In the music industry a writer’s night at a venue or house concert is an event where songwriters get together and perform original material that they have written or have co-written with other songwriters.
These events are a potential gold mine for a singer for a number of reasons. It’s a great place for a singer to find potential material. It’s the perfect place to solicit your talents as a demo singer. You can also find opportunities to collaborate. You could event get a few singers together to perform a writers night of original music for those singer-songwriters and writers who would like to hear their work with fresh ears.
Debi Champion has been a writer’s night host in Nashville for roughly two decades. She currently hosts four nights per week at the Commodore Lounge located in the Vanderbilt Holiday Inn. She has several words of wisdom to share with others gathered from years of experience as a singer, songwriter and writer’s night host.
Hosting A Writer’s Night
She said that there is no set way to run a writer’s night. Different hosts will have different ways of doing things.
“First of all you need a place that is comfortable, has room for people, a sound system, food and drinks,” Debi said, adding that most hosts work in club venues, even small theatres, but some host events in people’s homes.
She points that if you’re hosting in a club you work to give the writers a place to play while making money for the club owner or venue.
“Some hosts work on a percentage of what the bar makes, while some get a salary,” she said. “That is worked out between the host and club owner.”
How To Run The Night
She advises scheduling performers well ahead of time. In fact, Debi’s nights are often booked months in advance. At the Commodore she schedules six rounds of three to four writers each night. The writers usually get to play three songs each. She holds an open mic audition at the end of the evening. This is for writers hoping to get scheduled.
“At the Bluebird CafÃ©, they have two rounds of four writers playing each night, with the exception of Monday nights where they hold an open mic all night for new writers. On Sunday nights the new writers that make it past the audition get to perform three songs each.” The Bluebird CafÃ© is revered as the mother church for songwriters in Music City.
Debi said that some venues will set aside full-hour shows for writers while others just book a few writers doing showcases of their work.
The key questions for a host to consider are: do you audition people ahead of time? Do you let anybody who want to perform be a part of it? How many songs do you let each songwriter play? Your main objective as a host is to make the artists feel comfortable, welcome, and to give them a good experience for testing or sharing their creative voice. And again it provides a wonderful meeting place for circles of connections as writers, singers, artists, business people, fans, and friends.
Always show up at least 30 minutes before hand to check in with your host. Be tuned, warmed up, and otherwise ready to go before you hit the stage. And when your name is called – go! Plug in your guitar or keyboard, and be ready for a quick sound check.
“Keep songs close to radio time, which is between three and three and a half minutes,” Debi said. “Don’t explain what your song is about before you play it. Let the song speak for itself. There may be a few exceptions, but if you spend five minutes explaining the song and then sing the exact same thing you will lose the listener’s interest.”
Debi has a few additional tips for maintaining the interest of the audience. She advises against playing a lot of slow songs in a row because listeners tend to lose interest and not pay attention.
“As a general rule, if someone plays a slow song before you in a round, you need to do something up tempo,” Debi said.
This brings up another key bit of advice. Be prepared with a varied handful of songs that are well-rehearsed. Be supportive of other songwriters and singers. You want to be heard, so listen to what they share and learn from it.
Reasons To Play Writer’s Nights
The number one reason is exposure. Your work is heard, and you get the chance to hone your communication skills by relating to a live audience while competing with background sounds such as clinking glasses, casual chatter, and the occasional heckler.
Debi believes that what is most important to remember is that you write, sing, perform, and share your gifts because it’s something you love.
If you’re ever in Nashville check out one of Debi’s songwriter nights at the Commodore, visit www.debichampion.com for more information on Debi and upcoming writer’s nights at the Commodore Lounge. She is an amazing singer, with a rich, folksy voice that invites the listener to kick back, relax, and feel at home.