The Prez Rants: Cliques, Contests and Complaints

By Paul Moffett

A goodly number of the surveys we sent out recently have been returned, many with insightful comments and helpful suggestions. The Board of Trustees will get a compilation of them for consideration and we will try to incorporate the best ones into our future activities There were also some complaints, some of which, sadly, are founded in misconceptions about what the LASC is and how it works. As the Prez, I have to ta.ke the responsibility for ensuring that accurate information gets out, so here 'tis.

The commonest complaint, both written and verbally, is that the LASC is run by a "clique." This one is tough, because it is true that a small number of members show up regularly, participate in activities and otherwise do all the LASC things, so they get most of the attention. I confess, I don't know how to get around that problem, aside from constantly encouraging non-participating members to participate more.

However, the definition of "clique" is an exclusive group, which I submit, does not characterize the LASC or the Board (aside from the non-participation noted above).

Indeed, we have consistently begged people to run for the Board and otherwise get involved. I, for one, would be thrilled to have five or six or more new, dependable, reliable, energetic songwriters helping out. It's likely that it won't happen, however, since very often the folks who complain of the Coop's "clique-ness" don't come around very often.

On the plus side, we did have eight people running for five seats on the Board.

Yeah! Also, any member in good standing of the Co-op is welcome to come to a Board meeting and participate in the discussion.

Call me at 231-5559 for information about the next one.

lt is also the case the LASC is a cooperative, not a service-based association. We have no staff who will give you PA forms, mail your tapes, advise you on copyright or otherwise provide you with some service. All we have are other songwriters who will help, out of kindness, not because it's required. I fear that many members think that by paying their dues, they are entitled to all the goodies, with none of the work.

T'ain't so. Your dues entitle you to participate in the activities of the organization and to a subscription to Louisville Music News. Otherwise, you get out as much as you put in.

I did get one survey with some questions about the songwriting contest. These are much easier to answer.

In 1992, there were a total of 576 entries, up from last year. Entry fees totaled $4,696.

Expenses to stage the contest, including prizes, totaled $3,417.59, leaving a profit of $1,278.41. This was our most profitable year for this contest. The money goes to help pay for the Co-op's other activities.

If we were to pay for the services required to stage this contest, however, we would most definitely be in the hole, big time. The advance publicity, assorted layout of brochures, mailings, etc. are all charged to the LASC only at the actual out-of-pocket expenses required. There isn't a charge for the labor and time required. For the record, the folks who do most, though not all of the contest paperwork, are Board members and particularly yours truly and Jean Metcalfe.

(Every other activity the Board does also requires somebody's time and effort. Just ask Charlie Walls about how much time he spent arranging for those music industry people to come to the seminar. Ask Diana Black how much time and effort she spent on organizing the 1991 seminar. Ask Tim Lynch, Tony Cestaro and Joey Meyer how much equipment they carried around. Ask any Board member how much time they've spent on Co-op stuff.) The first-level listening sessions are also done at the expense (time and money) of the Board members. In 1992, there were five or six sessions, each lasting more than four hours and involving at least five members of the Board. That translates into one hundred person-hours, plus.

We have been struggling to figure out some way that the Board does not have to judge the first round. Many suggestions have been advanced but so far nothing answers all the crucial questions. The most crucial question, of course, is this one: How can (Board) bias be eliminated? The implication is, of course, that the Board gives favorite songwriters special treatment, which, in the case of this contest, means that some deserving song does not make the ten finalists that go to the outside judges.

Protestations and/or explanations about the Board's efforts in this area would fall on deaf ears, I fear. Suffice it to say that the Board is eagerly, frantically, desperately seeking a solution that would get us off the judging hook and allow us to enter the contest.

(There you have the real problem from the point of view of the Board: service on the Board is punitive, because we cannot enter the contest. Phooey.) Other contest-judging questions involve timeliness, cost, dependability and knowledge. Think these through for yourself and, please, provide us with your insightful solutions. We're ready.

Please.

The Board does get some benefit from the contest, I must admit. We divide up the tapes we receive, after a period of time. I suppose this oould be considered compensation, or graft, perhaps even willful diversion of LASC properties. We do it anyway, just because its such a pain in the ying-yang to drag those bags of tapes around, store them and/or otherwise do something with them.

We do not return them. This is consistent with the practices of every other contest that I have ever seen. The headaches and cost involved in such a process would bring about my instant resignation.

Finally, the most common complaint/comment is that we are "too commercial" in our focus.

Well, it's true. I for one want to get my songs on the radio, on records, sung by thousands of people in bars and cars. I try to figure out why the songs on the radio and records are there and mine aren't. I'm analytical, so I study structure and lyrical content. I apply the rules of writing English and I apply some of the lessons I learned in English class about good writing. In short, I try to work on my craft.

I really suspect that the "commercial" complaint is misleading. I think that what many, many songwriters want is approval for their songs, not critical comments, which are often driven by assessments of the song's commercial potential.

The first time I took one of my tunes to a group of critique, I left feeling about two inches tall and madder than the proverbial wet hen. The nerve of those people!

I got over it after a while.

Also, the first questions I get from folks calling to ask about the LASC are these: "How can I keep my songs from being stolen?" "Have any of your members ever had any success?" and "How can I get my songs to somebody who can do something with them?" (In case you don't know, "do something with them" means get them recorded. And royalties paid.) Questions like these lead me to suppose that the folks asking them are interested in some kind of commercial success.

Well, after all that, I have reached this point — if you just want pats on the back for your tunes, play them just for your family and friends. If you don't want any comments other than good ones, play them in your closet. If you just want to express your innermost feelings, fine, do so. Songwriting is very good for that.

If you want to express yourself to me, however, be prepared.

It's hot here in the kitchen.