Let’s first get the question that’s on everyone’s mind out of the way: Are retreats, workshops, and expos worth the money?
In short, yes, they’re worth every penny.
Songwriting is one of the few professions where few people have standardized education or schooling beyond their undying love and passion for music.
Some songwriters don’t go to school or take lessons. Indeed, you can be self-taught and self-motivated and get quite far. However, the percentage of those lucky ones is few and most of us have to work really hard at our craft.
I had a revolving door of wanna-be-songwriters in my office throughout the years, those who showed up with a journal under their arm, a song in their hearts, and a guitar on their backs declaring themselves songwriters. And, in reality, they were in need of some serious fine-tuning (and sometimes their guitars were too).
If you want to beat the odds of making it in the music industry, then investing in education and further development is par for the course. Remember, there isn’t a single person out there willing to do the work for you, you have to do it yourself...but, you don’t need to do it by yourself.
Put a team in place to advise you.
That is where workshops, retreats, and expos come in, as they provide epicenters to find this team. They bring together a wonderful cross-section of songwriters and executives to converse. It’s a place where you can introduce yourself to most anyone and the return handshake will be sincere and giving.
Beyond the ability to connect with others, you’re given inspiration, education on techniques to improve your craft, and valuable information based off industry professionals experiences.
The first such event I went to was the New York Music Seminar in 1990 when I was with Warner Chappell. It was round the clock panels, showcases, and parties! My most vivid memory is one where I was with Paul Kreman and David Landau (RIP) in the back of the room on the second morning. All three of us had our black ray bans on, hiding our eyes from the late night before, pretending to listen to the speakers.
We were dying. That’s when I learned the importance of pacing myself.
That lesson in itself made the entire seminar worthwhile.