Having presence is more than your physical body simply being in a given place at any given time. Just because you are standing in a particular spot or sitting on a specific chair in a certain location, doesn’t mean that you have presence.
When you have presence, your complete attention and every fiber of your being is focused on where you are and what you are doing. Taken to an extreme, all five of your senses are brought to bear with laser-like concentration on that specific moment in time and what you are doing there.
Note: this is one part of my seven-part series “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry.” It is currently being serialized atMusicStartsHere.org
In reality, a total state of presence is virtually impossible to achieve and would probably make us unaware if the house was burning down around us! However, developing your sense of presence is an essential element in your own professional growth and in your relationship with others.
Songwriting needs you to ‘be here now’
On a personal basis, any act of creation – a song, for example – requires your total presence, or at least as total as is practical. If you’re constantly checking your email, responding to texts or (AAAaargh!) listening to someone else’s music on your earbuds, you don’t have presence in your creation and it will suffer.
Worse still, if you are in a writing session with co-writers and you’re answering phone calls because “I gotta take this” or you’re saying, “Wait! You gotta see this video someone just sent me,” you’re not only destroying your own presence but also that of your co-writers. That’s unproductive, but it’s also inconsiderate in the extreme and is disrespectful to your colleagues.
Continue reading the ‘Presence’ chapter atMusicStartsHere.org. MusicStartsHere is a great resource for singers and songwriters that I highly recommend!
For too long, songwriters have had to work within an outdated system that over-regulates and undervalues their music. The Music Modernization Act of 2017 will help change that.
[Note: the text of this post is reproduced from an email sent out to ASCAP members. You do not have to be an ASCAP member to respond to this request that is supported by all Performing Rights Organizations and other entities involving songwriters and music publishers. You can find the original message here.]
Improved compensation for music creators
ASCAP has long advocated for a more flexible framework that can adapt to the realities of the modern music marketplace. The Music Modernization Act is a bipartisan music reform bill that represents months of compromise and collaboration between stakeholders from the music and tech sectors.
It includes provisions that we hope will ultimately result in compensation for our members that better reflects the true value of your music:
Rate court reform: replacing a single rate court judge for each PRO with different judges randomly assigned to each rate-setting proceeding (the “wheel” system)
Removal of Section 114(i) of the Copyright Act: allowing a rate court to consider all relevant evidence when determining songwriter compensation – including the rates that recording artists earn – an ability that is currently prohibited by law.
The Music Modernization Act of 2017 also includes provisions to reform Section 115 of the Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that will administer the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions like those used in interactive streaming models. This replaces the “bulk NOI” process that often failed to result in payments to songwriters and music publishers with a system that will enable digital music services to find the owners of the music they use.
While no legislation will solve all of our industry challenges, on balance we believe this is a significant step forward for all music creators.
If you are a member of BMI or SESAC and have received notification from them about a petition regarding the Music Modernization Act of 2017, you are of course welcome to respond to their communication.
Perseverance: part of a singer or songwriter’s “Pod of Seven P’s”
By Preshias Harris
In many ways, Perseverance is the first cousin of Passion. When one has passion, perseverance must inevitably follow as the means of realizing one’s passion.
Note: this is one part of my seven-part series “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry.” It is currently being serialized atMusicStartsHere.
Perseverance has sometimes been called persistence or “stick-to-it-iveness.” Whatever happens to knock you off course, you just keep going toward your goal. This doesn’t mean that, if you come to a ravine, you simply walk straight ahead and over the edge. By perseverance, you find another path, a way around the obstacle, and continue on to your goal.
Don’t let the naysayers discourage you
Your music career will, without doubt, run up against various obstacles as you proceed. There’ll be people who will tell you that you should forget about music and get a ‘real’ job. There will be meetings with music executives that you feel certain will bring about your big break, only to see those hopes crumble. And there will be promises made to you that turn out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors.
A career in music – just like careers in many other areas – can be filled with heartache and disappointment. But that doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong career choice. Simply that you have to recognize the obstacle and find a way to get past it and back on track.
Continue reading the ‘Perseverance’ chapter atMusicStartsHere.org.MusicStartsHere is the go-to place for news and information that artists, songwriters and anyone interested in the music scene need to know.
Hall of Famer Gary Burr’s advice to rising songwriters
“You have to go to work every day. You just have to go to work. I went to the office every morning, I went to the office every afternoon. If I had something good, it wasn’t going to be good enough ‘til I went over it with a fine-tooth comb several times. You just work hard. The ones [songwriters] who are making it today are just working really, really hard.”
