For the country writers:

Songwriting, songwriters, etc

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matthoggard
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For the country writers:

Post by matthoggard » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:01 pm

Howdy ya'll.I have recently been pondering the country music business and the direction it seems to be going.It is evident that the rock sound is really big right now. Ive seen this coming for a while now.Some of the songs are really great. Being a rock/country guy all my life I can really appreciate the solid rock guitar riffs and power chords that are popular in mainstream country today.What are your thoughts on where the industry might head next?I know that what we hear today was written at least a year ago.I still hear alot of traditional writing in the new stuff but it seems that the old craft is getting left further behind. There are a few artists that are holding on to it but I notice that they get way less airplay on the mainstream stations.If we are trying to stay current, and the songs we are writing today would be at least a year either on hold or in the studio is it possible to really impact the market?I recently noticed a listing a'la James Otto that we are going to try a specific write for. IF this is for mr. Otto, why would an established and well known artist/writer be looking outside of Nashville for music?Also, how many of the a'la listings we see are actually for the referenced artists?Ive read alot on how it is in Nashville, how hard it is for "outsiders" to break in. If the circles of writers and artists and publishers are so tight how can anyone possibly get a demo heard?I know your answers are going to be, "have to write a high bar song" etc. But my question is, even if you have a great song, who in Nashville will really give an outsider a chance?All the mediocre songs on the radio cant be just artist's choice and well known producers picks. I know an established artist can do pretty much what they want but there are alot of new artists recording sub-par (IMO) material. Oh well, just had to vent a little. Been listening to too much mainstream radio i guess.M~

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by jchitty » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:49 pm

Hey, Matt....this is an excellent thread. You touch upon points I've also been thinking about in the last year. Country music is definitely changing. A couple of years back, I made a lot more traditional country music demoes (or neo-traditional) and now I'm having to revamp my songwriting. Everything goes in cycles, and there will always be a place for traditional country, but now, it's definitely more rock or pop oriented, modern country as some would say. I think trends are changing because young people tend to be the major purchasers of music. Yes, adults still buy it, but kids purchase more. You only have to witness the new trends...anything by Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Little Big Town, Sugarland, Dierks Bentley or Carrie Underwood sells. Yeah, neo-traditional country is still selling for artists like Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley, but you're right, the Nashville scene is changing.Since I'm older, I have to keep my ear out for changing trends.... I don't care for some modern country, but I still gotta learn to write it. And plus, it helps to have a good demo service (plug for Jimi, sorry, hehe) where people are younger and they can put an edge to songs that you might not get with a more traditional demo service.As far as song staying current in a year or so, I guess if it's a great song, it will stand the test of time, but you never know. And as far as what's being played on the radio.....yeah, I'll agree that some of it just isn't that good. Probably some artist's brother-in-law wrote it. But then again, I remember my parents didn't like my music either, and it's probably the same with country...anyone over the age of 40 likes the more traditional stuff, but the kids like their form of country.It's true that we newbies are held to higher standards....and Nashville is pretty insular I hear, so they're not just gonna let anyone come in unless they are a fantastic writer. Sure, there are not so good songs on the radio, but there are also some phenomenol ones...the competition is very stiff. I get can down sometimes.....I've been doing this quite a while and some people don't really understand the dedication and perseverence it takes. We're talking a very big committment, being able to deal with disappointment on a regular basis, etc. It's not that easy....writing country music is not for the faint of heart, but it's extremely rewarding in many ways as we all know.

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by matthoggard » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:12 pm

Quote:Probably some artist's brother-in-law wrote it. Thats good stuff chits. Cracked me up bad!!!

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by cameron » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:23 pm

This was discussed a bit at the Rally. Sherrill Blackman, who is probably the top song-plugger in Nashville, said that for awhile it looked like traditional country was going to make a comeback, but now he thinks the rock trend is going to be with us for awhile. I doubt that anyone knows more about this subject than him.I still see a lot of listings for traditional and neo-traditional country though, so that's encouraging. I don't think they'd be asking for it if they didn't want it.Sherrill also made the point that Nashville is a people town as much as a music town, and that it usually takes 5 or 6 years for a new songwriter to get established. Steve Seskin, who has had a half-dozen or so #1 hits and lots of top tens, has never lived in Nashville, but says he travels there eight or ten times a year and works hard the whole time he's there. He said that it certainly makes it easier to live in Nashville, but he's managed to be very successful while living in San Francisco.So there you go... I answered your questions then immediately contradicted myself. Personally, I think Chits is correct, that the market is only going to get younger, but the whole industry is in such an upheaval that who knows if the record companies will even be around in a few years? Somewhere, I believe a Bill Gates or Michael Laskow type has figured out how songs are going to be promoted and distributed in the future and is positioning himself to be the new Messiah of music.Cam

