Making The Most of Your Songwriting Trip To Nashville (Or LA Or New York)

by Marty Dodson
Sep 21, 2017

People ask me all the time how they can get the most “bang for their buck” when they visit a music center. So, I thought I would write a post about what I recommend when people are planning a trip to Nashville. The principles apply if you are visiting any other music center. Here is my list in no particular order:

Meet with a rep from your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, etc)

The writer reps at the PROs can be very influential in helping you set up meetings with publishers when your music is ready. They are also great at networking and getting writers together who can help each other write better. Making a fan out of a PRO writer rep can be a HUGE step forward.

Go hear live music in the genre that you write.

Most music centers have lots of live music options. In Nashville, there are dozens of options every night. I recommend going to shows where big name songwriters or artists are NOT playing. In Nashville, going to the Bluebird is an awesome experience, but you will not likely find co-writers or connections there. You will tend to hear big writers playing hit songs, but neither they nor the typical audience there are wanting to write with people they don’t know. At the Commodore, however, you’ll hear lots of writers that are looking for their first cut. The audience will be their friends that write as well. So, you have a room full of people that MIGHT be willing to work with you if you are polite and professional. If you hear someone play that is awesome, approach them after their show and ask politely if they are open to new co-writers.

Write with as many people as you can.

Often, people line up co-writes that are in the city through SongTown and they write with those people when they are in town. Having “boots on the ground” in a music center can be really valuable if you don’t live in one. If I write with 10 people who live in LA, then they are working our music in LA while I’m back home in Nashville. The more in-town connections you have, the better off you are.

Find out if there are songwriter group meetings going on that you can attend.

In Nashville, Jonathan Helfand runs the Nashville Song Circle. Every other week, writers meet to help each other get better. Awesome connections have been made through this group. NSAI has meetings in town every now and then as well. Networking with other writers is very valuable and can lead to some great writing relationships and a lot of good business getting done.

Soak it all in.

Pay attention and learn how things work. You can gain a lot of insight just by watching what goes on when music people are gathered together.

Arrange a 15 minute meeting to play some new songs.

If you have some connections with publishers, producers or artists in town, touch base every time you visit. Buy them coffee. Give them a call just to check in. Reminding them politely that you are still working at it is important.

Don’t go door to door making cold calls.

You’d be amazed at the crazy things people do to try to get attention. You don’t want to be one of them. Most publishers lock their doors to keep the crazy out, but they are very open to talented people who are business-like and know how things work. If you wouldn’t just show up at your lawyer’s office and ask for a meeting, don’t do that with publishers. If you want a meeting, call in advance, be respectful and ask for a short amount of time. That gives you your best chance.

If you do all 6 of those things (and don’t do #7) every time you visit a music center, you’ll start seeing some results from your visits, IF you are writing great songs!

Write On!
Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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