Finding the Right Songwriter Group

Bill PereBy Bill Pere

In 1979, when I helped  start the Connecticut Songwriters Association, there was no Internet,  no one had heard of “Indie Artists”, and there were relatively few songwriter support groups around.    In this current day of thriving Indie music, and social media,  there are  new organizations, both real and virtual,  constantly  springing up,  presenting themselves as  support groups for artists and songwriters.   How do you know which might be right for you, and which would not be a productive investment of your limited time and resources?  I am asked all the time about  Taxi,  NSAI,  SGA, ASCAP/BMI,  Songsalive,  Indiegrrl,  CSA, WCS, PNSA, ASG,  SongU,  Indie Connect, and so many more.[private_freebie]

Ask a hundred people what the role of a songwriters organization is and you’ll likely get a hundred answers.    In practice, there are many different roles that such an organization could play, thus it comes down to how the organization defines and presents itself.    The three broad facets relating to songwriting are:   (1) the art,   (2) the craft,  (3) the business.

What would an organization look like if it focuses exclusively on each of these?

(1)  An arts-based group would be one which emphasizes and supports creative expression in any form, with little application of rules, guidelines, structure, or technique,  and which does not judge or evaluate songs in any prescribed way.  Members would be seeking affirmation, encouragement, and the opportunity to network with like-minded folks.   “Success” is measured solely by the artist’s own internal criteria.  Such an organization may be a non-profit entity, functioning as a support group, and discussing topics such as creative process and where to find local open mikes.  Critique would not be a central part of the activities.   Informal song circles might be structured this way.   A common thread in these organizations would be that the songs can be writer-centric (expressive) rather than audience-centric. (communicative).  Most of the members in this type of group are likely to be performers (singer-songwriters) as opposed to just writers who do not perform.

(2) A craft-based group would have much of the above, but would add a new element.    Craft is often misunderstood, for when confused with the artistic focus as discussed above, it may perceived as “imposing too much structure”, “selling-out”, “compromising artistic integrity”,  etc.   But exactly what is “craft”?   Consider the craft of woodworking – a woodworker is an artisan, and may create what he or she wishes without regard to any guidelines.   However, one can certainly learn about such factual things as the nature of different woods; how to make smooth, secure joints; how to sand and varnish wood; how to use different kinds of hand tools or power tools, etc.  This knowledge can be used to build skills which enable the artisan to bring craftsmanship to his or her art.  The emphasis here is on education with the objective of providing tools to make the best possible product. . Individuals still have their own definitions of success and complete artistic freedom.  These organizations may discuss rules and guidelines as they apply to craft (i.e. how), not art (i.e. what), and may evaluate or critique the execution of technique (i.e. how) without judging artistic value (i.e. what).   Members may be seeking the same types of things as in an arts-based organization, with the added desire for education about tricks of the trade and seeking to create a more polished end product.  Such an organization is likely to be a non-profit entity functioning as an educational group centered on optimizing music and lyrics.    The perspective is that to successfully share songs in a competitive environment, the songs must be honed to be the best they can be, and be audience-centric (communicative),  rather than writer-centric (expressive). Many of the members in this type of group are non-performing songwriters.

 (3)   A business-based group focuses on commercial outcome of the product. The emphasis is on whether or not it can sell, regardless of the underlying elements of art and craft.   Success is generally defined in terms of tangible outcomes such as money or recognition, and members would be oriented toward this type of goal.  Critique of products is done with commercial outcome in mind, and the information presented usually revolves around marketing and promotional strategies and tools.  Such an organization is often organized as a business league, and though it itself may be non-profit, it will not typically have a tax-exempt status.  Discussions may focus on production, marketing, touring, royalties, and generating income streams.

So where exactly would a songwriters organization fit?   The answer is that a songwriters group can be any of the above, individually or in combination.  It is up to the organization, but what is important for the individual writers is to make sure that their personal goals fit with those of the organization, or at least to be aware of where they differ.

 When evaluating an organization to see if it is a good fit for you, visit the website, look at its history, its programs, and the people who run it..   There are national and international organizations with many chapters, and there are smaller regional or statewide organizations. (See for a directory).

In this Internet age, there are also many virtual groups who interact only online, some small, some large.  Facebook and Yahoo groups are loaded with them.   When it comes to support groups, bigger is not always better – it depends on the kind of access and individual attention you are seeking.

Look specifically at the mission statement (if they don’t have one, it’s a red flag).  An example of a mission statement, from the Connecticut Songwriters Association (  is :  “A non-profit, educational organization dedicated to improving the art and craft of original musical and lyrical composition”.    That is a clear statement of purpose and all of the programs are centered around this mission – helping writers craft the best songs that they can, while defining their own personal goals and artistic outlets.  A look at the organization’s activities shows that it clearly acknowledges and addresses the importance of providing programs about the commercial and business.  side of songwriting, but that is not the focus.

No matter what kind of group you decide is right for you, there is one overarching principle:  Success comes from opportunity, and opportunity comes from involvement.   Joining an organization does nothing for you unless you are prepared to fully involve yourself in it.  Become a familiar face so that the rest of the members know who you are and what you do.   Music is first and foremost a relationship-driven business, and being involved is what leads to opportunities to show others what you have to offer.

As an independent artist, you only have so much time, energy, and resources, so they need to be used in the best possible way.  Involving yourself in a songwriter organization is an investment in yourself.  Involve yourself fully, but be sure the organization it is one which fits your specific goals and aspirations.   While there is allure in getting immersed in the business end of things,  or in being part of an affirmation group,  don’t overlook the importance of craft and critique in making your end product be the best it can be, to successfully compete for the limited amount of attention that is out there.   Craft is often overlooked in the zeal to find affirmation or commercial success, but it sits right in the in the middle of that journey from creation to realization to proliferation, and thus it’s hard to get around it, or to get around without it. 


Bill Pere was named one of the “Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry”  by Music Connection Magazine.  With more than 30 years in the music business, as a recording artist, award winning songwriter, performer, and educator  Bill is well known  for his superbly crafted  lyrics, with lasting impact.   Bill is the author of “Songcrafters’ Coloring Book”,  has released 16 CD’s , and is President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association.  Bill is an Official Connecticut State Troubadour, and is the Founder and Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble (   Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year,  Bill  is a qualified MBTI practitioner, a member of CMEA and MENC,  and as Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy he helps develop young talent in songwriting,  performing, and learning about the music business.  Bill’s song analyses and critiques are among the best in the industry.

© Copyright 2010  Bill Pere.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reproduced in any way with out permission of the author.  For  workshops,  consultation, performances,  or other songwriter services,  contact Bill via his web sites, at,, and [/private_freebie]