Tuesday, January 22, 2008

6 Tips For Surviving A Visit To Music Row

Buy A Trampoline

and get used to bouncing around...that's my daughter in the pink bikini.

Take The Opinions With A Grain Of Salt

You'll hear a mountain of differing opinions in Nashville. It's very easy to get led astray. Remember that all of the breakthrough acts, blockbuster hits, and trend changing events in the music industry were totally unpredictable. Anyone who thinks they understand a demographic or thinks they have a formula for success is proved dead wrong in the end. The most successful people ignore opinions most of the time. They stubbornly believe in what they do and pursue their own path with determination. The confrontational nature of Nashville is designed to put off people who lack self-confidence. You have to decide for yourself whether you have the talent and the goods. Go to Music Row with an open mind but don't expect it all to make sense. Learn to laugh at the absurd contradictions and you'll be healthier.

Understand What The Code Words Mean

"Too safe" - means : "I've heard this idea a thousand times and there's no way you'll ever impress me with it".

"Not right for this artist/record" - means : "I don't like your song right now, but I might be having a bad day so you can bring it back next year".

"You're close" - means : "I've criticized you too much already so I'm trying to be nice and this is the best I can do".

"I'll take a copy" - means : "I don't want to make up my mind about this song right now so I'll put your CD on the floor of my car until I do".

"I'd like to put this on hold" - means : "I don't want anyone else to grab this song before I have a chance to get a second, third, and fourth opinion about it".

"I love it" - probably means : "I'll love it until either the second, third, or fourth opinion tells me they don't".

Leave The Personal Songs At Home

All of us write personal songs sometimes. We experiment and probe our psyches and write cathartic tear jerkers that no one else will ever want to sing. Leave those songs at home. You're only asking for a deep wound if you play them for busy industry people. You may dearly love these songs. They might be like children to you. But if they aren't what Music Row is looking for, you won't feel much love.

Avoid Burnout

Don't try to see too many people and attend too many writers nights. You'll be overwhelmed and probably feel like a drop of water in the ocean. One or two appointments and one show per day will give you plenty to ruminate on. It's a mistake to cram two co-writing appointments into one day, also. This may give you a false sense of accomplishment, but I doubt very much that those songs will get recorded unless you've had several brilliant moments in your day. Most of us are lucky if we have a few brilliant moments in a year.

Stay focused On Your Best Work

Don't come to town with a dozen songs and try to get a reading on all of them. Do some of the screening in advance. Choose 3-4 of your very best commercial songs and concentrate on pitching/playing/critiquing them. You'll get 20 minutes in a meeting, that's all. It's barely enough time to say hello and play 4 songs.

copyright 2008 by craig bickhardt


Anonymous said...

Great advice. I just found this blog. Glad I did.

I'm planning on making my first trip this year. How many people do you suppose have made just one trip - never to return? Plenty I'm sure. And, of those, 9 out of 10 probably came with personal songs hoping that somebody else will get the self-referential genius. I plan to make the trip strictly for the abuse because I don't get enough in my "self-employed, three kids and a mortgage" life. Do you suppose a trip is even necessary these days? -Chad

chromehead said...

Thanks Chad. I know at least 3 songwriters who only made the trip once never to return. It tends to be somewhat predictable. The more unique and artistically minded a songwriter is, the more he'll feel alienated by Nashville. That isn't to say there are NO artistic writers in town, there are many. But to a man or woman they live with a certain alienation that's part of life in Music City. I know because I was one of them, and I'm friends with many more. We all have love-hate relationships with the place, and some songwriters just don't want that influence to be hanging over their creative lives. It's hard to succeed if you never go to town, but I've known many writers who commuted on a monthly or irregular basis and achieved plenty of success. Those writers include Hugh Prestwood, Rodney Clawson, Tim Krekel, Danny O'Keefe, and others. Have fun, Chad, it's like a trip to the circus.

Anonymous said...

I'm very much enjoying the reading here, Craig. Everything makes perfect sense and is enlightening, encourageing and entertaining. You are a wealth of information and your music is wonderful.
Cheers and thanks,
Steve Robinson

Anonymous said...

Question: How do people want you to bring music to them these days? When you hit a meeting with a publisher or producer, should you have individual CD's or are mp3 players and instant download/email to the person if they're interested?

Seems like keeping contact info and lyrics and the music itself all in one inseparable package via digital media would be preferable.

chromehead said...

If you have a meeting set up, a call in advance would clarify the publishers preferences. Most people still want CDs, mostly out of habit. You are correct about the practicality of keeping everything in one related file or folder (email), but some people have developed systems for doing things and they may not want to change them. For example, Doug Johnson told me he does not listen to songs in his office. Every couple of weeks he takes a long drive and listens to CDs in his car. In that case, an email pitch would not help you. Everyone is different, so make a phone call in advance and get clarification about what to bring to the meeting.