First of all, what is a mentor? It’s anyone who advises or trains. It could be a more seasoned, experienced cowriter. It could also be a publisher or PRO representative (ASCAP, SESAC, BMI, SOCAN…) who takes time with you. It could also be a professional mentor from NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) or GSC (Global Songwriters Connection). And there are several good independent mentors out there, too.
A quality mentor can help you get where you want to go more effectively and efficiently- if you’re willing to learn. Here are four specific ways songwriters can benefit from seeking out a mentor. (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to drum up business for my own mentoring services. I only do two or so a month, since it comes out of my family time.)
1. Your mentor knows things you need to know.
He may or may not have some #1s to his credit. He may or may not have a song on the charts this week. But the important thing is that he has been down the road ahead of you and can point the way. He’s seen more, learned more, and accomplished more than you have. He can help accelerate your learning curve and avoid some of the pitfalls he’s experienced.
2. Your mentor is not your mom.
A mentor is not going to love your song just because they already love you. And a mentor doesn’t have to see you at Thanksgiving or worry about the quality of the nursing home you choose for her. Therefore, while a quality mentor will not be mean, she has the freedom to be honest about your writing- as she sees it. She also doesn’t know your backstory. This means your writing has to stand on it’s own– singing about Jenny you dated in high school means ONLY what the song says. Your mentor can’t fill in the gaps from your shared experience- your mentor never sat next to Jenny in algebra class.
3. It’s good practice.
If you want to get songs recorded on a professional level, you’re going to have to get comfortable throwing your babies into the real world. It can be scary and frustrating, but it’s something you need to get used to. A quality mentor is a safe place to get that professional feedback. It’s a step into the music business where you’ll be challenged and have to toughen up. But it’s also safe because being “just okay” or even “bad” doesn’t close that door to him or her in the future. After all, it’s your mentor’s job to help you get better.
4. A mentor is a potential entry point into the music business.
If you want to be a professional writer, you won’t get there alone. You need a network of relationships in the business, and a mentor is a great start. A mentor might recommend cowriters or publishers. He or she can be your champion- especially at places like NSAI or GSC. A mentor might even write with you. Eventually. (But you should never be the one to mention it first.) It’s important that you don’ expect this extra level. I’m just saying, if you’re very good- and professional and would reflect well on your mentor, he or she MIGHT open additional doors for you.
Next week, we’ll start looking at how to maximize a mentoring session. Thanks!
Yesterday, it was officially announced that my song, “Crickets” is the title track to Joe Nichols’ new album on Red Bow Records, to be released on October 8, 2013! Thanks to my cowriters, Lisa Shaffer and Bill Whyte. And a big thanks to Joe Nichols and his team for recording it!
Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter
Brent Baxter Music: http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com