Can membership in a professional organization help an indie musician?

Cream of Crop stage Thomasville GA
Photo of stage at Cream of the Crop/Thomasville, GA. (Indie Art South)

If you’re an indie musician, it probably sometimes seems like you’re climbing the steepest mountain on our planet. It’s true you can network with other musicians, but it’s also true you probably have moments when you feel completely alone.

Can membership in a professional organization help an indie musician gain ground? 

I’m not sure, but I can share some personal experiences that might be of interest.

In my own writing profession, membership in professional organizations helped somewhat. But I don’t think it really advanced my career in any way. For the orgs I joined, you had to apply, submit a portfolio, and be voted in.

For musicians, it’s different.

Thus far, Rebecca (of the Crazy Daysies with her sister Jen) has experience with a couple organizations. One was the Nashville Songwriters Association International. She let it lapse. It was of no value to her. For instance, one benefit was an online critique of a song. The critic connected to an obscure record label played one second of her song and delivered a lecture on drinking alcohol. It was a bar song—“Cheers to Getting Sober.” She didn’t get one useful comment from him.

Ironically, if you took all the bar songs out of country music, you’d have very little country music left.

After the NSAI critic’s lecture, “Cheers to Getting Sober” was picked up by Sonorous Records for an anthology album. That group is allied with Universal Music. Success is indeed the sweetest revenge.

I’ve been looking at organizations, and it seems to me the Americana Music Association might be more useful than the Country Music Association. For one thing, CMA has moved to a blend of pop and country. Pop isn’t on the Daysies’ agenda usually; nor is pop country.

The AMA offers lower dues and it seems like a more personal touch organization. AMA is also in to “roots music”, and that perfectly matches the Daysies’ ‘Swampytonk’ brand.

As best I can tell, Rebecca qualifies for both orgs. AMA has a more transparent process. With CMA, you apply, but I couldn’t find a specific, full list of requirements. The CMA dues, as I said, are higher.

Rebecca also belongs to BMI. Of all the orgs, this one has definitely been beneficial. If you keep up with your gigs, and are able to enter them into a database accurately, you will receive royalties for your own performances and, if someone else covers your original work, your songs.

When I look back over my career, I have to admit the primary resource for advancement was my own work. I say that because before I could get admitted to a professional org, I had to have that portfolio and there were specific requirements about where you could be published in order to qualify.

If you’re a working musician, take a look at different orgs and see what’s right for you. If the dues are low, give it a shot. If it works positively, keep up your membership.

Otherwise, as we did with NSAI, let it lapse.

(Band Mom/12/1/2017)

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