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#878405 - 02/13/11 01:59 PM Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI  
Joined: Feb 2011
Posts: 190
John Cook Offline
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Hey again everyone,

More wonderful questions from a resident song-pitching rookie!

I know several people are members of NSAI ans I wanted to see if they could share their feelings on whether it is worth joining. The things that seem to be a good deal (at least for me) are the webcasts of some of their workshops and the free song evaluation service. It also seems like there are good opportunities for networking with the service.

I'm just curious as to why you are a member and whether you would recommend that I join. Some background - I live in the mid-Atlantic without the ability to travel a huge amount, and I'm a writer who would like to get a foot in the door. I do perform, but would rather write.

Since there are a number of pros here I would also like to know if you have any tips on how to get a foot in the door without joining an organization. What is the best way to try and approach the industry.

Let assume, for the moment at least, that I have fantastic songs that sound great and are ready to pitch and be recorded right now (I don't, but for the sake of simplicity lets assume I do).

I understand that this is a general question, but if you can give specifics that would be great. What sort of "qualifications" do you need for the "job" in Nashville.

John

PS - please excuse the title, I tried the search function and came up empty handed. I wanted to make this post as searchable as possible!!

#878427 - 02/13/11 03:08 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: John Cook]  
Joined: Sep 2005
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WriterTomYeager Offline
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WriterTomYeager  Offline
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hello John

though not a member of NSAI- I think there would be some advantages to it.....It would help get the attention of publishers to some extent knowing that you have joined a professional organization.....

It would also help alot for you to have some songs up on the net to listen to....You can post em in the usual places they are found like a personal web page/Soundclick/ReverbNation/Facebook/Myspace etc.......

Assuming that you have defined yourself as a solo singer-songwriter-let publishers know that-otherwise they will wonder if you are trying to hook up with a band..

And of course you want them to know if you are Country or multi-genre.

So put some stuff up for review here on JPF-join BMI or ASCAP and let others know where you are from as well....Again you might define yourself a bit better-or just say you are in the process of personal discovery i.e. Simon looking for Garfunkel or whatever.....I think pitching stuff to fellow songwriters is a good start before pitching it to publishers and labels.....Being new-the networking and critique experience could help you alot.......

Hope this has been of some help

Best of luck to you


Tom

#878462 - 02/13/11 05:26 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: WriterTomYeager]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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John,

Marc-Alan Barnette. I have been a member of NSAI for over 21 years, out of the 23 I have been in Nashville. for the first ten I was a regular member, the past 10 were as a professional member and mentor to their workshops, chapters and individual and group members. It is single handedly the best move I ever made and the best money I ever spent. I actually owe my current career as to NSAI.

But it might not be like you think. If you analyze NSAI, BMI, ASCAP, Songwriters Guild, JPF, Songramp, TAXI, whatever, you are usually not going to get a one on one cost to result benefit. Nothing does that.

What happens is what I call ACTIVITY=PROXIMITY=OPPORTUNITIES.

When you are involved in any organization, you are by definition doing more activity. You write more songs, you attend meetings,meet other artists and writers, all in a desire to get more for your membership.Paying money for anything provides it's own incentive.

If you are doing that, it is going to put you into PROXIMITY of other people, other writers, people who might provide co-writing contacts, perhaps some artist who might record and perform one of your songs, not to mention writers nights or showcases those organizations put on. When you figure that NSAI is the only organization that has chapters in nearly every metropolitan area, the benefit of that alone is worth the cost of admission.
And going to some place like Nashville, gives you a central meeting location, an office on the Row, where you are going to get the closest view of the industry you can get. That is what leads to OPPORTUNITIES.

I had cuts before I joined. Got cuts during my membership. That really didn't matter one way or another. Even writers that write for large companies, with song pluggers, publishers, lots of employees, often make their own appointments and get their own cuts. But it is the company which raises their profile among their contemporaries.

NSAI or any of these other organizations don't do this for you. Just provides avenues. You have to blow the doors open. In many cases when you are just meeting people, being a member of NSAI can simply say "this guy has a little more on the ball at understanding the game" with some people that might be worth a few more minutes of an interview or a couple of extra listens to songs. Doesn't guarantee it, but doesn't hurt.

