An Interview With the New York-Based Singer-Songwriter And Current Law Student, MIA KOO!
Posted On 13 Nov 2017
Meet Mia Koo! This New York City raised songwriter and recording artist is ready to take a stand for fellow artists and end the debate on streaming royalties forever. Koo began studying classical voice at the age 3 and violin at the age of 6, adding guitar, bass, piano and drums to the mix at age 12, and was quickly introduced to the music industry upon attending The Hard Rock Academy, a Nickelodeon and Disney affiliated arts program in Orlando, FL. She performed across local radio stations and soon landed a contract in Disney Channel’s The Cheetah Girls at only 13 years old. Opting to pursue music over acting, Koo forwent this opportunity and started The Kung Fu Girls in 2004 with her sister, Ava. Their debut full length album Thinking Of You was produced by Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s and landed the band on MySpace’s Top 20 Artist chart with over a million streams. Koo then began songwriting with Tom Higgenson and found herself a co-writer and vocalist on Plain White T’s hit single “Our Time Now.” This catapulted Koo’s songwriting career, where she started writing with and for artists like Stacy Clark, Gwen Stefani, Wallpaper, etc. on Atlantic Records, Sony Japan, Interscope, Capitol Records and more. Koo continued releasing solo music as well, and recently shared her double album Paragon via Shining Star Records in July 2017. Proving her abilities behind the boards and in front of the mic, the album is filled with explosive pop anthems and its title track is currently sitting at 4.5 million streams on Spotify independently.
Today, Koo is excited to announce the next chapter in her career. As a seasoned songwriter with years in the game, Koo has seen the damaging effects that streaming has had on the music economy and she has taken it upon herself to pursue a Constitutional Amendment to certain sections in Copyright Law in the form of a Streaming Bill; in solidarity with Copyright Shareholders and Artists alike. She believes in the regulation of fair streaming shares for Copyright Shareholders and independent labels in regards to all music streaming and ending corruption and collusion between major players in the streaming and royalty worlds.
She hopes to mobilize the independent music community to work with local legislators on her Streaming Bill, working alongside local Legislatures, Senators and Local Congressman for visibility and fair, common ground streaming royalties Koo has recently gone back to school to pursue a law degree to better enhance her case and give her the opportunity to support artists in the future as an Intellectual Property Litigator. She will be unveiling official rhetoric surrounding her Streaming and Copyright Reform Act in the near future. Mia Koo is ready to challenge monopolies and clarify the law for Mechanical Rates and Licensing, increase in pro-rata shares for publishers and Copyright Royalty Board Royalty rate increase in Streaming, and repeal of the Free Safe Harbor Act in the DMCA and other Notices of Intent streaming companies use to be void of any responsibility of obtaining a license.
Mia Koo Links:
Website / Spotify / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Learn more about Mia Koo in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time for another All Access today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad
mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
This interview finds me amidst Halloween weekend reviewing for a math test on Monday and doing my English Home work! Rimsky Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35: II. The Story of the Kalender Prince (Opening) – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov playing in the background. I love Classical music. I find it easy to relax and unwind to. I think Rimsky is an excellent Russian composer back in the mid 1800’s. He’s my go to recently.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there a time where you thought of doing something completely different?
Yes. I did. Well, after I found out becoming a pig rider in a rodeo wasn’t a thing, that was clearly off the table. I started singing Opera and Musicals with Classical training at an early age around 3
years old, as my mother was a renaissance woman and among many of her degrees of being a Doctor, and Criminal Defense Attorney she also taught violin and voice at Manhattan Conservatory in her early years. Starting my voice training from birth essentially. I remember singing on the fire place when I was a baby and performing singing literally anything, making up songs constantly to entertain myself and those around me. Then my first song I ever learned was Ave Maria as per my mom’s request. It was so hard! But I did it! There have been many times I have had to do things different to support my music. Being a musician isnt like you pop out of a mountain one day and you’re famous. That really doesn’t ever happen and most artists who get famous have been in the game well over 10 years, you just hear about them now. The “Best New Artist” at the Grammy’s is hilarious because all of these “New” artists are not new, they’ve all been doing this for decades.
In addition to my escapades as a musician, I am a makeup artist, esthetician and do some hair styling on the side as well. I am doing something completely different right now by going back to
school to pursue my dreams of becoming an Intellectual Property Litigator. I can not sit by the side lines and watch what streaming has done to music any longer, so I have made the decision
to take a stand by educating myself and others on the Law and actually trying to change legislation in favor of supporting independent publishers against streaming monopolies specifically.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career? What are you most excited about for in 2018?
