Networking in the Songwriting Business by Doak Turner
You are at songwriting round, open mic, showcase, CMA Week party, Jason Blume BMI workshop, NSAI Song camp, ASCAP Party, 3rd Sunday at 3 event or other networking event in Nashville. You attend the event to meet songwriters and other industry professionals, and want to be prepared and leave a great impression on the people that you meet.
Start by introducing yourself and ask about the other person. Maybe tell them you enjoyed their songs, or ask how long they have been in Nashville, or other small talk. Take an interest in the other person, and DO NOT tell them what a great songwriter that YOU are, or hand them your CD and ask them to listen to your songs! This is a relationship town, and you need to show an interest in other people, take the time to get to know them, and the time will be right to play your songs for that person. Do NOT meet a hit songwriter at The Bluebird Café or other venue, introduce yourself and hand them your CD. This is a relationship town – just tell them you enjoyed their songs and you look forward to seeing them around town – as you will, at the YMCA, grocery store, another songwriting event or someone’s party in the future. You want them to like you, not avoid you because you hand them a CD and ask them to write with you – which is another Not To Do Thing! Hey – a great book that will help you with those topics is “The Do’s & Don’ts of Music Row” by Liz Hengber. Read that book!
Now, it is time to exchange business cards, and you want to be prepared and do not want to fumble through a pocket full of everyone else's cards you have collected that particular day, trying to find one of your cards that does not have scribbled notes on it. One networking tip is to have Your Business Cards in your Left pocket, and Everyone Else's Cards in your Right pocket. Always have a pen in your pocket and take notes from your conversation, after you have said your, “see you around town¨ or “I will call you next week and set a co-writing appointment¨, or whatever happens during your conversation.
Speaking of business cards, your card should include your name, phone number, PO Box or address, website AND e-mail address, and be easy to read. Be sure to include your e-mail address on every business card. If you just have your website address, you are asking people to spend the time (most won't take this extra time) to go to your website, find the contact section and then send you an e-mail. Do not have fancy music logos such as music notes on your business card, unless maybe it is your company logo. You should have your personal music business card, not your day job company business card, if you work outside of the music business.
I mention PO Box and offer this tip for everyone in Nashville. Go to the Acklen Post office in Hillsboro Village (behind the Sunset Grill) and obtain your personal PO Box. About 99% of Music Row receives their mail at this location, and this can prove to be a great networking location. I have made several contacts, a co-write or two appointment after running into people that I met previously, and several acquaintances from standing in line, or just saying hello at this post office location.
Another unique networking tip for your business card is when you see someone looking for a piece of paper or something to write on at an event, offer your card and a pen that you should always have in your pocket at these events. Tell that person to use the BACK of your business card to write notes. I do this all the time, and got a call one day from a pro songwriter telling me that he had six of my cards in his wallet from the previous evening's event. I asked him if he thought it was a coincidence, “I don't think so”!
The key to networking is being prepared before you get to the event. Always have a positive attitude at the event, ask positive questions instead of dwelling on how tough it is, how it is not fair, or you do not understand why your songs are not on the radio. I may ask a question like, “What is happening good for your songwriting world¨ or “What is happening good in your life these days¨? This will get the other person off on a good note and they may want to spend a couple extra minutes talking to you.
I like to arrive early at an event and get a plate of munchies or the food they are serving at the showcases. This prevents you from trying to talk to everyone, shake hands and do the business card exchange while holding a plate in one hand and a drink in the other hand.
Always strive to have fun at the events, meet new people, learn something new and just enjoy the experiences on this journey of songwriting! Best wishes for your music journey and I will see you networking in Nashville!
