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Songwriting Tip: Behind the Scenes at GSC

Sarah Deforsby Sarah Defors

I was originally a GSC member from the Los Angeles area for nearly 3 years and then…I moved to Nashville and I WORK at GSC.  I’ve recently passed 3 months of living and working in Nashville full time. There are so many wonderful things I’ve learned, especially working behind the scenes at GSC. Sheree has asked me to share my observations from the perspective of being a member of GSC from LA to being right in the middle of the magic of Music City, the business and industry events and showcases.  Now that I am working behind the scenes with Sheree, this article could go on and on. But, here are a few highlights I think everyone can benefit from professionally, creatively, and personally.  I trust it will be of service to you:

1. Please, please, please ALWAYS come prepared.

Even if you’re great at winging it, do the extra little work to plan for whatever is coming! One unexpected thing can throw you off, as I just had reaffirmed in a publisher meeting; but, being prepared can put you right back on track. Nobody ever said “Wow, I wish I was less prepared.”

2. Know how to read the room.

This comes in so many different forms. If it doesn’t come naturally, Google is your friend. Read up on body language and cues. Writers, peers, audiences, and ESPECIALLY industry professionals will give you cues when they’re done with a conversation/meeting, when a certain vibe song doesn’t fit the energy of the room, when they are giving you an opportunity to play a song or talk about yourself, and when it may not be the time to talk business, etc. I’ve seen nerves (especially not being prepared) make someone totally not pick up on a cue, have a meeting go way too long, and not even let the publisher talk. Don’t have that be your first impression.

3. Lift up others.

Sometimes the best first impression you can make is to sit back, listen to your peers or industry pro’s, engage and listen, and compliment people where it is deserved. Make sure the compliment is TRUE; we can tell if you’re just flattering for flattery’s sake. Make sure to take your time to shine when it comes up, but don’t take someone else’s moment by talking over them or interjecting.

4. For the love of Johnny Cash, Brand Yourself.

POP pitches have been incredibly educational for me in many ways, but I couldn’t have imagined how much work they are to prepare for. Please send your music on time and try not to change the songs last minute. If you do, we have to change the PowerPoint, song sheet, and playlist. Please attach your bio, photo, lyrics (IN WORD DOC FORMAT) and mp3’s in one email. If you don’t, we either have to search through thousands of files to hopefully find an old lyric, bio, or recording, or you just won’t have a bio or lyric for the publisher, which looks bad. If everyone else’s lyrics are beautifully branded with their name, email, phone number, photo, co-writers, etc., and yours are haphazardly thrown together or missing a component, IT LOOKS BAD AND UNPROFESSIONAL. Publishers have disappointedly commented on this behind the scenes. They actually KNOW our GSC members from all of the other events they do and they have come to expect this step of excellence. Not only have they called on us to OPEN doors for meetings, signings, single song agreements….they have also called us to CLOSE open doors they gave a member because the person dropped off the materials they requested without contact information! It looks unprofessional – you’re not ready for the next step.

5. If you don’t read anything else here, READ THIS.

Take the time to look inward and know your flaws, insecurities, and strengths. We all have them. These things can permeate every part of your artistic, personal, and professional life because, let’s face it, in the music industry your truth and personal life are your product, your business, and your identity. If your internal foundation isn’t solid, it breeds insecurities and cycles that can cause you to not be present in your meetings, writes, etc. Believe me, publishers, A&R, and Pro-writers CAN TELL SOMETHING IS OFF. Know yourself first. Sheree is always focused on helping YOU be the best YOU can be FIRST and then…your music as you are the source of the music. YOU are who a publisher or label signs.

Respectfully,

Sarah DeFors