I’m departing a bit from my usual blog post format to encourage musicians and producers to invest in some valuable networking through Open Door Sessions (ODS), which are curated by founder Elaine Huang and her team at Neon Owl. The Neon Owl team are taking their next virtual event on Saturday, August 21 to an amazing next level – they’ve invited key players and artists at Anjunabeats to participate in their panel discussion, on a production breakdown, as well as to listen to demos which have been submitted and selected in advance (the deadline was August 16).
But even if you can’t submit your demo this time, it’s worthwhile to purchase a VIP ticket (which includes a charity donation) to listen, participate, and hear some great unreleased music. Prior to the pandemic, ODS were held in person at a US location, so moving it online has opened even more doors to interested participants around the world who would not normally be able to attend in person.
It’s a bit lengthier a post than usual, but read along about my ODS experience and those of five artists. I’ve also featured a recent song by each artist.
My ODS Experience
I was sent an invite to Neon Owl’s April ODS by southern California producer Jay Bird, whose music I’ve been writing about for the last four years or so. The Neon Owl team has created a safe and respectful environment which is meant to inspire and inform rather than dissect and criticize. The panel discussion was interesting and positive, but the demo session in particular was well-organized, gave every artist who was selected a chance to shine, and gave the listening panel as well as participants the opportunity to comment on some fine music and engage with the artists to the extent that time would permit. I came away from this session wanting to get to know all of these folks better, and of course to attend future ODS.
To reinforce my illuminating experience, I engaged five previous participants, who could not speak highly enough about ODS.
In 2017, Jay Bird was looking to launch his new brand and sought out like-minded blogs (including yours truly!), tastemakers, and other Soundcloud users. He sent his music to Elaine, who really enjoyed it and the vibe, so she asked him to do a guest mix for one of the Neon Owl social media channels. Jay then attended ODS in person in Oakland, since the topics of networking, getting shows, and improving as a DJ were of interest. He immediately felt like he was part of a special community, meeting other artists and Elaine, and making friends in the process.
“There was no ego, everyone was welcoming and approachable”, he recalls. It was a big step forward as he began to see how working with the right people can help you accomplish your dream through mentorship, modeling behaviour, and giving back to the ODS community. “I started as an attendee, and then came back as a panelist. It’s about inspiring artists and paying it forward”, he says.
A memorable moment came when Andrew Rayel said he could hear the demo he presented being played on the radio. “He even mentioned that someone like Kaskade would play it”, says Jay.
Jay’s networking skills also ramped up. He started curating a Spotify playlist (“The Birdhouse”) as well as an artist coaching program, which included new friends from the ODS community. “Be humble, edify other people, ask good questions. Create value for yourself to offer to other people”, he points out.
Jay Bird releases his latest single on Friday August 20 called “Have To Go”. Through a remix contest, he also has an unofficial remix of “Try” by MitiS currently available on Audius and Soundcloud, which he hopes will attract the interest of Ophelia Records (Seven Lions, Trivecta), or perhaps other similar labels.
Next, I was very pleased that during my ODS experience, one of the artists who submitted his demo for review, Indian performer Ashwyn, immediately connected with me with his submission for consideration in my blog. That led to me writing up his guitar-laced pop/rock effort “Sell My Soul”, which took a few steps away from his earlier work as a dance producer who recorded under the name Astra. And he’s only just 20!
Ashwyn found out about ODS through Jay Bird’s Instagram feed and compliments “the warm, community driven feedback and insights into the music industry” that ODS offered him.
Importantly, “I learned about the different aspects of music marketing and how to build an organic fan base” and “got to talk to everyone in the VIP lounge”. He believes that ODS definitely encourages artists to express who they are, as that always comes from a deep and authentic place.
Ashwyn followed up “Sell My Soul” with the more progressive “Déjà Vu” and his next release is “more Indian and pop-driven” and “sounds like none of the tracks I’ve put out before”.
Rahat Rashid is a dance producer and PR media strategist who records under the name Reznor. and will be a panelist at Saturday’s ODS. He has known Elaine for years and has been participating in ODS since their early days in the mid-2010’s. He’s continually amazed at the variety and quality of talent that has been participating in the events. He also reinforces the authenticity of the artists who attend, and how he always learns something new – this is not just for beginners.
“I’ve made some wonderful connections and even have found other folks I’ve wanted to collaborate with on future projects with,” he says.
There was a previous ODS which allowed participants to talk openly about mental health, and hear how performers like Christian Burns and SILVA overcame their own personal issues, which he found illuminating.
“I also can’t forget the time when Andrew Rayel gave feedback on my most recent release, “Feeling My Soul”, and shared some glowing feedback on the release, even saying he’d play the track on his radio!”
He has upcoming projects on his home base Scorchin’ Records, but also has a major remix coming out on a compilation album next month too!
For someone who has to juggle family responsibilities and a full-time job and doesn’t consider himself good at networking, producer SAKET found out about ODS through social media hoping for some worthwhile comments about his music after 10 years of producing, as well as to assist with networking. Originally from India and based in Maryland, SAKET got more out of ODS than what he was expecting when Andrew Rayel gave him some amazing feedback, especially considering the demo SAKET presented was created with Andrew’s label in mind.
“His comments validated that I can actually make good quality music,” says SAKET, who plays to attend future ODS as a result of his positive experience.
For what’s next, SAKET says “This year I’m planning on establishing my other project, T3KAS, I really wish I made music which is completely different than my SAKET project that focuses on trance music. Under my T3KAS project, I have already signed multiple tracks to the label run by The Disco Fries, and a couple of tracks to another label in the UK . I have at least 6 to 7 finished songs but I’ll start pitching in the coming weeks.”
San Francisco-based DJ and producer Danny Fathom found out about ODS quite by accident. Another artist, Ducka Shan, asked him to attend with him, and Danny found his first session had a great environment that was full of approachable people. He has now attended five ODS, and describes them as good containers for people to interact or network and hear demos.
Attending ODS for Danny has helped improve his self-confidence immeasurably. “You’re in the same room as big artists who can listen at your level”, he says. In fact, through one of the sessions, he got one song “Owen” (above) signed through another artist and attendee, Ram, though it needed some work and was ultimately improved with the help of another producer. In February, Sacha Robotti of Dirty Bird Records thought the demo he submitted was a lot of fun and asked if he could work with it.
So while Sasha works away at his demo, Danny also recently got to open for Tritonal – twice! You can see photos from those shows, hear clips of his demo, and another new song called “Wanting You” on Danny’s Instagram feed.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up for the next Open Door Session on Saturday, August 21! I will be attending again, and you can find all details including cost and what charity will benefit from your payment at http://www.neonowl.co/opendoorsessions!!