When I am contacted by people from NSAI chapters, I know they are used to being part of something larger than themselves. If they are supporting the groups in their area that lifts the boat.That enables the area chapters to do more things. A rising tide lifts all boats.

When I went to Congress six years ago, NSAI was the reason I was there lobbying for songwriter's rights. They walk the walk and talk the talk.

If you want more tangible results, Frankie Ballard, a current hit artist on Warner Brothers Records is someone I worked with for six months before he was signed. He came to me through an NSAI group. Steel Magnolia is another duo I have worked with. Megan Lindsey, the female singer of that group, came to me through my relationship with a teacher from Wisconsin.She was the coordinator of the Green Bay NSAI group. She now writes for Taylor Swift's publishing company.

You approach people the same way whether you are a lone wolf or part of a pack. It is all going to be up to you no matter what.Your personalty has to carry you long before anyone listens to your songs. There is no concievable way to listen to millions of songs that are floating around out there. So you up the level of your odds. the education you get through groups like NSAI are what helps you up that level.

This is all a crap shoot or lottery ticket. It is just about being as methodical as you can be. Joining recognized organizations are just another step in that direction.

My advice would be to visit a couple of meetings in the area closest to you. If it takes it, visit Nashville, LA or New York. See what works for you and continue to ask people their advice like you did here. Everyone is going to have their own take on it.

The only thing you have to lose might be a little money, or some time. If you don't work all the angles, learn what you can, you won't get those.

All up to you.

MAB

#879037 - 02/15/11 01:18 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,204
Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content


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If you are writing country music, NSAI is worthwhile. Christian/Gospel maybe as well... Rock, Pop, Jazz, Rap etc. not so much. I too was an NSAI member for many years before I launched JPF as an answer. And the Mentor program now part of NSAI came directly from JPF (I told Gracie Hollombe, their former Membership Director, to interview with them when she needed work) and she took a lot of the programs we were offering and incorporated them into NSAI such as the Mentor program). I believe we both borrowed from John Braheny and Len Chaney's Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase as well. Though NSAI insists it's for all genres, I can tell you that 95% of the activity ends up being Country in nature. (Just like our message board, something else they borrowed from us though I haven't seen theirs in ages). All that to say if I wanted to write country music and was just getting started, I'd definitely join NSAI if they had a local active chapter near me. JPF used to have over 100 active chapters but I let them fade away because I had to either give them up or the music awards because we were just too overwhelmed here without a large paid staff like NSAI has. (And we're also totally free and volunteer run). If I did other genres of music, I'd join TAXI instead (frankly, TAXI would be the first place I'd join that I had to pay for). I'd also join JPF of course and Muses Muse which are both free. Indie-Music.com used to have a variety of things they offered, but I can't tell you what they are up to at the moment. If you are on the West Coast, I'd join the West Coast Songwriters Ass. they do excellent work. If you're in LA, Orange County, Tampa, Buffalo, Nashville, Chicago or one of the other new cifies we're launching chapters you should join a JPF chapter. Any face to face peer networking you can do, do it. (And you can start a JPF chapter anywhere there are at least 10 interested artists/songwriters or industry folks). The big music cities have all sorts of extra stuff to join like NARAS chapters, or folks like Doak, MAB or Billy Block who always have stuff to offer and help.

Basically, help is out there, free and for a fee. Check out all of them, join all the free ones, and get involved. The more you put in the more you'll get out.

Happy hunting!

Brian



Brian Austin Whitney
Founder
Just Plain Folks
jpfolkspro@aol.com
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney


#879078 - 02/15/11 03:01 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Jan 2009
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Nashville, Tn.
Brian,

I don't know exactly when your mentor programs started but when I joined NSAI in the 80's it was already there. It was part of the reason to join NSAI. Some of my first mentors were Sherril Blackman, Don Schlitz and others. It was not as an "official" mentor to the chapter workshops but was part of NSAI from the beginnings in the 70's with Kristofferson. I was one of the first people Gracie talked to about the chapter workshop mentors which were called "Adopt a Shop" but that idea was around for a few years before from Bart Herbison and actually Maggie Cavender had talked about it before that.

The main reason NSAI was put together was as an advocacy group for songwriters. So I am sure great minds think alike.

