As a Songwriter, Use “Organic Networking” to Get Yourself Out There
The following is adapted from Song Journey.
Many of us songwriters are introverts. Let’s face it.
If you’re working in solitude, collecting your thoughts, and trying to channel that perfect melody, you’re probably not doing it in an office surrounded by people. I don’t think of writing as a group effort, but I do think of the music business like a team sport.
This is where the attributes of being an introvert, the stuff that allows you to dig deep, goes from being an asset to a detriment. We write in a vacuum, but your aim is to show your baby to the whole wide world. We need someone to sing our praises and, most of all, we need someone to sing our songs! How are they going to hear them?
It’s getting harder and harder to be an introvert in the music business. There was a time when a songwriter worked his or her magic, passed the song over to a publisher, the publisher played it for a label, producer, or artist, and they recorded it.
The songwriter only had to get dressed to go to the mailbox to pick up the ASCAP check or go to an award ceremony to get whatever you call the shiny thing you take home. Perfect for the Howard Hughes in all of us, but that model no longer exists.
You don’t want to hear this, but being a successful songwriter means networking.
Take a deep breath. It’s OK. We’ll get through this together.
In this article, I’m going to share some stories and strategies to get you out there networking in a way that’s manageable even for the most introverted of us.
Why You Need to Get Yourself Out There
While a good publisher might give you the space you need to do what you do, and not have to do the things you don’t, these publishers are few and far between. Really far between. These days, they want to see a writer who can bring more.
Can they play live? Can they self-promote? Can they make contacts on their own? Can they work social media? Can they discover other writers to write with? Can they forge a friendship with a producer/artist/manager? Can they bring their own funding?
The good news? You can still be introverted and succeed.
The internet is the first tool for that. You can create a platform, website, fan page, and fan base all while wearing the same old shorts and ball cap you wore when you wrote the song. You can reach out and not leave home. You can network that way.
The Power of “Old School” Networking
That said, from personal experience, there’s no substitute for “old school” networking. Going out to hear live music, connecting with other songwriters and artists. Touching base with everyone you know in the business, keeping your name in front of someone, even when doing that seems sort of creepy by an introvert’s standards.
Self-promotion is hard for most. In my career, I’ve always had sort of a grudging respect for the networking writers. Some were more networker than songwriter, some a hybrid; those are the ones who seemed to be incredibly successful in the music business.
I will share with you that I fell somewhere in between over a long career. I networked as much as I was comfortable with but probably not enough. Didn’t like to attend dinners, parties, or events, unless I was getting an award of some kind. I missed out on great opportunities by not “putting myself out there,” but I felt I could only do what I do well on my own terms. I was lucky to find a good team before the era of free agency.
Look to Create an Organic Network
The co-writer you had, the songwriter you met in an online songwriting group, the guitar player you know, your best friends’ friend who works in an entertainment law firm in New York—these parts of your songwriting path are more important than you think.
Together, they form your organic network.
So many of the contacts in my songwriting life started with the smallest of connections. These have proven to be the gift that keeps on giving. Quite a few friends I made in the beginning of my career are friends to this day. I didn’t give much thought at the time to growing old with these folks. That’s not on your radar when you’re out to conquer the world, but looking through my contacts, I see I’m still in touch with many of them.
Two Examples of Organic Networking
If you want an example of how powerful an organic can be, here’s two examples.
One of my first managers, Joe Halderman, introduced me to Peter Frampton, for whom Faith Band opened. Terry Barnes, who worked with Joe, is the brother of Faith Band drummer Dave Barnes, with whom I played. Terry ended up President and CEO of Ticketmaster and introduced me to one of my songwriting heroes, Lowell George of Little Feat. John Cooper was the sound man for Faith Band. He now mixes Bruce Springsteen all around the world. John introduced me to Wynonna Judd.
Then there’s Torquil Creevy, whom I met in England when I was an artist signed to Riva Records. Torquil moved on to Miles Copeland’s publishing company and offered me a deal when he got there. Torquil introduced me to songwriter Billy Lawrie, who introduced me to his sister Lulu of “To Sir with Love” fame.
Billy, Lulu, and I wrote “My Angel Is Here” on Wynonna’s album Revelations. Torquil also introduced me to Nick Battle at Windswept Pacific Music, who got some of my best cuts including “Wayward Soul” on Joe Cocker platinum album Across from Midnight.
Leaving the Nest
It’s just as important to continue to stay in touch with your connections as it is to make them in the first place. Cultivate the friendships; touch base from time to time. Keep your info updated. You never know where an old friend will land in this business, and someone you shared a moment with years ago can reenter your life.
I’m not suggesting you “work” your contacts as much as work at keeping up with them. Along with your family and your talent, they’re the most valuable asset you have.
Leaving the nest is the “tipping point” for most writers, myself included.
As a young writer, I headed to New York, Boston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, London, and finally Nashville. It was hard, but I dug in. Learned from everyone I could, read every book, played every bar, wrote with anyone who asked. Anything to just be able to call myself a songwriter and believe it. Every name went into my book.
If you’re a songwriter, ask yourself: how bad do you want to succeed? If the answer is, “like I want to breathe,” then be open to the idea of networking.
I promise, if done the right way, it’s not as scary as you think.
For more advice on networking as a songwriter, you can find Song Journey on Amazon.
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Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. His book, Song Journey, was released in April 2019 and went to #1 in 6 catagories on Amazon.Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.