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In 2021, Mikkel Eriksen and Tor. E. Hermansen — the Norwegian record producers better known as Stargate who made a name for themselves with Mis-Teeq’s jam “One Night Stand” — debuted their Los Angeles Academy for Artists & Music Production (LAAMP) in Santa Monica. Like so many other grand ideas conceived that year, LAAMP was born of the mandated lockdowns. More specifically, the pandemic-driven solitude reminded the California-based duo just how integral collaboration is to the music-making process.
Five years after their breakthrough 2001 hit, Stargate broke ground by co-writing Ne-Yo’s “So Sick,” an unforgettable chart-topping heartbreak single, opening up further opportunities for Eriksen and Hermansen to write and produce for artists like Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Celine Dion, and Beyoncé among others.
But today, the Trondheim twain is working on dialing in their one-year intensive and immersive music program for artists, producers, and songwriters. While Stagrate may be established, they want to use LAAMP to jumpstart the minds of budding creatives.
LAAMP handpicks 45 artists each year for their on-site program where students spend a year taking advantage of 16 studios, a stage, classroom, outdoor dining area, lounge, kitchen and main office. Aside from the physical resources, the program features workshops, live seminars, high-caliber feedback sessions and celebrity mentorship (including names like Charlie XCX and Benny Blanco) that provide incomparable value.
Through their partnership with Stand Together Music, LAAMP’s incredible year-long program will reach even more students through the expansion of their lower-cost online program and enhanced curriculum helping students use their voice to drive impact on the issues they’re passionate about. LAAMP will also be offering scholarships to talented students who otherwise would not be able to foot the bill.
Stand Together Music is an organization that acts as an extension of companies and programs looking to wield their influence for good. Through funding, operating support, marketing and more, their goal is to assist in quickly scaling the impact that an organization like LAAMP can have. According to the LAAMP founders, the hope of the partnership is to enable diversity to flourish both within the program and the industry as a whole.
SPIN IMPACT spoke with Eriksen to learn more about the latest ongoings with the groundbreaking program.
SPIN: What can you tell us about LAAMP’s new scholarships with the help of Stand Together Music?
Mikkel Eriksen: We’re now offering scholarships! Stand Together Music is supporting our online expansion and the progression of our program, which ultimately allows us to provide these scholarships. Upon receiving an online scholarship, you would have access to the LAAMP curriculum through your computer. You would receive all of the same content and workshops, because everything is recorded and delivered in super high quality. The content is also published right after the lectures and events, and you’ll be put into groups in order to collaborate with other online students. You’ll also get feedback on your work and access to our follow-up programs.
How would interested artists go about applying for them? How do you decide who’s granted a scholarship?
It’s the same process as applying for the program in general. You basically just submit your name, email, and your work or a link to your work. It can be a Spotify playlist, a YouTube clip, or anything that showcases your talent. We don’t require any degrees and we don’t give any degrees, because that’s not really important in our sector. It’s purely based on talent and if we think you would benefit from the program.
Why did you start LAAMP?
We wanted to give back to the next generation of creators, artists, songwriters and producers. We really wanted to build something that we wish we had growing up — or while coming up in the industry. Now having run it for a year, we get so much back from doing this. Just being around the young energy and that level of talent has opened doors that we didn’t even think about, so we’re super [grateful] we did this. The other reason for doing it is that we saw that there was nothing else like it. We saw that there was definitely something missing in this sector.
How does LAAMP differ from other music institutes?
The big differentiator is when you look at conventional colleges — even music colleges — it’s typically a four-year program that is incredibly spaced out and involves a lot of theory and history. Those things are really important, but we believe that our model is best if you already know you want to be an artist, producer or writer, because you learn by doing it and collaborating. We find this method far more effective than any other.
Where do you see the program in a few years?
I hope we’ll have successful artists and producers come out of the academy who are making their mark in the industry. We also really hope to make an impact in the online space, so we can offer this program to as many people as possible who don’t necessarily have the resources to attend such a program. That’s why collaborating with organizations like Stand Together Music is so important. They enable everyone to take part in this, find their own voice and develop their skills.
Music is the greatest equalizer, because it doesn’t really matter where you’re from or who your parents are, where you grew up, or how much money you have. When you join with other musicians and artists, everyone is in it together. It’s all about what you bring to the table, from your storytelling to your artistry and your ideas. We come from a small, small town in Norway. After a lot of hard work — coupled with the right decisions and being around the right people — we’ve now been able to work with some of the best people in the world and make a real impact. We know the benefits and we hope to continue providing them.
What are some obstacles LAAMP has experienced thus far?
Every time you build something, no matter what it is, it’s always more expensive and takes longer than you anticipated. So, of course, building everything we have — 16 fully-equipped studios with the best gear possible — took a little more effort than we thought. But we’re really proud of how it came out. Another really important obstacle to mention is that we unfortunately don’t live in a dream world where every available spot in the school can be free. We require our students to pay tuition, and that can be a big financial undertaking. But, again, that’s why we’re so grateful for partners like Stand Together Music.
Considering that these scholarships could help diversify the program, what does industry diversity look like to LAAMP?
It’s incredibly important to us and to everyone in the program. Music is all about collaboration and being influenced by each other and people from different cultures and backgrounds. That’s why it’s our priority to facilitate that richness. We want our students to be a picture of the real music industry and the real music world. When you look at the music charts, there should be a ton of diversity there. That’s what we’re after.
What are some other elements you’re hoping to incorporate into LAAMP?
We realize how important social media is today, so we’re definitely strengthening our social media presence. Apart from the music itself, social media is going to be our students’ biggest asset. But it can also be a double-edged sword, so we’re focusing on doing it right. We’re also honing our marketing, content and technical things in the production world. We’re trying to make the program interesting for everyone — producers, writers and artists alike. We’re also going to do a lot more artist showcases. We just did one with Breaking Sound and one at the Peppermint Club, and we definitely want to do something with Stand Together Music.
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