The NSAI bulletin for
the Los Angeles area Workshop
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
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.”
July-August '99 Workshop Schedule
Thursday, July 8, 7:30-10:30pm - Songwriter Lineup at Hallenbeck’s
General Store, 5510 N. Cahuenga Blvd., N. Hollywood. This
monthly event is fast becoming one of the premier showcases for songwriters
in Los Angeles. The July showcase will be guest-hosted by Marty Axelrod,
and will include an outstanding selection of writers featuring hit songwriter
Alan Rich (“I Don’t Have the Heart”). An open mic follows
the scheduled performances on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sunday, July 18, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Left Brain/Right
Brain I. In this workshop, we’ll use both halves of the brain.
Left: We’ll study the business side of songwriting as we examine the process
of “Preparing to Record Your Demo”. Right: We’ll take time
to celebrate our creativity with an old-fashioned guitar pull. We’ll
take turns sharing our songs by performing them live, on cassette, or on
CD, or by reading our lyrics. This is for pure enjoyment, with no
critiquing of songs.
Sunday, July 25, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Group Song Critiques.
Critiquing songs and having our songs critiqued is one of the most valuable
ways to improve our current and future work. Receiving critiques helps
us to understand how our songs are coming across to impartial listeners.
Giving feedback to others helps us develop the skill to better refine our
own songs. Bring one song to perform live or on cassette, plus 20
copies of your lyric sheet. Lyrics can also be critiqued.
Sunday, August 8, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Left Brain/Right
Brain II. The left-brain portion of this workshop will be
devoted to the music business topic: “Why and How to Get a Publisher.”
In the remaining time, we’ll focus on the right brain as we enjoy another
Thursday, August 12, 7:30-10:30pm - Songwriter Lineup at Hallenbeck’s.
Our featured guest this evening will be Grammy-nominated songwriter Harriet
Schock (“No Way to Treat a Lady”). Craig Lackey and Seth Jackson
Sunday, August 22, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Group Song Critiques.
Bring one song plus 20 copies of your lyric sheet.
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
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