John Mark King, President of Orpheus Music and co-writer/producer of “All My Failures” by the artist Elizabeth II
Hey, very happy to welcome you to the Radio Show and Podcast community. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Introduce yourself to the community.
Hello there! My name is John Mark King and I am the President of Orpheus Music Management, a small artist-support services company in Washington, DC. We provide an array of services to up-and-coming music artists that includes songwriting and arrangement, recording/mixing/mastering and artist promotion services. I am a musician and songwriter myself with about 20 years of experience in the industry and I studied music production at the Berklee College of Music. I absolutely love working with other songwriters to help them to better realize their goals.
One thing that I’m always interested in, when I sit down and chat with artists is, what their defining moment was that they knew that they wanted to be in music… What was that moment in time for you?
For me, it was when I realized that I could, with relative ease, make music of my own that was just as good as the music I heard on the radio. I suppose this was when I was about 15, since that’s when I first started taking guitar lessons. I wrote my first song just a couple of years later. It also sure seemed to me at the time to be more within reach than other professional pursuits. Plus, music and the effect that it can have on people has always fascinated me. Music is how I understand and make sense the world and my place in it…and I have found no better way to channel this energy than by making music of my own.
Do you mix and master yourself or do you have an engineer or a producer that works with you?
We have a recording and mixing engineer on staff who works at a professional studio in the area, but I record and mix demos on my own for our clients. One of the value adds that Orpheus provides to artists is the perspective of an outsider in the studio or during the arrangement process. Sure, most musicians have both the skill and the interest to make some really great mixers on their own, but there is no replacement for an experienced producer and engineer to provide you with ideas and perspectives that you may not have thought of on your own.
What motivates you? Not just in your music but in your normal life as well.
Any process that also includes even a small amount of personal discovery is always what motivates me the most. Music creation is the perfect endeavor from that perspective, because it always has an element of mystery to it, kind of like the song already exists and our job is to find it and treat it with the respect and diligence that it deserves.
I am personally on a mission to get good music heard by everyone. What is one thing that bothers you the most about trying to come up in the music world today and, do you prefer being underground or, is the mainstream something you strive for?
What is mainstream? I’d say that approaching music and success is best understood as a choice between making music for yourself and making music for others. If you are doing it for yourself, then you should probably be just fine with never becoming “popular” or financially successful. But if you want to make music that others will enjoy, it is very important to have them in mind when you prepare and present your product. The musician who doesn’t consider his/her audience when recording a song, shouldn’t be surprised when it turns out that there isn’t an audience out there that really wants to hear it.
Who, musically, is one of your bigger influences?
I know it’s a cliché, but my biggest musical influence has got to be the Beatles. They managed to make so much great music that was equal parts experimental and accessible. Plus, they were always eager to try new ways to structure, arrange and record music. But aside from their music, they created the blueprint for the modern singer/songwriter group. They were the first to popularize writing and performing your own songs and were experts at developing and presenting their brand to the world in the most unique and inventive ways.
One question that I like to ask artists is, how did Covid affect your music in particular and the music scene in your area?
Things in DC were basically shut down for an entire year. Many of our clients asked us to help them to improve the outreach they are doing on social media as a way of replacing the work they used to do when they gigged more often. But most people just hunkered down and shut off the lights. It’s great, though, now to see things opening back up and getting back to something close to what we had before.
I, myself, personally think that there’s too much social media out there to keep up with. I understand why it’s necessary but there’s a ton of it out there. What are your feelings on social media and music today?
I think it’s great that there are now tools that enable anyone to create a globally accessible platform for their music with very little need for financial investment. Getting it heard and seen on a large scale is certainly still a challenge, but the technology itself is quite revolutionary.
Do you create music often? When can we expect another release?
I’m always writing music, either for myself or with clients. I am right now working with singer/songwriter Lauren Waldron on her first collection of songs. I’m also producing a EP of solo guitar and keyboards with a great artist by the name of Sansyou.
I grew up in the 90’s, I listened to everyone from Dr. Dre, to Weezer, to Pink Floyd, Metallica, Cypress Hill and back again. I truly believe that the 90’s were one of the greatest era’s for original music. Which era of music is one of your favorites?
Definitely the 1960s. Popular music was inseparable from cultural and political revolution. Never since has music played such a vital role in a society’s identity. And during that decade, popular music grew and changed so much that by 1970, what came just a few years earlier sounded like ancient history.
If you could swap yourself into a different artist, who would it be?
Tough one! I think I would prefer to stay myself. I like me!
What tips or advice would you give someone that’s just starting out in the music game?
Decide early on why want to do it. Do you want to just make music? Or do want to be a successful musician? So often I run into artists who are struggling, but who also are expecting their audience to come to them. Success comes from giving people what they want, and that often means creating music or crafting an image that is designed for consumption in a commercial setting.
What is it about Elizabeth II that made Orpheus want to work with her on this project?
When we first discovered her, we saw right away how much she already knew about the business of making and selling music. She has a great brand and is very consistent with the way she presents herself to her audience, but she also does it in a way that is very genuine. She is true to herself, but also knows her audience. This is evident in the way she uses text, color and photography to establish her look and feel as an artist. On top of this, she is a fantastic musician and songwriter, and has a great deal of confidence in her abilities, but she is also always open to new ideas and approaches. We are certain that she will be successful for a long time to come.