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by sgs4u » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:28 pm

Nov 11, 2008, 7:23pm, cameron wrote: Somewhere, I believe a Bill Gates or Michael Laskow type has figured out how songs are going to be promoted and distributed in the future and is positioning himself to be the new Messiah of music.CamI think you're referring to me, Cam, but hardly anyone knows yet. How'd you find out? And you can bet I'll be teaching it around here. The rest of your post was as wonderful to read as it was to meet you. my sincere pleasure

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by squids » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:42 pm

I agree with chits and cam that it's changin', it's more difficult to hear the old country feel now that used to be so popular back in the day. I thought fo a while that the boomers retirin' would have an impact on music sales since they all gonna have some free time and some liquid assets to spend on it but maybe I'm a lil ahead or maybe they jes ain't doin' it eva, I don' know. Given that, I guess the key is to keep up with the trends, still try to write timeless music (yes it's a contradiction) and shop the tar out of your songs. Don't jes try to shop them at the usual places like here but also at film/tv libraries too. Movies need country songs too! And someone seein' the movie will go out of their way (trust me) to find out who did the song and see what else you have out there (so make sho you got a backup product like an album to sell). Anyway, kudos to all the country writers. It's a grueling, little understood, underpaid and under the radar kinda job and yet here all y'all are, dedicated to getting better, learning more, sharpenin' the writin' chops. Jes an excellent bunch we have here. I've enjoyed knowing many of them, sharing their highs and lows with their songs while maybe someone out there is movin' into position to provide a more direct service fo all y'all directly to Nashville to get your songs heard. That's my dream and I really feel it'll happen. Meantime, shop to the film/tv things too, outside of taxi too, not jes inside. Sometimes the direct route might get you there faster but usually it's clogged full of folks already. Takin' a more oblique road might find you in some very interesting places meeting interesting people who can get you there too. Keepin' watch for a service like this one that caters to country writers who want to end up in Nashville is a good idea too.I'm really pullin' fo all y'all (secretly cuz I hope you'll sling me a tune I can sink my teeth into now and then but also cuz I like all y'all a whole lot and wish you nothin' but success).Squids

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by claire » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:45 pm

