Everyone I know did. Jeffery Steele, Chris Wallin, Dave Berg, Craig Wiseman, ALL of them came through NSAI events, song camps, writing in the rockies, etc. I went to seminars, private workshops, contests. That is how you meet the people you start intereacting with. So actually it is exactly the opposite.

They all got critiques, just a lot of them came through publishers. How did they get to know publishers? They made trips, spent money on these same events, hotels, etc. One of the reason they still lecture, support and do things for NSAI, because that was their initial contact with the industry.And yes, that costs money. What do you pay money for? Critiques, seminars, consultations.

Then, in dozens of situations, the people who they met through there, enabled them to get a leg up on their competition, introduced them to other people who took a natural evolution.

See, that is where I think people get off base when they are looking at this issue. Everyone wants a "I hear this song and if you do this, this and this, it is going to become a hit song." That doesn't happen.

What happens is they point out things in certain songs or groups of songs that might not be "wrong" but might not have enough "right with it." If you were to sit down with someone like myself, I am going to show you things you do in each song. With writers there are usually patterns. Run on phrases that don't work. Musical redundancy, cliched' lines. Not going "deeper" in their context. That is what courses, private consultations do. They weed those things out so you see them and avoid them before you get to a publisher.

Then there are changing dynamics in the system. Twenty five years ago, you could walk in offices and play songs for publishers. But there were very few writers. Now every one is a writer. And most of them are not very good. They say the exact same things over and over again the exact same ways everybody else has done.

So you are not going to get to publishers until you really have something special to offer or at least be able to hang into the game long enough to know people to take you to publishers. There are the networking phenomenon that has always been there but is now more pronounced than ever.
So the ground work that is laid over and over through those critiques that build relationships. If I have seen someone over a period of time, seen them grow musically, hear the questions they ask, get to know them personality, I am going to be more able to suggest people they meet to write with, to help guide them and since I have seen their growth, I am not worried about jeapordizing my reputation.

Now I can give you a better one than all of that. I found this out yesterday. I was watching the playoffs and one of the guys there who I have known for a while and done a bunch of shows with. He said "Do you remember that show we did a few years ago, with Jeffery, Jimbeau Hinson, Ray Hernedon in Mississippi? I said yeah. We did a tornado relief show for Jimbeau's home town over there about 3 years ago.
He said, you remember that guy who came backstage? Barely. he said, "That was Randy Houser." Jeffery told him to look him up when he came to town." Randy had found out about the show through an NSAI e-mail. He came to town, looked up Jeffery. Jeffery was doing some workshops and put Randy in contact with his publisher Steve Markland. One of the songs he had was "Honky Donk Bedonky Donk." That is how he, Jaimey Johnson, got in the door.
If it hadn't been for NSAI, Jeffery wouldn't have been doing workshops. I wouldn't have been doing workshops. We wouldn't have met each other, we wouldn't have known Jimbeau (who I met at an NSAI function. Jeff and I learned from writing with Jimbeau.
Private lessons are just an extension of the workshops. Some are paid, some are not. The relationships you build come through that because if someone cares enough about something to "pledge the fraternity" and do the same things you have done, you are more likely to spend the extra time it takes. And sometimes it works out well.

So have hit writers taken courses, private lessons, gotten critiques, coaching, etc? Only every one in the past 20 years.