Those words came from Gary Burr, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during an interview on the Public Television show, The Songwriters, produced the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU professor Robert Gordon Jr. directs the episodes, which are filmed by students from the school’s College of Media and Entertainment. Ken Paulson, Dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, hosts the new show and interviewed Burr during a recently televised episode.
Songs for Garth, Ringo, Skynyrd and more
Burr has been honored with Songwriter of the Year Awards from Billboard Magazine and ASCAP in addition to the Hall of Fame recognition. In a 40+ year career, he has written or co-written literally hundreds of songs that have been cut by major artists including Garth Brooks, Collin Raye, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Tim McGraw, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ringo Starr and more. Many of those cuts are also Number One hits. Take a look at the Discography at his website.
In his interview with Paulson, he emphasized that there’s no ‘trick’ to songwriting. As with any other creative enterprise, it takes a commitment to working at it every day, just like a ‘regular’ job because it is your job. You can’t wait for inspiration, said Burr. You simply sit down, either alone or with your co-writer and start work. That’s where hits are born.
‘The Songwriters’ currently airs in Nashville on WNPT Channel 8 on Saturday evenings. Check local TV schedules for air dates and times in other areas.
It’s always a great day for me when I can celebrate songwriters’ success, and nothing says ‘success’ like a Number One party. When it’s a writer’s first-ever Number One, that’s an even greater thrill.
On Monday, July 17, Nashville’s music community showed up at FGL House at a party co-hosted by ASCAP and BMI to acclaim Brett Young’s second consecutive Number One hit, the Platinum-certified “In Case You Didn’t Know.” Brett was on hand to celebrate with his three co-writers, for whom this song was their first chart-topper.
Kyle Schlienger (ASCAP), Tyler Reeve (BMI) and Trent Tomlinson (BMI) had apparently gotten together ‘south of the border’ to pen the hit with Brett.
“In 2015, I asked these guys to come to Puerto Vallarta with me to write some songs,” explained Brett. “I was lucky enough that they agreed even though they didn’t know me well. But who passes up a free trip to Mexico? We knew we had something special with ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ from the start, but I’m so thankful for how this song continues to change my life.”
Song’s ‘Making Of’ video shown
At the party, we saw a video that had been recorded during their songwriting retreat, showing how the song developed from the original concept. For novice songwriters attending the Number One party, it was a fascinating opportunity to watch ‘behind the scenes’ as the four guys collaborated on the song’s creation. If you are a ‘rookie’ songwriter and, even if a hit recording artist isn’t likely to ask you to join him on an expenses-paid trip to the beach, it certainly was an inspiration to see how hard work and persistence can pay off in the long run.
The song ultimately landed at No. 1 across multiple platforms: Mediabase and Billboard Charts, Sirius XM’s The Highway, Vevo Country Chart for six consecutive weeks and No. 1 CMT Hot 20 Chart for two consecutive weeks. With “In Case You Didn’t Know,” Brett is also currently nominated for a Teen Choice Award in the Choice Country Song category and fans can vote here
For additional information and a full list of tour dates, including stops on Lady Antebellum’s YOU LOOK GOOD WORLD TOUR, visit Brett’s website.
Wade Hayes is one tough and determined guy. And he knows a lot about facing adversity, overcoming it and moving on. In December 2011, he was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer. Successful surgery and chemotherapy removed the cancer. A year later, Wade was devastated to learn the cancer had returned. He received additional treatments, and today he has no evidence of disease. The brush with death gave him a new outlook on life and motivated him to write and record a moving collection of songs called ‘Go Live Your Life.’
As someone who has had my own share of dealing with cancer, I can empathize with Wade and his attitude of not letting a major roadblock keep him from moving on with his life and the career he loves.
He has had a long career with no sign of letting up. I well remember seeing Wade playing guitar for country artist Johnny Lee in the early 90s. I also wrote a story about Wade in Texas Country Music magazine in the 1990s.
Traditional music roots
And now Wade is back with a new album, OLD COUNTRY SONG (conabar records), due out June 9, 2017. He’s never tried to hide his traditional music roots and the new project has him going full-on old school.
“I grew up listening to Haggard, Waylon and Willie – classic country artists – and they’ve all had a huge influence on my writing and my music,” said Hayes. “I wanted to make a record that honored them, and I’m really proud of what we came up with.”
