A lot of musicians ask me how to get into the Key West Songwriter's Festival. A fair question as it's not only by far the largest music festival in Key West all year, but it's also the largest music festival of it's kind in the world!
As I'm very fortunate to be in it, I get the question very often. The fact of the matter is, the cards fell into place for me. Other than that, I really don't know for sure? What I can say is:
A) How I got into it.
B) General observations. As far as the general observations go, I ask that you understand that I may be 100% wrong on all of it, or I may be 100% correct. I also could fall anywhere in between. One of my strong points is logic and without all of the background information available, all of this is a guess based on the information that I have.
Some who have asked me over the years have been genuinely interested in being in the festival. Others have been either frustrated that they are not in it, or downright pissed off that they are not in it. One guy, a blues guy from the Big Pine area, about thirty miles up the Keys from Key West, was a complete jackass about it, and basically expected BMI to come knock his begging him to be in the festival. Guess what? That will never happen. BMI alone has a catalog of over 750,000 songwriters. He expects them to come to him? This guy was just completely unrealistic and refused to contact them. The nutcase not only unfriended me on Facebook but blocked me as well, after I took the time to explain that he needed to contact them.
The overall point here being, I had the complete gamut from the very sincere, to the complete, psycho wackos contact me about it. What I have found is that many don't understand the festival itself.
The gist of the festival is that BMI Nashville sends it's writers on a little vacation to Key West to hang out and play. They will send other writers here as well, but the majority by far are Country writers. After all, it is Nashville and Nashville is the hub of Country music. Having said that, those who write in Nashville are far from being exclusive to Country music.
How I got into The Key West Songwriter's Festival
To start, I was signed with McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville in 2000. In doing so, they had me sign up as a BMI writer. Being in Nashville, they lean in the direction of Country music, albeit many forms of Country music
After I moved to Key West, I had my publisher contact BMI about being in the festival. I've been in ever since.
The key point here: My publisher is in Nashville and he knew right off the bat the person to contact at BMI.
I don't know the inner workings of how this event is put together, nor do I care to know. It's not my business. I am very fortunate to be included in the festival for the last seven years and consider it the highest honor I get as a songwriter by being included! Thank you to all who have included me!!!
However, if I was not in the festival and wanted to be in it, here are the things I'd look at, in no particular order and make my approach with these as a guideline.
- The festival is put on by BMI Nashville and local organizers here in Key West. What I was told is that the roster is put together by BMI Nashville. This being the case, there would be no point in contacting the local people. They wear many hats year round, the festival being one of them, and asking them questions only bogs them down and doesn't advance your quest. Go directly to the booking source.
- As BMI is the organizer as far as performers go, it's only natural that being a BMI writer is to your advantage. Having said that, I have seen a few ASCAP and SESAC writers in the event over the years.
- If you have a publisher, have them do the leg work. It's one of the things they do.
- BMI is not going to come to you. They have over 750,000 writers, if anyone thinks they are going to contact them, they might stop and ask themselves if they actually think BMI will contact the other 749,999 writers asking them if they'd like to play the Key West Songwriter's Festival as well. I had to get off my ass and make the effort. Anyone who wants to be in the festival must do likewise.
- There are over 230 songwriters in the festival. They come from all over the globe. New York, London, Los Angeles, Austin, Germany, Australia, but the vast majority come out of Nashville.
- BMI has offices in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Atlanta, and Puerto Rico. The Key West Songwriter's Festival is put on by BMI Nashville.
- I am currently dealing with BMI on help with information completely unrelated to the KWSF. I have dealt with four different people there, and everyone has gone out of their way to assist me and likewise been both very helpful and extremely pleasant to deal with. They have all gone out of their way to assist me. Customer service rating is 110%.
- From my perspective, if money is involved, anyone will give you more attention. If you don't file for your performance royalties, you're leaving money on the table and that money is yours! You've hired BMI (or ASCAP and SESAC) to do this for you. Remember, they have 750,000+ writers. They're not going to guess what you have in performance royalties. They don't have time. However, they are set up for you to list your songs so that they can pay you. It's up to you. However, I can't help but think that if they are paying you, it might motivate them to promote you as well by putting you in the Key West Songwriter's Festival? See links on how to file below.
- Again, the KWSF is put on by BMI Nashville. The majority of songwriters that come to the festival are from Nashville, and they are pretty deeply entrenched in Country music, for the most part. I can't help thinking that having Country music as at least part of your repertoire is a bonus? It's not essential, but I would think it helps.
Everything here is a guesstimate. I may be totally wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. On the other hand, it may just be a guide. It is based on logic and it does make sense. That doesn't mean it's correct, however. Use your best judgment and all the best of luck!
Links on how to file for performance royalties:
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