Tuesday, January 13, 2009


After 25 years in and around Nashville (I lived there for 23 of those years) I can share some of my experience with you. One thing is true: the music industry is a network that is made up of smaller networks, and people only want to do business with their friends. This was some of the earliest advice given to me in Nashville by my friend Don Schlitz. Almost everyone knows everyone else in some capacity.

Another piece of good advice I got early on was to keep my head in my papers and ignore the crap swirling around me. The work is what matters.

We need each other badly now. No matter how much or how little you have accomplished in terms of your goals, you are important to the grand scheme because our only strength is in numbers. There are powerful forces trying to tear down everything we've created. They want our copyrights to be unprotected and unregulated, they want our royalties sliced down to microscopic size. Networking is also about protecting our futures.

Talent and determination is not all you need for success. This is naive, let me assure you. You need talent, determination and tremendous help from a large group of friends and allies. No one gets anywhere by being a talented army of one. Here's the simple reason why: everyone in the industry wants to be part of something. You succeed by building up a group of friends who want to SEE you succeed. They have "stock" in you, they invest time and energy, sometimes money. They have a commitment to your rise to the top. It's part of the game, and they all enjoy playing it. They don't want to sit there and watch you do it alone, they want to participate.

Meetings, pitches, writer's nights, that's the easy stuff, so easy a child could do it. Every door in Nashville will open with a few determined knocks. Don't kid yourself into thinking you're getting somewhere just because they listened to your song. You must forge an alliance. Building a network of committed friends is what it's all about.

So, be inspired and inspire others. Network with long term goals. God knows this is a damn hard life and the good stuff doesn't come easy.

copyright 2009 craig bickhardt


Anonymous said...

I attended Austin Songwriter Group symposium just this past weekend, and “networking” was the same thing my husband kept reminding me was the whole point of attending. I am not an extroverted person in a large group of strangers, so networking is no easy task for me. Pile on the heap of insecurities and inevitable rejections a songwriter experiences, and my attempt at networking just might be the one thing that kills my career. A highlight of my weekend was pitching “Don’t Be A Loner in Beaumont” to Nashville publisher Brandi Warden and her songwriter husband Monte Warden, who have their own local publishing company, and whose collective family members have sold more than 100 million records. Of course I’m being facetious about it being a highlight. After sitting through glowing reviews of other songwriter’s uptempo pitches, and even a short spiel on how “no one in Nashville” will go near a waltz, when my turn came I foolishly had hope they’d like my song. Can you say bad judgment call? Everybody in the symposium probably heard that door of opportunity slam shut. I had a much more positive response in a second pitch to Bobby Rhymer later in the day, but this time I pitched “50 Miles East of El Dorado.” And at the end of the symposium on Sunday afternoon, with my husband alongside, I waited as Bobby walked my direction in order to ask him if it was possible to send him songs in the future. As he approached, my husband, sensing my typical hesitation, initiated contact with an outstretched handshake, and thus opened the door for me to talk to Bobby. I know, it’s pathetic, you’re probably thinking, and for crying out loud, I’m 47 years old, get a grip, they’re just people. I think I need a “networking” intervention. Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

chromehead said...

Good work! Bobby Rymer is a dear friend of mine and he's one of the genuine good guys in Nashville. You don't have to feel bad about being shy. It's an endearing character trait. In fact, I think being shy is better than being over-confident in the music industry because shyness makes others want to help you if you have talent (and you do). What you should remember is that many, many people in the industry have no talent and no ability or desire to be in the spotlight. They are drawn to us for reasons we perhaps don't fully understand, and they can easily relate to stage freight and agoraphobia and shyness. Being human has never been an impediment to success, and being realistic about who you are is important. Maybe you aren't meant for the spotlight, or destined to be the next Jeff Steele, but that doesn't mean folks like Bobby won't like you. Networking is not all about power and blowing people away, it's about charming them with the beauty of your music and the light in your eye. Make friends, that's all there is to it.

Anonymous said...


Got it in one. Harvard should award you an Honorary Doctorate in Marketing*.

It's good advise...

Nothing happens unless you get off your backside and make the most of every opportunity to tell your story: get out there and network, door-knock, and promote.

Easier said than done though.

Some find it very hard to take all the knock-backs involved with that activity...but these knock-backs are really gold that leads you to where you are going.

You see, some people will not like you, but you need to realise that dislike or indifference is just a human condition. The good thing is some people will like you.

Remember: the more of those you find who are not tuned to your wavelength, the more people you discover who have the dial set on your spectrum.

So knocking on doors in any profession, doing the networking, is a component to success.

Expect to get "no" a lot. But get them so you can find the "yes's".
There are a lot out there.

Tunesmiths Cafe

Within the standard marketing model known as "The 4 P's of Marketing" is the "P" of Promotion: Advertising, branding, networking, personal selling etc.

chromehead said...

Well said, Makk, thanks for contributing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Craig, I appreciate your encouragement very much. Thank you also Maki, your words are exactly like those my Mom offered to me after sharing my symposium experience with her. I am grateful for all the support.

When I talked to Bobby Rymer and politely asked him if I could send him songs, he said yes, and that he promised to listen to whatever I sent him, but that it would probably be several or even many months before he would get back to me. Then he offered the following piece of advice. He said if I write a song I think he absolutely must hear, wait before sending it. Sit on it a few months, and in the meantime, keep writing. If after that I still feel as strongly about that song, then I should send it to him. I think it was his way of telling me that the door is open, and to keep working on the craft of songwriting, and log in those hours. 10,000 hours, I believe?

chromehead said...

It's probably difficult to see the other point of view sometimes because it can be intimidating to have someone tell you to NOT send a song when you think they've just GOT to hear it. Bobby's advice is a smart way of protecting the relationship. We all get enthusiastic about new songs and sometimes we get some pretty wild ideas about what to do with them. He's telling you that he wants to hear the songs that "hold up", not the ones you have a temporary infatuation with. By doing this he knows you'll be careful and it won't be a waste of anyone's time (and there's precious little of that for most of us). It also gives you time to maybe learn more about who Bobby works with (artists and writers at the company) and what his particular needs might be. I can tell you from my long term friendship with him that he will listen, and he will be very particular about what he wants to work with as far as songs go. He might only take on a handful of outside songs per year but he'll work hard to try to get them cut.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Craig, for clarifying that a little more for me. I will try to do my homework on those things you mentioned concerning artists and writers. Very helpful information.