A Lesson in Music Community: Amanda Williams
by Shantell Ogden (’05)
Amanda Williams (’99), daughter of Hall of Fame songwriter Kim Williams, is in her heart a community builder. She graduated in Music Business/Management with Vocal Performance focus, and then moved back to Nashville to start her own journey as an artist and songwriter.
Williams, who recently celebrated a major cut she co-wrote with Garth Brooks, “She’s Tired of Boys” on his Man Against Machine album, has been hard at work in recent years spearheading a new movement of ‘songpreneurs’ through the songwriting community she founded.
To learn more about Amanda and the Songwriting and Music Business Community, we asked her a few questions.
How was your Berklee education helpful to you in the music industry?
My Berklee education has been very helpful to me in the industry. My music business classes gave me the foundation to begin working within the industry as an intern at first, and eventually to owning my own enhanced music publishing company, Hillbilly Culture LLC. Enhanced, because of our focus on education, and because teachers like Sky Traughber, Jeff Dorenfeld, Don Gorder, Peter Alhadeff, Tibor Pusztai and Ann Dolan gave me the specialized knowledge and the confidence to pursue the unusual and unexpected.
Tell us about the mission of your Songwriting and Music Business Community – and how it’s evolved over the years.
Our company has evolved from start up to global community of songwriter entrepreneurs in a few short years based on two simple principles.
One, we believe that quality education is at the core of all sustainable careers. Therefore, we teach our community members about the art and business of songwriting with an eye toward longevity and purposefulness and base everything on principle, not trends or opinions.
Two, we feel that respect is key to building a lasting foundation. Therefore, we practice respect by getting back to people quickly, honoring our word, and keeping our policies and procedures transparent as we move toward greater circles of influence.
Since 2010, we have set the legal precedent for changing the industry terms “exploit” and “exploitation” to “employ” and “employment” of the copyright in our contracts. We don’t exploit the earth, children, or laborers, so why should we exploit our copyrights? It’s semantics, of course, but represents a meaningful change toward mindfulness and stewardship in what we are doing when we monetize our music.
Another thing we do differently is that we don’t assume the copyright of our writers. Whether they are SMB Community Members or signed writers, we believe that the copyright belongs to the ones who created it, as their legacy to leave to their kids or heirs, not to the publishers’.
So, naturally, people think we’re crazy, because traditionally the value in music publishing came from owning copyright. But we think that the real value comes in creating it and in building lasting relationships based on mutually beneficial aims.
Where do you see the most opportunity for your members will come from in the future?
The future is leading us toward copyright reform efforts and advocacy. We currently have a very active group of extremely well educated songwriter-hobbyists who want to make sure their royalties are secured for when they write their hits in 10 years or so.
And our membership is so eclectic. We’ve got everyone from a NASCAR product inventor, to a Plain English attorney who works with the IRS and federal government, to a two-time Clio Award Winning Ad Composer, to a celebrity psychologist, to guys and gals opening for and touring with major label signed artists. It’s pretty neat, the community we’ve built!
In the meantime, the intensive study of copyright law and business practices has led me to become an actual college professor. A community member’s referral led me to becoming the new Adjunct Professor of Business and Legal Foundations at SAE Institute Nashville, and they just hired me to also teach their MB222 Music Business: Culminating Project and Portfolio session. Who would have thought?
In 2014, our SMB Community members ended up in some high profile places. We placed over 40 of our members’ songs in the national TV show Gear Heads thanks to our executive producer and show creator pal, Ray Iddings. And there will be more where that came from in 2015.
We’ve also got a lot of indie producers and artists coming around to find songs for their ongoing projects from among our ranks, and our goal is to support the natural, organic, creative process that happens when folks come together in a meaningful way.
We’ll never run out of opportunities or resources, because what we represent is the real thing. We’re building the new music business from scratch and it’s working pretty well so far, and will continue to do so as long as we keep learning and working hard every day to do the right thing for the arts’ sake, and looking for ways to do it better.
For more information on the Songwriting and Music Business Community, visit their website.