Board Feed: Cliff Goldmacher
San Francisco Chapter
“Diversify your portfolio.” Just as Wall Street wizards advise, musicians from Tin Pan Alley to Music Row recognize a varied skill set will help you get gigs, sign deals, and do good business. SFC Governor Cliff Goldmacher certainly does. As a songwriter, producer, performer, and industry player, Goldmacher has followed his muse from Music City to Gotham to the City by the Bay, and he’s learned a lesson or two along the way.
You have roots in both the Bay Area and Nashville. Do you find those markets differ substantially for professional music makers?
Actually, before moving to the Bay Area from Nashville, I lived in New York City for about five years. Each place has its own feel and temperament, musically. Nashville is the home of musical collaboration, and it was an exceptional place for me to learn the craft of songwriting. NYC provided an equally deep music community, but it was informed by all of the other creative communities that New York is home to. It was an intense place to work, but I’m grateful for it. Finally, it’s the lifestyle in the Bay Area that I appreciate the most. There are lots of hardworking musicians, songwriters, and studio owners out here, but the pace feels more reasonable, and I’ve come to appreciate that.
You’ve written books on the subject, but what are three essential tips you’d give to songwriters looking to make a living of it?
The first tip is that it is, in fact, a business. Writing songs is a wonderful gift in and of itself, but if you want to make a career out of it, it helps to remember that the marketing of your songs – and yourself – is an essential component. Secondly, I’d advise writing songs simply because you love it. I read somewhere that writing songs for the money is like getting married for the sex. What I mean here is that the only way to motivate yourself to do the necessary is to be passionate about songwriting. The money will come if you do the work. Finally, I’d recommend a healthy dose of patience. My experience has been that nothing in our business comes as fast as we’d like it to. The key is digging in for the long haul and not getting discouraged if it takes longer than you think … and it will.
Credits are a big deal. How would you advise performers, songwriters, or producers to make sure they get credit for their work?
Being organized is a big part of this. Making sure, for example, you’re in touch with the decision makers on your projects so that you can gently follow up when a project is completed and be certain the credits are appropriate. Also, with online sites like allmusic.com, checking regularly will allow you to catch any mistakes or omissions and correct them.
In your lectures and lessons - most recently via your course on lynda.com - you must encounter musicians who have made some mistakes along the way. What are the most pervasive missteps that plague players, writers, and producers, and what’s the best way to avoid such pitfalls?
I think a lot of mistakes that all of us in music make early on are related to impatience. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re passionate about what you do, and to feel like your talent or effort isn’t being recognized. This can lead any number of bad decisions, from rushing into a bad business deal to showing your material before it’s ready to spending unnecessary money on a project that could develop at a more reasonable pace and budget. As I say to a lot of my songwriting consultation clients, “if you’re not planning on only being a songwriter/musician this week, then take a deep breath, do the work and, in time, good things will happen.”