By Suzanne Glass
Songsalive! is in innovative nonprofit organization that assists songwriters in myriad ways to polish their skills, make new contacts, and improve their marketing efforts. The group was co-founded by artist / author Gilli Moon, a native of Australia now living in Los Angeles to pursue her music career. Songsalive! is a worldwide organization, active in the United States, Australia, and other countries, as well as localized chapters in cities around the world. Involvement with the group can bring opportunities for exposure, performance, collaboration, and more
Indie-Music: How did Songsalive! start? Who was involved, where were you, and what motivated the idea?
Gilli Moon: Songsalive! was an idea I came up with after being involved in a few other songwriter groups in my early twenties. One was the Music Writers Forum in Sydney Australia, which was a collective of about 20 songwriters who came together to critique each other's songs. The other was L.A's National Academy of Songwriters (NAS), (by then amalgamated with the LASS), which I volunteered at in '96 on my first visit to the U.S. They had been running for 20 years and were very well known and respected and soon after dissolved. Upon returning to Australia, I felt the need for an umbrella-type internationally reaching organization for Australians that not only ran programs for songwriters to support and promote them, but also be a link in the chain to other resources and organizations offering similar services and opportunities. Australia in the nineties was still a far away place and we felt disconnected in the music business to the rest of the world. Factor also this: the internet really hadn't started properly yet when Songsalive! was created. We had been using email for only about 2 years.
After coming up with the name and creating a concept about Songsalive!, I gathered together who I felt were the leaders in the music business in Sydney for a think-tank brainstorming meeting, those who I felt would be interested in getting involved in Songsalive! as team members or industry supporters. We met at APRA (ASCAP of Australia) in the boardroom and discussed the notion of the role Songsalive! could play as an industry mover and shaker, representing the songwriter, which really there never had been such a representative who truly had the songwriters' interests at heart.
From that meeting I gathered a team to build the organization, and brought on board a cofounder, Roxanne Kiely, who became and still is instrumental in the operations of the organization. She continues to oversee the Australian operations while I have, since '98, started and built Songsalive! oversees across the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
All of a sudden I realized that this feeling of "remoteness" was not just felt by Australian artists, but all artists, trying to "make it" on their own, no matter what city or country they lived in.
I started Songsalive! in the US in Los Angeles first, at an interesting time: the NAS had dissolved after 20 years, and there really wasn't any community driven organization for songwriters anymore. Of course ASCAP, BMI and the Songwriters Guild were around, but they were never known to be support organizations for songwriters to meet, collaborate and feel supportive on a personal one-on-one basis. I wanted to have Songsalive! be a non-bureauocratic, personable, community driven organization.
In the late nineties, the Internet began to bloom with opportunities for indie artists to get out there and make it happen for themselves and mp3.com, Napster and Yahoogroups started providing some networking and music download tools. Songsalive! was right there with them gearing independent artists up to be self-starters and captains of their own ship.
Songsalive! is now an official nonprofit 501)c3) educational organization (public charity status) with 15 chapters around the world.
Indie-Music: Was the original vision to make Songsalive! international, or did it start as an Australian-only organization and sort of expand organically on its own?
Gilli Moon: I always wanted to see Songsalive! as an international organization. In fact, even in its infancy, all flyers and promotion included the words "global" and "international". It did start in Australia, but after one year I brought it to the United States, beginning with Los Angeles. We keep all our worldwide chapters very organic and grass roots in operation. Every time I visit a new place, I find songwriters and music industry representatives urging me to start a chapter there to create a sense of community and opportunity. So as the need comes, we expand.
What levels of membership exist, and what is their cost? We have 3 types of membership: General membership is $40 a year ($60Australian) to join and $30 yearly to renew. Elite membership is $100 a year ($120Aus) to join and $60 yearly renewal. We also have Associate membership for non-songwriters (typically music industry) and that is $40 a year ($60Aus). We try and keep our membership dues low being nonprofit, and to assist our writers financially, yet still be able to offer services.
