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  Bill Pere:  Executive Director

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A History of CSA: The First Decade (1979-1989)

What is Song Craft ?

Why Join CSA ?

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Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting

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Partner Spotlight - CSA - Connecticut Songwriters Association

CSA began in New London, Connecticut in 1979, as a weekly Songwriter Showcase.
It has since grown to be one of the oldest and most respected songwriter associations in the country.  CSA is an educational non-profit organization dedicated to improving the art and craft of original music, combining arts, education and community outreach since 1979.  Almost 2,000 songwriters, musicians and vocalists from 15 states and 5 countries have joined CSA since it was founded in 1979.  Combining arts, education, and community outreach, CSA has provided monthly programs without interruption, since 1979, with noted guest speakers.   Presented here is an interview with CSA President and Founding member,  Bill Pere:

Interview with Bill Pere, President and Executive Director of CSA, the Connecticut Songwriters Association

1. Tell us how you started out in the music business and your reasons for sticking with it.

   When I first started out thirty years ago, I never would have imagined that Iíd now have 15 CDs recorded with worldwide sales, be running three companies, have performed in large venues with artists I thought Iíd never get to meet, speak at national conferences, produce other artistsí CDs, book national acts, and be able to raise almost one million dollars for charities through music.
   On the creative side, Iíve had songwriting in my blood since I was a young child, and itís something I would be doing for my own fulfillment even if I never had the level of success that good fortune has sent my way. So ďsticking withĒ songwriting is easy. Having learned from the best about the actual craft of good songwriting, I do put lots of effort into each song, rewriting and revising until itís as good as can be.  That part is work, but it is very rewarding.  On the business side, like most artists, the early years were an endless stream of rejections, lack of funds, and all that other stuff.  There was no Internet back then Ė only the big record companies looking for commercial formula songs. In 1979 when I moved from New York City to Connecticut, I got in on the ground floor of the Connecticut Songwriters Association, and within a year, through the connections and support system in the group, my successful career as a singer-songwriter was launched, and I havenít looked back since. Having a group of supportive, like-minded folks who understand the drive  to create and share can give you the impetus you need to work through the endless stream of obstacles that Independent Artists face, and rise above them.  The most rewarding thing has been seeing my efforts to use music to address issues of hunger and poverty take off to become a nationally recognized program. See Lunch Ensemble  for details on that.

2. Tell us a little about The Connecticut Songwriters Association (CSA).

   The Connecticut Songwriters Association is one of the oldest and largest songwriter associations in the U.S., combining arts, education, and community outreach since 1979 Every month for 28 years, we have had programs with top industry pros, including some of the greatest songwriters and artists of all time. Weíve been taught by multi-hit platinum writers and artists, Grammy Award winners, Emmy winners, Tony winners, and many industry legends. The list is at our website. Our monthly critique sessions are among the best in the industry.

3. Why did you help start it and how does it truly help artists in this new music business climate?

   Along with my colleague Don Donegan, I was a Founding Member of CSA and have been with the organization since year one, currently serving as President and Executive Director. As the music business has transformed itself in recent years, so have we kept up with the changes and keep presenting our members with the most up to date career advice. Our programs and Pro Workshops give our members access to many top industry people.  However, the most important thing to remember is that all the business savvy and people connections in the world do no good unless you have a great product Ė well crafted songs. Business and technology change rapidly but the elements of a great song remain timeless, and above all else, it is the craft of songwriting which remains our primary focus. We see so many young bands and singer-songwriters who are incredible performers, but who clearly have never been taught the fundamentals of good songwriting. We can definitely help them create better songs for their performing talent to present to the world. Several of our members joined CSA when they were first starting out, and have gone on to achieve national success, because of the quality of their songs.  And of course on the business side, we have saved artists vast amounts of money by helping them discern between what is a good opportunity versus a longshot or a scam. We teach them how to save money on recording projects, on their taxes, and how to produce successful live events. Our 19 Compilation CDs have given artists an opportunity to get their songs to an international audience. 

4. How do you see the music business changing in the future and what impact will that be for artists?

     As mentioned above, technology will continue to evolve rapidly and there will be an ever-increasing direct-to-fan relationship. This is great for artists provided they realize that because everyone can now bring music direct to fans, only those songs which rise above the baseline will get noticed. More than ever, the quality of the songs matters.
     Also, with the maturity of digital downloads, music is now thought of in terms of individual tracks, which means the vehicle of the ďconcept albumĒ which used to be a great marketing vehicle, is now essentially negated. With songs being found through search engines and keywords, it matters more than ever how you title a song. You have to think of how a consumer is most likely going to be brought to your song. Also, in the digital world, we no longer have the vehicle of liner notes to help unify a CD package as a whole. Thus, while digital distribution makes it easier to get songs to fans, we have to re-think how we package and present those songs.
   Of course, having a comprehensive and professional web presence is absolutely essential Ė and by that I donít mean a glitzy MySpace page. It is amazing how many artists today still do not have a real website.
A professional web presence is a full website, under your own name (or as close as you can get to it), with real content, owned and controlled by you. Other portals like MySpace or Facebook should just be
conduits for getting people to your real website. It is not a wise use of time and resources to put all your effort into a place that you do not truly own and control, as it may disappear tomorrow or get spattered with ads that you have no say over. That does not convey professionalism. 
   Iím often asked if an artist should put their lyrics online. Absolutely yes Ė it is another way for people to find you, as search engines will pick up phrases in your lyrics, if people are searching about a certain topic that youíve written about. The digital world of today and tomorrow requires that we think differently about how we present our music and ourselves to the world.

 5. What kind of music do you like to listen to?

  I always gravitate toward songs with well crafted lyrics that say something of interest. I believe that craft and meaning transcend genre.  I can listen to folk, rock, country or hip-hop if the words are saying something in a thoughtful way. Among my favorite writers are Harry Chapin, Billy Joel, Jimmy Webb, Jim Croce, Randy Edelman, Rachel Porter, Pete Townsend, and of course lots of great stuff from Broadway and Nashville.

6. Any tips for artists you'd like to give in maximizing their career, surviving and succeeding the business?
 

   Always believe in yourself but also be open to input from others. After all, no matter what you intend to say, what really matters is what the audience thinks you said. Critique is the greatest impetus for improvement.. Donít spend money recording songs before they are ready to be recorded.  Donít be afraid to seek out qualified, constructive input. That is one of the greatest benefits of joining a songwriters group or getting a songwriting coach.  Also, never forget that music is not only a business, but it is a people-driven business. Relationships and people skills are the keys to the doorways which lead to greater opportunities.
Be mindful of the social responsibility of being an artist. Songs have great power to reach people and move them to act. If you have a cause that you believe in, put your music behind it, for a real win-win.
     Find a good career coach that you can work with and a support group like CSA, Songsalive!, or NSAI. Be in charge of your own destiny, but donít try to go it alone. Know your strengths, and know where you need help, and donít be afraid to seek it out on your own terms.  Lastly, success comes from opportunity, and opportunity comes from involvement. Get involved in your community, in organizations, in your chamber of commerce, and anyplace where you can find a way to contribute. Start locally, and expand globally.

7. How can artists contact you?

I am always glad to help artists seeking to be the best they can be. 
The best way to reach me is to go to my website and look through the various programs and services, and the free series of articles Iíve written about songwriting, which are used around the world.  Also check out CT Songs and CT Songwriting.  My e-mail is bill (at) billpere.com

 

 

 

Additional Information:   www.billpere.com  and  www.ctsongwriting.com


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