“It was organized in the ’50s because there was no one looking out for [songwriters] on the congressional level, and yet, how much we were paid was determined by Congress,” Stover said. “You see the need for the lobbying up there at the national level.”
The NSAI is involved with songwriters at both the legal and professional level. Members of the OKC chapter meet once a month at the Rodeo Opry, 2221 Exchange, to collaborate and critique each others’ work.
“At the local level, we give a chance for our local peers to get feedback,” Stover said. “It’s also a chance to get together, to find people to co-write with.”
He emphasized the benefits of joining the nonprofit, which costs $200 for the first year and $150 for each renewal.
“As a paid member, you get to send 12 songs in a year for critique by professional songwriters in Nashville,” he said, noting that independently sending songs to Nashville, Tenn., can be expensive, ranging from $50 to $75 each.
Members also have access to more than 140 hours of podcasts on numerous aspects of the music industry via the organization’s website; can have one-on-one sessions with professional songwriters in Music City, USA; and get to audition at The Bluebird Café, a famed music venue normally available exclusively to Nashville residents.
More than country
While Nashville is the world capital of country music, Stover said the NSAI isn’t just about that genre.
“People hear ‘Nashville’ and they immediately think of country,” he said. “That’s only part of it.”
Stover said the NSAI has evolved alongside the ever-changing music industry. Its local chapters provide musicians with educational materials and contacts.
Matthew Hoggard, an OKC songwriter and NSAI chapter coordinator, said he has benefitted greatly from honing his skills in the group.
“I’ve built a network in Nashville. It’s a good way to meet industry people,” Hoggard said. “The biggest advantage is getting to work with other songwriters and artists who all have the same goal. Being around other writers, learning from them — it’s on-the-job training.”
No one is born a songwriter, but if you’re a budding musical talent, Stover has some advice: Learn to accept criticism.
“It’s one of the hardest things for young people to do,” he said. “We need to get past being in love with what we write and look at how to make it better.” —Alyssa Grimley