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If you are a beginning songwriter, there are some things to think about before joining a songwriting organization. But first of all, congratulations for starting your creative journey! Secondly, don't rush! Spend some time exploring your "muse," your inner creative voice. Express yourself any way you want to and don't worry about "doing things right" at this time. Become comfortable with writing songs. You have the rest of your life to learn the Whys and How-tos of writing songs. Fortunately, songwriting is one area of the music business where being young and pretty are not important to your success as a songwriter. Relax and have fun with it.
When you are ready to join a songwriting organization, there are several different kinds to choose from. We'll take a look at them now.
National & International Songwriter Organizations
National or international organizations represent many genres of songwriting. Most are not genre-specific and have members writing all types of music. These are formal organizations that require dues for membership, have elected and/or appointed governing boards, an executive director and an office or offices with full-time staff. They provide a variety of services for their members, which include professional songwriters along with aspiring songwriters. They are headquartered in major music cities and may have satellite offices in each of the major music cities.
The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) is one such organizations. NSAI sponsors local chapters and workshops for its aspiring songwriters who do not live in a major music city. Local NSAI workshops have regular meetings run by volunteer coordinators who are appointed by and trained by NSAI. NSAI workshops offer songwriting lessons using professionally designed songwriting curriculum, peer song critiques, performance events, speakers, and more. You can find the location of local NSAI workshops on NSAI's website at www.nashvillesongwriters.com.
Another large songwriter organization is the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), which you can learn about by visiting their website at www.songwriters.org. The Songwriters Guild has excellent resources regarding the legal aspects of songwriting, such as a model song publishing agreement. Songwriters Guild can offer important services to you as you begin to place your songs with artists.
An example of a genre-specific national organization is the National Academy of Popular Music (NAPM), which is a part of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. NAPM was created by the Songwriters Hall of Fame specifically to assist its nonprofessional songwriter members to learn the craft and business of songwriting. As its name implies, NAPM focuses on popular music. www.songwritershalloffame.org.
Some large organizations, such as The Recording Academy (The Grammy People), serve members representing many aspects of the music industry, songwriting included. www.grammy.com If there are music-related organizations of any kind in your area, it's worth doing some research to find out if they provide services and activities for songwriters.
Other types of music-related organizations, such as the Acoustic Guitar Guild, www.acousticguitar.com, have local chapters for its members around the country. The chapter events may also include songwriting or music composition as part of their offerings, so they are also worth looking into.
National and international songwriter organizations develop resources and activities with the serious-minded aspiring songwriter in mind. You don't have to be a professional songwriter to join them, but you will find their activities and services are based on the assumption that you want to become a professional songwriter at some point. If financial resources are an issue to you, you may want to wait to join one of these organizations until after you've participated in more local organizations and started to gain some songwriting skills and knowledge of the music business.
If you live outside of the USA, you will find that many countries have national songwriter organizations, as well.
State and Regional Songwriter Organizations
State and regional songwriter organizations that are not affiliated with a national or international group are alive and well and quite possibly meeting in a city near you! State and regional organizations will typically have a governing board, one person who is Ćin charge," a newsletter, and will hold regular meetings. They usually charge nominal membership dues to cover the costs of postage and other miscellaneous expenditures such as meeting room rentals. They most likely will not have any paid staff or permanent headquarters.
These organizations will sponsor songwriting workshops, open mics and other activities for aspiring songwriters. Look to them to also organize occasional or annual large events with music industry professionals to run workshops and seminars. Some even sponsor songwriting contests.
State and regional songwriter organizations can be an important stepping-stone in developing your songwriting skills, performance skills and your knowledge the music business. They usually have ties to the national and international organizations, and the music industry in their respective states. Some will have ties to the major music centers. Their membership will include songwriters of various skill levels, so you won't be excluded if you are a beginner.
Local Songwriter Groups
Local songwriter groups or clubs are typically formed by one or two songwriters. They offer their time and effort to help themselves and area songwriters to learn about songwriting and to provide a forum for performing. Organizational governance is casual. Most are free or charge nominal dues for postage and phone calls, or rent for a meeting room. Activities tend to focus on developing performance skills for open mics and peer song critiques to help build your songwriting skills. If they are located near a major music city, they may also offer music industry speakers and events. These are great places to get started, learn the basics of songwriting, find a cowriter, learn to perform, and enjoy meeting and talking to people who love to write songs!
Internet-Based Songwriting Organizations
One positive outgrowth of the Internet has been the formation of Internet-based songwriting organizations, so you needn't worry if you live in the trundra or the Outback! Most of these do not require dues to join. Two of the largest are Just Plain Folks, based in the USA, and The Muses Muse, based in Canada. They provide all kinds of resources and information for aspiring songwriters, including newsletters, chat boards, articles written by music biz pros, book stores, discounts on some services, and more.
Just Plain Folks is forming local chapters to provide aspiring songwriters more organized, local activities. Visit these organizations at www.jpfolks.com and www.musesmuse.com. Another example is SongsAlive!, which is based in Australia, at www.songsalive.org. All of these songwriter organizations accept members from all genres and from all over the world.