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Life & Work with McKenna Rowe

Today we’d like to introduce you to McKenna Rowe.

Hi McKenna, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve been writing music and singing since a very young age. In 2006, I got my first music placement on a TV show, and I realized that if I did the research, made the connections and put in the work, music licensing could be an additional lucrative arm of business for me as a musician. I filed my LLC “Psykick Girl” Productions that same week. For the last 15+ years, I have licensed music to over a hundred tv shows and commercials. I have also produced a number of voiceover projects and have collaborated with a number of different theatre companies in Los Angeles, scoring music and sound design for their productions.

I continue to write music as a DJ/producer and singer/songwriter. My latest music project is my new band “Nature Loves Courage”. We just completed 12 new singles in 2022, releasing them on streaming platforms every few weeks. We’re in the process of booking small local shows and building our audience, no small task indeed!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I think the two big challenges with being a musician are:

1) Oversaturation: the market is absolutely flooded with so much talent nowadays. I heard a statistic recently that 20,000 songs are released on Spotify every day. That can be so discouraging. But I tell myself that even if nobody hears it, I contributed some art to the world, and that’s something that gives me joy and gives my life meaning. I created something and didn’t just spent time “consuming”.

2) Marketing: Ask just about any musician and they will say they’d rather focus on making music than having to spend the time, money and energy marketing themselves, but it’s essential to finding your audience. Musicians now have to make sure they have an engaging presence on all the social media platforms in addition to the website, email list, live shows, etc.

The production music world is nearly as competitive but a bit of a different animal. I hunkered down for a number of years between band projects, focusing on getting my musical composition/scoring chops better. Writing music is like exercising a special muscle, and the work I’ve done for tv has influenced and evolved my songwriting for the band quite a bit. Always being in the act of writing, writing, writing is what’s important…it’s the only way you can get better at it.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I specialize in writing music for tv licensing purposes that marries a cinematic sound (string, piano and orchestral arrangements with more dynamic electronic sounds (beats, breaks, etc.) This has been a unique blend that has attracted lots of libraries to representing me.

Sometimes I have been asked to write very specific music on spec that’s not in my pocket style, such as “50’s orchestral swing”. But I have found these challenges really fun and educational. I’ve had to study and deconstruct these styles, finding instrumentation and production and compositional approaches that can emulate their sound.

I’m trying to apply a lot of what have learned in my scoring work now to my pop songwriting. What are the essential components of pop songs that make them good and memorable? How can I apply those same ingredients to my songs and yet still have a unique sound? I tend to love lush soundscapes with a lot of intensity, which are great and have their place, but is there a melody at the heart of it all that can grab people?

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
There are so many resources now for musicians and composers.

First and foremost, the best thing you can do is find your signature style and write, write, write all the time. This applies whether you’re a singer/songwriter or a composer licensing music. Join a PRO such as ASCAP, they sponsor all kinds of A&R opportunities and songwriting camps to help you hone your craft.

As a female music composer/producer, I’m still in a shockingly small minority…Women in Music has been an organization that has provided me with a lot of support and resources. I subscribe to many email newsletters from companies like Native Instruments, which give me lots of production tips, and even subscribe to emails from Los Angeles venues like 1720, where I can learn about up-and-coming indie bands and check them out..

There are so many libraries out there looking for music…a simple Google search should bring up hundreds! Listen to what is in their libraries already and see if you can provide a similar quality/style. Start submitting your music to libraries to get some feedback. I reach out to libraries I’m already working with on a regular basis to see if they are looking for more music, and can I send them new stuff? I’ve also had some interesting opportunities with orgs like Music Xray (started by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam) and UK org Music Gateway. The relationships with those sites aren’t as exclusive as the ones I have with, say BMG Music Publishing, but sometimes some good opportunities can come from these new platforms.

If you have a band, one big thing I recommend is trying to invest a little bit of money into working with a good, small PR company to give you some guidance and mentoring. We love ours: Cyber PR. Or at the very least subscribe to their podcast and newsletters, which are chock full of tips and resources! It can be so overwhelming when you’re a new artist or band to know where to even begin. They helped create a checklist of all the things you have to set up for your online presence. Just take it one day at a time and slowly you’ll see results and starting building your audience.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Seated photo of only me: Mia Mourouzis Photo of band outdoors and 3 of us in coveralls: Mark Maryanovich Photo of me from side singing into microphone: Vance Hickin Photo of me in my home studio working with voiceover actress Lisa Dobbyn: Vance Hickin Photo of Band in LED Tunnel: Holy Smoke Photography Photo of me in the studio working with string quartet: Tim Boland

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