Membership (all levels) includes access to our programs (showcases, workshops, CD sampler, critiques, promotion, retreats and seminars, songstudio), support central, partner opportunities, community and resources, which I have detailed further down. Elite membership has the added bonus of a PR campaign, including a member page online, interview, CD review and store links, plus their songs on rotation in our podcast. They also get special offers and pitch opportunities.
Indie-Music: Do any membership opportunities cost over and above the yearly membership? Or have additional submission fees?
Gilli Moon: Yes. As you can imagine, keeping our membership as low as it is doesn't always afford us the ability to create extra special promotional programs. One of these includes the Songsalive! CD Sampler. To be on the sampler, we charge approximately $200, give or take, as a 'production fee'. This 'co-op' type contribution helps us produce, master, package and promote the compilation to the music business and media markets. We also charge a submission fee of $20 to apply for the sampler, but it's taken off the production fee. We also charge $20 for online critiques, and $100 to be involved in the Get Promoted program to a specific music conference we attend, where we hand out our members' CDs and press kits. Our Songstudio demo production program costs $550, to produce a song for our members.
All in all, our costs and fees are really low, compared to industry standard, and we'd like to keep it that way.
Indie-Music: What events and networking opportunities does Songsalive! present?
Gilli Moon: We offer 5 facets in our support and promotion of songwriters: access to our programs, support central, partner opportunities, community and resources. All of these areas provide live face-to-face and online interaction, promotion, support networking and song opportunities for our members.
Our Programs include:
- Workshops (songwriting critique meetings which include feedback on your music, networking opportunities to meet other writers, and an music industry guest speaker);
- Songwriter Showcases (perform internationally at our events and be seen by the music industry and create a strong fan base with our strong media PR and cross artist promotions.)
- Online song critiques (ability to get feedback on your songs over the Internet);
- CD Samplers (biannual compilations promoted to the music industry and media);
- Songcamps and seminars (co-writing retreats, and song business events)
- Touring Map (tour hop around the world using our online database of venues, plus chapter showcases assisting our members on the road);
- Songstudio (educational workshops on recording plus access to studios and producing demos/CDs);
- Songshop (song leads in film, TV, media and the music business for your songs);
- Get Promoted Program - (ability to sell CDs in our store, have a website link and banner on our website, promote at music conferences we attend, and for Elite members, an artist page online (which includes a bio/pic space, CD review, interview) plus song rotation in our 24/7 online PODCAST.)
- Online resource center - listings for practically everything you need on songwriting and the business.
- Great articles by leading music business authors and celebrated songwriters, plus motivational tips and prose for songwriters to keep them juiced and oiled on their creative journey.
- One-on one-assistance, support and consultancy with our chapter coordinators, head office personnel and key music business referrals;
- Our Online Forum in our backstage section for members, to collaborate, get daily opportunities and resources.
- Our ever expanding website - www.songsalive.org - filled with information, resources, member and industry contacts, and opportunities.
- Exclusive discounts and leads on song pitches, music conferences, book and online resources, writing programs, song competitions and more.
- Sponsored competitions, events, conferences and festivals (that Songsalive! sponsors), allowing discounted access and unique promotional opportunities for our members.
- A weekly discussion list called Enotes
- The Online Forum for members opportunities, collaboration and discussion
- Self promotion on our discussion list Songchat
- And groups at MySpace.com and tribe.net, fostering interaction and promotion.
Indie-Music: How many CD Samplers have been released? Who chooses the music included on CD Samplers, and by what criteria?
Gilli Moon: We have released 8 samplers since 1998 (1 a year). We are looking to increase that to 2 per year from this year on and our CD Sampler application is now open year round on our website. We have a carefully selected team of judges that go through the submission process.
