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.
ROI stands for Return on Investment. To put it another way, it means what you get out from what you put in. You might think that a phrase like ROI is only relevant to stockbrokers and bankers but it definitely affects you as a songwriter or artist.
There’s a difference between songwriting as a hobby and songwriting as a a career. Here’s a way to look at the difference:
When you do something you don’t particularly enjoy and you get paid for it… that’s a job.
When you do something you love but you don’t get paid… that’s a hobby.
When you do something you love and you DO get paid… that’s a CAREER.
Can you see the difference? Your career is music, because that’s what you love, but it’s only a career when it provides some sort of income for you, otherwise it’s just a hobby. Yes, songwriting, for most people, begins as a part-time career, often supplementing the dreaded ‘job,’ but it is still your career, if you choose to make it so.
It takes more than talent
To have any kind of success in that career, it takes a commitment to invest in your God-given talent. Your talent is the raw material, the lump of clay, the pile of bricks. What you choose to do with that raw material is the element that determines your success.
“Effort without talent is a depressing situation, but talent without effort is a tragedy.” – Mike Ditka
I wish I could tell you that you can make it to the top on nothing but talent, but I can’t because it flat-out isn’t going to happen. Talent alone is not enough; it’s just the beginning.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a disgruntled parent say, “My son/daughter has much more talent than [insert star’s name here]. How come they made it and my kid can’t?”
A variation on that is the songwriter who is consumed with envy for “that lucky guy” who is getting all the cuts on the top acts.
Lucky? Okay, I’ll admit that sometimes luck does play a part in success. But one thing is certain: The better prepared you are, the luckier you’ll get.
There’s almost no such thing as an overnight success, at least not one that lasts longer than a flash in the pan. That “lucky” person, that “overnight success” had almost certainly invested in their talent so that when the opportunity presented itself, they were prepared and were able to confidently take full advantage of the situation.
Invest in your talent
As you develop your career as a songwriter, you will need to commit to making an investment in your talent. It’s an investment in both time and money, but the part to always keep in mind is the ROI… the return that you will reap on that investment of time and money in your career.
Make a commitment to go to Writers’ Nights, network with other writers, ask questions, read books, take classes, set up co-writing sessions and write, write, write!
(Note from Preshias: This is a ‘guest post’ from Adam Bernard, a New York-based music journalist. The article was originally posted at sonicbids.com and you can read the original article in full here. See the foot of this post for links to more of Adam’s articles)
Young artists bring a lot of raw talent to the table, but they also bring a naiveté about the music industry that cannot only make their lives difficult, but can totally derail a career.
While there’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, it’s imperative to realize there’s a huge difference between a dream and reality. A young artist may have visions of signing a big contract and the world being at his or her feet, but if that’s what an artist believes to be the truth, a reality check is necessary.
In order to get a clear picture of that reality check, I spoke with 12 professionals in the industry, including publicists, artists, an artist management team, and a label owner who also runs a recording studio, all of whom have worked with young artists. They broke down the reality checks all young artists need to hear.
