What is Music Design anyway? It’s pretty complex, but I’ll do my best to give you my perspective. In order to do that, I’ll need to tell you about how I ended up here in the first place!
I have been singing my whole life. From church to school choir to various bands, music is my gift and passion. In college, I received my degree in audio engineering, eventually landing a job at one of the oldest recording studios in the United States, Sugar Hill Recording Studios. It was previously named Gold Star Recording Studios, where Freddy Fender, the Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Willie Nelson had recorded. During my time working at the editing and mastering suite, I cut my teeth working on local punk and indie records. It was not as common to see women producers or engineers at the time, so I definitely learned a lot of hard lessons about the music industry. Eventually, I decided to pursue singing and music by moving to Austin, but I sang in a bunch of projects that went nowhere. Finding your voice and forging your path can be daunting when you are constantly told what you can or cannot accomplish as a woman literally everyday. I even had one of my mentors tell me that I couldn’t be a singer, DJ, AND a producer – that I’d have to choose one. I honestly don’t know how I persevered, but the voice in my heart kept telling me to continue.
During this time, I waited a lot of tables and worked so many weird jobs – getting discouraged with every paycheck. I also lost my parents within five years of each other. I lost a relationship. I lost friends. All these things just made me stronger. Then I lost a job, and that ended up being the best thing to ever happen to me. Sometimes, when you fall off your path, the Universe has a way of letting you know you are going the wrong way. I took a chance and went with a friend to a KOOP volunteer meeting. KOOP 91.7FM is one of the only cooperative radio stations in the US. I had the time and thought it would be a great way to use the skills I developed in college…why not? For five years, I created and produced my own program, Beats of Burden, focusing on “todos los ritmos Latinos”: mambo, salsa, cumbia, hip hop, electrocumbia y mucho más. I was also playing in a couple of Latin bands at the time: La Vida Buena ATX, a nine-piece salsa-hip hop fusion group, and Bidi Bidi Banda, a Selena tribute band. These all set me up to meet and coordinate interviews with so many amazing artists from all over the world. I also started DJing around town. Being a radio DJ is completely different from DJing in venues, where you have to read your crowd and get the setting and the vibe right – I became known for my ability to get the party started. Eventually becoming too busy to juggle all of my different hats (I think I literally had five different jobs at one point), I retired from KOOP and continue to DJ and create.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because all of that experience has prepared me for my job here at Mood. There is no doubt in my mind that I am the perfect fit for this job. As a Music Designer, my job is made up of many detail-oriented tasks for which my whole life has prepared me. My specialty being in Latin music, my job sometimes consists of rating music. This is similar to FCC ratings for radio: nothing explicit, few innuendos etc., as most retailers want to appeal to a broad audience and not offend them. With reggaeton having its year on the charts, you can imagine the time it takes to translate and rate each track in our Latin Hits program. Other times, being a Music Designer consists of recommending Core Programs (check out our music samples!) for Latin American affiliates. Without being able to visit the actual space, I take into account the prospective client, their website, the type of business it is, and its demographic and make my best recommendations based on information given to me. I also make content requests for music for certain programs. I try to choose music that has the most versatility, on labels that already have licensing agreements in place. Music programming is also predicting what tracks will be hits or have the potential to chart. My radio background really helps in this matter. In addition to maintaining some of the Core Programs, I also create and maintain custom music for a variety of clients. Since I oversee most of the Latin music programs, many of my clients are Mexican restaurants and Latin American retailers. I am constantly going through the music submissions that arrive in my inbox and filtering out what I can or cannot use. My audio engineering background helps me listen critically to the quality of a track. My retail and restaurant background help me decipher whether or not a track would be good for a particular setting. I also collaborate with my co-workers, as each Music Designer has their own specialty in jazz, country, indie, rap, world – it’s really wild if you think about it. Fortunately, we have a licensing department that helps artists get licensed with Mood, as, without proper licensing, you cannot play songs “on premise” in a retail setting. If I had to be in charge of that too, my head would explode. I’m grateful for each cog in the Mood Media wheel that allows us to service our clients to the best of our abilities.
As you can see, I was being prepared for this job my whole life and wasn’t even aware. That is the long-short version of what Music Design is. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what we are all doing over there with our headphones on. Sometimes the path is unclear, but if you keep the faith and have passion, you might take a turn and find that you can do what you love and make a living at it.
– Submitted by Vanessa Burden, Music Design