Musically I feel as if I have pushed the limits and boundaries of my songwriting. I have been composing for over 15 years now professionally and I am very proud of my new compositions
and double album “Paragon” available everywhere and on iTunes and Spotify.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected you and your music
I am originally form Huntington in Long Island, New York. I will always be a true New Yorker, and if you know anything about New Yorkers, we are ambitious, strong, loyal, hard working, and honest people. We never quit, don’t take no for an answer, and keep pushing until the job is well done. Coming from New York really prepared me for the world and LA. Being from NY in LA is
interesting. Everyone either loves you or hates you- you’re either hilarious and love the honesty or you are hated for the exact same reason. Long Island’s music history is rich in some of the best education in the world close by to NYC like Julliard and Manhattan Music Conservatory. I attended a South Huntington School district from 1996 – 2007 to one of the highest competing schools High Schools in for NYSSMA in Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and my High School Orchestra teacher Mrs. Jeness who recently passed- I owe my career to. She showed me real compositions, dynamics, and invaluable lessons throughout our few short years. Something that would impact my life in a way I would only understand now. Thank you Mrs. Jeness, we will never forget everything you gave our community and world. Thank you for who you made me today.
I’ve read that your first big break into the music industry happened with you received a songwriting credit on the Plain White T’s hit song “Our Time Now.” Can you talk about what that
was like for you? What was it like being a part of writing that song?
My first real big break was when I was `13 and started touring and recording an album with my sister in our band “The Kung Fu Girls”. From booking our own shows, Tom Higgenson
producing our first album “Thinking Of You” with millions of plays on Myspace back in the day, to then getting on APA’s roster- Tom and I became close friends often composing together on
Plain White T’s off time. “Our Time Now” was suddenly composed in a Best Buy Parking Lot in the Walt Whitman Mall and in my Social Studies Class I finished the first draft of the song shortly
after Tom asking me to write on their new album “Every Second Counts.” After the album went multi platinum and I had two cowrites and one single on the new PWT’s album, and a Grammy nomination later for the band I had publishing deal offers from Universal, Warner Chapel, Royalty Network and an array of other majors and indies- whom we were in negotiations with for a record deal for my band The Kung Fu Girls. The record deals were all one sided as we declined and it was scary to be 17 years old and doing a publishing deal with a major. So many artists get shelved and I knew I didn’t want to be one of them. I went with Royalty Network who I am still part of today!
When I younger, I was definitely obsessed with My Little Pony’s so I have to ask you about creating music for that show?!
Frank Liwall at Royalty Network submitted my music to Hasbro and DJ White Shadow was overseeing seeing connecting me and other writers/producers for My Little Pony, Equestria Girls, and other MLP shows, and DJ Pony’s new album (A DJ Pony on the show!) and I have been working with them for about 2 years now submitting music to the Hasbro and MLP catalogue. I worked a lot with the brilliant Sam Pool aka Champage Drip and we did a lot of songs together for the project. I am really proud of them and hope they come out soon for all to hear!
What was it like putting together your latest album, “Paragon”? Did anything surprise you about the whole process? Were there any unexpected challenges?
My new double album ‘Paragon’ has been composed over my 5 year period of being here in LA, as I am originally from NY. Some new, some old. Out of Thousands of songs written, these have been chosen on my new double album from working as a Songwriter/Musician/Producer out here in LA. But some of my new music I have been composing lately have been songs mainly
about personal experiences. From dealing with injustices and inequality in being a minority woman in music- to realizing the law is not always on one’s side, and that is something that can
not be. Learning about the pain and suffering life can bring and also the strength to carry happily on, which makes life living again is a concept explored in the new album.
What was the inspiration for your album’s latest single, “Rich Bitch”?
I was working in a studio where all the higher profiled males were being paid to produce on a project and not me, but they were asking me to do the same job and more for nothing. I built a
studio in the back and wrote and composed Rich Bitch with Kyle Kelso, and in about 2 or 3 hours we were done, and I left the studio. Kyle revamped the beat we made that day and made it more trap style, it was originally a dance track vibe.
How do you think you have grown as an artist since your time in your band, The Kung Fu Girls with your sister, Ava?
Ava and I will always make music together still as we are sisters and best friends for life, but after Kung Fu Girls ended I had to do a lot of soul searching with my music. I had so many labels, managers, A&R’s trying to push for me to sound like someone else during KFG and when I was pitching when I always wanted to sound like me. Why would someone want to buy a song where they sound exactly like you? I dont know it didn’t make sense to me. That’s not why people buy or listen to music. They buy/listen to music because they connect to it. They feel something. I realized that you can’t listen to any of those people trying to mold your sound. You write the songs you want to write, with the production, mix, and master you want. Stop listening to all these people who want you to sound like the next flavor of the day. Be yourself. Sound like you.
You have written for so many incredible artists so I am curious which artist you have particularly enjoyed writing for? What song and artist pairing are you particularly proud of today?
