Songwriting Tips, News & More

Networking in the Songwriting Business by Doak Turner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @01:02 PM

Networking in the Songwriting Business by Doak Turner 


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! 
Click me
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
 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Nashville, USA Songwriting Competition, NSAI, doak turner, Networking, Songwriting Business

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 @05:24 PM

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting
By Sara Light

Before landing my first staff writing deal and major label cut, I served as the membership director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Over the course of four years I worked with, talked to and counseled new and aspiring songwriters and I began to recognize certain similarities between those songwriters who continually realized their goals and those who didn't. As I watched people move to town, leave town, reach goals or give-up, I learned some important strategies to achieving long-term success as a songwriter.

Strategy 1: Find your team
From the day we make the decision to pursue our dream of becoming a professional songwriter we're beginning a long and often frustrating journey. Like Dorothy on her way to Oz, we need help reaching our destination. At first, our family and friends may be the ones to give us the emotional support we need to keep going. Eventually, however, we must expand our team of supporters to include industry professionals who can keep us moving in the right direction. Performing Rights Organization representatives (in the US: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, in Canada: SOCAN, in the UK: ALCS), publishers, professional songwriters, producers and even major label recording artists, all may eventually become part of our team. Attending songwriting workshops given by local, national and international songwriting organizations is one way to start. You never know if the unknown guy you bump into today might be the Garth Brooks of tomorrow. Just a few of the hit songwriters and artists who have attended songwriting workshops include Mark D. Sanders ("I Hope You Dance"), Mike Reid ("I Can't Make You Love Me"), Carolyn Dawn Johnson ("I Don't Want You To Go") and Dianne Warren ("How Do I Live"). By continually improving our songwriting craft and expanding our knowledge of the industry, we let our potential team know that we're serious and motivated. In addition, by having the patience to form honest relationships and showing appreciation when someone helps us, we earn the trust and respect that we need to add members to our team little by little. Rarely is success achieved overnight. It usually takes years of hard work and persistence. Take for example, Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross who were both given a helping hand by the artists for whom they had been singing backup. Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill made contacts by singing demos while looking for their label deals. Luckily, we don't need everybody in town to like our songs, but we do need a strong team who does.

Strategy 2: Stay Focused
Most of the aspiring songwriters I've met actually begin with some kind of plan. For some, it is to take frequent trips from their hometown to a major music center in order to write and establish relationships. For example, Northern California songwriter, Steve Seskin ("Don't Laugh At Me"), and up-state NY songwriter, Hugh Prestwood ("The Song Remembers When"), both have had great success writing for the Nashville market. However, one thing most "out-of-town" writers would probably tell you is that making and maintaining contacts from a distance takes an incredible commitment of time, money and energy. For other songwriters, the plan is to move to a major music center and find an alternate means of income until the ship carrying their hit song comes in. Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") tells the story of how he wrote songs while working as a computer operator at night. Garth Brooks had a variety of jobs when he moved to Nashville, including selling boots.

Strategy 3: Set Goals
Even if we're living in a major music center, it's easy to get sidetracked or discouraged if things aren't happening as quickly as we might have hoped. Organization and goal setting are key ingredients to persevering and moving forward on our journey. In his book, Life Is A Contact Sport (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994), manager Ken Kragen, whose past and present client roster includes Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood, discusses how using a step-by-step approach has made him and his clients successful. Instead of looking at a desired outcome as an overwhelming task, Kragen sets smaller goals. He helps his clients create a road map beginning from where they are and the steps they need to accomplish to reach their ultimate goal. By reaching intermediate goals along the way, the payoff is constant and the journey is satisfying. I followed Kragen's advice and over the years some of the goals I set for myself and reached included: I will take guitar lessons; I will host a show at the Bluebird Café in Nashville; I will get meetings with five music publishers this month; I will write everyday; I will save enough money to demo ten songs this year; I will get a major artist cut.

Strategy 4: Take chances
In an industry as competitive as this one, we cannot afford to let our fears of failure hold us back. To "take a chance" means something different for everyone. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and different "comfort zones." What might feel like a risk to one person, might be a piece of cake to another. But, as my favorite T-shirt says, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I've been told that Jodee Messina walked right up to the head of Curb Records, Mike Curb, and told him that he needed a redhead on the label. If she hadn't done that, who knows if today she'd have several number one singles and a platinum album. So keep in mind that if you're not writing a song today, someone else is. If you're not calling a certain publisher, someone else is. If you're not booking a gig - well, you get the point. If we never step outside of what feels comfortable to us we can't learn the skills we need to succeed. We must be willing to accept possible rejection or failure and keep going in spite of it. A good example of this kind of perspective and persistence is exemplified by what Thomas Edison said to his wife while watching his laboratory burn down - "that's a good way to get rid of all those mistakes I was making in there."

You've already taken a huge step, just by allowing yourself to pursue your dream. It's not always an easy thing to do, but don't let yourself give up too easily. You can do it!

--Sara

Short Bio:
Songwriter Sara Light Sara Light
is a Tony-Award nominated, hit songwriter and co-founder of www.SongU.com. SongU.com provides multi-level song writing courses developed by award-winning songwriters, song feedback, mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Sara Light, SongU.com, Songwriting Teacher, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, NSAI, SongU