Paul Brandoli Masterclass
Abbey Road Institute Melbourne regularly hosts masterclasses where we open up the campus to the wider community. We bring in the best artists, songwriters and audio engineers to talk about their craft and careers. Last month we had the pleasure of hosting Paul Brandoli, a master songwriter and top-liner, now based at acclaimed Studios 301 in Sydney. He has written for huge names such as Zeds Dead, NGHTMRE, Set Mo, Woodes and Timmy Trumpet, and an impressive list of charting tracks.
Below read our wrap-up of Paul’s Masterclass on the process of creating chart-topping singles – from vocalist production to royalties.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VOCALIST AND PRODUCER
“In my approach, I like to think I can bring something amazing out of vocalists that they may not be aware they can do. The most rewarding thing for me is helping already talented artists execute on-point studio performances even they didn’t even know they had in them.”
Paul’s main tip for aspiring top-liners and vocal producers was “the most important thing a producer has when recording an artist is trust, to make sure the vocalist feels comfortable and is giving [their] best performance”.
Paul went on to elaborate that soft skills are just as important for a top-liner – if not more important – than technical skills: “I always try to get the artist out of their comfort zone and make sure it’s the best possible performance”.
“We’re creating a vocal character for the top line, sometimes it’s challenging for a vocalist to sing lyrics or melodies they haven’t written and they’re guided somewhere they may not naturally go to… sometimes this is where the magic happens.”
He also made it clear that “transparency is of the utmost importance”, especially in top-lining situations: “Ideally, discuss songwriting splits and or master cuts at the end of the session (if applicable) and put it in writing, even in an email. [It’s also] a good idea to initially discuss if the topline and vocal are not going to be used, the writer should be free to take their melodic and lyrical contribution and use it elsewhere unencumbered. Include some kind of timeframe the top-line and vocal should be used in … this can be difficult as sometimes the process from creation to release can take years. Nothing moves forward until you receive the official green light from the label, management and artist.”
An imperative part of creating charting singles is vocal production. Paul also had some great tips for session vocalists and vocalists that are looking to get into the studio with a vocal producer:
“I love working with people that always want to better themselves,” he continued, “people that are always hungry.” Paul creates an environment of constant productivity and exploration, setting personal development at the highest level.
Paul gave examples of how to keep encouraging your vocalist’s energy high.“It is totally fine if you can’t nail the take in two hours! Just make sure you understand that this time leans more to vocal development than a standard vocal session, I love exploring both kind of sessions equally.”
MAKING A LIVING
Another important topic Paul covered for those pursuing a career in the music industry was making a living as a songwriter and top-liner. He really stressed the value of negotiating splits and royalties. “Everyone doesn’t think their song will blow up until it does, work under the assumption that it will, get into the habit of making sure everything is clear and everyone is on the same page”.
Possible income streams that we discussed were streaming, synching (licensing rights for music from ads, Netflix etc) and APRA AMCOS. APRA AMCOS is Australia’s music rights organisation representing over 100,000 members who are songwriters, composers and music publishers. They license organisations to play, perform, copy, record or make available their members’ music.
Paul says “Every writer should sign up for APRA (AMCOS) and master rights holders should also consider registering with PPCA, there are great resources available to Australian creatives”.