Wade wrote or co-wrote four of the 11 tracks. He partnered with Clint Ingersoll and Mark Collie on two of the cuts. Roger Springer wrote the title cut, Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander contributed “What You Need From Me,” and Chris Stapleton penned “We Needed The Rain.” Springer also wrote “All I Know” with Tim Menzies for the album, and Wade’s first producer, Don Cook, wrote the Conway Twitty hit “Julia” with John Jarvis. The Merle Haggard/Dean Holloway tune, “Going Where the Lonely Go,” rounds out the album.
Wade Hayes at CMA Music Fest
If you’re planning on being at this year’s CMA Music Festival, you’ll have several chances to catch up with Wade. He’ll be at Storme Warren’s Nashville Navy Party at Famous Saloon, 110 2nd Avenue South, on Tuesday, June 6. His Wade Hayes Friends’ Fest is set for Wednesday, June 7, 1:30-4:30pm at the Hermitage House Smorgasbord. He will perform on the Durango Music Spot Stage inside XFINITY Fan Fair X in the Music City Center on Thursday, June 8 at 2:35pm. That evening, he will perform at Alley Taps Gin Mill in Printers Alley. Wade will be on the road through the summer performing from Texas to Michigan and from Arizona to Florida, and details on all performances can be found at www.wadehayes.com.
The past two years, Wade has organized the star-studded Country Hits Back Concert to benefit the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center to help find a cure for colorectal cancer. This year’s extravaganza included performances by supergroup Alabama lead singer Randy Owen and Tracy Lawrence.
If you are a songwriter or an artist and your career seems to hit one roadblock after another, keep Wade Hayes in mind. He could have viewed that terrifying diagnosis as a sign that he needed to quit music and give up on his ambitions. Life will always throw you curve balls. Face the problems head on, fix what you can, ignore what you can’t and keep on going!
Follow Wade at www.WadeHayes.com and on Facebook at /officialwadehayes and twitter at /wadehayes1
Helping singers and songwriters ‘Learn more, earn more, be more.’
If you are fairly new to the music business (and even if you’re not) it can feel like your career is a mainly solitary enterprise. But fear not: You are not alone!
Let me point you in the direction of MusicStartsHere, an aptly named website that is like a virtual coffee shop where songwriters and musicians can hang out online. Unlike ‘real’ coffee joints, you don’t have to buy a five dollar mocha latte: it’s free to hang out. Just sign up and you’re in.
The site’s three co-founders – Will Carter, Adam Melcher and Doak Turner* – share a love of music and an understanding that artists and songwriters need opportunities to network with their peers and increase their skills and experience.
The ‘Knowledge’ section of MusicStartsHere is divided into five categories: Songwriters, Artists, Production, Musicians and Industry. Under the ‘Songwriters’ tab, for example, you’ll find subheads such as Songwriter Articles, Songwriter Video Interviews, Contributing Songwriters and WSM-AM Songwriter Show.
It’s all about community
MusicStartsHere is all about community, and, sure enough, under the ‘Community’ section you’ll find links to blogs aimed at songwriters, musicians, singers and others in the music industry. There’s also a section devoted to News and Events to keep you up to speed with info about the music biz and upcoming shows.
According to co-founders Will, Adam and Doak, the mission of MusicStartsHere is quite simple. It was created with the purpose of informing, educating, and connecting those in the music and entertainment industries. They see it as an online resource, marketplace, and gathering square for like-minded individuals to work, earn, inspire, and create together.
The ‘ultimate sandbox’
As they say at the website, “The nature and culture of MusicStartsHere is a collaborative one, that understands that success can’t be reached alone. By sponsoring local events, allowing industry professionals to solicit their services, and offering a venue for singer/songwriters or producers to showcase their music catalogs, MusicStartsHere has provided the ‘ultimate sandbox’ allowing each member an opportunity to build their own sand castles of creativity and success to help them on their personal journey through this crazy adventure better known as the music business…”
If you are serious about your music career or if you’re just beginning to wiggle your toes in the ‘sandbox,’ I suggest you click here to see how MusicStartsHere might be a useful resource for you.
* Doak Turner is my longtime BFF in the music business. It was Doak who introduced me to the Governor of West Virginia way back when I handled promotion and media relations for the NY Times bestseller, “Chicken Soup for the Country Soul.”
