FORBES: Songwriting University Offers Virtual Co-Writes With Hit Songwriters
September 11, 2020 |Written by Annie Reuter
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As the music industry continues to grapple with the aftermath of Covid-19, Songwriting University is coming to the aid of songwriters. Founded in December 2019, the platform aims to connect hit songwriters with aspiring tunesmiths virtually with video co-writing sessions. In turn, the 22 faculty songwriters get paid for their services at a time when publishing deals are scarce and making money from writing songs in the age of streaming has become even more bleak.
Co-founder Michael Blanton explains that the idea for Songwriting University came from award-winning songwriters Billy Sprague and Joe Beck, who witnessed firsthand the rapid decline of opportunities within their field. Blanton estimates that 10 years ago there were approximately 4,500 writers with publishing deals in Nashville and today that number has dropped to less than 450. Songwriting University offers a unique opportunity to Music City’s esteemed songwriters by allowing them to get paid for their services while remaining creative and inspiring a new generation of talent.
“Nashville has this incredible, rich songwriter pool that we're just not taking care of,” Blanton tells me. “We created a scenario for them to co-write and then that Nashville songwriter gets paid immediately.”
Songwriting University doesn’t take any publishing money from its songwriters. Blanton says the goal of the platform is to let successful songwriters connect virtually with veteran and aspiring writers from all over the world. At a time when in-person co-writes are dwindling due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Songwriting University is hoping to inspire those who have dreamed of writing songs but never made the move to Nashville to accomplish that goal.
“Covid has accelerated this idea that we can do Zoom [co-writes]. We're seeing so much more happening digitally. The idea of what we're offering at Songwriting University is fitting right in with what everybody else is doing,” he says. “Covid is probably drawing more people back to their roots [who used] to love music. Collaboration has always been the key for Nashville. At the very least, we’re fanning the flames of creativity.”
In addition to virtual co-writing sessions, Songwriting University launched a song competition earlier this year and gifted $10,000 to up-and-coming singer-songwriter Colin Matchack. The 21-year old submitted several songs into the contest, which was judged by Songwriter University’s Blanton, Sprague, Beck, and Gary Glover, along with celebrity guest judges Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick and esteemed producer Tony Brown (Reba, George Strait, Vince Gill). The platform is also exploring songwriting camps and retreats as well as the potential of in-person writes for Nashville tourists.
Currently, all writing packages are 30% off for those interested in registering. A consultation begins at $75, and one session starts at $350 while writers have the option to register for up to five co-writes. “We're trying to grow in diversification and at the same time we're trying to be very respectful to all our writers. I think there's more to be explored here,” Blanton says. “This is a songwriter’s town and songwriter’s city. And we want to honor that and protect that.”
With four decades of music industry experience including A&R and production, Blanton is hopeful for the success of Songwriting University. The goal for the platform is to help discover and mentor future music stars as well as garner song placement with music supervisors at major networks and production companies like Netflix.
“We truly are honoring the heritage of the iconic signature of Nashville, which are our songwriters. They are in a very stressful time because of the way the world is and that's very stressful on the music business,” he says. “What I love is that we are trying to take a handful of those writers and begin to offer opportunities for them to not only make money since they don't have publishing deals, but actually continue to hone their craft.
“It is truly a desire to honor the songwriters’ of Nashville and then at the same time do something innovative that Covid and our technology is allowing us to do,” he continues. “We have nothing but high hopes that this is going to be an ongoing fun and new innovation in the music industry.”