From Berklee to the Billboard Charts: Quickie Q&A with Karmin

Karmin at the 2012 Rethink Music Conference. Photo by Lisa Occhino.

By: Lisa Occhino

After their cover of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” went viral on YouTube, engaged couple and musical act Karmin instantly created a huge buzz on the web. The duo, consisting of Berklee alumni Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, was invited to perform on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” shortly thereafter, which caught the attention of record labels and ultimately ended up in a deal with Epic.

Now, with their hit single “Brokenhearted” and first major release out, Karmin is quickly taking the music industry by storm. Amy and Nick graciously gave us a few minutes of their time at the 2012 Rethink Music Conference to catch up on life since Berklee.

Berklee Groove: What teacher or class at Berklee would you say had the biggest impact on your career?

Amy Heidemann: We [Nick Noonan and I] took Livingston Taylor’s Stage Performance class together. I also loved Pat Pattison’s Lyric Writing class. Changed my life.

BG: What do you think is the most important social media platform for promoting yourselves?

Karmin at the 2012 Rethink Music Conference. Photo by Lisa Occhino.

Amy: YouTube was our biggest, although now I feel like it’s Twitter as far as keeping direct connection with the fans.

Nick Noonan: The way it’s set up is easier, too. Facebook is more equation-based, so if you post something not necessarily all of your followers are going to see it.

Amy: And [Twitter is] so much easier when you’re on the go.

BG: Any advice on how to convert a viewer or listener into a fan? How do you monetize that?

Amy: We’re still learning about that. We didn’t make money off of the [YouTube] covers. I mean, we sold the covers on iTunes and paid the royalty rate to the songwriters. But now, it’s still old-fashioned – we’re physically going from city to city and meeting people.

Nick: You need to give people reasons to really latch on.

Amy: A lot of people just like my hair – they don’t even know I’m a singer [laughs].

BG: How did you meet [your manager] Nils [Gums]? I know he was a Berklee student too.

Amy: Yes, I met him in gospel choir eight years ago, in 2004. He’s from Germany, my last name is German, so we hit it off. He was always the business guy on campus. He moved to LA, graduated before we did, and started working for producers.

BG: Did you go to him to ask him to manage you, or did he come to you?

Amy: He said, ‘I saw what you guys are doing on YouTube, and I think I could help you guys get more views by recommending the right songs.’ He was just a friend, and then when stuff blew up, I called him and I was like, ‘Will you manage us?’

BG: Was your main plan always to become famous from YouTube, or was that unexpected?

Nick: That was definitely unexpected. We wanted to just use it as a platform to start getting the word out. The plan was to eventually move to LA, and try to break into local scene there. But [YouTube] is a global platform, so we did that to spread and plant as many seeds as possible.

Amy: But it’s funny now because people are like, ‘Oh, you guys are the YouTube band!’ So now it’s hard to get away from that reputation, but we don’t really care – so is Justin Bieber.

BG: Yeah, it seems to be working for you [laughs]. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being in the music industry?

Nick: Try to do everything yourself as much as possible.

Amy: Yes. Keep as much in your hands as you can.

BG: Creative control?

Amy: Yes, and down to even designing t-shirts and logos. Everything.

Nick: Don’t assume someone else is gonna be better at it.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely – you’re your best bet.


Karmin links:
Official website

P.S. Direct quote from Amy: “We love The Groove!” Aww, we love you too!