Dale Kawashima: Behind Singer and Songwriter Universe
Dale Kawashima is best known for generating royalties at Michael Jackson’s music publishing company, as president of ATV Music, during the 1980s. Kawashima’s credits included pitching songs from the company’s music catalogs to artists like Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Cyndi Lauper. For the singers and songwriters, it was a match that proved to be very lucrative, generating several Top 40 hits and Grammy awards for these artists.
Kawashima also placed songs for soundtracks to movies like “Maid in Manhatta”n starring Jennifer Lopez and television series like “Boston Public” and “The Simpsons,” but currently his experience as a song placement executive has brought him to a new level in the recording industry as founder of SongwriterUniverse.com and SingerUniverse.com . These two online music websites offer assistance to aspiring singers and songwriters in making their demos the best they can be and falling into the right hands.
Many aspiring artists don’t know where to start when searching for advice, critiques, records labels, music publishers, clubs to book for shows, or performing rights organizations to copyright their material. This is where Kawashima can provide those bridges for new artists by supplying a free database of labels, publishers, vocal coaches, producers, recording studios, songwriting associations, and local clubs, in addition to a Question and Answer board which offers artists advice from industry insiders.
He says, “I believe the Q&A section is one of the best attractions of both sites. Singers and songwriters from around the world can post free questions to pro attorneys, producers, vocal coaches and music supervisors, and they will usually receive a reply. I can't think of any other website where someone can get free input from a legitimate music/entertainment attorney.”
The music industry, like everything else, has evolved with the ever changing times, and Kawashima has moved with the times by finding a contemporary and innovative way to discover and develop new talent through his websites SingerUniverse.com and SongwriterUniverse.com.
Each month, both websites run competitions for the Best Vocalist and the Best Songwriter with performances in any genre. Entry guidelines can be found atwww.singeruniverse.com/bestvocal.htm and www.songwriteruniverse.com/songcontest.htm
Kawashima reflects, “I’ve received entries from around the world—Russian, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Croatia, Japan. It’s really become a global song contest, and everybody has an equal shot. And if I really love a certain song, on occasion, once the competition is over, I’ll enter into a publishing contract for that song and try to place it. I have also referred outstanding entrants to members of our Advisory Board.”
He adds, “A very important element of the Best Vocal and Best Song contests are that they present mp3s online of the Top 5 demos each month. There are a growing number of top industry people who check out the top 5 vocal demos and top 5 songs each month on my sites.”
“Mp3s have become a very important method of pitching songs, Kawashima continues, “Most A&R execs and publishers still prefer to receive a CD package in the mail. But if the exec or supervisor knows you, they often invite you to send them mp3s of a song or two. This saves a lot of money, because otherwise I would be sending them a Fed-Ex package. Mp3s are also great for new talent to easily showcase their music online.”
The judging for the monthly contests is mainly conducted by Kawashima who receives additional input from the members of his Advisory Board. “I do most of the preliminary judging,” he said, “and then I will get feedback on the Top Five contenders from A&R & publishing executives. We try to look for, in our opinion, the most talented and marketable singers and songwriters we can find.
“Both the best vocalist and best song winners will submit very well crafted and produced works that truly demonstrate their singing or songwriting potential. It does help to present a well-produced demo, for either contest. This is not only because A&R executives would expect good demos, but because I want general music fans who visit the sites to enjoy listening to the demos.”
Kawashima’s goal for SingerUniverse and SongwriterUniverse is to make the sites a positive place for singers and songwriters, and for the audience that visits these links to feel pleased about the selections. “The better the vocal or song presentation, the more people enjoy listening to the demos, and then they will want to re-visit the site the next month to hear the new winners.”
Besides moderating the Q&A board and reviewing entrants for the monthly competitions, Kawashima also provides consultation services to artists in the form of Demo evaluations and Individual Consultations. For the Song and CD evaluations, Kawashima provides comprehensive reviews and analysis of the demos he receives.
