Denise Thomas is CMRRA’s Consultant for the Black Music Community. She is a representative and liaison to the community, aiming to educate songwriters on their reproduction rights. She is also an award-winning producer/artist/songwriter and has been mentored by Canadian hip-hop producer Boi 1da.
You hold several roles in the music industry: songwriter, producer and performer. You are part of the National Art Centre’s Global Network of Women Producers and a graduate of the Women in the Studio Program with Music Publishers Canada. You have now added the role of Consultant for the Black Music Community at CMRRA. What motivated you to take on this new role, and could you share more about what the role entails?
As a black female producer, artist and songwriter in Canada, I’ve always felt that there was a gap, and still is, this being a lack of representation within the music business. There is no shortage of black talent, but on the business side of the music industry, it would be nice to see more faces that look like you. When I came across this role, I was inspired to be part of the change to create more of that representation. My role at CMRRA is to serve as our representative and connect with the black music community, by supporting and educating publishers, self-published songwriters and artists. Ensuring our community is aware of all royalty streams available to them and ensuring proper support for musical work registration and collections.
What sparked your interest in songwriting and what advice would you give someone looking to start writing songs?
I grew up on R&B and hip-hop. I was drawn to the beats, the rhythm behind it and the ability to create a soulful story stringing it together with melodies that stay on repeat in your head. I wanted to be a part of that process. Early on I found myself trying to create my own music with digital keyboards gifted to me by my parents. I would spend hours creating my own songs and eventually had a desire to learn how to produce my own music. My advice to anyone trying to start is to literally start. Keep your ears and eyes wide open, study your craft and keep learning because it will never stop.
Your success as a Producer includes working on the JUNO Award-winning album ‘Stock Exchange’ with Haviah Mighty. What was the experience like recording that album? What is your favourite part of the recording process?
Haviah Mighty is such a force to be reckoned with. She knows her sound and while I would have loved to be in the same room with her, the process was a lot more hands off than people would think. In hip-hop, producers will often send what’s known as beatpacks to artists. They will put together a folder of either full beats or melodies/ideas and the artist may or may not love it. Thankfully, Haviah loved something from the pack that I sent to her, molded it to fit around her sound and what she was aiming for as the vision of the album.
Do you have any advice for songwriters balancing both the creative and business side of the music industry?
Plan your work and work your plan! It can be hard to balance, but I think what helps me is planning singles/projects out and trying to stick with those deadlines. That way I can work around my work schedule. It’s easy to get busy and lose sight of what needs to be done, but creating a plan and sticking to it as much as possible will help.
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