I did a JPF group in Orange County once and most NSAI groups have JPF members in them. The reason I started doing internet forums are because all of these people kept showing up and asking me to.

Like most things musical, there are a lot of similar ideas going on at the same time.

MAB

#879588 - 02/17/11 05:59 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
Joined: Oct 2007
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billrocker Offline
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It's a great organization that does many great things for writers. The critiques that some of my clients have gotten assume the writer is trying to get a cut in Nashville, so you have to sorta know that going in.

They tend to incorporate the 'Nashville market potential' factor into the equation along with the craft evaluation itself, which makes a certain amount of sense...they're in Nashville and I think most writers who submit to them are leaning toward the Nashville market. But a few of my clients that aren't specifically targeting Nashville have reported that some of the reviews weren't as helpful as they'd hoped. Of course that may be on them...maybe they should have identified the market they were targetting more clearly. My impression is songs submitted to NSAI for review are assumed to be songs targeting the contemporary country music market. If you know that going in and you'll be happy as a clam.

#879785 - 02/18/11 09:24 AM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: billrocker]  
Joined: Apr 2001
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content


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Gracie introduced several of our programs once starting there including the official mentor program which was tied to the chapters. I am not claiming to have invented "mentors" but she acknowledged that she took the best stuff we were doing and incorporated it into NSAI. There's even some old posts on here where it was being discussed as it was happening back then. She had come to me asking about a job but we only work with volunteers, so I suggested she try NSAI.

I was an NSAI member back in the 1980's, and there was no mentor program for us available except at the limited workshops they offered which were hard to get into, especially if you weren't in Nashville. I am sure there were many other benefits to being an NSAI member who lived in Nashville (just as there are still today) but the only person who ever visited us was Ralph Murphy (I got to hang with him on that visit for the day and night which was a trip...) That was circa 1988-1990 probably. He wasn't called a "Mentor" at the time, but he did come there to lecture and offer critiques. In app. 15 years of membership that is the only time we had anything like a visiting "Mentor."

Back when JPF had over 100 active chapters, we had many mentors who toured around to places where there weren't any industry people and help out. We had app. 40 mentors for 111 chapters at the time that Gracie launched the Chapter Adopt a Shop format for mentors attached to chapters at NSAI. We had many long discussions over that and several other things she was credited with in an American Songwriter Article which were directly borrowed from JPF. But I will acknowledge openly that we started chapters long after I had been an NSAI member and I think we both got it from the NAS and LASS back in the 70's run by John Braheny and Len Chandler and that gang as well as Diane Rapaport and those folks who started even earlier in San Francisco. In fact, someone should really do a documentary on all these groups who I think have done a great job at pushing back on the scam artists and bad contracts and also voicing concerns of the little guys in Washington. NSAI now regularly goes to DC (I think you've been part of that). I don't recall as much focus on that Pre-Bart Herbison who was hired because he was a lobbyist. I started going to DC regularly in 1998 and return 2-3 times per year until 2009 when first the awards and then my stroke limited me from going. I still was part of many legislative efforts (many in conjunction with the NSAI though they got most of the photo ops since they often brought successful writers or artists and we focused on grassroots folks who no one else cared to focus on). JPF exists in part because I felt none of the existing orgs. really cared about the little guys, but rather they used the dues money and numbers to help those more at the top of the food chain. And I think that is still the case today. I am sure others would vehemently deny that, but I've seen far enough behind the curtain for long enough to know the truth.

But I digress... NSAI is different than it once was. Some things are better, some things are not. But there are one of very few options offering legit help to writers. I can probably count them all on my fingers, if not one hand, and they certainly make that list.

Brian


Brian Austin Whitney
Founder
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jpfolkspro@aol.com
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney


#879807 - 02/18/11 12:48 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Jan 2009
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2009
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Brian,

I can only speak from my experience. The "Mentor" or advisor program was something that was always there when I first heard about NSAI in the mid 80's and was one of the things the people that had been in it before me, had joined for. THat was in Birmingham before I moved to Nashville. The main reason I went to Nashville in the first place was from NSAI members.

I didn't find out about JPF until around 2001 when I did a workshop in Orange County Ca. One of the members was in the NSAI group out there.

