Nearly all working musicians and songwriters have a day job. Whether it’s waiting tables or framing houses, the vast majority of Music City’s pickers or tunesmiths make most of their living doing something other than music.
That provides them with the income and the time they need to do what they love most.
There’s a modern word for this: multi-tasking. The expression is often used in a business sense, to describe managers who are handling several responsibilities at once. It’s happened a great deal at radio, where some program directors at companies like Clear Channel or CBS Radio are responsible for music on several dozen stations in multiple musical formats.
Nashville’s most famous multi-tasker may well be the outgoing Governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen. We had the honor of speaking with the Governor on October 9 at the Southern Festival of Books, where he was presenting and speaking about his important new book, “Fresh Medicine: How To Fix Reform And Build A Sustainable Health Care System.”
Just like the Music Row songwriters who work on their passion in their free time, the Governor said he somehow found the time to write the book, even while he was running the State of Tennessee.
“First of all,” Gov. Bredesen said, “it was a field in which I had been involved, it’s not something where you’d have to go out and read 400 books to research it. It was kind of a weekends or evening project. I really worked hard on it over Christmas vacation, then over the Fourth of July we went out west and really broke the back of it. But it was really kind of a personal project, it’s an area where I’ve had a lot of thought. Got ’er done, no ghostwriters or anything.”
That’s an amazing achievement. Modern politicians rarely even write their own speeches, but in this case the Governor wrote every word of a book on a topic of major national and statewide importance that’s near and dear to his heart.
So is the Southern Festival of Books, which took place at the War Memorial Plaza downtown. “I think this is a great festival,” the Governor said. “I’ve come down to it almost every year. I’ve never been to it as an author, but it’s a celebration. People know Nashville for country music, for health care and stuff, but it’s a very literary community. I love being down here, and I’m proud to be part of it for the first time.”
Events like the Southern Festival of Books, which are free, are also potential networking gold mines for Row singers and songwriters. Rand Bishop, for instance, has had over 200 cuts in several genres, including Toby Keith’s 2004 Single of the Year “My List,” which Rand penned with Tim James.
But Bishop is also a successful author of books on music. His latest is “The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success,” from Alfred Publishing. “Finally, a realistic roadmap to the top of Hit Mountain!” a press release says.
As Bart Herbison of NSAI notes: “Rand Bishop knows the creative and business sides of songwriting and the music industry. Aspiring professional songwriters should pay attention because he has outlined the steps you must take on your chosen career path.”
LA-based songwriting maven John Braheny says: “It’s a wonderful thing to be a hit songwriter but even more wonderful to be a teacher who can pass along his valuable hard-earned wisdom in an easily understandable, entertaining way. Rand Bishop is exceptional on both counts.”
The brutal economy, especially in the music business where CD sales are only about half of what they were in 1999, makes it ever more important for music professionals to be versatile. How can you make more money between gigs and between tours?
Could you perhaps take on some students? That can be a nice supplemental income for musicians and singers. How about playing some house parties? These private parties have become a huge part of the income for lots of musicians and bands. They tend to pay a great deal more than a club or bar would, and most of the folks hosting them are high net-worth individuals who may also be interested in investing in your music.
And as both Gov. Phil Bredesen and Rand Bishop have shown, professionals with passions and skills in many areas do themselves a huge favor by doing extra work in their free time in order to get their message or their music heard.
Nov. 10 – CMA Awards, Bridgestone Arena and ABC-TV.
Dec. 1 – GRAMMY nominations show live, CBS-TV.
By Phil Sweetland