Pere: Executive Director
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Partner Spotlight - CSA - Connecticut Songwriters Association
CSA began in New London, Connecticut in 1979, as a weekly Songwriter
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
speakers. Presented here is an interview with CSA
President and Founding member, Bill Pere:
with Bill Pere, President and Executive Director of CSA, the Connecticut
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
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
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
PO Box 511 Mystic CT 06355 --