There are a lot of organizations out there. Like most of music they all derive things from each other. Much like the conversation on the creators of the blues on another thread here. Trying to derive the true source of anything is pretty hard to do.

MAB

#879811 - 02/18/11 01:18 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
Joined: Feb 2011
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John Cook Offline
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John Cook  Offline
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Thank you again for all the help guys, I shall probably be throwing myself into the organization at some point over the next few weeks.

It doesn't surprise me that the two organizations grew the same type of program at the same time. They're really trying to do the same thing and mentoring is an excellent way to make that happen.

Again - thank you for the help and encouragement, as I think I said before its nice to find out that not everyone is out to get you... Just most people :-)

#879820 - 02/18/11 01:50 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: John Cook]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Any form of endevor will have people that gravitate twoard like minded people. Actors, artists, poets, business people, etc. If you meet someone in an organization there will be other people that end up in that organization.

Same thing as the Shriners, Masons, Chamber of commerce. whatever. Pretty common actually.

MAB

#879837 - 02/18/11 02:47 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
Joined: May 2001
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Well,
First of all you should know that NSAI is a Non Profit Organazation. And it is run by mostly Volunteers. If you can join a local chapter you may get some benefits out of it. As long as you don't expect too much it may be a good thing to join.

There was a Chapter here back in the 90's. They invited me to join. I went for a while but it was mostly a "Clic" thing and finally fell apart for lack of interest.

You may learn some good things but don't expect it to advance your music career to any extent.


Ray E. Strode
#879839 - 02/18/11 02:55 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
Joined: Apr 2001
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content


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They have a professional paid staff in Nashville with large office full of workers (at least they did the last time I was there). The volunteers are their chapter coordinators and many of their coordinators were also JPF coordinators so we shared and they were as professional often as any paid employee and actually better because they were there because they WANTED to be there, not because they had to be to get paid. So don't diss volunteers or suggest they are somehow less than paid folks.

And cliques happen everywhere in life, school, church, work so of course music as well. We fight them on our boards all the time. It's human nature. The trick is to make the entire group and all who join PART of the giant clique.

Brian


Brian Austin Whitney
Founder
Just Plain Folks
jpfolkspro@aol.com
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney


#879844 - 02/18/11 03:09 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,830
Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,830
Nashville, Tn.
Ray,

That is a pretty odd thing to say. Hit writers like Chris Wallen, producers like Ted Hewitt (Rodney Atkins) and pretty much anyone in Nashville has benefitted totally from their relationships with NSAI. They got much of their formative information from there. So they would be the first to dissagree with you.

I am personally involved with three people, artists Frankie Ballard and Steel Magnolia, and signed writer Julie Moriva, who got their initial grounding from NSAI. I have a career as an indirect result from NSAI. I am in Michigan right now doing workshops, am going to Canada, all as a part of NSAI and non-related organizations. So I wouldn't be here at all without that. And most all of these came through the chapter workshops initially. And if you have ever gotten any thing out of information I have put out on pages like here, you have benefitted directly from NSAI because I wouldn't be doing this without them. I would still only be caring about myself and doing the same chasing my tail thing a lot of people do.

Yes, they do become cliquish like anything that involved music. this site here can become cliquish. All that means is you have certain friends you hang out with more. It is not so much purposeful exclusion as it is that most people are self focused, particualrly writers. And yes, there are some head up their butt people, but that is true in any organization.

The main hit writers I have worked with came to me through NSAI events. So before you make a statement like that you need to get a few facts straight.

The music business at any level is a collection of dozens of infulences and assistant from a lot of different directions. Looking back on a career you find a lot of interesecting dots that at the time didn't seem to have anything to do with any thing else. It is all just providing opportunities. What is done with them is up the individual.

The single most important thing I have ever gotten out of NSAI is finding out a LOT of what NOT to do. That is often more important that what TO DO. If you can see someone else run into walls, make mistakes, in writing, performing, networking, business, that is infinately better than YOU making those mistakes.

Sorry you had a bad experience. There are those. That is why I come to places like Michigan and Canada in the winter, to help them see things to avoid and things that can help their career.

