Words by Baz Bardoe
Photography by Vincent Scarpino
When Liz Tripodi started Vocal Arts Studios in 2003 she didn’t have a cent to her name, nor did she have a business plan. At the tender age of 24 she had eight years experience in the industry both working and teaching, but her main job had been in music retail. Now she presides over a hugely successful business that has a proven track record of assisting artists with achieving their career goals.
“My goal was to be a boutique singing school which focused on honest feedback, up to date techniques and training to make complete “entertainers” which is where I saw the industry heading,” Tripodi explains.
“I didn’t like what I had been seeing from other organisations – including my own past experiences as a student – and wanted to stamp out the ‘you’re gonna be a star’ mentality which I had heard used far too often. I didn’t want to give anyone false hope but I wanted to encourage students of all ages no matter what their weight, age or culture that they could be successful if they wanted to. My motto has always been ‘if you make a living doing what you love in this industry – in whatever shape and form – then you’ve made it.’
“Never did I believe the studio would end up being the largest private music school in Victoria with all the services and opportunities we now offer.”
Tripodi prides herself on basing her teaching approaches on what works for the students. One thing she realised was that not everyone can get to a physical location to get the tuition they need. So she instigated online lessons.
“Online lessons work over Skype in exactly the same way lessons occur when coming into the studio”, she explains.
“For it to work effectively it needs to be in a quiet space with little noise interference and the internet connection needs to be fast. Considering how slow Australian internet speeds are we haven’t incurred any issues and have had students do online training and audition preparations from around the world”
I asked Tripodi what she felt made Vocal Arts unique.
“We offer complete training for beginners to professionals; children to adults. Students stay with us throughout their entire development – usually between 6 to 10 years – until they’re ready to move onto the next stage. Our training incorporates the latest techniques in all modern styles, presentation, choosing a repertoire, performing, recording, song writing, artist development, social media and marketing, as well as offering a band program, accredited courses through to diploma level and overseas performance tours — where students train and perform overseas.
“What makes us unique is our affiliation and partnerships with some of the biggest music organisations around the world, offering experiences for our students that are not available elsewhere. Our teachers are the best in the business and have all been at the studio for roughly 6 to 10 years. We also have our own record label and distribution – with ARIA accreditation – which we use as a platform for our students and other professionals.”
I asked Tripodi to provide some examples of artists who have benefitted from attending Vocal Arts Studios.
“Unlike other music schools out there we don’t advertise on the back of any “names” for privacy reasons. However many past and present students have gone on to do wonderful things in the entertainment industry including roles in musicals, The Voice, and The X Factor. They have signed record deals in the USA and Germany, ARIA Chart Top 5 placings, song writing/publishing deals, roles on Australian television shows, corporate performances, Carols by Candlelight, major international festivals, become music producers, teachers, and much more.”
I asked Tripodi if she had any insights into the future of the music industry, especially in light of the shift towards illegal downloads and the impact upon conventional income streams. And of course the changes this has wrought in terms of the kinds of contracts now being offered.
“The industry has changed so much in the last 20 years, with the biggest change being the structure of A&R departments within the record companies. A&R just don’t go scouting for new talent any longer and prefer to sign on the back of a TV show with a ready-made fan base to guarantee at least some sort of sale. (But unfortunately not even being on a show these days guarantees sales, as previous winners of The Voice and The X Factor can show). Production companies make more money from appearances and endorsement deals for their contestants than record sales, so contract terms are in favour of them rather than the artist.
“My advice for anyone is to ensure that their social media is at its fullest potential across various platforms and release music either independently or with a smaller label that has the time to give the artist the musical creativity they want to do. More and more artists are being given huge opportunities via YouTube views – and not necessarily record deals but appearances etc – as well as venturing off overseas to Europe and the USA where working in different aspects of the industry can offer more scope and recognition. Don’t sign anything unless you have it looked over very closely by either an entertainment lawyer or expert.”
Finally she exhorts people to support new talent.
“Supporting Australian music is so important and it would be wonderful to see more of a thriving local scene of up and coming singer-songwriters and bands that venues will support now. Unfortunately what we keep seeing is 70s and 80s bands and artists still trying to rehash their careers. The old school mentality in this industry of not giving anyone a go – or only their mates – is really disappointing. I have witnessed it first hand across many levels, and I urge anyone who works in radio, event management, music journalism or similar fields to try and break down the barriers of the old boys club and change what is happening. If everyone works together to support new artists then this country could again have that respected live scene and decent songs to purchase/hear on the radio again”.
For more info, head to www.vocalartstudios.com