Doak Turner is a songwriter in Nashville, TN and he has hosted the USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at the Bluebird Cafe in the past. He has songs on independent CD projects, former 6-year local coordinator in the NSAI Charlotte workshop, produced several successful songwriting events. For information on USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net
Art vs. Entertainment: How do you see yourself in the world of music?
by Melissa Axel
How do you see your role in the music industry? You may say that you're an artist, creatively interpreting your experiences and the world around you to evoke an emotional response. Or perhaps you identify more as an entertainer, offering delight and diversion from the ups and downs of everyday life. The two are not mutually exclusive, but how you see yourself—in music and in life—determines everything from what you write about to what kind of performances you give (if any) to how you interact with everyone who hears your songs. What works for Regina Spektor (see picture insert) does not work for Lady Gaga, and vice versa … but why?
Regina's power lies in her purity: intelligent, honest lyrics and raw vocal delivery are the essence of her style as a performer and as a writer. Her work may not compel you if you're more interested in fantasy than reality, but her unique talent for highlighting the humor and poignancy of "real life" is unmistakable. And, she's incredibly engaging to watch even when seated in black on an empty stage, save for a baby grand.
Lady Gaga has said that she considers herself a songwriter first, yet so much of her energy goes into extravagant stage production and image design. Love her or hate her, if you've seen any of her live performances, it's hard to argue that she's not expressing herself and often sharing emotions that ring true with others, albeit surrounded by spectacle. Remember, even the most seemingly unnatural things on earth were created by us humans.
So who is the artist and who is the entertainer? These two examples show us not only what differences there can be among performing songwriters, but how each music creator has the ongoing opportunity to define him or herself through creativity, emotion, amusement or all of the above. Artists entertain, and entertainers create art. Both require talent, skill, endurance and vast amounts of hard work. Both roles can touch and inspire, heal and comfort, sometimes provoke and even alienate, but above all, connect. Whatever approach we bring to it, music brings us together and returns us to our core essence, in all its diversity.
A more important question may be "are you being true to yourself in all that you create?" In an industry full of manufactured imagery, mass-marketed talent and carefully crafted showcases, authenticity is a rare gift indeed. It is the bold singer who approaches the performance of a song with humility, choosing quiet notes over vocal affectation to highlight an important lyric, saving the big wails for contrasting emotional impact. It is the brave writer who chooses to speak the truth, in his or her own words, even when there's no telling whether anyone else wants to hear it.
Let everyone else try to decide whether what you're doing is "art" or "entertainment" … they certainly won't all agree anyway. It's your choice how to express yourself through your work—and defining who you are to yourself will give you the best understanding of your role in the world of music.
Who are you, really? Who do you want to be? Are they one and the same?
Melissa Axel is an Artist Relations representative of USA Songwriting Competition. At just eight years of age, Melissa Axel was writing songs about the bittersweet journey of life, love, struggle, and inspiration. The piano-driven singer/songwriter studied at Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music and went on to earn her master's degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Nova Southeastern University. Her new album “love. humanity. Metamorphosis” will be released September 20, 2011. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME RESOURCES ONLINE
By Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Indie artists often complain about not having the budget they’d like to market and promote their music. Nowadays, digital marketing offers a plethora of opportunities for marketing yourself and your music that doesn’t cost anything in dollars. But, it can be hard to know where to begin—and end. While much of it is good for those of you with small to no money budgets, there’s still a big expense for taking advantage of so many opportunities—TIME.
The good AND the bad news: the cost to break an independent act can be more in time than in dollars. It’s great to have free tools! But you could spend all of your waking hours going onto all the different social networking sites and other avenues of promotion and still not make a dent. With all the artists and labels vying for online attention, you must work to make your music stand out.
It’s important to brand your name online. The more people see it, the more curiosity can be generated, which leads to potential fans or clients checking you out. The more you respond to fans who write to you, the more loyal fans you’ll have. But so much of the efforts to find fans is one by one, which accounts for a lot of the time you need to put into it.
It’s not enough to just register on all the websites. While there’s unlimited space for everyone online, you can get lost in it all and not make any constructive progress. I know. I’m always getting links to sites I “should check out.” People email me both to my server and on the social networking sites. It gets overwhelming. Another day ends and I haven’t done any writing. So I must get tough with myself in order to function.