#879854 - 02/18/11 03:46 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Aw Well,
My experence with NSAI was "Not very Impressed" at best. As I recall, I was supposed to receive a Bulletin, quarterly. I didn't receive some of them. As I said, mostly volenteers or maybe the "Professional" Staff just dropped the Ball.

They had a song contest. I entered. Every Entry was supposed to receive a Judging Report. I sent 2 songs. It cost 45 dollars. No Judging Report. Maybe it was too overwhelming for the Staff. I am not complaining, just commenting on NSAI.

Humm. A large office of Staff? When I visited I only saw one person???? I'm sure they do some good, for somebody.

Last edited by Ray E. Strode; 02/18/11 03:47 PM.

Ray E. Strode
#879857 - 02/18/11 04:00 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Nashville, Tn.
Ray,

I am not here to defend anyone just comment on my side of it. I have heard the same thing as you say a lot of times. I also have heard the other side of it, my side, much more and mostly by the successful hit writers, publishers and producers that are actually doing things in the music industry.

The fact is that no one contest, no one organization, no one song, no one contact makes a career. Ever. If you just went to a few meetings and didn't push past that to making contacts with other writers and artists, writing with them, adding things to their games as well as your own, nothing is going to happen.Ever.

We have chronicled contests all the time here and I am telling you that no matter what anyone says, there is no time to do much more than what you can. When you are getting thousands of entries, there is no way to give reports on all of those. No physical way.

It all goes back to my lower expectations of contests. I have never met anyone that got much out of any of them including the winners which I have done before. But it wasn't the contest or the organization. It was the connections I made THROUGH the orgainizations, the lessons I learned through the organizations than anything the actual organization does.

My career is on me. Period. What happens to songs,what money I make what information I give and get.It is all on me. NSAI and other similar organizations only provide me an opportunity. It is all in what you do with the opportunities.

MAB

#879859 - 02/18/11 04:21 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Ray,

This is much the same discussion we see here all the time with ASCAP or BMI, NSAI, or playing the Bluebird, or a trip to nashville from someone. It echoes what I deal with on a pretty much continuous basis with people with overreaching expectations that any one appointment,any one show, any one song, any one contest, is going to set their career on the path to superstardom.

No it isn't. It is just going to be one more chance to find out information, meet with people, learn something you didn't know before, get seen by someone, and continuing the journey. How many hit songs or songwriters or artists have had those appoinments that never went anywhere.

Got an appointment right now. got to go show people how one appointment only means that. One appointment.

MAB

#880228 - 02/20/11 08:04 AM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
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I think the experience of NSAI greatly depends on if you are in Nashville where NSAI can act as a lubricant to make things a bit easier for those who live there. If you live elsewhere, then it soley depends on the quality of your local coordinator volunteer. Some are amazing. Some totally suck. Or in some cases, you may not even have one in your city. But that's the same trouble we had setting up chapters. As for their not getting back to you with critiques, did you bother to call and ask what was up? I've always believed you forfeit the moral high ground on a complaint if you never bother to notify someone to give them a chance to investigate and fix it if they made an error.

There are some big plusses and some minuses concerning NSAI, but that can be said about most anything.

Brian


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#880250 - 02/20/11 01:26 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Well,
The question was, "Is it worthwhile to join NSAI" I think a good example(s) have been given here. NSAI is another step in learning the Music Business. There is plenty of good information (and) bad information discussed right here on these boards so it is a flip of the coin if you should join NSAI or not. I don't think it will hurt if you join. Use that old Adage when approaching a railroad track, Stop, Look, and Listen.


Ray E. Strode
#880252 - 02/20/11 02:19 PM Re: Nashville Songwriters Association International NSAI [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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I am in Kalamazoo Michigan where I have worked with 13 artists and writers so far. Have met about 100 people through it. They have multiple artists playing all over the state of Michigan and of course with one artist with a major label deal, all of that happened because of NSAI and it was all done here instead of Nashville.

I get where everybody comes from but have a vastly different perception because I have seen it directly and indirectly have an amazing effect on people's lives. Mine included and as I have thought about it almost every hit writer in Nashville I have ever known. There is no other organization that can say that not even Taxi.

So I would put that track record up against anything. As I have always said, it is never one organization. But I just don't see any others that have that direct a correlation.

MAB


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