Talent does not equate to success
“To save yourself a lot of headache and heartache, please begin repeating to yourself now that your talent is not a direct correlation to your success – your effort and marketing are. My mom makes an amazing jar of homemade peanut butter, but without being marketed, how would she ever expect to compete with Jif or Skippy?” – Jake Palumbo, founder of SpaceLAB Recordings and SpaceLAB Recording Studios
Each step you take will require more work
“The second you hire a manager, a publicist, a team, that means you have to work 10 times harder than ever.” – Jen Appel, The Catalyst Publicity Group
Your career growth will take time
“A lot of young artists are misled into thinking that things happen more quickly than they do in reality. They’ll look at the near-vertical ascents of, say, Kreayshawn, or Kamaiyah, or Desiigner, and not realize that those artists are the exceptions, not the rule. Yes, every year there are a small number of artists that break extraordinarily quickly, but for every one of those, there are 100 artists that are growing organically at a slower and steady rate, and that’s totally okay, too.” – Michelle McDevitt, Audible Treats
Actually, everything will take time
“It takes a lot of effort, supportive friends and family, and a world of confidence to make it. Not the confidence that you are bigger and better and deserve everything handed to you, but the confidence that you are patient enough to try everything.” – Jen Appel
“My biggest reality check as a young artist who is now entering the music industry is that everything takes time, and nothing happens overnight. Sometimes the industry likes to portray certain artists as if they just blew up out of nowhere, when the truth is that hard work and dedication lead to success.” – Johnny Based (age 17) of the hip-hop group RAAA (Rebellious Against All Ahead)
You need a plan when releasing music
“Countless young artists will leave our studio, convinced they’ve made a hit, saying, ‘We’re about to drop this tonight!’ as they rush out the door, not realizing that to truly ‘drop a record’ involves a lot more than uploading it to your SoundCloud and sharing the link on Facebook and Instagram. There’s a lot of preparation, timing, prep work, targeted advertisement, and, frankly, money involved in making sure a record reaches ears that may be interested in hearing it.” – Jake Palumbo
“Because they’re kids, and they’ve never really worked in the real world, they have unrealistic expectations for how long things take to get done professionally or the right way. They’re young, so they’re very impatient, and they’re growing up in a hyper-instant gratification world with all the social media platforms where everything is out there in a second on Snapchat, which definitely adds to their sense of urgency to throw stuff out there before it’s really ready.” – Tiffany A. Wentz (Wentz Entertainment Group, LLC) and Richard Laurent (Laurent Enterprises, Inc.), co-managers of RAAA
“The biggest reality check about the industry that I’ve experienced is how crucial it is to make and release music at a certain time. I had always imagined that artists just create music and send it out to the world to hear, but now I realize things are much more complex than that.” – David Lee (age 17) of the hip-hop group RAAA
You have to learn the business side of music
“It’s been a bit of a wake-up call for me realizing that you have to have a really clever business model of your own to get your stuff out there. As an artist, I don’t enjoy the business side that much; I just want to create. I am starting to enjoy [the business side] more, though, as it is forcing me to brand myself, and explore things about myself as an artist that I normally would not.” – Brooke Moriber, singer who started as a child actor on Broadway
“Nowadays you have to be more than an artist. With social media and so many other platforms out there for us to brand ourselves, it comes to a point where we are 100 percent involved in how our image is portrayed.” – Ceddyjay (age 17) of the hip-hop group RAAA
If you want respect, you have to show respect
“There is a certain way to act and treat others around you. Whether it be your fans, your team, the media, agents, or even labels, nobody owes you anything. You should be grateful for any support you receive, and appreciative of the opportunities offered. Talent alone will not sell itself, and especially as a young artist trying to make it in the industry, an inflated ego is your worst enemy. You have to work hard, and give respect to earn respect.” – Stephanie Maksimow, The Catalyst Publicity Group
Cash rules everything around you
“Young artists typically have little to no concept of the value of a dollar. Not only do they lack even a cursory understanding of how exactly their talent is converted into currency, they don’t have any understanding or appreciation for how much it costs to maintain a career in music. Often, young artists will receive advances – which are likely to be dreadfully stingy as is – and then promptly blow all that money on creature comforts and non-necessities. Artists with poor finance skills leave themselves wide open to be taken advantage of.” – Andrew Wetzel, drummer for Nine Shrines
You need to connect with people on a real level
“Nobody owes you anything because you sound and/or look appealing. Give the audience a reason to want to connect with you.” – Rick Eberle, Rick Eberle Public Relations
Your small fanbase can play a big role in your career
“I think [young artists] tend to overlook the importance of nurturing the small fanbase that they do have, and converting those supporters into diehard fans for life. [Instead], they’re constantly looking for the next quick scheme to get in the game – pay-to-play, fake followers, etc.” – Jake Palumbo
You have a limited number of places where you can perform
“A lot of venues won’t allow underage artists to perform, so you have to get creative about where and how to create performance opportunities, whether that’s at private parties/backyards, high schools, community centers, warehouse spaces that don’t have liquor licenses, busking, etc.” – Tiffany A. Wentz and Richard Laurent
Staying at home is not an option
“I didn’t realize how much traveling outside of touring you need to do in order to make and keep up the connections you need. I am a native New Yorker, and always thought the industry was mostly here, but it seems to have shifted a lot to Nashville and LA, so I have been traveling back and forth a lot.” – Brooke Moriber
You need to have your own identity
“You break yourself into this wild industry by being creative and never giving up – by being different, and offering a brand and style that is undeniable.” – Jen Appel
You need great songs
“The internet has made it easy to gain followers and create hype, but you still need to be able to write great songs and/or perform them.” – Rick Eberle
There are no magical “right people”
“I need young artists to understand that the idea of merely being ‘heard by the right people’ to get your way in is a myth… as is the notion that paying to open up for famous artists, paying for fluff showcases with ‘industry judges,’ or merely bumping into a famous artist out and about somewhere will skip them to the front of the line.” – Jake Palumbo
After reading these reality checks, some young artists may now think their music industry dreams are over. However, while the dream of signing a deal, instantly being famous, and having a stress-free life is no more, if your dream is to be a recording artist, knowing these realities will only help you towards your goal.
