BIG IDEAS THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE WORLD IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, WITH MICHAEL BLANTON OF SONGWRITING U
June 1, 2020 | Courtesy of Medium / Authority Magazine by Fotis Georgiadis
This digital connection allows for anyone who has a dream of writing or possibly being an artist, they can now meet with some of the best writers who have ever been in this game, and without moving to Nashville. This way they can finish their schoolwork wherever they are and still be rubbing shoulders with the best of Nashville, or they can keep their corporate job, and still work on their love for music by chasing their desire to write some great music. So as we come out of this pandemic, this on-line writing opportunity is going to be the scratch for people all over the world who have the itch to make music.
Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Blanton from Songwriting University.
Michael Blanton, of Brentwood, Tennessee, has had a celebrated career in the national and Nashville music industry. Today, he finds him in all kinds of artistic and entertainment development, not limited to just artist management. A native of Amarillo, Texas, Blanton got his start in music as an A&R representative at Word Records in Waco, Texas, moving to Nashville in 1978 to open the company’s office on Music Row. He and business partner Dan Harrell launched Blanton/Harrell Production and Management in 1980 with Amy Grant as their first client. In 1981 with friend Brown Bannister (’75), they created Reunion Records and Reunion Publishing and soon launched the careers of artists including Michael W. Smith and Rich Mullins and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Currently, Blanton has partnered in the development with Songwriting University, to help support the songwriters of Nashville, and help develop new artistic talent. Also, Blanton is a partner with Vertigo Media, and a new management launch called Halogen-BNA. Vertigo and Halogen work together to build and develop new artists and songwriters through technology and community.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Having been in the music industry for over 40 years, I’ve seen the industry go through many different phases, and as a result, have seen the whole development and presentation of artists change drastically. My personal story starts with being hired as a young A&R representative, and starting as a purveyor of new talent and songs, I was fortunate to help develop and lead the music history of Amy Grant plus others, and that has led me into these many years of music and artist development. While the industry has certainly changed, the one constant has always been the “song”. No matter how things change, the song still makes the difference for any artist wanting to make their mark.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? There are just too many stories, however, one story is regarding Amy Grant and her recording of the song, “House of Love”. I had found this song and wanted Amy to record, but due to the R&B feel of this song she was not feeling very confident that she could sing this style song, in fact she at one point told me to please not play her this song again, because she just didn’t feel that she could sing this song very well. I waited a couple of weeks and presented the song to her again as a great option for her to record, ha. Keith Thomas was the producer, and he loved the song and also wanted to produce her singing this style, so he went ahead and developed a track to begin to listen to while considering. I also decided to add some more initiative to her singing this song by reaching out to STING, who was a label mate of hers on A&M Records. So while all this is happening, Amy is out doing some Christmas concerts, and after a few of these shows, she calls me to tell me that she now loves this song and found someone to sing with her on the R&B groove song idea. I told her that I was still chasing STING, but hadn’t heard back from his management team just yet, but who did she find that she now was so excited about this song. She told me that at her last show, she sang some music with Vince Gill. What?! I told her that he was a country artist, and we should try to stay in our Pop lane with STING, but she would not have any other options to consider other than Vince. So he sang the duet with her and it was indeed magic. I still feel today that duet should have been a huge #1 song for the ages #37 on Billboard), but a few months later they became the house of love and were married and the rest is history.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career? One of my philosophies has always been, if you build good relationships those will lead you to good business. I have always put more value on the people we spend our lives with than chasing the almighty dollar. Not that revenue is not important, but if you invest in good people and relationships, those will lead to good business eventually. Such is true with Songwriting University.