What are your thoughts on where the industry might head next?Hope this isn't too confusing and hope it touches on some of what Chits posted also. My thoughts on where the industry might head next is - if I knew that, I'd be writing it. Since every pendulum swings back and forth, musical trends also swing back and forth. The genius writer is the writer who can write one step ahead of the swing - not too far ahead of it and not behind it.I know that what we hear today was written at least a year ago.It's more like 5+ years. When you listen to songwriters talk about some of their biggest hits, it turns out they shopped those songs for years before they finally found a home and became hits. I seriously doubt that much of anything we're hearing on the radio today was written a year ago. Some of the songs possibly. Most of them not. It's one of the reasons not to give up on your older songs because they just may not have found the right set of ears yet.I still hear alot of traditional writing in the new stuff but it seems that the old craft is getting left further behind. There's traditional and then there's old. I believe that "three chords and the truth" has come down to "the truth" with a lot more interesting music wrapped around it. The lyrics are still true to life but the music has become way more interesting - and I don't think that's such a bad thing. If nothing changes, nothing changes.There are a few artists that are holding on to it but I notice that they get way less airplay on the mainstream stations.Actually I'm trying to think of the major artists right now that I consider more pop than country. Rascal Flatts comes close. Taylor Swift. Carrie Underwood. I'm probably missing a couple, but mostly I think of the current crop of artists as being country, even if they aren't Porter Waggoner. Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Martina, George Strait, Josh Turner, Joe Nichols, Keith Urban, Sara Evans, the list goes on and on.If we are trying to stay current, and the songs we are writing today would be at least a year either on hold or in the studio is it possible to really impact the market?Write what is natural and real for you. Don't worry about impacting a market. How many times have you heard writers talking about their hits and saying how they never thought anybody would cut that song? Write what you love, within the guidelines of what you know to be country song structure, and have a good time with it. Make yourself laugh and make yourself cry and if other people laugh and cry to your music, you've impacted the market.I recently noticed a listing a'la James Otto that we are going to try a specific write for. IF this is for mr. Otto, why would an established and well known artist/writer be looking outside of Nashville for music? Also, how many of the a'la listings we see are actually for the referenced artists?I'm assuming the "a la"s really are for the referenced artists otherwise the listing would say "in the style of" and list several possible choices. As for why major label artists would be looking outside Nashville, I'm also assuming that it doesn't hurt. It's probably 99.99% likely that they're not going to find anything to knock their current choices off the song list for their next cd, but you never know. Heck, Natalie Maines' dad found "Wide Open Spaces" being played at some folk festival by the writer and took it back to the Dixie Chicks - and we all know where that song went!Ive read alot on how it is in Nashville, how hard it is for "outsiders" to break in. If the circles of writers and artists and publishers are so tight how can anyone possibly get a demo heard?By having someone in your corner. The establishment is a very tight knit family where most everyone knows everyone else and they all go to the same parties and seminars and awards shows and Noshville for lunch, so someone who lives outside the city has a really hard time breaking through that circle of friends unless that outsider has a friend who already knows the people who need to be known. Did that make any sense? You get yourself a godfather. A publisher who believes in you, a PRO that will work with you (not that mine ever did, but that's another story), you get to know other Nashville writers and write with them, they introduce you to their friends, you start to develop your own family, sooner or later people start to know your name - and if you're able to come here several times a year they get to know your face. It's all about having a great song and also having a representative to work that song for you.I know your answers are going to be, "have to write a high bar song" etc. But my question is, even if you have a great song, who in Nashville will really give an outsider a chance?Again, if you have a great song and someone hears it (NSAI, ASCAP, SESAC, BMI, etc.) and believes in it, there are a lot of people here who will give you a chance. The bottom line is, the song has to be GREAT and not just good.All the mediocre songs on the radio cant be just artist's choice and well known producers picks. I know an established artist can do pretty much what they want but there are alot of new artists recording sub-par (IMO) material. Check the writer credits on those songs and I'll bet you'll see the artist's name on them as a cowriter. The latest "thing" here is to find an artist to write with because then you've got a better shot at getting your song on that artist's next cd. Taylor Swift cowrites what, all her songs? Carrie Underwood really has to stop doing that and start picking better material because she's writing herself into a very short shelf life with the caca she's been recording lately. Lady Antebellum writes. Sugarland writes. Keith Urban writes. Don't compare your songs to any song that has the artist as a cowriter - it's a given they're going to record their own stuff.Thanks for the thread, Matt. Chits - hang in there. I've been doing this since 1995. We're both newbies in a world where folks have been writing for 25 and 30 years. It's what we do.Cheers,Claire

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by devin » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:14 pm

(*munches popcorn while reading awesome thread*)I wish I could contribute, but I got nothin'(except for appreciation for all you're sharing...thanks!)
Earplugs may be required for anyone over the age of cool.

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by jeep » Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:08 pm

[quote author=claire board=songwriters thread=10458 post=99853 time=1226461521]What are your thoughts on There are a few artists that are holding on to it but I notice that they get way less airplay on the mainstream stations.went!Ive read alot on how it is in Nashville, how hard it is for "outsiders" to break in. If the circles of writers and artists and publishers are so tight how can anyone possibly get a demo heard?By having someone in your corner. The establishment is a very tight knit family where most everyone knows everyone else and they all go to the same parties and seminars and awards shows and Noshville for lunch, so someone who lives outside the city has a really hard time breaking through that circle of friends unless that outsider has a friend who already knows the people who need to be known. Did that make any sense? You get yourself a godfather. A publisher who believes in you, a PRO that will work with you (not that mine ever did, but that's another story), you get to know other Nashville writers and write with them, they introduce you to their friends, you start to develop your own family, sooner or later people start to know your name - and if you're able to come here several times a year they get to know your face. It's all about having a great song and also having a representative to work that song for you.I've only been at it one year Claire's paragraph above is so true plus joining NSAI helps alot.... 9 more years to go...network ,network,co-write all you can..Dave

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Re: For the country writers:

Post by jchitty » Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:44 am

Wow, good thoughts by Cam, Squiddy and Claire...glad I could make you laugh, Matt. I'll hang in there, Claire, and thanks....you've always been a big inspiration to me. If nothing else, I get some of my best songs out of struggle, so I just keep working when I get discouraged.....that's a good tonic for frustration....just writin' more songs and hopefully learning more as well. Squiddy's right about finding other sources as well....you folks made excellent posts.Wish I could have seen Sherrill Blackman speak, Cam.

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