by Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe
In Part I
we explored the first two levels in building the stairway
to your first cut. We discussed making a serious commitment
to songwriting by disciplining yourself to write and co-write,
getting involved in a local songwriting organization and accomplishing
daily tasks aimed at thinking like a songwriter. In addition,
we began making a connection to the music business by beginning
to visit a music center regularly, and pitching and performing
your songs there. Now lets finish building that stairway.
If Levels One and Two are in place, it's
time to put in the four bricks of Level Three:
DEVELOPING PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
- You Live Or Frequently Participate In Music Industry
Events In A Major Music Center.
Don't start packing just yet. Frequently participating
is the key. This is where relationship building starts to
kick in. You need to be there more than once or twice a
- You Co-Write On A Regular Basis With Someone Who Has
Signed A Single-Song Contract.
If your co-writer has an established relationship
with at least one publisher who believes in him, you're
writing with someone who takes songwriting as seriously
as you do and you're increasing your contact opportunities.
- You Have Signed A Single-Song Contract With A Music
Now a professional believes in you. This is
a big step. You're on your way!
- You Co-Write On A Regular Basis With A Writer Who Has
An Exclusive Songwriting Agreement With A Music Center Publisher.
The political connection is obvious. Your co-writer's
publisher is willing to part with dollars because he believes
in your co-writer and is anxious to work those songs hard.
Now he will be working your song hard too.
Climbing higher makes you stronger. You've made the commitment
and you're connecting and developing relationships. Let's
Lucky you. There are only two bricks in Level Four:
SOLIDIFYING PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
- You Co-Write With A Major Label Recording Artist.
Writing with a recording artist eliminates all
the people whose job is to say "no" to your songs. (Well,
most of the time!)
- You've Signed An Exclusive Songwriting Agreement With
A Music Center Publisher.
When you're a staff writer, your publisher believes
in you so much that he is committing time, energy and
bucks to get your songs recorded, and is going to do everything
possible to get his investment returned.
If you're this high up, don't look down--only 3 more bricks.
Keep going. Level five is just ahead:
PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS WORKING FOR YOU
- A Publisher Has Dropped Off Or Played Your Song To
A Major Label A&R Rep, Producer Or Manager.
Teamwork is what this is all about. As a member
of TAXI, your songs get played to the right ears. That's
a great start. It's additionally important to have strong
relationships in place (i.e., music publishers) that will
continue to work your songs.
- An A&R Rep, Artist Manager Or Producer Has Played Your
Song To A Major Label Recording Artist.
TAXI and/or your publisher have done their
job. The rest is up to fate and a little luck.
- A Publisher Has Played Your Song To A Major Label Recording
The A&R Rep, Manager and/or Producer are out
of the way. Now your song has its best chance.
Hopefully you've seen how each level builds upon the next
and each brick supports the others. Look at where you are
and where you need to be. Don't be discouraged. Be determined.
See you on the charts!
Jerry & Gracie
© 2002 Jerry Vandiver and Gracie
Jerry Vandiver is a staff writer for Talbot Music in Nashville
with songs recorded by Gene Watson, Barbara Mandrell, Phil
Vassar, and Tim McGraw, totaling over 12 million records.
Gracie Hollombe, former Regional Workshops Director of the
Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), is
a full-time songwriter living in Nashville. Their book, "Your
First Cut, A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting There" (11/22 Publishing,
ISBN 0-9717745-0-1), is a 224-page hands-on, goal-oriented
workbook designed to put you and keep you on the path to your
songwriting dreams. The authors can be reached by visiting