August 5, 2016
Australian Songwriters Conference review
In June I attended the Australian Songwriters Conference at Ettalong Beach. It would be an expensive exercise and I knew nothing about the conference but I am trying to develop as a songwriter so I felt the "not inexpensive" fee was worth the leap of faith in my pursuit of life goals. Finding the $900 plus four days' accommodation meant that I was personally "invested" in the outcomes of my time there. I had mentioned it to my Australian Songwriters Association members via our Facebook page and since many, like me, had not heard of it, I promised them a review.
The first message to all reading this is that from the start, from sign in to farewell, these guys are the REAL DEAL. Totally worth the time and cost!
To be clear: I have not yet recovered the cost of the conference via increased income from my songs, but I was presented with plenty of opportunities to do so and the insiration, information, and supportive atmosphere make attending a very worthwhile exercise. I have not been able to take advantage of the oportunities because of my "day job" and parenting (and the burden of my perfectionist streak which seems tethered to my free artistic spirit) but they may yet still come to pass. Several of my fellow attendees managed very real outcomes - mainly (it seemed to me) because they had attended previously and built significant networks in that community. Not to mention they have developed some serious writing skills, which were a joy to work with and see up close.
So what, exactly, were these opportunities? I can't go into much detail, but here's sample:
Of course, these opportunities did not arise because of my awesomeness - the first two were extended to everyone who attended.
I had the honour of having Alan Roy Scott perform "song surgery" on "Somebody Else's Skin", which is a work in progress to be released on Alive and Alone soon. I quite terrified when my name was drawn from a hat for the opportunity to have my song writing analysed by the group. This feeling subsided immediately when the support and ideas from the group, under Alan's inspired guidance, was able to solve my songwriting problem.
I was able to pitch songs to Hillsong Publising ("Angels", a co-write with Ann Leung, also soon to be released on Alive and Alone), Alberts ("Forever Mine"), Diana Torossian ("Whiskey and History") and Frankdon Music, whose Managing Director, Matt Donlevy, manages Brothers 3. Being under-prepared, I had only the Alive and Alone draft acoustic versions to play in the pitches, and learned very quickly that, although people tell you the arrangement and production don't matter, they do. Next year I will have much better versions to pitch. The songs were positively received and I got great feedback on them, which will lead to refinement before the next versions are produced (with tips from Adrian Hannan!).
The best thing about the conference was the warm, supportive atmosphere. I could go on at length about the encouragement of Lisa, Alan, Di, Gary, Barb and Adrian, Sven, the Carters, or Connie ("the only difference between your songs and my country hits is about 500 rejection letters") and more. The ASC presenters created an environment where, while the attendees could work very long and hard on their songwriting skills, they developed a camraderie which made everyone feel they were understood, heard, and inspired. The ASC presenters were not only movers and shakers of the music industry; they were also warm, open, approachable, caring, and generous with their time and wisdom.
I certainly intend to go back next year. I absolutely recommend the conference to any songwriter. Regardless of experience or expertise the conference will suit anyone who is serious about their craft.