For many songwriters, the process of recording demos and pitching is
not satisfying enough. We search for the connection to a greater community-and
to the power of songand ultimately find ourselves out at showcase
nights and songwriter events like the TAXI convention, trading stories
and contacts, and many times eventually stepping up to the open mic.
For some of us, this inclination to perform, whenever discovered or
honored, becomes a way of life. For others, even limited performance
is a valuable tool in the search for delivering the ultimate impact
with their songs.
Something happens in the connection of writer/artist to the song through
repeated performance. I believe that a new song doesn't really come
into its own until it's been played out for a few months. When you're
in front of an audience, the feedback is immediate and invaluable in
seeing which lyrics and melodies generate a response and which fall
flat with the listeners. Many of the phrasing problems and awkward melody
lines I hear in so many demos could be better worked out through the
process of repeated performance, before they are recorded.
Eventually, You've Got To Leave Home:
For those seriously interested in persuing a performance career, eventually
you've got to take it on the road.
Sony/Work Group artist Dan Bern told me that it took showcasing in a
small hotel room at the 1995 Folk Alliance in Portland, OR to expose
him the vastness of the alternative songwriting community that existed
beyond the "industry island " of Los Angeles. Similar stories of the
beginning road to awareness of alternative venues and audiences abound
in the singer/songwriter/folk community.
Every Writer/Artist Has An Audience.
It's simply a matter of finding those individuals. And while the "big
dream" might well be a song on the top of the charts, audience building
is a methodical process which creates a more stable network of support
for a long term career. As artists raised in a corporately dominated
system, we would do well to work on changing our mental conditioning
from "bigger is better" to "building is better". The result would be
less idealization/frustration and more realistic, grass roots and tangible
Resources To Exploring This Path.
National and regional songwriter organizations provide regular workshops
and performance opportunities for writers, as do the performing rights
organizations ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc. A comprehensive listing of these
organizations, and related events, is available via the Unisong International
Song Contest Resource Pages at www.unisong.com at no charge.
Songwriter Magazine is the preeminent guide to the growing community
of songwriters, venues and festivals and also provides excellent, in
depth interviews with legends and emerging voices. For subscriptions
The North American
Folk Alliance is a non-profit organization which produces the premiere
regional and national events for performing songwriters (don't let the
"folk" term limit you.) At these conferences, you can network with venue
operators, radio hosts, booking agents, managers, and attend valuable
workshops on house concerts and other touring alternatives. Registration
and membership information is available by calling 202/835-3655.
nothing can replace the act of doing the work. There are no short cuts.
Ultimately, I've found that the commitment to follow a career as a writer
and/or performer must be based on internal values that reach beyond
the idealized dreams of fame and fortune. Having a vision for yourself
is exciting and important. But a commitment to this life is more than
simply a marketing strategy or desire for recognition and wealth. It's
a life path choice.
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