The final SongHubs for the year and the 56th overall will be in São Paulo, the first to take place in Brazil. APRA AMCOS members coming along to work with some of Brazil's finest writers, producers and topliners are: Birdz, Jess Cornelius (pka Teeth & Tongue), Lila Gold, Chela, and Mitch Kenny, with Sounds Australia's Glenn Dickie curating.

Where else have we been in 2018? We held a SongHubs at SXSW before heading back to Sydney for the flagship undertaking that is ‘The Tower’ at Studios 301Then it was onward to SongHubs in London, this one on the heels of The Great Escape and held at APRA AMCOS’ UK work space at the legendary RAK Studios.

In July, we joined forces with Creative Victoria for SongHubs at Red Moon Studios in picturesque Gisborne South. Think hip-hop beats in the countryside, curated by Jan Skubiszewski. Go behind the scenes:

Auckland was the site for a SongHubs featuring all-star talent from Nashville, and months later an inspiring group of women came from all corners of the globe to the city for SongHubs Sphere.

Before BIGSOUND, songs were written and produced in the tranquil tropical Queensland enclave of Heliport Studios, an experience that was featured in-depth in Audio Technology Magazine.

And then, it was off to the USA, to hold back-to-back SongHubs in the cities where so many of our members are these days: Nashville and Los Angeles. Sydney songwriter Isabella Kearney-Nurse was chosen for the ‘Double SongHubs Experience’ and attended both, cranking out new songs for two weeks straight, "Songhubs is about the songs, but also about support and friendship from the music community," she said.

I actually co wrote three of my favourite songs I’ve ever written during the camp and they all have quite different vibes. I learnt so much about myself and so many new doors have been opened to future collaborations. - Rory Adams, SongHubs Nashville and 50 Songs in 5 Days

BIGSOUND at Heliport Studios - Bobby Rein

THE PEOPLE

Sometimes, a song is completed in a day at SongHubs and released shortly after - just ask Woodes who produced Change My Mind in Auckland earlier this year, Alex the Astronaut who co-wrote Waste of Time at RAK Studios with Jonathan Quarmby, or King IV who just released her SongHubs Victoria work Basic.

Sometimes, the connections and inspirations that began at SongHubs pay off a little later on, with NIKI of international pop collective 88rising recording Warpaint, written by Ainslie Wills, Bram Inscore and Jessica Nitties at The Tower 2017. It landed a major Air Asia sync

"The purpose of SongHubs always remains the same, and that is to foster new commercial work as well as collaborative opportunities for our members that go beyond the studio walls,’ says Milly Petriella, APRA AMCOS Director Member Relations and the driving force behind SongHubs.

Nat Dunn (SongHubs Nashville, 2016 and Stockholm 2016) is a go-to pop writer and performer these days. She co-wrote this year's Anne-Marie and Marshmello hit Friends and just wrapped the invitation-only Melbourne Hall Writing Camp (produced by Angus Murray of Headlights) outside of London.

“Opportunities like the Melbourne Hall Writing Camp are really one-of-a-kind and the novelty of writing songs in a beautiful manor house is not lost on me at all. I’ll be working hard to make everyone proud," said Dunn ahead of going into the camp alongside Jimmy Napes, Max Wolfgang, Ruth Anne and more.

The SongHubs program has provided me and many other APRA writers with opportunities that are near impossible to achieve on our own. - Nat Dunn

Tushar Apte was at this year's The Tower and LA, a loyal SongHubs alum. It all started for him at Toronto SongHubs in 2014, an opportunity that kept him in the business just when he was about to pack it in, a story he told The Industry Observer  on the release day of the ZAYN and Nicki Minaj track No Candle No Light that he co-wrote.

Tushar and Milly spoke with Cultural Pulse about his career trajectory and influences.

Morgan Evans currently has the top airplay track on the TMN Hot 100 Airplay chart with Day Drunk. It was a fateful 50 Songs in 5 Days in 2016 that brought Morgan together with Nashville producer Chris DeStefano and Josh Osborne, where the three wrote Kiss Somebody, which became a #1 US Country Radio airplay hit in August of this year.

The new faces that applied and came to SongHubs this year provide a veritable 'ones to watch' list for all the talent scouts out there: Mookhi, Rory Adams, Poppy Rose, Demi Louise, Bri Clark, Louis Baker to name a few. And established names like Ainslie Wills, Kite String Tangle, AB Original, Starley, Chris Collins, G Flip all came to collaborate on new works. The international guests included Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Warryn Campbell, Ariana Grande collaborator Tommy Brown, international pop wunderkinds The Orphanage, Nashville top gun David Hodges, and the UK's in-demand writer/performer Laura Bettinson aka FEMME, among many more.

Victoria at Red Moon Studios - Yana Amur

THE MORE SONGHUBS CHANGES...

Songwriting camps, residencies, workshops - what have you - have become a staple of the music industry, and they happen the world over, organised by different sectors - publishers, conferences, performing rights organisations, studios, management and more. New York Magazine's Vulture took a deep dive into the concept earlier this year.

It was such a dream to be a part of SongHubs, the best talent I've come across so far. It was such a stellar collection of people and I am so proud I got to take part in it. - Maize, SongHubs BIGSOUND and LA

It might be easier for Milly to call up international contacts these days compared to five years ago, “It was such a difficult ask to get people on a 15-hour flight,” as Milly told Audio Technology Magazine. “It was always a ‘no’.” But that's changed, which is testament to the reputation SongHubs has built over five years, and also to the growing stature of Australian and New Zealand songwriters on the global scene.

All of this only helps SongHubs to evolve -  the studios are more sophisticated, the settings more comfortable, the international guests are from music's top echelons. But here's what stays the same going into 2019: an open application process, the aim to foster new talent through songwriting and networking, expanding the opportunities for all SongHubs participants, and, of course, to bring amazing new songs into the world.

HOW TO APPLY

If you're an APRA AMCOS member and would like to receive invitations to upcoming SongHubs, please email songhubs@apra.com.au.

Please note the criteria for consideration:

Songwriters and composers eligible for consideration will have demonstrated:

  • Commercial success within the past two years
  • Keenness to collaborate with other established and high profile international songwriters and producers
  • Funded recordings scheduled for release within the 12 months preceding the SongHub
  • Genre suitability for the specific SongHubs and intended international market
  • Writing or producing for an international artist release (if the writer is not a performing artist)

Note: Applicants can only be selected for one fully-funded and one resident position per 18 month period. Applicants may apply for resident positions if they are not from the local area where SongHubs is being held, but if the applicant is successful, they must make their own travel and accommodation arrangements to attend.

SONGHUBS IN THE NEWS

Peruse the media archive from the past year, and get to know the SongHubs experience.

Mookhi documents her time at APRA AMCOS's London SongHubs workshop (Pilerats)
Go Behind The Scenes Of APRA's Regional Songwriting Camp With Woodes (The Music)
Move over Sia: how young Australian songwriters are making it big in LA (The Guardian)
Revealed: The Australian songwriter behind the Zayn ft. Nicki Minaj track (The Industry Observer)
APRA AMCOS’ Nashville Office Supports Rise As Australian Artists, Writers Find Nashville Success (Music Row)
Round ‘em up: The Australian stampede in Nashville is real (The Industry Observer)
It's time to collaborate, mate (Audio Technology Magazine)


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