COUNTRY NOTES

The NSAI bulletin for the Los Angeles area Workshop

July-August 1999


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Writing For the Market

by Seth Jackson

Since many of us aspire to earn a living as professional songwriters, we tend to be aware of the necessity of writing for the market.  Writing for the market can be a dilemma, since we never really know exactly what the market is looking for.  Too much emphasis on writing for the market can take away our creative edge and some of the fun of being creative.

We often hear the advice, “Write for the radio!” But if we copy what’s being played on the radio, chances are that it will be “dated” by the time our songs are ready to be pitched.  A few years back, clever little ditties were all the rage in Nashville. Now, a writer with a catalog full of ditties couldn’t get arrested in Nashville.  But next year? Who knows?
 
The unpredictability of trends might make writing for the market seem like a futile endeavor, but I believe that uncertainty can be our friend.  If we knew exactly what kinds of songs will become hits, then hit songwriting would be nothing more than formula exercise. But we don’t know in advance what will or won’t be a hit, and this opens the door for us to be creative.

I wouldn’t suggest that we completely ignore what’s on the radio or the information we gather from the trade press or from industry people. Certainly, we should be aware of the trends, and keep this in the back of our minds when we’re working on new material.  But rather than locking us into a box, the trends in today’s industry offer us an opportunity stretch beyond what has been traditionally allowed in country music.

Country record sales have been down lately, and labels are looking to make some changes. One trend is that the industry seems to be placing a renewed emphasis on songs with lyrical substance. They want honest songs that both artists and audiences can identify with on a deep emotional level. Previously, the emphasis was on “uptempo positive.”

Will there still be a market for “uptempo positive”? Almost certainly.  There has always been demand for songs that make people feel good, and there’s no reason to think this won’t continue. But the industry seems to be looking for more variety.

Some are saying that there will be a return to traditional country. Others say that the trend is towards pop/country.  I think we’ll see both kinds of music coming out of Nashville.  The important thing is to write a song that moves people emotionally, especially yourself. And if we push the envelope just enough, perhaps we may even come up with the next “big thing.”


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July-August '99 Workshop Schedule


Workshop Location
Unless otherwise noted, workshops are held from 4-7p.m. at Musician's Institute, 1655 McCadden Place, just off Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. Admission is free for NSAI members and NAS members, $10 for non-members. For more information, call Bev Nelson at (949) 733-2717 or email Seth Jackson at webmaster.hitmeister@mindspring.com.
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NSAI LOS ANGELES WORKSHOP VOLUNTEERS

EDITOR:
Seth Jackson
WORKSHOP COORDINATORS:
Bev Nelson
Seth Jackson
Craig Lackey
TREASURER:
Vickie Vining
EVENT COORDINATOR:
Cathy Carlson
COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Lisa Blue Fasman
Cliff Nelson

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