nashville music industry
June 2, 2008 5:31 PM   Subscribe

how does a newcomer break into the nashville music industry? and how long does it usually take a newbie songwriter to be taken seriously?
posted by locoindio to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
i've lived in nashville most of my life and, inevitably, have met industry folks along the way (i'm not in the business myself). luck is always a possibility, but i would imagine it would take a year or more just to make the right introductions, and then a couple more to develop a reputation.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:47 PM on June 2, 2008

Do what Ashton Sheperd did.
posted by Xurando at 6:44 PM on June 2, 2008

DO NOT move to Nashville.

Find folks who have connections there and befriend THEM.
posted by konolia at 8:26 PM on June 2, 2008

Dave Ransey's quote on how you find the next singer/songwriter in Nashville? Call out, "Waiter!"

I agree with Konolia. No need to move there. You can do it from where ever you're at if you are any good.

Just like writing. Don't move to New York. Just make connections where you're at. Even if this means getting coffee at a local recording studio until you learn the verbiage and maybe make a couple connections.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:41 PM on June 2, 2008

The songwriters I have talked to have said 5 years is the minimum "entry fee" to show that you are committed. The people who come to Nashville for a summer or a year to "make it" number literally in the tens of thousands. After 4 or 5 years toughing it out, making the rounds, getting out there, people start to believe you might stick around.

With that said, talent usually trumps all, but not always. A truly fantastic writer/performer will get picked up pretty quickly most of the time. But "diamonds in the rough" are as common here as pawn shop guitars.

Two tales that seem to be very common among country stars are "my overnight success only took 10 years" and "my first time in Nashville no one would talk to me".

My understanding is that Country is still a face-to-face business. You absolutely will have to move to Nashville (or L.A.) to get any traction. L.A. seems to have taken a large part of Country music, specifically the "New Country" segment, the Country that pretends to be Rock, and doesn't deal with typical Country subjects.

In other words, Brad Paisley lives in Nashville, Carrie Underwood lives in L.A.

Also in Nashville, getting started, singer/songwriter is considered typical. You don't have to be a virtuoso, but you have to be good enough of a musician to get people to actually listen to your songs. If you have no performance ability, things will be much tougher. MUCH tougher.

Like many things in life, "knowing someone" is by far the most effective means. So, if your uncle's boss's hairdresser's plumber is Faith Hill's secretary's brother, then exploit that linkage.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:47 PM on June 2, 2008

Having grown up in the area (but not living there now) and knowing a lot of folks in the industry, the cynical answer to "how long does it usually take a newbie songwriter to be taken seriously?" is maybe never. I knew a guy with a minor hit song to his credit that worked as a carpenter, because it was steadier work. Just be prepared for it to take a long time, and be prepared to supplement your dreams with another job.
posted by pupdog at 10:42 PM on June 2, 2008

I live in Nashville and meet plenty of people who are here trying to "make it"... and when I ask them if they're playing shows anywhere or writing with anybody, half of them say "no."

I definitely think anyone who's driven and talented can make it, but it's a lot harder if you're shy about performing and meeting people. If you're not willing to play out or introduce yourself to people or set up jam sessions/co-writes with people you meet, you're not going to get anywhere. Being outgoing/social is pretty much a necessity if you're an outsider.

Also keep in mind that the "music egos" here are pretty huge, which can be a turn-off to a lot of people.

But I would suggest the following steps:
1. Come to Nashville. It makes everything easier.
2. Play shows/writers nights/etc as often as possible.
3. Go to shows/writers nights/etc as frequently as possible when you're not playing and TALK TO PEOPLE. You never know who you're going to meet.
4. Get together and write with whoever is willing, connected or not. You need the practice and you never know who is connected.
5. Prepare to be let down and get over it. Keep plugging.

Good luck!
posted by PFL at 7:16 AM on June 3, 2008

NPR Weekend Edition Sunday, June 1, 2008 - The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tenn., is hallowed ground for aspiring singers and songwriters. Performers are only allowed to sing songs that they have written. The venue is a showcase for the unknown but not unsung writers in the country music industry. Everyone from Garth Brooks to Vince Gill have performed there.
Listen to the story here.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2008

Seconding the Bluebird Cafe. It's a great venue and truly a right of passage for up-and-comers. It's very crowded, very intimate. The "bad tables" are probably 20 feet from the performers in the middle of the floor. I think you can watch/listen to shows online live.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:24 AM on June 3, 2008

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