Making the Most of Your Songwriting Seminar

The next time you attend a songwriting seminar, take advantage of some of the tips I've discovered -- and a few pet peeves I've encountered -- along the way:

1. Arrive fully prepared.

Be ready to take notes. Buy a small, lined, book that does not have removable pages. Also bring two pens or two pencils or both. (The other Murphy's Law will prevail and at least one of the two won't work.)

2. Be sociable.

It's important to get to know your fellow participants. There is usually time for coffee and conversation before or after the sessions and during breaks. Remember, these songwriters are your peer group; networking and making contacts with them is essential. Professionals make it part of their lives, you should, too.

3. Hold that thought during panels.

You will have at least one burning question ranging from contracts to demo quality. Don't ask until some part of seminar touches on it. Throwing in a question on publishing when the focus is song crafting will break the momentum and flow that the panel is trying to establish. If your burning question has not been answered at the end of the session, there's usually a question and answer period provided for just that reason.

4. Take your best shot.

Bring your most recent and best shot to the critique session. The mistakes you were making five years ago aren't as relevant as the ones you are making today. Also, if you had a chance to pitch a song to a major-label artist, I doubt you would choose your second-best or third-best song, so why do so with other professionals?

5. Don't bail out early.

Once your song has been critiqued, don't just get up and leave. Chances are pretty high that during the session, you will hear a variety of problems similar to the ones you've encountered in songs other than the one you had critiqued. Now's your chance to hear professionals address, and remedy, those mistakes.

6. Be courteous to your critiquers.

Once your song has been critiqued, do not give another one to the professionals involved with your group. They have given of their time and expertise to help you, and to expect them to critique another song and correspond with you -- especially after they've given up a day or weekend that they could have used for at least a dozen other projects -- is unreasonable and impolite. Believe me, this a definite "No-No."