Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Country and Western Music Business - Passion Required

Dan McCoy - New Braunfels, TX (2011)
As I entered the farmer's market in downtown New Braunfels one Saturday morning, I heard the familiar sound of live music. Each week a different group or singer is featured. I usually don't pay much attention, because...well, the level of talent isn't very high.

But this particular Saturday was different. It was a country and western singer named Dan McCoy. He had a mellow voice and the music and lyrics were original and thought-provoking. This guy is good, I thought.

Nelson Broyal - Blanco, TX (2010)
He reminded me of Nelson Broyal, a talented singer-songwriter of bluesy Texas country ballads who plays regularly in the Redbud Cafe and the Sunset Restaurant on the town square in Blanco, Texas.

I talked with Dan a little bit after his song. He's a local who writes and performs whenever he can get a gig. He told me that George Strait had recorded a couple of his songs. That's a big deal, because the only way a songwriter can make decent money is if a song becomes a hit.

When Kathleen and I visited the Country and Western Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, we attended an interactive presentation by two Nashville songwriters, who explained the music business and answered questions. We learned that many singers don't write their own music. The songwriter gets a small cut of each sale, then there's a publishing agent's fee, and of course Uncle Sam. All of this happens more than a year after the song is recorded. If you do the math, you see that even for a Top Ten hit, it doesn't amount to a huge payday.

In the music business success breeds success. From time to time, a No. 1 hit will lead to another, and then lots of artists are asking for your music. It's like "the major leagues" in sports: this level of success doesn't come to many.

Dan McCoy looked to be in his late 50s, but he was giving it a go, doing the street singer scene with his pile of CDs and his donation bucket out front. I was impressed with how powerful his passion for music must be to not give up on his dream. There are tens of thousands of people just like him pursuing the same dream.

And I thought: These guys are just like you and me. You have to have this level of passion to achieve any dream. Passion is a requirement, because there are too many hard things to do. You'd never do them if you weren't passionate and committed.

And yet another thought: passion may be required, but it doesn't guarantee success, even if your passion causes you to achieve lots of talent. At least in the music business, you need luck. You need the "big break." You need to hit it out of the park. You need superstars like George Strait, Garth Brooks, Willy Nelson, or Dolly Parton to cover your song. And then after that the song has to be one of the lucky ones that listeners go crazy about. This kind of thing does happen, but not to most.

Dan McCoy and Nelson Broyal are the real deal. They're creative musicians and loaded with talent. So I did the same thing for Dan that I did for Nelson. I told him I loved his music and gave him $20 for his CD. Both were effusive with their appreciation.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Photos by Kathleen Scott, used with permission)

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is an interesting post, Denny. Have I ever told you how much I LOVE George Strait? I just adore him.
And you. And Kathleen.