His name may not be recognisable to millennial music consumers… well, okay not to even the most casual local music fan. However, like most people who work behind-the-scenes, Kedy Sanchez has been navigating the music industry waters, calm or choppy, for decades and always had an ear for what could be “the next big thing.” For one, he signed Wolfgang at a time when heavy metal can hardly be considered commercially viable. He has also worked at the opposite end of the spectrum working with pop artists such as Jolina Magdangal.

Currently FILSCAP’s Corporate Secretary, Sanchez is also GMA Record’s Artist & Repertoire Manager.

BillboardPH spoke to Sanchez during the FILSCAP Songwriters Night in 19 East about rolling with the changes and upheavals in the industry. He expresses gratitude at the venue’s openness, noting, “It’s always it’s every musician’s dream to play here at 19East. If you get booked at 19East, you don’t talk about fees or anything. You say yes. We’re so happy to have gotten 19East on a Saturday night.”

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Kedy Sanchez (right) with current FILSCAP President Rico Blanco at the FILSCAP GA 2017.

How long have you been in the A&R Business?

I got into the record industry right after college. They got me for Ivory Records. That was way back in 1984. So since then I’ve been in the A&R business. Been there, done that. Name it, I’ve worked, produced, and recorded for them. From young people like Aiza Seguerra and Jolina Magdangal to top acts like Side A and Wolfgang. I’ve produced them. I’ve produced their albums. Up to now it’s 2017, I’m still in A&R and part of my job is actually to look out for new talent.

It’s a little difficult now because as you can see, I have my preferences. I’m more into the music which I grew up with. But it cannot work that way. I have to move. So I have to listen. I have to put my feet into these kinds of things and try to listen to what the music is like right now. I have heard a couple of songs which I’ve already said “I have to get that.”

Many people come here thinking you’re doing them service by giving them opportunities while in fact, you’re also doing something for yourself as you’ve implied earlier: you’re here to learn?

Yes that’s right! For many of these songs, if I had heard them fifteen years ago, instantly I’d have said “What the hell is that?” But now it’s a little different. The acoustic setup is very much “in” right now. People listen – which is good. People don’t necessarily have to have a good beat which they can dance to or melodies that they can sing along to. People are to listen. Bago to ah, bago to. People are now listening. The music right now is a little more organic. I had to learn that too.

So when you come out here to an open mic like FILSCAP Songwriter’s Night, do you look for songwriting talent or do you look for singing talent?

Two things actually, as an A&R, you’re always on the lookout for new acts. I’m pretty proud to have signed up a band like Wolfgang. […] I saw them and I said I wanna produce their album. So you look for acts. Also, you look for material. There are many people who could write good material. There are some songs which you may have heard, that sound good but they don’t sound as good if the composer is the one performing it? What I’m saying is, there are cases where another artist can do more justice to you original work. I’m on the lookout for those.

I have to deal with my cards at GMA Network. More than half of what I have to work with are actually talents, contract artists of the network. Some of them can sing, some of them have to be trained to sing. So I need material. Good material.

So you’re bridging these two different types of artists – people who can create the material and people who can deliver it with excellence. As a producer I’m sure you need that special skill to hear a song that isn’t delivered at its best by the performer, and still hear the potential of the song.

As an A&R person, we were trained to listen beyond the imperfections of the performer. I used to listen to cassettes of people who sang their songs in a capella. Buti na lang, musikero ako. So I can already imagine the chordal patterns the progression.

If producers don’t have that talent, people won’t get to listen to songs by Gary Granada, Vehnee Saturno, and George Canseco because these guys send their demos in a capella. It’s a sad commentary: many people who are on the lookout for music right now want music that’s actually recorded already.

The middle aged lady who sang in a capella. I wanna talk to her. I wanna expose that particular song that she just sang. She didn’t have a really good voice. She had no accompaniment but my god, the sincerity. Naiiyak siya while singing it. Can you imagine if that was performed by a Sarah Geronimo with the ABS-CBN orchestra? The message is very universal. Very universal. Everybody’s had the feeling. Lamang na yan! Cause people identify with that song nga diba?

You were saying earlier that there aren’t as many producers that give that type of talent a chance?

Yes, and you can quote me on that.

It’s an interesting topic. Because everything is so instant now, people want all elements to be present in their demos, but judging from what you said earlier, there is a heart in a song that doesn’t need all of that?

Yes! Very very well said! I truly agree with that. Otherwise, we would never have heard the George Canseco songs of Basil Valdez diba? I wish producers or people who are music users would be a little more open. Lalo na ngayon na organic. Puro one acoustic guitar and vocal. I really have to think beyond what I hear, because I have to think about how it is going to be recorded.

Because it is a business, you make all these decisions based off your observations on what music sells. So what first motivated you to refresh your music library and actively observe the evolution of music tastes?

Now is the time for me to set things out. At my age, I have personal biases of what music is suppose to sound like, so I have to tell myself, no it’s not like that anymore. So I have to listen. How is it? How does it sound? How does it go? I enjoy attending songwriting camps, seminars, summits about digital music. I don’t have to do it but I want to.

I’m a blue blood, from prep to college. I’m an Atenean. Graduated Mass Comm in 1983. In 1986, I taught at the communications department of the Ateneo. I taught music production. I taught there for 20 years, from ’86 to 2006. When I started, my students were calling me on a first name basis. Almost like I was one of them, you know? By 2006, Everyone addressed me as “sir,” “manong,” and everyone spoke to me with a “po.” That’s when I said to myself “This is getting a little awkward.” It came to a point I was trying to give examples of song materials and they don’t know the songs! May gap na talaga sa generation. […] I was feeling that I was not that in touch anymore. So I had to start learning how it is again.

The paradigm of the music business shifted drastically! From the records to digital. So the usual, what we learned and what we experienced with regards to marketing, production, A&R, etc. It didn’t work anymore. Totally different.

That gave the young people equal footing to us old fogies. Ang alam namin, it doesn’t work anymore. So pagalingan tayo ngayon. And they learned how to take advantage of social media ahead of us. I admit that. Mabagal. We were holding on to what we knew.

Mind you, many labels may ganun pa ring philosophy: “No no no that’s wrong, social media it’s not going to happen, that’s gonna end soon. It’s just a fad.” “Okay okay, talaga ah? Ngayon wala nang CD!” CD replication here, the legitimate CD replication is reportedly closing middle of the year, which leaves us with no CD reproduction. In fact, it will only be digital.

That whole paradigm shift you’re talking about – people love to talk about the “Steve Jobs” of this world, iTunes, the iPod. Suddenly people are listening on their MP3 players instead of cassettes and CDs. 

Even radio! Radio doesn’t have that much power anymore. You listen to AM because you want to know if there’s traffic or not. Push na tayo sa social media and streaming. iTunes bumabagsak dahil sa Spotify.

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