How do you gather 30 plus music producers and artists to host a song camp over 2 days in the era of isolation? You do it virtually. This interview is a dive into the challenges, the solutions as well as the unexpected insights and learning that happens when you are forced to get creative in new ways.
After the world said stay home, this team went into action, researched and solved many of the technical and creative challenges, and put together a camp with more than 30 writers and producers from all over the world. The success of the first two has spawned more with the next one scheduled to host over 40 collaborators. I recently had conversation with these three close industry colleagues who had just come off hosting a successful virtual song camp. I wanted to learn about how they pulled it off and what they learned from the process. I also wanted to dive deeper into the collaborative process, the challenges as well as a the victories. As I quickly found out, the unexpected benefit in all their efforts was the collective sigh of relief that came from this huge community of creators knowing that collaborating on music at a high level would continue in an era of social isolation. For the individual creators it was proof enough that virtual collaboration at this scale was not only possible but could deliver quality results that you’d expect.
What is a Song Camp?
A Song camp or writers camp is a staple in the music industry creative process where a selected group of industry writers and producers gather over a day or more to collaborate with a specific intention. These camps harness the energy and creative force that can be produced when talent from all over converge on a single location for a short period of time with a singular mission of creating song magic usually for a specific artist or purpose. The benefits of these short term bursts of intense creativity by bringing a bunch of talented artists together in one place, are well documented. Song camps are a shining example of creative collaboration in practice and something synonymous with the music industry as a whole. Because of how successful song camps are along with how efficient and productive it tends to be, labels, publishers, and music production companies hold them often. But what happens when you can no longer gather in person with government lockdowns in place around the world?
The Creator's Insights
- Musical inspiration and creativity is heightened when you are travelling to new places and new environments - when you are meeting new people and getting inspired by novel conversation and perspectives. Thriving music communities physical or digital are still about congregating, collaborating and sharing. Great work happens in a collective effort.
- Technology can be anxiety inducing especially for those artists who aren't tech savvy. In an physical world less savvy creators can rely on those in the room that have tech chops. In a remote or digital world, relieving the technical anxiety is a huge piece of the puzzle that gives artists the freedom to create and let ideas flow. Many artists have the fear that their technical setup isn't good enough. Half the battle of a virtual song camp is getting people comfortable with the medium and having someone there to virtually set them up so they didn't have to worry that themselves. - Eliminating technology as a limiting factor.
- Do your homework - Remote collaboration isn't really a process that you can walk into without doing some homework and coming prepared. It excels when you come together with something that's ready to be worked on together even if it's a simple idea that a group can latch onto immediately.
- Don't try and power through long sessions - Unlike physical sessions, remote ones should happen in bursts of 60-90 minutes. You can't slog it out all day on a video call. It's been shown that video calls are real energy drains. You can't try and go form the beginning to end for 5 hours on a Zoom call. It's a tactic that should still be employed when we return to sharing space. Creative bursts with breaks to recharge. Science has backed this methodology for focused work.
- Not everyone is going to become a bedroom artist after this. It's still reserved for those who feel comfortable in their home environment. Many can't wait to be back in a professional setting.
- Realtime collaboration that is latency free isn't here despite what some companies will lead yo to believe. The truth of the matter is that it likely never will be unless we solve time travel! But there are things we can do in "near real time" that can still happen in virtual environments. Software used: SourceConnect, SourceLive, Team Viewer, Zoom
BIG TAKEAWAY: Preparation is the Key
You can prepare enough. Be ready to go and focus your creativity for short bursts. Think about your collaboration schedule and session schedule with this lens. How would you rearrange sessions with this in mind? Don't leave your valuable energy and potential at the mercy of a chance idea in an 8 hour day. Plan it and 10X your creative output.