For the last two years, we have chosen to stream the applications through one of our partners, Sonicbids.com. They are an excellent EPK/online submission service. I chose them for the CD Sampler applications because not only are they really cool people (Panos, Jim, Heidi and David are really super human beings), but also they provide the technology we need - artists can upload their music mp3s, photos and biographies for us to receive the package all at once in a specially designed 'inbox' we can log in to (making it easier for us than receiving CDs in the mail when our judges are around the world). Also, one big factor as to why we use them now is it actually helps us filter out the less-than dedicated artists to the truly committed and high standard artists who are prepared to navigate the process of promoting themselves professionally and investing into their art. That is why we make the application process this way, as well as charge a fee. Pros, ready for success, need only apply.
Once we receive the submission, myself, Roxanne Kiely (Director of Operations Australia), Toni Koch (membership coordinator) plus a handful of key judges, log in and select the songs for the upcoming Sampler. Even once we have selected the song, a lot of work goes into selecting the right order of the CD so that it shines all our songwriters as well as creates a nice flow for the album. Stephen Kiely, one of our team members, has been designing the CD covers, and we have a select core of sponsors who help master and replicate the Sampler.
The Songsalive! CD Sampler is unique to other compilations because it's about the SONG and the SONGWRITER (not the artist). The Songwriter applies, not necessarily the artist. We are all about promoting the "song" to media and the business, in this case.
Criteria to be on the CD Sampler includes - the applicant must be the songwriter and master owner of the song (to avoid having to get permissions from other entities), but also have gained permission from everyone to submit the song.
- The song needs to be already professionally mastered and radio quality. - The song needs to be under 4 minutes 20. - The song must be great. Ha Ha. It really does. I mean, don't send us your second best song, that you just wrote last week on your 4 track. Send us your best song that you feel will be your winning ticket.
Songsalive! is merely the go-between with these samplers. We don't represent the songwriter and we are not a publisher. Any third party who wishes to use the song can contact the songwriters direct on our website.
Indie-Music: Songsalive! has so many benefits it's hard to keep track! Tell us the top 3 benefits of joining Songsalive!.
Gilli Moon: I know huh?! Actually responding to your interview, funnily enough, has once again helped me re-address how to properly detail our opportunities and has spurred me on to revamp the website wording. Ha ha!
Benefit 1: You are helping a nonprofit organization that needs your support to do what it needs to do. When we are asked "what can Songsalive! do for me?", our first answer back is... "well, why not you think about what benefit there is for us?" Supporting and contributing to the ongoing running and altruistic vision of a nonprofit 501 c)3) public benefit (charity) organization is very rewarding and fulfilling. The membership fee is tax deductible and you can feel warm and fuzzy that you are contributing to your music community that is counting on your support to stay alive and to keep songs "alive".
Benefit 2: You get a whole world of opportunity for a low membership fee. For the cost of filling up your car, or 8 cups of coffee at Starbucks, you get a whole slew of programs, resources, support, community connection and partner opportunities that is pretty amazing. More bang for your buck than anywhere I know.
Benefit 3: You are no longer alone. The art and business of songwriting is one of the loneliest careers on the planet. One tends to write alone, normally have little feedback in the writing process, and then we throw it out to the world, usually having to ward off hungry vultures, and critical music industry know-it-alls, bruising our self worth along the way. Songsalive! can be that supportive and educational home, a place for nurturing, feedback and promotion, and a link in the chain for you to reach out to the world, safely and successfully.
Indie-Music: How is Songsalive! more effective than ordinary "Networking"?
Gilli Moon: To be honest, I really don't enjoy the word "networking" and tend to avoid it as much as possible. The word has been overused and misused. Besides, there are many "networking" type groups and meetings and I just don't see Songsalive! focusing on just that. We are primarily a membership organization providing support and promotion for songwriters and composers. We do this through all of the programs, resources, community, partnerships and direct communication provided, online and through our chapters. Collaboration, sharing, learning and networking is diverse and plentiful amongst the members, and between our members and the music industry, through our live showcases, our songwriting workshops and seminars, our online forum, Enotes and Songchat (discussion lists), and conferences we attend and host booths and showcases at.