Time isn’t FREE when it costs you your sleep, your personal life and even your sanity. But you can take control of online activities to make the most of the best opportunities. Here are so DOs and DON’Ts for getting the most out of your online resources.
DON’T jump around to everything that seems interesting or the new flavor of the month.
DO force yourself to stay on track. Put aside things you want to check out for when you have some time or accept you can’t look over everything. Learn the benefits of hitting DELETE.
DON’T immediately answer emails when they come in or click when you get a link.
DO: Prioritize what most needs to be done at this point. I have a NEED TO ANSWER folder and put personal emails and those asking questions into it. Have a block of time set aside when all you do is answer emails. When time is up, leave the rest for the next block!
DON’T jump from one site to another and register with every one you can.
DO plan your direction carefully and prioritize your needs to work them properly. Social networking sites allow musicians to seek fans out and interact with them. But working one or two hard is strongly advised as opposed to doing a little bit on many. If you have too many, you don’t work anything well and you can spread yourself too thin. Decide which sites are best for you and concentrate your energy to build up relationships with fans on them.
DON’T try to do everything yourself.
DO mobilize fans to help. Get volunteers to assist you in following up with online activities. Ask them to tell other musicians on the site about you, use your music as their default on their MySpace page and drive potential fans to your sites. If you have a budget, hire an online marketing specialist to direct your efforts and do some of the legwork.
DON’T register with any social networking site that you’re not prepared to follow up with.
DO answer every email and make your presence known. Respond to comments. Nowadays, when people hear an artist they like or see you perform, they’ll leave a comment on your MySpace page. It’s important to respond. Musicians who keep in touch with their fans religiously build the strongest communities and get the most support.
DON’T focus just on MySpace and Facebook.
DO diversify. While pure social networking sites are great to exploit, get your music in places where people can find it. Do as many things as you can that don’t require constant attention that give your music potential exposure. Create iMixes up in the iTunes music store. Get your music into streaming radio sites, such as Last.fm, Pandora, Launch, iLike, etc. Send it to MP3 bloggers who review your genre of music. Post videos on YouTube. And get yourself on wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. These efforts often just require doing something once and can drive people to find your music.
DON’T think that selling and promoting your music online is all you need.
DO everything you can in real life too. Touring is still important for creating a strong connection with fans. People do live a good part of their lives off the computer so follow traditional promotion routes too.
DON’T put all your energy into inviting people you don’t know to be your friend or worry about having big numbers of them.
DO be more concerned with connecting to real fans. Successful artists say they don’t worry about how many friends they have on MySpace. What’s important is that they’re real fans who care about reading bulletin posts and getting invitations to your gigs. Of course you can invite people to be your friend if you want to know them. But do that with an email to introduce yourself so they know who you are and why you’re requesting them as a friend. Just inviting for the sake of upping your numbers is a waste of time these days. I don’t have thousands of friends on MySpace but every one of them came to me. I like that better! <http://www.myspace.com/Daylle>
Before you begin, make sure you’re ready to commit the time. Even with limits, you’ll spend hours a day keeping up. Find sites that are the likeliest to reach your audience and work them with a vengeance. Take advantage of every function they offer. Join relevant communities. Interact on them as much as you can so people get to know you. Eventually some will come to your page and hear your music.
Being online can be a full time job and you might only have a limited amount of time to devote. ReverbNation, which I featured in the last issue, has many helpful tools that can save you a lot of time and maximize your online reach. Some people hire a promoter to do it for them. If you don’t have a budget, I highly advise that you put aside time every day to work this new model for marketing and promoting music online, with a real plan.
Daylle Deanna Schwartz is the best-selling author of 13 books, including I Don’t Need a Record Deal! Your Survival Guide for the Indie Music Revolution. Start & Run Your Own Record Label and Nice Girls Can Finish First. Daylle is giving her self-love book away for free at http://HowDoILoveMe.com She presents music industry seminars, does coaching/consulting for musicians and record labels, and publishes a free music business e-zine. Info: http://www.daylle.com and: