In the evolving and ever-changing music business, the one thing that still remains constant and the common thread shared among this award-winning producer panel is integrity in the music and art, as well as serving the artists. This past Saturday at the AES Convention, music industry executives and professionals gathered for the Grammy SoundTables producer panel on "Songs that Move the Needle," featuring Alex Da Kid, Don Was, Michael Brauer, Niko Bolas, No I.D., moderated by Ed Cherney.
The panel kicked off with award-winning producer and engineer Cherney, reflecting on what brought him into this business in the first place despite its hardships with declining record sales. "I love music and would have worked for free just to be near the music and in the studio. I dedicated myself to be open, honest, giving, and have integrity and serve the artist," said Cherney.
Grammy award-winning producer Alex Da Kid shared his musical journey that started in London with his professional training as a football player that influenced and impacted his transformation music recording.
"It taught me how to put your all into something," said Da Kid. "I thought my life was laid out in front of me and then I fell out of love."
During a challenging time for Alex, his friend gifted him with the digital music editing software Fruity Loops that changed his life forever and ignited his musical journey to becoming a musical genius of our generation discovering talent that moves today's culture from Imagine Dragons, Skylar Gray, X Ambassadors, Jamie N Commons and Candice Pillay.
"This program taught me how music was constructed and changed the way I perceived music," said Da Kid.
He later decided to pursue a degree in music "just to be around and closer to the people doing it." It is obvious this is his life's calling and now he's broadening his business from being a record label owner of KIDinaKORNER, publisher, songwriter and producer, to film, TV, digital, technology to create a new platform for music and artist development that helps build fan bases and a direct to consumer platform.
"I want to wake up every morning and be inspired - I am grateful to have complete creative freedom every day is different for me since I have so many interests."
Da Kid shared his process in developing the hit song "Radioactive" with Imagine Dragons that remained on the top Billboard charts for 80 weeks.
"There are no boundaries anymore and that's what is exciting to me," said Da Kid. "We broke the song at alternative - at first no one really got it - we took rock and gave it a twist and added a hip hop element to it."
No I.D.'s musical lens was shaped by his environment and upbringing in Chicago.
"I see music through a life culture perspective - whether negative or positive - the rich history in Chicago made me a student of music early on, more than a creator. I don't think if I grew up anywhere else I would have the same perspective."
No I.D. started off as a house music DJ. "Being a DJ artist, produced musician, tech geek and loving the study gives me perspective to keep reinventing myself. It frees me up to apply what I learned and not be boxed into what I should do."
When asked about being Kanye West's mentor, a nickname he received over the years, he shared that it wasn't his intention and goal. "Where we grew up, there were no outlets to learn. I was his outlet and a male figure to bounce off creative ideas and other life and music discussions.
For No I.D., sharing knowledge and learnings from life experience is key. "What you pass down from what you know is better for your legacy than what you do for yourself."
Blue Note President Don Was also shared his insight wearing both hats on producing and running the label where he's worked with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Norah Jones.
"Everyone's got their own way of doing this - what brings me the most joy is working with artist who have a strong vision and are eloquent in how they express it musically," said Was. "I like to create a situation to make them feel comfortable and loosen them up."
Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones growing up, Was later had the honor of working with his childhood music idols.
"I learned a lot from them," said Was. "When you create music that helps people make sense and gets them through their own lives, it's a beautiful feeling. I feel responsible to help artists make records they want in a climate where selling tracks to consumers is no longer a viable business."