A New Life … On Music Row
Dan Hodges has been in the music business for more than two decades, and he has the impressive resume to show for it. He’s worked at some of the most noteworthy companies, and he’s discovered and signed many writers in his career, including three who went on to have country market songs of the year — Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins and Rachel Thibodeau. He’s placed songs on albums that have sold nearly 10 million units combined, and since branching out on his own nearly 10 years ago, starting Dan Hodges Music (DHM) with his wife Susan, his successes have continued to stack up — 2008 ASCAP Song of the Year, two No. 1 songs, and cuts on artists like Brad Paisley, Lee Brice and Rascal Flatts, just to name a few. That doesn’t even include the nearly 20 major Australian country artist cuts Dan and Susan have enjoyed on their Australian imprint, DHM Endeavour. Most recently DHM has enjoyed a No. 1 with Kelsea Ballerini, as well as cuts on both the new Keith Urban and the new Reba McEntire albums.
And yet, none of these milestones compared to the experience he, his company and his family went through during the summer of 2016.
“We’re a publisher with staff writers, and we provide catalog representation for companies or individual writers,” explains Dan, President and CEO of DHM. “We represent catalogs for consulting, which includes pitching songs, hooking up co-writes, networking, production, helping grow the catalog and whatever the company or writer needs.” DHM also provides worldwide copyright and royalty administration for clients as far away as Sweden and Australia.
While the Hodges were living what many consider to be the American dream — small business owners with a list of accomplishments of which many companies can only dream, all the while raising their three children in Franklin, TN, a city continually voted “Best Small Town” in America — they were growing weary of the daily commute back and forth between Music Row, where they had an office, and Franklin, where they lived and also had a condo, where their out-of-town clients could stay when they were in town to write. “The condo was a place where clients could stay,” shares Dan, “and it also had a studio where we could work on production projects, and then we had an office we rented on Division Street for eight years.”
All of this worked for a while. Until it didn’t.
The Hodges were already spending an inordinate amount of time traveling back and forth between Nashville and Franklin — in town to work, then back home to tend to family and shuttle the kids to their various activities. “The challenge was wasting time on the interstate,” says Dan. Plus, DHM was outgrowing the office on Division Street, having to rely on the Franklin condo for overflow space.
“The office was great,” says Susan Hodges, Dan’s wife and the VP of DHM. “We had fixed rent and plenty of parking, but we were quickly outgrowing the space.”
Finding themselves having to choose more and more frequently between being business owners in Nashville and parents at home in Franklin, Dan and Susan grew increasingly convinced that something had to change.
“Nashville functions after hours, and we were having to sacrifice time with our kids to be downtown and time with our business to be in Franklin with our kids,” explains Dan. “A lot of the shows and events are right at drive time, when we were commuting.”
Feeling the pinch on both their personal and professional lives, it was time to take a long, hard look at their options. “We as a family looked at what’s important,” explains Susan. “You want to look back with no regrets — we want to have dinner with our children, we want to have time to enjoy school work and invest in them.”
But reality isn’t lost on the couple.
“You also have to make a living and create income and grow a business,” adds Dan. “We love what we do, but we felt like we needed to create more time to do both.”
As the pair assessed the situation and involved the children in the family discussion, they took stock in what mattered to them, looked at where they could make changes, and asked themselves and each other where they were unwilling to make any sacrifices. “Discussions were around the fact that we love our property, our church, our neighbors,” explains Susan. “But what is important? Where is home? Your home is where your family is, not the house. It’s about how you spend your time and the quality of life.”
So the Hodges decided it was time to consider a move.
They packed up their business, their family and their life in suburbia, and they relocated to Nashville, buying a house right on Music Row and transitioning everything — family and business — under one roof. “We saw that with so many companies moving off Music Row that we could make a statement that we’re moving to Music Row,” explains Dan. “We were at peace with moving into the heart of it all – and in doing so we were able to give everyone in our world what they needed.”
The Hodges purchased a 4,300-square-foot home that was built in 1887 — Dan Hodges Music operates on the first floor, and the family primarily lives on the second floor. Each of the writer rooms function as writing space by day, and since each of the rooms have murphy beds, the spaces can transition into bedrooms when writers are in town. With the skyrocketing cost of Nashville hotel rooms, that’s a tremendous savings. “We wanted this to feel like an old-school Music Row publishing house, a place where our writers can enjoy hanging out even after their writing appointments are over. It’s the opposite direction most offices are going,” explains Dan, referring to the increasingly popular tele-commute or remote workplaces many companies are adopting. “Our rule is always ‘Creative first!’ We want to foster creativity and provide that space for our writers. I love that I have a meeting with a client or writer, and we can go meet on the front porch with a cup of coffee — it’s more personal.”
Make no mistake, though — having your business and family lives all under one roof requires a bit of discipline. “We’re very structured. The doors open at 9 a.m., and there’s a lot of discipline in keeping the home running,” explains Susan, who insists that their kids — who in a world of helicopter parenting are astoundingly self-sufficient — play an active role in the housework. “There are a lot of rules and checklists in order to keep it all going every day,” Susan continues, “but with that we have arrived at a new quality of life.”
“We really hoped the writers would respond to the new space and enjoy hanging out here whether they’re writing or not, but it’s been more than what we had hoped,” says Dan, of what can only be described as the communal vibe you instantly feel when you arrive at DHM. “Sometimes the writers really do just hang out — we’re a family.”
“The other surprise on a personal level,” adds Susan, “is that you’d think moving churches, moving things that are personal to you — your library — you’d think that would be a difficult transition, but it hasn’t been. We’re doing all the same things, but we’re learning to do it in different and new ways. A lot of this year has been about not being trapped in what you know — that sometimes God has experiences outside your circles.”
Yes, life on Music Row — both professional and personal — is a far cry from the life in Williamson County from which the Hodges came, but so far, all is good.
“We’re spending a lot more time together, and I love the interactions the kids are having with the different people from around the world,” says Dan.
“They’ve become attached to the people who enter our home,” adds Susan. “Their speech is changing, the way they view people is changing.”
And for Dan, a more personal need is being met: “One of my goals in life is to spending as much time with her as possible before I die,” he says, nodding toward his bride with a lovesick grin typically reserved for newlyweds. And yet, 18 years of marriage, 10 years working together and now spending 24/7 together by design, this new chapter promises just that — time, together, as a business, as a family and as a couple.
For the Hodges and DHM, life is good … on Music Row.
If you are a songwriter or have a catalog you’d like Dan Hodges Music to consider for either creative or administrative representation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.