If you want to hone your craft, there’s no better way to do that than amongst other professionals in your industry at music conferences. Some are surprisingly affordable, some are pricier, but all provide you with the opportunity to connect with musical peers and maybe even get some face time with industry pros.
Most musicians don’t have the time or resources to go to every single conference they come across, though. So we’ve compiled some of our favorites specifically geared towards songwriters to help you figure out which would be ideal for you to visit this year. Check it out.
Folk Alliance International
New Orleans, Louisiana | January 22-26, 2020
Alright so this conference already happened this year, but we love it so much we put it on the list so you can make sure to visit next year! If your music doesn’t quite fit the Top 40 sound, this might be the one for you. The Folk Alliance welcomes many genres under their banner including blues, Americana, global roots, singer-songwriter, and even spoken word. With a focus on diversity and fostering community, this conference aims to bring musicians from many walks and backgrounds together on a global scale. They also offer scholarships for both industry and artist members, private and public showcases, as well as a mentorship program — so definitely look into those.
Country Radio Seminar
Nashville, Tennessee | February 19-21, 2020
If your goal is to get on national radio, there are few better opportunities than the Country Radio Seminar. This three-day conference brings together tastemakers, radio personalities, music celebrities, and… you! The seminar was created in 1969 with the goal of growing the country music format on the airwaves, and is often a great place for new and upcoming artists to break out and get in front of decision makers. This year includes panels with Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, and more.
Durango Songwriters Expo
Ventura, California | February 20-22, 2020
If you don’t have your eyes set on being a performing songwriter, this may not be the one for you. But if you do have stars in your eyes and dreams of singing your own songs to crowds, look no further. Durango is known as a top choice for singer/songwriters to mingle with peers and decision makers. This event happens twice a year — once in Colorado and once in Ventura Beach, CA — both excellent spots for taking in beautiful views and getting inspired. It features panels, song critiques, and a chance to get in front of labels, publishers, and music supervisors with industry showcases.
Austin, Texas | March 13-22, 2020
No list would be complete without South By Southwest. And if you haven’t had this conference marked on your calendar for the last few years, you’ve been living under a boulder. It’s a massive event that includes filmmakers, music, comedy, educational panels, and even tech; in fact, I think it’s probably America’s new annual barometer for culture. SXSW often defies genres and labels, relishing in mixing industries with abandon (home-remodelling TV hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines are featured speakers this year, for instance). If you are a little bit outside the box, you are likely to find your people here; or at least make some interesting new connections and get real entertained in the process.
Tin Pan South
Nashville, Tennessee | March 24-28, 2020
If you want to dig deep into the craft of songwriting and get blown away by some of the best writers in the world, this is the place you want to be. For nearly thirty years, Tin Pan South has brought hit writers in for a five day festival of the craft. While this is technically not a seminar in the strictest sense, if you go in with open ears and a willingness to learn you will pick up tips from the best in the industry. Simply listening to these songsmiths and hearing their stories is sure to make you a better writer — or at least inspire you to be.
Los Angeles, California | April 1-3, 2020
Previously known as the I Create Music Expo, the ASCAP Experience is billed as the world’s premiere gathering for music creators. Hosted in the heart of downtown L.A., the conference is geared toward the modern music professional; including topics such as branding, wellness, how to get heard, and more are featured. $39 one-on-one mentor sessions are also available on a first come, first serve basis. This event is open to everyone, though you do get a discount if you’re an ASCAP member. (*ASCAP members also get discounts on Soundfly programs, check the member benefits page for more info!)
Country Music Hall of Fame’s Songwriting Camp
Nashville, Tennessee | June 16-20 (Beginner to Intermediate) & July 13-18 (Intermediate to Advanced), 2020
If you’re a neophyte looking to improve your chops, the Country Music Hall of Fame’s annual Songwriting Camp is an excellent choice. Applications are open now, and camp courses range from Beginner to Intermediate to Expert, so there’s no skill level left behind. This camp is a fun and unforgettable experience where budding songwriters can hone their craft, learn from professionals, and make new friends.
DIY Musician Conference
Austin, Texas | August 28-30, 2020
Run by digital music distribution company CD Baby, the DIY Musician Conference treats musicians as creators, with tons of workshops on how to do the hard work to be successful as an independent musician. It’s very action-oriented, with panels on everything from how to brand yourself as an artist to how to get sync spots, and more. It also usually includes fun community activities like open mic nights, mentorship sessions, and even jam rooms. It’s a great choice for artists who want control over their careers. (There’s also a DIY Musician Conference Europe, which sounds like a wonderful excuse to spend some time in Valencia, Spain.)
Nashville, Tennessee | September 15-20, 2020
Hailed by The New York Times as “The coolest music scene today,” Americanafest brings roots, folk, blues, country and soul-based music into Music City USA. The conference itself features everything you might expect from a top-flight music industry shindig; panels, exclusive performances, and educational and networking opportunities. If bringing some of the best and brightest in the Americana scene isn’t enough for you, the event features a six-day festival too.
Taxi Road Rally
Los Angeles, California | November 5-8, 2020
If you’re at all serious about the industry, you’ve at least likely heard of TAXI. Basically a pitch sheet for people who aren’t otherwise blessed with industry connections, in addition to their services, they also put on a yearly conference called The Road Rally. Hosted in L.A.,this huge event features industry luminaries available for one-on-one mentor sessions, marketing panels, tips for DIY musicians and more. Best of all? It’s totally free! Mind. Blown.
Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival
Various Locations, Florida & Alabama Gulf Coast | November 5-15, 2020
Technically not a true seminar, but a notable place to hobnob and get your music out nonetheless. If you’re a performing songwriter, the International Songwriters Fest is an excellent place to get in front of a new and appreciative crowd, find like-minded people to vibe with, and if you know anything about the Florabama Coast, have a great time doing it! If you happen to be a budding songwriter 18 or under, you definitely want to apply for the youth showcase; a great opportunity that puts the spotlight squarely on the future hitmakers in the industry. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this all takes place on the Gulf Coast’s lovely beaches!
GSC FOCUS Events
Springfield, Tennessee | Throughout the year, 2020
Do you want all the knowledge of a big conference with the intimacy of a small group? The GSC FOCUS event offers a chance at real face time with industry pros and hit songwriters. We certainly know the value of 1:1 mentoring and so does the Global Songwriters Connection! Taking place over three days in a small setting, attendees get the chance to write a song with hit writers, pitch to publishers, and even perform their song. This event happens quarterly, so there’s always an opportunity to apply year-round. In order to keep it small, GSC decided to make it invitation-only, so send your best stuff and make a good impression.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these events listed, but there are so many more out there — too many to list in fact. Let us know your favorite conferences in the Comment section below.
Best of luck in your search to be inspired and grow as a songwriter. Speaking of which…
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