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  Bill Pere:  Executive Director

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A History of CSA: The First Decade (1979-1989)

What is Song Craft ?

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Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting

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  SO WHAT THE HECK IS "CRAFT", ANYWAY?

By Bill Pere (adapted with permission from Bill Pere's SongCrafters Coloring Book)

One meaning of "craft" is a transportation vessel that takes you from point "A" to point "B". But ask a hundred people what is meant by "song"craft, and you may get some blank stares. However, it can be thought of the same way. Craft is a way of getting songs from point "A" to point "B". So let's take a step back--

Ask a hundred people what the role of a songwriters organization is and you'll likely get a hundred answers. In  practice, there are many different roles that such an organization could play, thus it comes down to how the organization defines and presents itself. The three broad facets relating to songwriting are: (1) the art, (2) the  craft, and (3) the business.

What would an organization look like if it focuses exclusively on each of these? An arts-based group would be  one which emphasizes and supports creative expression in any form, with little application of rules, guidelines, or  formats, and which does not judge or evaluate songs in any prescribed way. Members would be seeking affirmation,  encouragement, and the opportunity to network with like-minded folks. "Success" is measured solely by the artist's  own internal criteria. Such an organization is likely to be a non-profit entity, functioning as a support group, and  discussing topics such as creative process.

A craft-based group would have much of the above, but would add a new element. Craft often gets a bad rap,  for when confused with the artistic focus as discussed above, it may perceived as "imposing too much structure",  "selling-out", "compromising artistic integrity", etc. But exactly what is "craft"? Consider the craft of  woodworking;   A woodworker is an artisan, and may create what he or she wishes without regard to any rules.   However, one can certainly learn about such factual things as the nature of different woods; how to make smooth, secure joints; how to sand and varnish wood; how to use different kinds of hand tools or power tools, etc. This knowledge builds skills which enable the artisan to bring craftsmanship to his or her art. The emphasis here is on education with the objective of providing tools to make the best possible product. Individuals still have their own definitions of success and complete artistic freedom. Craft-oriented organizations may discuss rules and guidelines as they apply to craft (i.e. how), not art (i.e. what), and may evaluate or critique the execution of technique (i.e. how) without judging artistic value (i.e. what). Members may be seeking the same types of things as in an arts-based organization, with the added desire for education about tricks of the trade and seeking to create a more polished end product. Such an organization is likely to be a non-profit entity functioning as an educational group centered on the music and lyrics.

A business-based group focuses on commercial outcome of the product. The emphasis is on whether or not it can sell, regardless of the underlying elements of art and craft. Success is generally defined in terms of tangible outcomes such as money or recognition, and members would be oriented toward this type of goal. Critique of products is given with commercial outcomes in mind, and the information presented may revolve around marketing strategies and tools. Such an organization is often organized as a business league, and though it itself may be non-profit, it will not typically have a tax-exempt status. Discussions may focus on production and marketing.

So back to the original question of where does that leave a songwriters organization? The answer is that a songwriters group can be any of the above, individually or in combination. It is up to the organization. What is most important is for the songwriter to make sure that their personal goals fit with those of the organization, or at least be aware of where they differ.

CSA has always been, first and foremost, a craft-based organization, while encompassing all the elements of an arts association as well. Our charter defines us as "A non-profit, educational organization dedicated to improving the art and craft of original musical and lyrical composition". That has been our clear statement of purpose since 1979 and all of our programs are centered around this purpose --  helping writers craft the best songs that they can, while defining their own personal goals and artistic outlets. We clearly acknowledge and address the importance of providing programs about the commercial side of songwriting, and we do regularly provide such programs,  but that is not our primary focus.

If a new writer comes to CSA seeking only support as an artist, or assistance in commercial pursuit, they may be disappointed by the emphasis on tools and techniques for crafting music and words. But considering that many other songwriter groups are either arts-based or commercial-based, it makes CSA one of the most unique  groups around, and one of the best at what we do. We have been here for more than a quarter of a century and have helped many writers find their own artistic vision, craft it to the pinnacle of polish, and go on to reach their self-defined destination of success.

The role of craft is often not well understood, but it sits right in the in the middle of that journey from creation to realization to proliferation, and thus itís hard to get around it, or to get around without it.

Additional Information:   www.billpere.com  and  www.ctsongwriting.com


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PO Box 511 Mystic CT 06355  --  info@ctsongs.com