By Joshua Hammann
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - For Kevin Richardson, the road to pop superstardom had to start in Florida.
The Backstreet Boy left his native Kentucky as a teenager for a job at Walt Disney World before auditioning for an Orlando-based vocal group that would eventually become the Backstreet Boys.
Richardson, now 31, hopes aspiring singers, songwriters and producers won't have to leave Kentucky to break into the music industry.
Richardson, along with childhood friend and songwriter Keith McGuffey, are opening a music academy in downtown Louisville next month. Tentatively called The Music Workshop, the offices will be a catchall for those curious about a career in music.
"When me and Keith were growing up in central Kentucky there wasn't any real outlet for us. If we wanted to get information about the music industry, we had to travel to get any real solid input," Richardson said from his home in Los Angeles.
The workshop will offer classes for anyone wanting to tweak the knobs on a sound board, strum a guitar or even negotiate a sweet royalty rate. McGuffey is a certified Pro Tools instructor, Richardson said, and will teach classes on digital recording and production equipment.
Eventually, the workshop will include a full recording studio, giving students the opportunity to learn how to record an album and how to get the music in the right hands.
"You'll learn how to record a demo, how to shop a demo and who you need to get it to," Richardson said. An unsolicited tape, Richardson said, "90 percent of the time it just goes in the trash."
Also, McGuffey said, students can learn how to avoid bad management and lopsided contracts.
"When someone offers you a contract and they say, 'We're gonna make your dreams come true, all you have to do is sign this contract,' who's not going to sign it?" McGuffey said. "They don't realize until after they sold a few million albums that they don't have any money and they're still driving a beat-up Honda Civic."
McGuffey, also 31, speaks from experience. As the rapper Trey D, McGuffey toured with the Backstreet Boys and played around the country. But he says bad contracts kept him from cashing in on his success.
"We're trying to prevent people from becoming a Behind the Music," McGuffey said, referring to the VH1 series that documents the rise and fall - and sometimes rise again - of popular music acts.
The workshop will begin accepting students in September, McGuffey said.
Classes will run for a few hours a day for between four and 12 weeks and will cost $300 to $450 per session, Richardson said.
Although the classes will be open to every age group, the program focuses more on teenagers, with Richardson hoping to build dormitories for out-of-state students and, even farther down the road, get the courses accredited to count toward a college degree.
Richardson said the workshop will be for new talent rather than established artists, some of which have emerged from Kentucky in recent years.
Acts such as Tantric and Nappy Roots, who scored a hip-hop hit with "Awnaw," a funky ode to country living, have proven there is viable talent in Kentucky. R&B singer and writer Athena Cage, a Russellville native, has plans to open a recording studio in Bowling Green.
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