Information about consultations can be found at www.songwriteruniverse.com/songevaluation.html, www.songwriteruniverse.com/individualconsultations.html, www.singeruniverse.com/individualconsultations.html, andwww.singeruniverse.com/demoevaluations.html
“For the song evaluation,” Kawashima said, “I encourage them to create a solid, professional song structure. There are plenty of exceptions, but most hit songs have good structures with memorable choruses and hooks. Also, the lyrics need to be original and unique, so the lyrics will catch the attention of listeners. Most song lyrics by the developing writers lack good structure, or the lyrics are too common and generic. For the vocal demos, I would comment on whether the singer is in key, and if they are performing a song which matches their vocal range and strengths.”
He remarks, “I would also comment on their song selection and demo production. Most A&R execs and judges of vocal contests appreciate singers who have a powerful vocal range, like a Kelly Clarkson or Mariah Carey. But vocalists who are truly unique and soulful, such as a Norah Jones, are also appreciated.”
New to the SingerUniverse.com site is a section of music streams by such popular artists as Jesse McCartney, Kaci Brown, Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, Vanessa Hudgens, JoJo, and Anna Nalick which can be found at www.singeruniverse.com/streamspop.htm
How Dale Kawashima amassed this wealth of information and contacts in the music business is a journey that spans his life’s work as a journalist. Kawashima began his career in the music industry in the 1980s while still attending college at U.C.L.A. He was a music critic for the Los Angeles Times. After graduation, he secured a position at Cash Box magazine as a music writer and review editor. During this time, he interviewed such international artists as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Peter Gabriel, and the Who. This led to the UK’s multi-million selling music trade publication, Melody Maker to take notice of him and publish some of his features.
From there his career segued into music publishing when Motown’s music publishing company, Jobete Music, offered him a position as a professional manager. After Jobete Music, Kawashima worked for ATV Music supervising their music catalogs. As president of ATV Music, he promoted their publishing holdings.
After ATV Music, he remained in the music publishing business by taking top ranking positions in publishing at Giant Records, Mercury Records and his own company DKM Music. While at Mercury, Kawashima developed new talent, which is the path he has continued to follow and envisions that his websites will be able to facilitate for the music industry.
“Placing songs is mainly what I do as a publisher, but when I started SongwriterUniverse four years ago,” he said, “I was able to utilize my journalism skills again. There are over 80 articles on the sites that I have written. In many cases I have interviewed a top songwriter or vocalist for a positive article, then I have kept in contact with them as a music publisher.”
The e-zines at SingerUniverse and SongwriterUniverse include articles on prominent singers and songwriters, including Patty Loveless, Amy Lee of Evanescence, and Austin Winkler of Hinder. Additionally, the sites provide educational articles that inform artists about mechanical rights and other agreements and recording contracts that are necessary to file in order to prevent lawsuits and copyright infringements of their material.
Kawashima boasts, “Both SongwriterUniverse and SingerUniverse have many business and educational articles ranging from copyrighting and how to collect your royalties, to finding the right vocal coach and producers to work with. Both sites also offer many networking opportunities, including free directories for songwriter and singers to list contact information and website links.
“Both sites also have music stores, where we sell the leading industry resource books to help connect writers and performers with the A&R, publishing, film and TV supervisor and music attorney communities. With the exception of our monthly contests and personal evaluation services, everything on the sites are free.”
Kawashima designed SingerUniverse and SongwriterUniverse to encourage collaborations among artists in a free environment. “I wanted to provide articles and information, which would help aspiring writers really learn how to make it in the business,” he emphasizes. “There are dozens of interviews with hit songwriters and writer/producers that not only explain how they wrote their hits, plus how they got their songs to the right people. It shows how each writer built their own success story.”
The online magazines have created a bridge that connects new talent with high level professionals. “It’s wonderful receiving emails from around the world, about how these sites are helping people in their careers.” He muses, “I want to continue building both sites for many years to come. Aside from providing the resources and articles, we’re hoping to discover and help promote some of the great songwriting and singing talent.”
Dale Kawashima may have achieved success as a song placement executive in his career, but his greatest achievement is possibly still to come. SongwriterUniverse and SingerUniverse are evolving each month and fostering new talent. It is connecting unknown artists with music industry professionals and maybe even creating the stars of tomorrow. Dale Kawashima’s websites are making information and opportunities available to people who previously had a slim chance of making their demos reach the right hands.
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