“From my dad, I learned to be good to people, to always be honest and straightforward. I learned hard work and perseverance.”
Luke Bryan is one of Country music’s nicest guys and he has achieved his much-deserved success largely as a result of his remarkable perseverance in the face of roadblocks and personal tragedies that would dishearten and derail most people from their chosen career path.
When I wrote “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry,” I singled out Luke as someone who has personified those seven characteristics: Patience, Presence, Passion, Perseverance, Proactivity, Positive and Prayer.
He should be a role model to anyone who has the goal of becoming a singer-songwriter. I’ll include an excerpt below, after a quick recap of Luke’s recent celebration as his amazing career continues on its well-deserved upward path.
On October 24, he stepped onto the stage of the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame for a “Beyond The Stadium Lights” party to celebrate SEVEN Number One hits. He shared the stage with the writers of the hit songs, being sure to emphasize that this event was ‘all about the writers’ who created these amazing songs. In performing the seven songs, Bryan and the songs’ writers took turns singing the verses and choruses, obviously having a heck of a good time together at this once-in-a-lifetime event.
The seven Number Ones, with writer credits) are: ‘Home Alone Tonight’ (Tommy Cecil, Jaida Dreyer, Jody Stevens, Cole Taylor); ‘Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day’ (Luke Bryan, Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip); ‘I See You’ (Luke Bryan, Ashley Gorley, Luke Laird); ‘Kick the Dust Up’ (Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley); ‘Play It Again’ (Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley); ‘Roller Coaster’ (Michael Carter, Cole Swindell); ‘Strip It Down’ (Luke Bryan, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite).
Luke and the writers shared stories – often hilarious stories – telling how each of the songs came about. At one point, Luke was thanking his mom and dad and said that his dad couldn’t be here. “He couldn’t find anyone to take care of the dogs!” he said. “He’s not coming to the CMAs, either,” he added, rolling his eyes. “Can’t find anyone to look after the dang dogs!”
To cap the evening, Universal Music Group’s Mike Dungan announced that Luke’s album ‘Kill The Lights’ had just been certified Platinum. You can find Luke’s tour news and more at lukebryan.com.
Luke Bryan and the ‘P’ Pod of Seven Characteristics of Success
Excerpt from “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry.” If you’d like a free copy of the entire article, send a request to me via the Contact page.
A singer-songwriter who embodies the “Seven Ps” is Luke Bryan. He was born in the rural Georgia town of Leesburg and knew from an early age that music was to be his life. When he was 19, he was finalizing a move to Nashville but, just as he was about to leave, his older brother Chris was tragically killed in a car accident. His plans were put on hold as he struggled to deal with the sudden loss.
Luke’s father, Tommy Bryan, knew that Luke had to move on with his life despite the wrenching grief, and encouraged him to load his guitar into his truck and drive to Music City. Once there, Luke was determined to be a success in his chosen career, writing and co-writing at every opportunity. His determination soon led to a publishing deal and he co-wrote songs recorded by Travis Tritt and Billy Currington, among others.
Luke’s perseverance paid off when he was signed to a recording contract by Capitol, and “All My Friends Say,” the lead-off single from his debut album, peaked at number 5 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
He was on his way and was invited to appear at the Grand Ole Opry. His older sister, Kelly, rounded up more than 100 people from their hometown to travel to Nashville and cheer him on. But once again, life threw him a tragic curve: just a few days after that exhilarating event, Kelly suddenly passed away from an undetermined cause.
Such tragedies might derail a lesser person, but Luke found strength from his faith and knew that his siblings wouldn’t want him to give up. Before long, he was back on track with a string of hit albums and Number One singles, and his achievements brought him recognition with dozens of nominations and awards from the CMA, the ACM, CMT, the Billboard Music Awards and more.
Luke Bryan has always kept his eyes on the prize. He has always been proactive in his career, making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen and he has patiently persevered even when life seemed to be stacked against him. He has developed and maintained a positive attitude, determined to find a way around each roadblock in his path. By living “The Seven Ps,” he was fully prepared to reach out and seize the opportunity when it appeared before him, strengthened by an unshakable faith.
Again, a reminder: if you’d like a free copy of the entire article, send a request to me via the Contact page.
Celebrating a Number One song is a big moment in any songwriter’s life, particularly if you also happen to be the artist who recorded it. How about THREE Number Ones, celebrated at three different parties on the same day?
