For any songwriter interested in furthering their professional career, the “industry towns” that come to mind are New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. The reason Nashville stands apart in my mind is that while New York and Los Angeles have a high concentration of songwriters, they also happen to have a high concentration of many, many different art forms making the music community a bit harder to locate. Nashville, on the other hand, is a bit more of a (and forgive the gratuitous rural imagery) one trick pony. Below are a few reasons that, as a songwriter, you would do well to make a visit – or more – to Music City.
It’s hard to accurately describe the feeling of being surrounded by so many songwriters. Nashville has such a high concentration of us that it’s almost like you’re being inspired by osmosis. Songwriting is in the air, on the streets, in the clubs and in the veins of many of the people you meet. In a word, a visit to Nashville can be extremely validating. Along with a large number of writers nights, Nashville – multiple times a year – hosts industry events geared specifically towards songwriters. I’d highly recommend joining the NSAI (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International) www.NashvilleSongwriters.com not only for their Nashville-based events but also for their local chapters which are in lots of cities around the country – and world.
If you’ve never co-written a song but always wanted to try, Nashville is a great place to do your first – or even your thousandth – collaboration. First of all, co-writing is an extremely common occurrence there which takes some of the fear or self-consciousness out of it. Secondly, Nashville’s atmosphere is really designed to make you feel inspired and creative so why not give it a try? My recommendation would be to reach out to someone at a writer’s night whose music you enjoyed or possibly someone you’ve met the music conference you’re attending. My only caveat would be to be careful not to ask someone with significantly more of a track record than you have. Co-writing is best done within your peer group unless you’ve been specifically asked to write by someone more experienced.
Nashville, like only a few other cities around the country, is home to the three performance rights organizations (PROS) – BMI, ASCAP & SESAC. If you haven’t affiliated with a PRO – or even if you have – a visit to Nashville would be a great time to meet with representatives from each – or your own – society. The trick here is that you’ll have to schedule your meeting well in advance of your visit. The goal would be to introduce yourself to someone in the writer/publisher relations department so that you can show them a few of your songs. It’s important to remember that these organizations – strictly speaking – are only designed to pay royalties to songwriters based on the performances of their songs. That being said, if a representative likes what you’re doing, they can help you in a variety of ways including introductions to music industry decision-makers. However, your best bet is to go in with no expectations other than to put a face with a name. If you have already affiliated with one of the PROs but haven’t met anyone yet, I’d still highly recommend attempting to schedule a meeting. A final note that the writer/publisher relations reps are incredibly busy so don’t take it personally if you don’t get in for a meeting on your first visit/try.
Long before the TV show “Nashville” existed, the Bluebird Cafe was a fixture for any songwriter ready for the next step in their careers. This iconic venue has hosted songwriters from Garth Brooks to Bonnie Raitt and too many others to count. Above and beyond the quarterly auditions for their famous writer’s night, you can always get in line for their Monday night open mic. Simply seeing a show at the Bluebird is an absolute must for any songwriter.
As a long time resident and studio owner in Nashville, I’m here to tell you that there’s much more to the town than overalls and country music. Nashville hosts a deep and textured music community of musicians and songwriters who are among the very best in the world. Visiting Nashville is not only a great way to be inspired and reminded why you write songs but a great place to learn at the feet of the masters.