Adam Bernard is a music industry veteran who has been working in media since 2000. If you live in the NYC area, you’ve probably seen him at a show. He prefers his venues intimate, his whiskey on the rocks, and his baseball played without the DH. Follow him at @adamsworldblog. You can follow ‘Adam’s World’ at www.adambernard.blogspot.com
Oddly enough, starting out on a career as a songwriter is somewhat similar to starting out to become a Realtor. Yes I know that sounds strange, but bear with me here.
A Realtor has a lot to learn, particularly at the outset. There are books to read, seminars to attend and legal aspects to become familiar with if she intends to be knowledgeable and stay out of trouble. In fact, successful Realtors never stop learning. They invest in classes to keep themselves up-to-date on developments in their industry and take advance training, such as attaining a GRI [Graduate of the Realtor Institute] designation. They learn about real estate law so they can communicate knowledgeably with lawyers when necessary.
But that’s not all. For the most part they are independent contractors… essentially self-employed even if they are affiliated with a brokerage. As such, they pay to promote themselves and their listings and realize that in some cases a particular promotion doesn’t result in a sale but another one will, so the investment makes sense.
The power of networking
Furthermore, Realtors don’t work in a vacuum. They may be independent contractors, but they rarely work alone. Quite often, they “co-broke” a listing, working with another agent to put a buyer and seller together and then share the resulting commission. Both of them share in the success.
If you know any successful Realtors, you know they are masters at networking! They constantly stay in touch with other Realtors, belong to associations where they can socialize with their peers and pick up tips from other successful colleagues.
It is not unusual for a successful Realtor to be earning a six-figure income (or more) after a few years. But at first, that Realtor puts in long hours studying, learning, honing skills, networking… investing in his or her future.
A songwriter – to be successful – follows a similar path as that Realtor. By now, I hope you’re seeing what I mean.
You, the songwriter, have talent and know that songwriting (and maybe performing) is your vocation. Now you begin to invest in your future, putting your talent to work.
There are many aspects of the music business about which you must educate yourself if you are to be successful. You need to know how to protect your creative work and make money from it. You need to understand royalties and how licensing works. You need to be familiar with at least the basics of how the Law affects your rights and obligations. No, you do not need to be an expert on Music Law. But you need to understand how it works and when you need to seek professional advice.
You realize that networking with other writers and artists feeds your creativity and exposes you to the skills and knowledge of those in your field who are more experienced. You attend Writers’ Nights and join professional organizations such as NSAI. And like the Realtors who increase their success by co-broking, you advance you career by co-writing with others.
Plays well with others
Realtors, to a large degree, are in competition with each other. But successful Realtors know the importance of building relationships with other agents, working with them, learning from them.
As an aspiring songwriter, go to Writers’ Nights, meet up with other songwriters, ask to write with those with whom you feel a creative connection; listen and learn! Every one of those networking experiences will add to your skill set and advance your career in some small way. Other writers will get to know you, you’ll get to know them and you’ll get to know the people they know.
Make a commitment to networking and learning everything you can about your chosen craft.