I recently received what is one of the most common scenarios happening in music as it relates to Nashville and the music industry. A 20 something person, just graduating college (with their degree in music) getting ready to pull up stakes and move to Nashville (or make trips) and “start to promote and “SELL” their music in town.” Then they proceed to want to “pick my brain” for insights into how to approach it. Well, there is a price for “brain picking” but I will give out a few free samples.
The first thing to understand about Nashville and music is that it is radically different than it has ever been before. Number one, most people DON’T PAY for music. So finding ways to monetize what we do is very difficult. Second, there are a LOT of people who have the same dreams, same goals, same desires and belief in themselves and their music. You have a LOT of company. The good news and the bad news are exactly the same:
The GOOD NEWS. Everybody in Nashville is just like you. Trying to do the same things. Shooting for the same goals.
The BAD NEWS: Everybody in Nashville is JUST LIKE YOU. Trying to do the same things. Shooting for the same goals.
Now let me say this. NASHVILLE and the MUSIC COMMUNITY is the BEST IN THE WORLD. There are a lot of people already here, it is incredibly easy to navigate, meet people, play your music, get out into the community, make friends for life, have a GREAT TIME, NASHVILLE IS YOUR PLACE. Everyone is your potential ALLY. They are also your DIRECT COMPETITION. This is the BUSINESS OF MUSIC. Not friends. But here we all realize we have to PAIR UP WITH OTHER PEOPLE TO SURVIVE. So the elements of co-writing, performing on open mics and writers nights, being each other’s support groups are all around you. You just have to join in.
But the numbers are daunting. Of the roughly 600 people that move or make regular trips to town, per week, there are around 1200 people LEAVING OR GIVING UP. The average stay is six months to two years. After that most people quit, change directions, start looking at all they do completely differently. Life usually gets in the way. Realizing they are going to have to have “day jobs” in ADDITION to their musical aspirations, is a sobering fact. Having to have money coming in, often paying off student loans, as well as earning your keep, will provide some cold water on a career drive.
Artists, have to have a DUAL strategy, in that they usually have to continue their home town fan base to go OUTSIDE of Nashville. So they are having to go home, play clubs, events, all the while having to maintain a Nashville presence, co-writing, performing, building alliances, trying to build and foster relationships with producers, labels, publishers, etc.
Nashville can be looked at like a KITCHEN. We assemble all the ingredients, all the elements, and bring it IN to our music.
The REST OF THE WORLD is where we SELL our product. Social networking, advertising, going to the people. Finding CUSTOMERS. Everything depends on our PRODUCT.
Our RELATIONSHIPS with our friends and fans.
And EXPANDING THAT BASE ALL THE TIME.
People who are primarily WRITERS have the same situation only with their OWN roadblocks. Mainly, that ‘ now primarily write their OWN material. ARTISTS being younger, don’t want to do songs about OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES. They have their own. So the key is to PAIR up. With older (anyone over 25 is OLDER now) writers, meeting, interacting, and attempting to help the ARTISTS, succeed with THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS.
That doesn’t mean that all song plugging, publishing, the standard way of “pitching and promoting” songs are gone. They are not. We all still do that same thing, write songs FOR artists. We are still trying to get things OUT THERE. But most of the time now, we have to build relationships BETWEEN ARTISTS AND WRITERS BEFORE any of that comes into play.
Most publishers are spending as much time developing ARTISTS as they are developing WRITERS. Because more and more, the lines are being blurred. Just like the BEATLES changed the relationship of writer/artists in the 60’s, now EVERYONE is a writer as well as an ARTIST. It is all about finding a constant balance. Working with others. TOUCHING LIVES. And it TAKES a WHILE.
New people to Nashville are going to have to realize, WAITING in LINE is all part of it. They are going to have to start in OPEN MICS, to graduate to the WRITERS NIGHTS. They are going to have to work their way up with their songs, their abilities. They are going to have to BUILD ALLIANCES. They are going to have to build their REPUTATIONS. It is called a TEN YEAR TOWN for a reason. It takes a long time to get established. Settle in. Be a part of the community. Enjoy it. Take your time. You don’t have a lot of choice. Those who want a ROYALTY CHECK, MUST FIRST GET A REALITY CHECK. (Thank you Art Wassem)