AJ Marks' Liverpool music experience & DIY approach
AJ Marks, 20-year-old singer songwriter, is a full-time college student, music visionary, active songwriter and DIY music entrepreneur. He loves tracking artists pathways to stardom and analyzing every move they made to gain top industry visibility and career success. Artists on the Move partners, Jackie DeModena and Patty Duffey, were stunned by AJ’s self-driven approach, future action plans and well-strategized marketing initiatives. He puts himself out there in hopes someone will respond, and it’s working.
AJ started his music career when he was taking vocal lessons and was in the band program at the DeAngelis School of Music in Haverhill, MA. At 8 years old he started performing in one of the school’s student rock bands, and fell in love with the live performance experience. He was the lead singer in the rock band Black Diamonds, a serious young rock band that performed throughout New England, released original music, and had an impressive resume of accomplishments. Their most noted event was their Guinness Book of Records entry for being the youngest professional rock band, whose four members had an average age of 11 years and 130 days, at the time of their debut album release December 19, 2010. They rocked their way into the record books at an average age of eleven years old. The band celebrated with a concert event at the Boston Hard Rock Café. Despite school commitments the band members still get together during school and college vacation breaks, and recently did shows in the Boston area at Breakaway and Copperhead Saloon, Haverhill, MA. As AJ commented, "It was great reuniting with my band members, and also super cool having them performing my new songs."
The band won the Young Performers Grand Finale at the Hard Rock Café early on in their history, and they were the youngest band in the competition. Their stage presence wowed the judges when some band members dropped to their backs, spun around and continued playing their instruments.
In AJ’s senior year at Masconomet High School in Boxford, MA, he saw one option for college, Berklee School of Music. He was first introduced to the school through their summer program. The summer of his senior year, he received a scholarship letter from Berklee before a formal application submission, and felt his college search process was finalized. He applied and waited for his anticipated admittance confirmation, only instead was informed he was not admitted to the school. At that point, he started researching other options for top music schools, and decided to apply to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a highly selective performing arts university situated in the English city of Liverpool and founded by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty. Now in his final semester of his senior year, AJ can’t wait to be presented his diploma on graduation day by Paul McCartney.
As AJ explained he was “out of his comfort zone” his freshman year. He spent time making friends and eating a lot of burritos. Midway through the first year he met friends and started writing new music. In his freshman and sophomore years AJ formed bands and quickly learned the challenges of band management and getting all members aligned with the same goals and commitments, so AJ transitioned to working independently on his songwriting and recording.
AJ’s end goal is to be a songwriter and producer. He is focused on a songwriting curriculum, and also loves all the behind the scene activities on the production side.
AJ carves his own highway, and is constantly educating himself on all the options and avenues available to get his music streaming and heard all over.
He sets aside time from his busy studies to continue the marketing of his music. This summer AJ sent an email and demo of new songs he’s working on, to a top producer in Manchester, England, John Delf. John works with top artists including Lily Allen, James Arthur, One Republic and Five Seconds of Summer. AJ got a response to his email, and an invite to Delf’s Edge Studio, regarded as one of the top studios in England. Now AJ is working with the “now AJ is working with Delf engineer Mark Winterburn on his new songs with plans to record nine new songs. The first single release planned for February 2019, is for the song, “I’m the worst”. Edge Studio's in-house producer Mark Winterburn was a finalist in the Pro-Sound Awards Engineer of the Year category 2014, and is one of the UK’s top studio engineers. AJ’s strategy is to release one song and follow up with another single in three months versus doing an EP and full album. He likes the approach of building the momentum song to song, and learning from the results. AJ is managing all the recording process on his own rather than with a band, and is bringing in session musicians as needed. He continues learn piano through self-teaching approaches, and feels it is a big help in his songwriting.
Artists on the Move was most impressed with AJ’s networking activities, both at his school and in the Liverpool music community. He attends music networking events and most recently attended several multiple industry events, meeting many A&R executives. AJ's advice to networking is to not push your music to everyone you meet, but instead to get to know people socially and if they inquire provide them a short update on what you are up to. They hear people plugging their music all the time, so they tune out.
AJ recently started a Podcast with a fellow student who is also from the United States. The podcast focuses on the grey areas about being an American in the UK, all the little differences that build up to such a massive culture shock, and debunk stereotypes and misconceptions of both countries (great for culture and travel tips too!). All future episodes will feature new guests and you can expect new content every other week. You can subscribe and email your thoughts or comments at AIAhosts@gmail.com! They are excited that 67 downloads were recorded the first day of the podcast. Tune in at the following sites.
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What advice do you have for the young musicians in this ever-changing market?
At Black Diamonds everything was done for me. I took it for granted and didn’t realize how much was going into the whole process of developing the band and managing all their gigs and marketing. In terms of online branding, it is important to not just push your music, but is just as important to be real and authentic. Show who you are and post between shows and music activities just as much. I feel that the podcast is one more avenue for getting people to know me.
We have confidence AJ will succeed in his music career, and will not waste a minute in his pursuit. He recognizes how every contact and connection can change his future, and saw firsthand how a simple introduction email to John Delf has had a huge impact on his early music career. AJ makes sure sending emails and demo links to A&R executives is on his to do list each week.
We wish him tremendous success and we can’t wait to hear his debut release of “I’m the Worst” and other songs he’s written including “I Can’t Kiss You When I’m Sober” and “Don't Know Any Better”.