There’s a chance that the Good Vibes Music Group will release its own music at some point, but for the time being, the fledgling company is focused on music publishing, and especially discovering new talent. Hence the name of its first series of talent scouting sessions, the Discovery Song Camps, going on this spring in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville and London, England.
Good Vibes is the brainchild of Canadian music whiz Jason Murray (of Black Box Music) and veteran, Grammy-winning writer/producer/musician Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. And while both principals have plenty of other irons in the music-business fire, talking to Murray creates the distinct impression that Good Vibes is a kind of mutual admiration society.
“I would say that Kenny is closer to a Canadian than anyone I’ve met out here,” says Murray from Los Angeles. “He’s navigated a four-decade career and managed not to burn bridges, and to be honest and kind, and to mentor people. That’s a huge part of what I get to learn, every day that I spend with him.”
International connections aside, Good Vibes is very much a Canadian company, based in Ontario, with international representation through SOCAN. And while applicants for the first Discovery Camp came from far and wide, three of the eight participants in the L.A. camp were from Toronto. “I’m definitely not abandoning where I come from,” stresses Murray. “We’re trying to create a pipeline for Canadian writers and producers.”
Murray is pumped up when we reach him in the studio during the final hours of the first four-day Discovery camp. “It’s been pretty amazing,” he enthuses. “I’ve done the SOCAN-sponsored Merge song camps for the past three years, so I learned a lot about how to do it properly, how to get the right energy.
“We had 1,000-plus applicants just for the L.A. camp. The goal is to bring people who have something very specific, and put them in an environment to test them and see whether they really have what we think they have.
“Our goal was to curate and manage each room around something we felt was commercially viable. We had someone we thought was a great concept person, somebody we thought was great with melody, somebody who was classically trained. For us it’s more about the talent and the competitiveness of what other writers and producers are doing.
“That’s what makes this a little different from other camps I’ve been involved in. The pressure is off.”
“This camp is not really about having hit records come out of the sessions. It wouldn’t be fair to expect that from the writers we picked. It’s more about learning about them, them learning about us. And about us challenging them to really do some heavy lifting as songwriters. If a great song comes out of it, fantastic. We’ve had some great ideas; are any of them going to be hit songs? I don’t know. But it’s a discovery for them, learning about themselves and each other, and that’s the goal. That’s what makes this a little different from other camps I’ve been involved in. The pressure is off.”
The first Discovery Song Camp was a creative hot house, and probably a “pinch me” moment for most of the participants. In addition to Murray and Babyface, guest producers/collaborators included artist/producer James Fauntleroy, and hit-making production duo Monsters & Strangerz.
The only criteria for winning a place at one of the Discovery camps was talent, and that the writer or producer be a free agent, that is unsigned. And when each camp wraps, the work created still belongs to the writers in the rooms.
“We own nothing,” says Murray. “Everybody who wrote on a song takes that piece of the song with them when they leave, whether it was written with Babyface, or Fauntleroy, whatever. Good Vibes has no stake in it. We’re just doing the right thing. Karma is like a boomerang, you throw it out there and it comes back to you when you least expect it.
“If we can find two or three phenomenal writers and/or producers from these camps, we’ll be thrilled. We’ve got Nashville and Atlanta next month, then London after that. Then we’ll assess things, and decide what we’ve got, who will work well with each other in our system. This is just a first date. It would be amazing if we find three or four writers who have a special niche that we can use at the end of it all.”
How do Murray and Edmonds assess a song’s commercial potential when the pop climate might be completely different in a year or two, when the material actually gets released?
“One of Kenny’s biggest songs, a track that went to Bobby Brown, was written six years before Bobby Brown cut it,” explains Murray. “I’ve got a song I wrote 14 months ago that’s going to be a single on a record that’s coming out in five months. From our perspective, the commercial viability is about how you dress up the song, but that’s not the composition. The composition is something that doesn’t have a shelf life. I truly believe that.
“James Fauntleroy was telling us about ‘Mirrors,’ a song he did with Justin Timberlake, that was written more than six years before it came out. I’m sure the production would have changed had it been recorded at another time during that window, but the composition is the foundation.
“At the end of the day, great songs make for a healthy industry, and making good investments in artists and writers is absolutely crucial to our ecosystem. If five years from now, we haven’t signed any of these artists, but they’re in the charts, then they can come back and do the same for somebody else.”