It's part festival, part music conference, part business networking opportunity and part gathering of old friends held in Nashville, TN every third weekend of June. The live performances, education and Open House are concurrently running events. Here's a day by day account from Friday morning and continuing on till Sunday midnight.
Day 1, Friday, June 19th, 2009
It's Friday 9 AM we start with some pro instruction. Richard Adler, Grammy, Platinum/Gold recording engineer & producer talks about the nitty gritty of being in the music biz. Then Dave Gibson shares some insights and plays a few songs that have worked for him. (Texas Tattoo, Big Heart, Red White and Blue Collar, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, Queen Of Memphis, Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind, Ships That Don't Come In, Jukebox In My Mind, Lonely & Gone). Following Dave is Stan Webb, SESAC Legacy Award. "I'm From the Country"(and I like it that way.), and other commercial successes. Stan talks about the realities of becoming a long term professional songwriter.
After Lunch, Steven Sharp's inside knowledge from successes of running a major label talks about, "The Politics of Getting a Song Heard and Cut". Next, entertainment law expert Bill Whitacre will take your questions on copyrights, rules on co-writing and collaboration, publishing, artist deals, digital rights and more. Finally, wrapping up the afternoon session is Radio Host Karen Reynolds, who will speak on "The business and skills of the performing songwriter".
Friday afternoon @ 5:30 PM we begin firing off the stages. Starting at the Curb Music parking, lot, it's time to begin the non stop original tunes till Sunday midnight! There are scheduled featured writer segments intermingled with regular writers. About 6:30 the writers start finding their place in the mix at the various Video, Web Cast and other outdoor theme venues. Unscheduled Create-A-Rounds pop up throughout the evening. Some writers browse a Booth or drop off their CDs to display at the Writer's Table. The stages hum till about 2 AM. As the evening winds down the hard core gather and play unplugged at the after hours Open Sing Ring. Thus begins a life changing weekend, so pace yourself.
Day 2, Saturday, June 20th, 2009
It's Saturday morning @ 10 AM, the Writers who got some rest are up-and-about getting first hand experience of the Row. The second day of the Pro Instructors classes starts with a Guitar workshop with Dave Isaacs "Driving The Groove." Next Debi Champion gives pointers on "How to Host a Successful Writers Night". Lisa Aschmann explains her concepts behind the book, "1000 Songwriting Ideas." Pete & Pat Luboff will tell ya why "Collaboration is the Key to getting songs cut." and Tirk Wilder rounds things off doing Song Critiques for students.
Also at 10 AM on Saturday the Open House begins. Fest Heads will be able to drop by participating recording studios, producers, publishers, publicists, consultants, managers, duplicators, and other trade related music businesses on or near the Row. These businesses will have an "Open Door Policy" from 10 AM-6 PM June 20th and 21st. These established Music Row businesses will offer tours of their facilities and answer questions about "What part they play in the biz?" Writers are encouraged to drop off and pick up samples of each others works.
Around noon, live music begins filling the Row again and the booths are open for traffic. Little clusters of writers develop, each sharing stories and talking shop. Everyone is laid back and having a meaningful experience thanks to the no contest, no talent search emphasis of the fest, making for a more relaxing atmosphere. At some point we present the Life Time Achievement award to the festival Grand Master. Last year Tom T. Hall took the honors and was presented the keys to Music Row. The stages close down again at 2 AM and the really late niters head for the after hours Open Sing Ring to watch the sun rise. By the end of the second day, Fest Heads have been effectively scattered from one end of the Row to the other.
Day 3, Sunday, June 21st, 2009
It's Sunday Morning 8 AM and thus begins a special Christian Music Segment at the Curb Music Parking Lot. A special emphasis on Contemporary Christian related music is pursued till noon.
10 AM, Survivors from Friday and Saturday hit the Row again! The Sunday session of the Open House begins. Fest Heads loaded down with business cards, CD's and goodie bags take advantage of the "Open Door Policy" till 6 PM.
10:30 AM, The 3rd day of Pro Instruction kicks off again and runs till about 6 PM. Starting things out is a guitar workshop by master Denny Sarokin. Then find out how to be "Ready for the Row" with Barbara Cloyd. After Barb, Bob Dellaposta will speak on "How to start and maintain a publishing company." Also critically acclaimed author and songwriter C J Watson will talk on "Everything Songwriting". Finally 15 year Music Row veteran Jo Crowe will help ya get your stuff ready to plug from publisher to label & also do song critiques for the gang.
At Noon all the stages begin firing back up, booths are open and everything hums along as usual. Some of the late-niter's begin straggling in and the party continues. Go with the flow, 12 more hours to go.
At 6 PM. If anyone wants to get married at the Fest then this is the time we do it, free of charge. Festival provides a Hall of Famer to minister the ceremony. The bride and groom read a poem or play a special tune to each other on stage, kiss and then head off to a reception nearby. Don't worry. I think there will be plenty of live entertainment.
In the evening about 8 PM we start winding down the video, web cast and other stages and Southern Fried Fest Heads start gravitating to the Curb Music Parking Lot as we get ready to Jam till midnight. Having gotten our musical fill, we yearn no more. Little elves clear the row of gear, stages, and by the next day it's like we never existed.
The week following the Fest some writers are still hanging around the Row, following up on leads and cementing plans for the future. For better or worse, at least you know your way around now.
The Nashville SongWriters Festival is many happenings in one. ASCAP, SESAC and BMI writers of all genres come together. Publishers, recording studios, producers, song pluggers, managers, and others are in attendance as a broad spectrum of the industry, past, present and future will be there getting the feel. Take in all or parts of the Fest and "Play it by ear".
Writers are encouraged to come as they are and find their place in the mix. Everyone who comes to the fest will have an opportunity to share their original lyrics, song or music. There are no set pre qualifications to play and no set registration fee to attend the Fest. Each individual determines how they can contribute to help be a part of this music magic. Many special guests and surprises await but the real featured writer is you.
So step outside the cliques and come hang with the gang. If you have a talent to contribute, the call goes out. Invite yourself to be a part of Music City history. The fest is now accepting sign ups for the June 2009 season. Throw down at this years congregation to celebrate the spirit of the songwriter.
The 3 day music peoples gathering is hosted by SongWritersFestival.com. Music Fans and the general public are also invited to attend. Plenty of free parking. For more information visit www.SongWritersFestival.com, call 615-424-1491 / 931-296-4067 or email Popcorn@SongWritersFestival.com. A Page available with links to all the instructors and venues listed above are at http://www.songwritersfestival.com/big_weekend_fest.htm
Some scheduling aspects may vary due to VIP and Pro Instructor considerations at the live event.