That’s what happened to Cole Swindell on Monday, September 12. The three party ‘pub crawl’ started off at South on Nashville’s Demonbreun Street, where ASCAP and BMI got together to honor Cole Swindell, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (all BMI writers) and Michael Carter (ASCAP) for co-writing “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight.”
At the party, Swindell revealed that the idea for the song title came from a
text he received, maybe from an old flame, that said, “Hope you get lonely tonight.” He was getting ready to go on stage and showed the text to Luke Bryan’s guitarist Michael Carter. They agreed that it sounded like a great song title, and together with Florida Georgia Line’s Hubbard and Kelley, they developed the idea and the song came together quickly. They made a ‘work tape’ and played it for anyone who’d listen… all of whom agreed it sounded like a hit. They were right.
The party then moved next door to Dawg House to recognize Swindell along with Josh Martin (SESAC) and Adam Sanders (ASCAP), the writers of the Number One hit “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.” Finally, the third party took place just down the street at the Tin Roof, honoring Swindell, Michael Carter and Jody Stevens (BMI) who wrote “Let Me See Ya Girl,” another Number One single from Swindell’s self-titled album (Warner Bros. Nashville). All three Number Ones were produced by Michael Carter.
As icing on the cake, Swindell was presented with an RIAA-certified Platinum disc for his self-titled album, only the second Platinum certification so far in 2016. All in all, a pretty memorable day for Mr. Swindell.
‘Write your way to a record deal’
If anyone is the poster-child for ‘write your way to a record deal,’ it’s Cole Swindell. First and foremost, he sees himself as a songwriter. And he has certainly paid his dues with eyes always on the prize of his own recording contract. After leaving college in 2007, he moved to Nashville and got a job selling merchandise on the road for three years for his friend Luke Bryan, constantly songwriting, honing his craft.
It paid off in 2010 when he signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. He started racking up writing (and co-writing) credits with cuts such as Craig Campbell’s “Outta My Head,” Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That,” FGL’s “This Is How We Roll” and numerous songs recorded by Luke Bryan including “Roller Coaster,” “In Love With The Girl,” “Beer in the Headlights,” as well as Scotty McCreery’s “Water Tower Town” and many others. He became known as a songwriter who could consistently deliver.
In 2013, Swindell recorded a single of “Chillin’ It” and released it independently. He got the single to SiriusXM’s “The Highway” channel and began to get airplay, and that – along with his proven track record as a writer – brought him to the attention of Warner Music Nashville who signed him to a record deal. . With Warner’s boost, “Chillin’ It” made it to Number One on Billboard’s Hot Country chart.
It was no “overnight success” for Swindell. It virtually never is, for anybody. He found a way to start out “in the business,” selling merch for his college frat brother, Luke Bryan, then writing songs at every opportunity, co-writing with others, developing his skills, building his network, learning his way around the music business. It was a steady, progressive journey – almost ten years – that took him from selling tour tee shirts to celebrating three Number One hits and receiving a Platinum album on a single day.
Cole’s inspiring story
If you are an aspiring artist and it seems “like forever” that you’ve been plugging away, writing songs and looking for the big break, take heart from Cole Swindell’s story. If you have friends and family members suggesting “you’ve been in Nashville for a year and you still don’t have a record deal,” tell them about Swindell and how you are following his example, dedicating yourself to developing your writing skills and proving to record labels that you have the potential to be a ‘product’ worthy of their investment, possibly of millions of their dollars.
It takes time to achieve success. The most brilliant and successful brain surgeon started off as an anonymous intern in a hospital. Major League baseball players work their way up to ‘The Big Show’ by developing their abilities playing at A, AA and AAA minor league clubs before getting called up. They know that success takes time because they have to develop their skills and prove their worth. The same applies to you in the music industry.
If you have a ‘Doubting Thomas’ in your family who thinks you should give up the dream, tell them the story of Cole Swindell’s long (but worthwhile) road to success. While you’re at it, tell it to yourself, too. Just as he did, visualize yourself holding your first Number One plaque!
All ASCAP songwriters receive a Kyser KG6K 6-String Guitar Capo on the occasion of their first Number One. Each custom-made Capo is gold-tone and inscribed #1 ASCAP. Pictured left to right at the Dawg House, celebrating the Number One hit, “Aint Worth The Whiskey:
Cole Swindell, Michael Carter, Adam Sanders and ASCAP Nashville’s Mike Sistad.