More so, we have been instrumental in the development and success of songwriters' careers, from the beginning to the end. They come to our workshops for feedback and support, rework their songs, sometimes produce the music, help promote their artistry through our member pages, podcast and Get Promoted program, offer them marketing and distribution opportunities, leads for their songs for film and TV, promote their song on our CD Samplers to media, radio and the business, and so on and so forth. Some of our members have gone on to land major recording contracts, publishing deals and international tours.
Our success stories are daily, whether small and personal, with members feeling fulfilled nurtured and inspired by our programs, articles or just plain old support; to highly impactful business relationships and deals. I'm constantly getting letters from our members on how motivated or thankful they are about what we provide. Ultimately, it's up to the member to either enact on an opportunity we offer, or not. The more proactive they are, the more fruitful the rewards.
I have received emails where a member complains about how many Enotes emails they get, but in the same breath they ask what can we do for them to get out there. I ask them, "did you actually read Enotes this week". "Oh, no", is their response. "Well, then why ask me what we can do for you? It's all in the email.... Or it's all online... Or log in to backstage now and then and see what new opportunities there are". I can't force success on anyone. They have to be willing and motivated to grab it for themselves.
Indie-Music: What is your future vision for Songsalive!?
Gilli Moon: Songsalive! will always remain as a community, grass roots, volunteer driven organization. It is not supposed to end up like the Walt Disney Company or Microsoft. It is to be an organization for songwriters run by songwriters, run with an altruistic nonprofit spirit, but maximizing the careers of our songwriter members as well as making changes in the music business. This business is changing and the only way artists can survive is to bring it back to community level, making impactful promotional and marketing decisions that are artist-driven and controlled, regionally focused (marketing small but thinking big), and using out-of-the-box ideas to get our music out there. Songsalive! is right behind that notion.
"Strength in numbers" is a key factor about our future success, with our chapters becoming mini "grass root" flag waivers, representing songwriters of that region, and in turn are empowered by the international force of our Songsalive! world nation. We are only around because of the songwriter and here to serve the songwriter. Until that day is not needed, we will be here and whether I am the president of the organization or not, it seems to organically grow on its own accord.
Our duty is to promote and support the songwriter in the best way we can, shifting carefully with these changing times to always keep the songwriter's needs in mind. Our mission is to encourage and foster all genres of original music and song expression within our songwriters' communities, in order to support and promote songwriters and composers worldwide, with continued development, annual reviews and expansion.
Songsalive! is about revolutionizing the music business to create change. Songsalive! focuses on a high concept goal of changing the music industry to focus more on artists', songwriters' and composers' needs.? Songsalive! hosted the Songsalive! Expo 2002 in Los Angeles at UCLA, bringing together 1000 songwriters and artists and music industry professionals together in a power packed weekend dedicated to the business of songwriting. Since then, many 'music conferences' have sprung up, as well as Internet sites for artists, and there is so much bombardment of information that artists really don't know which way to turn anymore.
I want Songsalive! to be that solid foundation of support for songwriters, and also a service that helps clarify what opportunities are out there, and be a discerning mediator for those artists who need that advice on which direction to take. We choose our industry partners and third party opportunities carefully, and as a recording and touring artist myself, with a certain degree of respect and esteem in the business, I try to weed out the time wasters versus the strong, positive and fruitful opportunities for our members. We are the largest "international" songwriting organization out there, and at the same time we are fully committed to support and foster regional and local songwriting groups and associations, because without them, we cannot do what we do on an international level, with all of us joined in the chain.
It's a great feeling to not be dreaming alone within this world nation of Songsalive! I am blessed to be part of an ever growing family of now 30 team staff and thousands of members, partners and subscribers. I hope that we continue to build a strong, opportunity-filled and enriching playing field where artists can thrive, survive and bring their dreams alive.
Thanks for the opportunity Suzanne. It was an absolute pleasure to answer these in-depth questions and feel inspired and motivated today in responding.