I loved writing for My Little Pony just because it was really fun to write songs from the perspective of a pony, or a teenage pony. I am very proud of my song “Pinata” by Inna, which
they turned into the “Cola Song” which went multi-platinum 2 years ago and used in a coke commercial!
I would love to know more about your plans in the independent music community and your work with local legislators on the Streaming Bill?
The amendments I am proposing in the Bill I am drafting would actually save streaming companies a lot of Law Suits and money in the end. The main reason Spotify keeps getting sued is because they don’t want to pay a Mechanical License fee or Mechanical Royalties as they don’t see it as a physical, tangible unit. So there is no Mechanical License needed according to Spotify, which misconstrues it’s definition being a license sold for monetary value, whether it is physical or not it is still of value and being monetized. Ultimately, I have a few amendments mainly to Section 115 where I would like to add Mechanical Licensing’s definition and function in streaming to the Copyright Law, making it illegal to not obtain a Mechanical License even if a Compulsory License is obtained as well. The Copyright Royalty Board is paying 10.5 % to licensors – about .0022 for paying subscribers and .0017 for non-subscription listeners per stream. The CRB says that the rates will go up between 2017 and 2020 in accordance with the consumer price index – which frankly is not sustainable for copyright shareholders to live on in this economy, especially if companies like Spotify are trying to take away our licensing rights by trying to regulate the industry moving away from fractional licensing (getting the correct licenses through the copyright shareholders/songwriters) and imposing an impossible and evil 100% Music Licensing system. Taking away our Licensing rights as Copyright Shareholders. So this in turn will keep them from saying they don’t have to license from the songwriter, and just through the songwriter’s PRO. They will have to obtain a Compulsory License and a Mechanical License and pay the according Royalties including Mechanical Royalties.
What has it been like being back at school pursuing your law degree? Has it been easier or harder then you thought?
Going back to school has been time consuming, hard work, and lots of dedication. I am working on my Associates Degree now, so I am sure it will get much harder from here- and probably
very scary once and if I get into and through Law School!
How active are you on social media? How important do you think it has all been to your career? Do you find that it’s hard to keep up to date on all the different platforms?
I do the instagram stories all day! Facebook a lot, Snapchat, Twitter- you name it I do it. Social media is imperative to one’s business and overall success. Plus it’s literally free advertising. The downside is it’s extremely time consuming engaging constantly with people literally 24/7. It makes it so if you’re not posting there’s millions of others posting instead of you which people
will see. Making one feel like they are missing out on opportunity which can cause anxiety, and negative feelings of inadequecy for not posting frequently enough. Yet we need it as a platform
to advertise to survive. Keeping up to date with all the different platforms is surely exhausting yet necessary unfortunately in these times.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created
today is going to reflect these difficult times?
Selling and collecting royalties on my music no longer gives me the same amount of joy it used to. This makes making music less pleasureable when it is has become a devalued market. Therefore, musicians are not fairly compensated for our efforts and creations and are less likely to compose music we think is of value. When one is not being fairly compensated and devalued for one’s hourless life long work that is their all, that is music there will be a lack of interest in creating this music. It is heart wrenching to know how much I used to make when CD sales were at a high and to now that streaming is the new unregulated main platform where I make only $1000 a quarter for millions of streams. Just listen to the radio and even Spotifys playlists are all un-listenable. Music has been devalued to a point so low I really don’t even think it’s music anymore holding it to it’s true integrity and potential. It’s so sad to see what has happened to the industry because of monopolistic culture and pure greed.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Some of my favorite are Hall and Oates, Prince, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Rimsky, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Chopin. I would love to work with Pharell, Demi Lovato, Drake and Cardi B.
What do you hope fans take away from your music? Do you think there is a message to a lot of your songs?
I want my fans to know it’s gonna be okay. Things are gonna get better and you are going to get through whatever you’re going through. Life is crazy and we just have to keep going even when it seems impossible. That’s what my new album is about. Getting back up when you’ve been knocked down, time and time again.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
Enroll in a good School District with the best music instructors and track record for state music competitions. Study Classical music (Suzuki and Hyndemith Method are great to start). Practice
your scales. Site reading is SO important in the studio and your skills later on. Read the Copyright Law and the Consent Decree. Don’t trust anyone. Pretty much every deal you’re gonna get is going to be biased towards the company so get a good lawyer and get really good at reading contracts. Never sign away your masters, publishing rights, or exclusive rights in any sort of deal unless you’re being paid a lot of money. Always sign a split sheet after every session no matter what, bring split sheets to every session and ALWAYS copyright your music.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I feel like I have shared long enough haha! Thanks for reading if you made it this far to all my fans, friends and family. I will let you all get back to your day, but huge thank you All Music for this interview. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, and Facebook! Buy or Stream my new double Album Paragon Here and download my app free #MiaKooApp for more updates, music and more! Thanks again All Music! All the best. 🙂 <3