Nashville’s music row is one of the most vibrant and competitive music markets in the world. Young people flock to the town and local colleges each year in pursuit of making it in the music business. Whether you’re a musician, songwriter, producer or just interested in being a part of the business side of the industry, one of the biggest challenges is how to get your foot in the door. The local universities offer internship programs that do just that, but the next challenge to a successful career is knowing what to do after you receive your initial opportunity. The industry can be cutthroat and the one thing to keep in mind is that it is a challenge for everyone.
In 1996, a small group of young songpluggers decided it might be a good idea to band together and share information on what types of songs that the artists and producers were looking for and any other happenings on music row. It was an attempt to build friendships, but also make sure they were always informed. They met every first Thursday of the month at a local restaurant on music row called Sammy B’s(now the abandoned building two doors down from Warner Brothers). The group slowly grew to about 15 people all about the same age and job description. One thought that was banged around in those get-togethers was possibly pitching songs as a group, instead of separately on their own. At the time, they were all just trying to break into the industry, so most didn’t yet have all of the relationships with the major producers or artists to be as effective as they wanted to be. They found that each person might have stronger connections than others in certain areas. They also found it much easier to book a meeting with a label head, producer or artist if they did so as a group. That person could hear the best couple of songs for a particular artist from each person and knock out 15 companies at once saving them time. It proved fruitful for all. The group enjoyed regular pitch meetings in SESAC’s conference room, strong friendships were made and the band of twenty-somethings spawned many of the major classic songs from the last 2 decades in the Nashville country market. Some have gone on to have successful careers at major labels or major publishers. Others went the independent route and found success as independent publishers, managers or producers. Some decided to take different career paths altogether. As the years went on, the meetings eventually stopped, but the bond shared and knowledge of where everyone began their careers stays strong. This circle of peers, today in 2017 represents a respectable “who’s who” of publishers and label people in the Nashville country market. The group recently met on music row to reminisce and to celebrate over 20 years since those early days at Sammy B’s.
Pictured l to r:
Front Row – Melissa Kij Bailey(MTSU), Kelly King(King Pen Music), Autumn House-Tallant(Red Light Management), Stephanie Green(Gravity Gone Music)
Middle Row – Bob Berg(Air Deluxe Music), Ben Vaughn(Warner Chappell), Kent Earls (Universal Publishing), Rusty Gaston(This Music), Dan Hodges(DHM)
Back Row – Jeremy Stover(Songwriter/Producer), Kyle T. Jones, Jayson Wyatt(SESAC), Tom Luteran(Sony Tree Publishing), Rod Parkin
Not pictured – Cris Lacy(Warner Brothers Records), Paul Compton(Music Highway), Steve Carmack(Manager), Shannon Myers, Venessa Gray Clark
In an industry and environment where everyone is desperately holding onto what they have and striving for the next level at any cost, one of the most successful ways to further your career is to build your circle. Develop relationships with your peers at the same career level that work for other companies. Be willing to share information. Help each other. Be excited for each other when someone achieves success. Support those who lose their jobs, because it WILL happen. Most importantly develop those strong bonds with people that you can take with you throughout your career. You never know where those relationships could help you or how you could help someone else.