Ok. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”? Staying with my theme of everything starts with a song, then fast forward to today where Nashville is Music City, and our iconic signature is our great songwriters who write those songs. Just a few years ago, most aspiring songwriters would move to Nashville and then begin to meet and pursue the many publishing companies and artists here to expose their songs, and hopefully learn from the great writers who were here and had already impacted the world with great music. The goal was certainly to be discovered and be signed by a publishing company or recorded by a successful artists, which would put you on the road to your own music history making story. However today due to CD sales disappearing and everyone streaming, the revenue model has so changed, and while publishers still sign some writers, that number is down drastically. And now of course with any and everyone being able to write a song and put it out on-line whenever they want, it’s like the wild west again. Anything is possible, but that great collaboration of rubbing shoulders with other great songwriters or being signed by expert music publishers is gone. Songwriting University does two things, first it allows for that person anywhere in the world to be able to make access with some of those great songwriters and learn and develop their craft without having to move to Nashville. It also rewards the great writers who are here with a chance to collaborate with new talent and help discover some new songs, and get paid immediately for their good work. Nashville has always believed that collaboration usually makes things better for an artist or a songwriter, although that’s not always true, over the many years of music city that has been the case.
How do you think this will change the world? This digital connection allows for anyone who has a dream of writing or possibly being an artist, they can now meet with some of the best writers who have ever been in this game, and without moving to Nashville. This way they can finish their schoolwork wherever they are and still be rubbing shoulders with the best of Nashville, or they can keep their corporate job, and still work on their love for music by chasing their desire to write some great music. So as we come out of this pandemic, this on-line writing opportunity is going to be the scratch for people all over the world who have the itch to make music.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about? Well obviously, one man’s art is another man’s trash. Meaning that just because you have the desire doesn’t mean you have the gift, but isn’t that Art. You feel something in your passions and your heart and you live in Topeka and you love playing and writing some music. You can’t afford to go to Nashville to spend two years chasing the music makers and find out if your good or not, so Songwriting University gives you that opportunity, if you’re not good, all you’ve lost is the time on the Skype call with another great writer working with you, but even with this there is no guarantee that your music will ever be successful. But we all keep chasing that possibility.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story? This idea has been vetted out over the last three years by two writers who started hearing from folks from other cities about working on songs long-distant, which lead to work on-line. When they approached me with what they were doing, the lights came on that this could be a new normal for so many folks who wanted to explore their music, but couldn’t afford the time to come to Nashville.
I think this season in the Pandemic only confirms again that we are all doing everything on-line, and I expect this to continue to explode.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption? Well obviously spread the word in social media and some marketing, and be patient. I think keeping our faculty of good writers attached and available and then waiting for the songs and the stories to grow will only build momentum for this creative development idea.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
It’s more important how you finish than how you start. We tend to get so focused on instant gratification, we are almost willing to lose anything to win, but we need to look down the road to have a vision of what do we want to look like when we are finishing this story.
Find what’s good about something, not what’s wrong with everything. Creativity needs to be encouraged and we need to look between the lines of all art, and not be overly judgmental and critical.
Nothing is as good as you think, but neither is anything as bad as you think. Basically don’t believe your own press, which we all want to do when good things happen.
Be Patient, most new business’ take three years to turn a corner. Just something when you’re starting with the hottest idea, even if it’s super good, it’s going to take time. Pixar spent the first 10 years in the ditch, but look where they are now.
It’s about others, not about you. We all have ego’s and I’m not talking about not be confident in yourself or in your creative idea, but at the end of the day if it doesn’t lift peoples hearts and lives to be better and make a difference, then for me I have to question was it worth doing at all.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Well now I would just flip the last question of “5 things” and use those for my best answers for success habits.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-) I would say to invest in people, and when they look at this new innovative songwriting idea, and connection to past success writers, then there is a formula here that can work being led by very good business people with strong creative hearts. It will only take some time and some success, and I believe this can lead to all kinds of new content stories. Music will never go away, and thus the need for songwriters.
How can our readers follow you on social media? Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SongwritingU/ Instagram: https://instagram.com/songwritingu Check out Songwriting U’s most recent project for the song “Kinder”, inspiring a world of hope and positivity: https://www.facebook.com/SongwritingU/videos/1104255559941438/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.