The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to rethink songwriting camps and come up with a hybrid model. Based on that model, Music Finland made Song Hotel and A-Pop Castle happen in the fall/winter season of 2020. How did we do? Let's ask the participants!
Probably most can agree that 2020 was an exceptional year – and not in the most positive way. With concerts being banned and travel virtually impossible, almost every single company working in the music sector had to adjust in new ways and tools of working. We even organized a Nordic level conversation series Nordic Talks to share new practices, ideas and thoughts that music companies and their workers have been able to find during the Covid-19 crisis.
Music Finland is no stranger to this phenomenon either. Along with the long line of cancelled events, we also had to adjust to new ways in music export: we have done loads of online conferences, talks and info events – even an online showcase festival to replace a live one.
One thing that we realized in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic is that also songwriting camps will not be happening as they used to happen. Once we decided that we will make the two camps slated for 2020 happen, started a search for tools and means for online collaboration between songwriting professionals. In September we were finally ready to produce our first hybrid co-writing camp: Song Hotel 2020, consisting of two two-day parts.
In this case, hybrid means that writers, artists and publishers participated both live (Finnish writers at Kaiku studios, Helsinki) and online (international writers). In December, Song Hotel was followed by a similar song camp, but aimed towards the Asian music market – the A-Pop Castle 2020.
We interviewed some of the guests at Song Hotel 2020 to learn more about their experience at the hybrid song camp.
Hybrid theory becomes actual reality
Joseph Feinstein, a Berlin based songwriter, topliner and pop singer, had been to writing camps before but he had never seen a hybrid camp before Song Hotel 2020. Even though the experience was new and there were challenges, Joseph also found some advantages in the digital model.
“Obviously it was different. The one positive aspect was not having to fly through Europe to work with Finnish writers and artists. Recreating the vibe in a room with completely new people and the whole process of getting to know each other is a challenge. I’m glad it’s possible to work remotely but I strongly believe that it fully affects the outcome of a song, not only the progress ,” Feinstein says.
I’m glad it’s possible to work remotely but I strongly believe that it fully affects the outcome of a song, not only the progress – Joseph Feinstein
In these hybrid co-write camps, many participants learned a great deal about remote songwriting and tools that are related to it, which will certainly be useful for them in the future. One participant even said, that the hybrid camp transitioned their company’s ability to remote and online sessions from practically non-existing to functioning.
Technically speaking though, everything went almost as smoothly as possible.
”Working through Zoom and Audiomovers was very convenient and a great help. Especially the playback via Audiomovers which I haven’t heard about before the camp ,” Feinstein tells us.
Network and chill?
One thing that participants still missed was the chance to actually network and spend time with others in the camp.
“It was nice seeing everybody in the group call before and after the projects but ‘networking’ turned out harder than usual. I’ve made great connections to the musicians in my groups but apart from that I wasn’t able to ‘meet’ others after the camp and talk ,” Feinstein explains.
Kira Siuruainen, a Helsinki based songwriter and a first time Song Hotel guest, was quick to see the positives in the situation: she was above all happy that the international camp actually happened, despite the corona situation.
“The unfortunate side effect was that you really didn’t have time to bond or hang out with the international guests, because when you have worked the whole day at Zoom, you don’t want to spend your breaks sitting on Zoom and chatting”, she says.
You really didn’t have time to bond or hang out with the international guests, because when you have worked the whole day at Zoom, you don’t want to spend your breaks sitting on Zoom and chatting – Kira Siuruainen
She tells us that although she has done many zoom writing sessions year, this was her first hybrid “Zoom to studio” camp – usually all the writers have been in different locations, whereas this time one writer and producer were in the same room and one writer was on Zoom. That fact may have made the situation a bit unequal for the distant parties.
“Really the hardest part was trying to not get too carried away with the person you’re in the same room with, because the information and intuitive ideas travel so much faster between us than [to the other writers] through Zoom. You kind of have to constantly make sure that everyone is in the same page about what we’re going to do”, Siuruainen explains.
Jukka Jahnukainen, a producer and songwriter from Helsinki and also a first-timer to a hybrid song camp found the hybrid model a bit challenging for the participants.
“I do find that working partly remotely brings up many challenges when it comes to having a co-write session. Getting to know the people you’re working with, sharing ideas, jamming, it all becomes intensely harder. Many things suddenly take way longer compared to having all the people in the same room. The hasty schedule of any songwriting camp already is a challenge on its own, but the slowed down workflow of a hybrid session definitely makes it even more difficult. Then again, this forced us to cut some corners and just get things done instead of spending time contemplating on every little decision along the way ,” Jahnukainen mentions.
Working partly remotely brings up many challenges when it comes to having a co-write session. Getting to know the people you’re working with, sharing ideas, jamming, it all becomes intensely harder – Jukka Jahnukainen
Also Kira Siuruainen had experiences where the distance made things a bit more complicated.
“There is always the problem of rapid changes in the production, so you kind of have to constantly send new versions to the one participant so they can pitch their ideas at the same time as the rest of us. Also I did the singing on both days, so it was not a problem, but I imagine it would be hard for a producer to give directions to the singer if they weren’t in the same room recording.”
Let's Zoom together
Jopseph Feinstein was above all really pleased with the results of this camp.
“The groups I was assigned to were an interesting mix of genres which made it fun finding a common denominator. On both days I was working with given leads and the results were solid. One of the songs made there is being pitched around at the moment. The other groups’ results were overall really good as well ,” he tells us.
In a year, where all the working models have been reshaped and nothing old was for granted, the sheer idea of working together with others was in many ways energizing enough.
“It was really fun and gave me a lot of good energy to be around such talented people, because during the pandemic I’ve done increasingly more and more work at home and alone or on Zoom. The vibe was good and chill and people wrote such good songs! I’m feeling very grateful for the experience, especially this year, and would love to go again”, Kira Siuruainen praises.
Also Jukka Jahnukainen is ultimately really happy with the way this hybrid song camp turned out.
”Despite the fact that organising an international songwriting camp during these challenging times is all but easy, I feel like Music Finland did a great job, and the camp was a success. Everything worked more or less seamlessly, all the people at the camp were amazing and the atmosphere at the premises was absolutely magical.”