Noah Shilkin is Vice President of WAM, Western Australia’s state music body, as well as a musician, music producer and all-around music biz whiz. Having lived and worked for many years in North America, Noah’s beautiful property on the Margaret River now doubles as a haven for his music company, Sonic Lolly, and affords him something of a retreat from the rat race of capital cities. Read on below for a week in Noah’s life, including how he deals with a last-minute composition request, and a day in the studio lost to a power outage!
(An Attempt At A) Job Description
I think if I were to truly analyze my job description and attempt to give it a title, it would be “Music Business Survivor”. My official title, however, is Founder and Creative Director of Sonic Lolly.
Sonic Lolly is a music production, composition, recording, licensing, supervision and publishing company located in Margaret River, Western Australia. I began my career performing and writing in Australia, but ‘turns of events’ led me to North America, where I spent twenty-three years of my professional career. My time was divided between Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto.
I returned home about seven years ago and decided to ‘decentralize’ and live semi-rurally. All very good for a young family. On a daily basis, I test the theory that one can live outside major urban centers, yet still participate in the global music business. This was certainly not possible ten years ago.
Sonic Lolly is situated on eight acres just outside Margaret River, where we run a residential recording studio and retreat. These days, first and foremost, I am a record producer. I make singles, EPs and albums for an amazing array of original music artists (no genre limitations here).
The model here at Sonic Lolly works extremely well – the artists stay with me so the work can be extremely focused. The environment is beautiful and inspiring, and works very well to keep all involved focused and inspired.
Still firmly involved in composition, I selectively write and produce music for film, television and advertising. A lot of my time is also spent trying to place music that I have produced or been involved with in film, television or advertising projects. This is an ongoing process on the global stage, and includes traveling internationally to promote and sell the music.
In this age of diversity, I also spend my time mentoring emerging artists, being Vice President of the WAM (Western Australian Music) Board, Chairing The Creative Corner (a South West think tank of professionals working in the creative industries) that runs the annual Emergence Creative Festival (now in its fourth year).
To keep it all real, methinks, I still go out and play music! It is very fortunate that in the region where I live, there are many opportunities to perform. I do the ‘piano man’ thing – sing and play my silly songs!
The most important thing, however, is my family, and in amongst everything I do professionally, I try to maintain a balance that affords me the opportunity to be a ‘family guy’.
Every Week Is Different.
No two weeks are alike in my world. Here is a brief breakdown of what happened last week.
I won’t discuss all the other fun stuff, like school pick-ups and drop-offs, soccer training, karate classes, homework, chicken feeding, wood chopping and yummy dinners…
The morning was spent on the phone and on emails. I am traveling to Canada and the US for the month of September. This trip will include moderating some panels at the Break Out West Music conference in Victoria, British Columbia, meeting with music business luminaries in Vancouver, and then heading to Los Angeles for a series of meetings in the publishing, music supervision and licensing world. A lot to organize.
Spent time learning tracks to play bass as a fill-in for a local funk band – I’m primarily a keyboard player, so a good and fun challenge.
I mentor a primary school pop-rock band, so had my weekly rehearsal with the kids. Always lots of fun – a seven piece band at the very beginning of their musical journey. The primary school in Margaret River has a most fantastic music program, and the five bands all get to showcase at Settlers Tavern twice a year. Big thrill for the kids to play on a professional stage, with professional production, in a venue where all the major mid-level touring acts perform.
Ended the day with a rehearsal with the funk band.
More emails and phone calls. Usually that’s how my day starts.
Into the studio for the rest of the day. Working on final mix tweaks on an album for a singer-songwriter. It’s been a great project spanning several months. This is his fifth album, and we have attempted to take his music off in some different directions. We are in the final stages, and are responding to some requests from the mastering engineer and the artist himself. This project has had the luxury of time, so we have taken it and been healthily obsessive!
The evening was spent in pre-production rehearsals with a fabulous punk/hardcore band.
We are working on selecting two tracks from their repertoire and arranging them for a weekend of recording later in August. Previously, the band has only done ‘live off the floor/get what you get in a day’ recordings. We’re attempting to take a different approach and improve the quality and impact of their product. Banging!
Same start to the day – into the studio to crank up the machines and begin the communications! This morning was a major conference call with the people I am working with on my TV show. Did I mention I’m developing a music-based TV show? Can’t talk about it right now but pretty excited. Working hard to get it off the ground. I think it will be a fabulous way of helping singer-songwriters. Watch this space.
Reviewed some documents in my role with WAM. Discussions with the WAM CEO about some licensing models and programs we have been working on as an organization.
Back in the studio this afternoon to do some more mix work on the album from Tuesday.
Another rehearsal with the funk band in the evening. Just a quickie. I guess they want to be good, hehe!
Same start as the other days – phone and emails.
Big day today doing final mix tweaks on that album. Artist will be with me all day in the studio. I think we’re almost there! A most enjoyable way to spend the day.
Oh dear! It’s 5:30pm and I just took a call from an agency/company who has a television commercial scheduled to air on Monday, and they’re not happy with the music. Flattered to be asked to write something. Pretty tight deadline, I must say.
Spent the evening writing and recording the music for the commercial. I love a challenge – both creatively and chronologically. Will present tomorrow.
Here’s the reality of living in a beautiful place semi-rurally. I’d forgotten that the power company needed to do maintenance today. I will be without power at the house/studio from 8:30am – 3pm. Off into town to my favorite coffee shop with my phone and iPad. The show must go on. Lots of calls and emails……and yummy coffee. I had dessert, too!
3pm and I’m back at the studio for the presentation of music for the TV commercial. Have sent the tracks, and will do the presentation/analysis/critique via Skype.
The planets aligned – they liked what I wrote. Now, the scramble to get the tracks/edits off to the video production people. We’ll make the deadline and hit the airwaves Monday. I love it when it happens like this – believe me, it doesn’t always go this smooth.
Will take Friday evening off – maybe make a nice dinner and watch a movie with the kids.
Well, that was last week. I see every day as a work day, though. Saturday I will still be responding to emails – in fact, I am always online and checking to see what responses/requests etc I am receiving. Perhaps it is that kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior that has afforded me the opportunity to continue to work in the business I love. I often joke and say I have all the correct personality disorders to fill a CV necessary to work in this industry. Sunday I will play the gig with the funk band…on bass…yikes!
Highlights & Lowlights
I think I am very fortunate – most of my weeks are filled with highlights. I don’t dwell on setbacks. I don’t have a boss (although in the words of Bob Dylan, “You’ve always got to serve somebody“). I love where I live, I have a healthy, loving and supportive family, and I’m still firmly in the game. That being said, I work my arse off, and my work week is seven days.
I still have lots and lots of things I want to achieve professionally. I haven’t won a Grammy yet, or had a Billboard Top 20 – bucket list stuff!
Words of Wisdom
Be on time. Do what you say you are going to do when you say you’re going to do it.
Be kind. If you’re a songwriter – write continually. Even though you love what you do, it’s a job, and approach it with that kind of discipline. Through the ultimate discipline comes the ultimate freedom. Practice. Practice more. Be truthful and honest with yourself and everyone – there are no exceptions. Be involved in the world around you and care about it and all of its people. Read. Read more. Be prepared to reiterate. Listen. Listen lots. Human beings and their talent, ingenuity, passion and persistence make excellent music – not equipment. Don’t believe in luck. Have fun. Have something to say. Laugh a lot.
If you’re ever in Margaret River, pop in and say hello.