Behind the Scenes at Starting Ground Byron Bay with Athol Munro

Wednesday, 13 Apr 2016

The Starting Ground workshops were developed by APRA AMCOS to build the skills of Aboriginal musicians in NSW. The first two-day workshop took place in Tamworth in November 2015 and was followed by a workshop in Byron Bay in March 2016.  

Aspiring music producer Athol Munro (pictured with Magoo) headed to Starting Ground Byron Bay from his home town of Tamworth to build on his music creation and business skills and learn from some of his heroes. Athol kept a diary for us to share what he learned at the workshop.

Athol Munro’s Starting Ground Diary

Byron Bay, March 9-10 2016

Day 1 

So I get 8 hours' sleep, which is so different to what I usually get. I feel fresh and, this being my first day in Byron, I feel awesome!

The day starts with a great breakfast with awesome company – Michael Hutchings from APRA AMCOS, Leah Flanagan, and a cheeky kookaburra that just wants food and will eat it off the plate.  

When we arrive at SAE, we find Fred Leone and Craig Spann wandering around. We walk through a door into what looks like a house but turns out to be the old Studios 301.

While the others get planning, I check out the awesome studio we will be using for the next two days.  SSL Duality Mixing Desk, Genelec and Neumann Reference Monitors, awesome outboard gear and a big 61 Key Nord Synthesizer! Wowzer! 

Band and artist management
We introduce ourselves and talk about where we’re from and what music we make. There are so many awesome musos in the group, and I enjoy listening to other people’s influences and why they love music.

Craig and Michael then talk about band management, high level goal setting and why we as musos need a plan. Craig has an awesome bit of advice: “Don’t be a d…”

Next we talk about how to be a self-managed artist. The session is lead by both Leah and Fred aka Rival MC. They talk about how they got started in music, their struggles and also offer great advice that will be cemented in my thoughts. This is a very powerful session.

Live, touring and getting gigs
In this session, we talk about how to get a gig and starting out. It covers how to approach local venues, where to play, how important it is to have a demo or songs online and how important it is to play with and surround yourself with like-minded musicians.

We also talk about touring - where to go, the power of AMRAP, and even how couch swapping can be used to get more gigs in other places! Very reciprocal.

How to get played on the radio? That is the question!

We talk about how to get your song on radio, when your song is ready for radio, what it should be backed up with and also the range of radio stations around Australia. Your song could be picked up by someone in Broome, then BAM, you have a following and a possible place for gigs! It opens my eyes to the possibilities.

Then it’s lunch time and Magoo walks in. I’m in awe. I recognise him from Band in a Box on Channel [V] with Regurgitator back in the early 00’s…..Wow!

Production Session
This is what I’m talking about, this is what I spend most of my time on and I’m getting ready to soak it all in. 

Magoo talks about how he got started, mixing live for bands like Powderfinger and Regurgitator, before they were Regurgitator. He talks about his techniques, what he does, what he looks for and why he mixes his own productions.

He mainly uses Pro Tools to produce artists, and I find this quite interesting given that I’m a Logic Pro X user and very new to Pro Tools. We break into two groups and I decide to stay with Fred and the hip hop cats because I’m an undercover OG!!!

Magoo had stressed that the quality between recording in home studios compared to big $900 a day studios is getting closer, and with that in mind, we begin creating songs!

We start with an awesome beat and a subject. I write some rhymes down. I finish first, meaning I have to record vocals first! Vocals done, I listen back. I don’t like my voice, but I now get to sit back and watch Fred and Magoo do their thing.

I watch in amazement. The talent that we have in our groups, wow!

We finish both songs by 6pm. Where did the time go?

Day 2 

Day 2 begins just how Day 1 started. Early! Breakfast with everyone, this time Fred, Magoo, Kahl Wallis and Craig join me, Leah, Michael and the cheeky kookaburra (pictured with Magoo) for the most important meal of the day!

We are greeted by Kahl Wallis, lead singer of The Medics. You might have heard of them?!

Kahl talked about growing up in Cairns and not having much of a scene, but making do with the limited resources they had. In return they had a little bit (cough) of success and moved to Brisbane to pursue a music career as a band. What an awesome story.

Kahl, Leah and Fred then share some songs. They are so freakin awesome and very well written. They talk about their inspiration for songs, composition, arrangements, melodies, lyrics and beats. So much info, but very sound advice. My book is so heavy from notes now!

Copyright, royalties and APRA AMCOS
Now we get to the business end. We talk about copyright, royalties, APRA AMCOS Performance Reports, how royalties work, syncing and masters.

Marketing and promotion
What is marketing and what is promotion? We look at the difference between the two and how they work. This session is awesome, and also covers how to build an audience through social media, web pages, email lists, DIY and also how to make yourself stand out.

Record labels and publishing
We talk about labels, publishing deals and companies, when to look for a label and why, the pros and cons and the differences between indies and majors as well as self-releasing. We also have a great discussion about the future of music.

I do a lot of note taking – there’s been so much content over the last two days, but so much valuable information! Once Fred and Magoo finish mixing the music, it’s an emotional farewell – well for me anyway. They are probably glad to get away from my constant questions and quick wit (not that I blame them ha ha!)

I had an awesome time meeting new people and learning heaps from Fred (my brother!), Magoo (my hero), Leah, Craig, Kahl and Michael ‘the man’ Hutchings.

I am truly grateful for the experience and encourage anybody who loves music to attend these awesome workshops.

Peace out, ya boi, Athol Munro :)

Athol Munro

Athol Munro is a producer and artist from Tamworth, NSW who is passionate about collaboration and helping others realise their musical vision. 

He spent his teenage years in Belconnen, Canberra playing in punk rock bands, and taught himself drums, guitar and bass. But Athol isn’t a one genre man – he grew up listening to hip hop and 90s RnB, and loves working with artists from across the musical spectrum, including bands, rap groups and MCs.

Always found with a pen and notepad in hand, he is constantly writing songs, creating rhymes and making beats.  Athol is in it for the love of music, and always open to new projects and collaborations.

Tags: aprap
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