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"Being There"
By Paula Carpenter - 04/10/2002 - 03:16 PM EDT

Do any of you remember that funny satire of a movie from years back--I think it starred Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine? It was about a dim-witted gardener, who, through his "showing up" with the "right" people, and his simple, innane answers like: "I LIKE TO WATCH" (TV).... began to be mistaken for this amazingly gifted, brilliant, subtly wise genius...he, a not-so-bright simpleton, suddenly became the "hot ticket" in town! At the end of the movie, he was even being considered as a Presidential candidate...and in general, a real dunce became the Prince of Society, just by......"BEING THERE".

Now. I obviously am not about to draw a parallel which says that "many songwriters are dunces, but if we just keep showing up, we can fool people"...however...there IS a particle of truth in this story and it's relationship to us as songwriters when we're first trying to get noticed...and even after, continuing on through our involvement in the business.

Again, I refer back to my own beginnings, not only because it's what I did, but because it's still good advice. I think I somehow just innately KNEW...that if I was to be taken seriously in an industry in which I wanted to become accepted, then I needed to SHOW UP at said industry's events. So, I began to attend conferences, workshops, awards ceremonies, etc., which pertained to my goal: professional songwriting and the music business in general.

I want to encourage each of you to, if not do exactly the same thing, to still try and figure out how you can apply this principle to your own goals. Here too, I am assuming I'm talking mainly to folks who do not live in Nashville or LA or New York, or any other major music center, and for you, it takes some effort and planning, and a trip, to BE THERE. For those of you who do live, say in Nashville, since that's where my main base of experience lies, you have a WORLD of advantages, because you continually get to: BE THERE! Still, I bet there are times you take your close proximity for granted, and maybe you miss some neat opportunities to co-write, hob-nob, and the like...that those of us who aren't located there would love to have! So to you, maybe take a hard look at: What am I taking for granted? Are there opps I'm missing? How can I re-think this "gift of geography" that I have?

Now, back to us who don't live there....I have to go back to my own experience, as it's the basis from which I learned so much of what I need to talk to you about. (And you surely wouldn't take my word for it, if these ideas of mine weren't based in some experience--which led to success!) I remember in the early days of pursuing this goal, when I had been writing a good while, I'd been to that FIRST life-changing summer music business conference, and I had carried away some wonderful nuggets of information, and some inspirational wisdom about how to "attack" my goals. I decided that indeed, I needed to continue to "be there"... wherever the big-time music industry events were occurring.

What, you say? Even before you were a signed, exclusive, accepted writer, a real part of things, etc....you just started ....going? To industry events, like you actually belonged? Where you knew no one, or maybe one single soul?

Absolutely, I did. And still do, even when it's a conference that I'm really not in the "inner loop" --and you wouldn't BELIEVE the people I meet! And I'm convinced, it made, and still makes, all the difference. ( My most recent "Just do it--BE THERE" conference experience was one on screen-writing, and how songwriters might consider using our writing skills in that arena -- it was in Nashville. I didn't know a soul there.)

People who were already established would see me there,(in the beginning, at the music awards events and conferences) and think "Oh there's that woman again. I keep seeing her here, she must be really involved" .... see? I was not yet as "involved" as I wanted to be in the industry, but I was seeking connections, contacts, etc., and remember -- this was before the big " I " word: the INTERNET, so you HAD to go, to be involved or known at all. And while that has changed somewhat, and thankfully, we don't all have to catch a flight or drive somewhere each time we need to make contact or take care of some really important business, it's still vitally important. As wonderful and life-changing and convenient and necessary as technology is these days, there is still no substitute for personal networking, a flesh-and-blood appearance, your body actually BEING THERE! : )

So try to remember, that in addition to WRITING GREAT SONGS -- the # 1 requirement for becoming a published, successful songwriter-- that sometimes, the next most important thing you have to do is: BE THERE. SHOW UP. So that these GREAT SONGS you're writing will eventually be heard,(not just heard, but heard by someone who can actually SEE YOU and LOOK YOU IN THE EYE) because you met this amazing guy or lady or whatever, who you really connected with, laughed about the same stuff, rolled your eyes about the same stuff...basically...you found "your people". (But THAT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT ARTICLE...coming soon) You went, you met people who liked YOU, not just your SONGS, but you found folks who like YOU, and possibly want to work with you in the future.

And while it's certainly possible to connect online, to meet wonderful people who can truly help you,(and I recommend this!),still, it's so advisable to actually....GO...to a conference, or awards event, the CMA's, the CRS, the Grammy's, Tin Pan South, SXSW, the GMA Week and Doves, or one of the MANY regional song/music business seminars that are conducted around the US, annually...whatever it is that you're looking to be a part of, and whichever events are open to your attendance...go there, be there, do it, spend the money, take off work in your "day job", have a blast. Meet new co-writers, meet your future publisher, have a cappucino.

Now: While you're there.....do NOT, repeat do NOT...harass people you don't know. Be cool, be there, and be alert to opportunities to advance your goals...but don't harass publishers, other writers, etc. You know that. You weren't even thinking of doing that, I know. But still, just that note of caution.

When you go...have your CD's with you...have your business cards ready. Include your email, your website, your contact info. In short, look professional, act professional, be prepared. And always....have fun, relax, enjoy. Don't be tense, be loose, and enjoy the experience!

So...my best advice is: Take a look on the internet, at upcoming events that relate to your goals. Maybe an event that is a "step up" from the regional stuff you've done. Maybe an event that will feature REAL MOVERS AND SHAKERS that can hear your things, help you with contacts, help get your ball rolling.

And of course, I shamelessly, no PROUDLY offer up to you: our STARBRIGHT MUSIC AND CREATIVE GROUP L.I.S.T.E.N. Seminar & Songwriting Competition, (Lessons In Songwriting: Techniques, Expertise, Networking) coming the SUMMER of 2003, in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex area. StarBright Music, here in TEXAS....will import the best of Nashville (as well as TEXAS songwriters!) in terms of country writers, ASCAP VP, prominent publishers, successful copyright company execs, the best in contemporary Christian writers, entertainment lawyers, etc. to sit on panels, lead discussions, do song critiques, judge the SONG COMPETITION, and generally share the details of how the music industry can work...for YOU. We also are planning to have some great writers who call Dallas/Fort Worth home--many with deals and ties in Nashville, including me. These are great, successful, well-connected people, and I say I proudly offer it up to you, because I know how much I personally have benefitted from knowing these very people that will be there, teaching you! I do hope you'll continue to visit the StarBright website to check out the details and exact dates as they emerge. Like I said, these are people who have changed my life through either collaborating, publishing, advising, and more...and they can change yours, too, as I hope I can. Details will be posted as soon as they're confirmed on the StarBright site, http://www.starbrightmusic.com/ .

So...check it out! We're still over a year away, and the planning is going on, even now, for both these great events.

So, of COURSE! My advice to you, whether it's StarBright's L.I.S.T.E.N. SEMINAR of 2003, or any other wonderful, networking, songwriting, music-business-teaching seminar....do yourself a favor, and go! You can't imagine the great ripple effect that will just KEEP ON touching your life, not only now, but far into your future....as a result of your....BEING THERE!

Till the next time.... Paula C

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