In her role as SESAC Vice President of Creative Services, Shannan Hatch is an industry-revered songwriter advocate. She leads the PRO’s Nashville-based creative services team in recruiting, signing and nurturing songwriters and publishers, as well as retaining existing writers and publishers.
Since landing her position with SESAC exactly 15 years ago today on August 2, 2002, Hatch has worked closely with songwriters including Steve Bogard, Lee Brice, Jamey Johnson, Runaway June, Craig Campbell, Rob Hatch, Josh Hoge, Jesse Lee, Richard Leigh, Restless Road, Jaron Boyer, Cary Barlowe, Lance Miller, Monty Powell, and Michael Tyler, along with Americana tunesmiths Hayes Carll, Jim Lauderdale, and Allison Moorer, among many others.
To celebrate her 15th anniversary with the organization, MusicRow sat down with Hatch to discuss her impressive career, past accomplishments, and contagious excitement for the future.
How did you first get into the music business? What was the first step that led you into such a successful career?
When I was 18 or 19, running amok, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, a lady named Susan Collier was doing PR and she needed some help. I started working for her part-time. She was friends with Ed Morris who was writing a book and needed help researching. I spent the summer working for her and researching Ed’s book in the old Hall of Fame library.
I gained an appreciation for styles of music that I didn’t gravitate towards naturally. Through that, I learned I really loved the country music business and I loved working with people. So I went back to college and got a degree in public relations at MTSU. I received a marketing and psychology minor, and I find sometimes that psychology minor comes in more handy than anything else.
After college, AristoMedia was looking for someone to work in their PR department under Kay Clary. She hired me so I got the opportunity to work with Jeff Walker. We had a great time and I got to work a lot of his projects including Keith Urban’s first two solo projects.
What was your first job at SESAC and how did you land that position?
My first job was in writer/publisher relations in 2002. I had been doing PR for about ten years and was out every night seeing the shows and meeting the songwriters. I was always looking at the liner notes and seeing who the writers were. Then I’d go out and see them. A lot of my friends were in the tape copy rooms at the publishing companies and were starting to get jobs in publishing. SESAC called me and asked if I was interested in coming over there to work in writer/publisher relations. I was already pretty much doing that anyway so it was a natural transition for me to join them. And 15 years later, I’m still there.
Let’s talk about your creative services team, which is responsible for recruitment, signing and nurturing. Can you talk more about the nurturing aspect?
It’s different for everyone and that’s one of the great things about SESAC. We don’t have to sign everyone that comes through the door. We look at whether it fits with licensing objectives or whether it is a good fit for filling an open slot. But a lot of it has to do with personalities and who we want to work with and who we can work with, which is a really great liberty we have. We all see the same goal and work together, nurturing writers. We set up co-writes and set up publisher meetings. If they’re looking for producers, booking agencies, management, or whatever they need to get to the next step in their career, we help.
What’s the most important advice you give to your writers?
I find that a reoccurring thing I say is, “No one is going to work harder for you than you are working yourself on your career.” So don’t expect me to be working harder than you’re going to work. We all see writers and artists that come to town who think they’ve got a lot of talent. But they haven’t gotten out there on the street and seen what’s actually out there. There can be a lack of reality with a lot of people who come to town. If people don’t live in Nashville, I like to invite them to town to experience Tin Pan South. That’s a really good bar. If you think you can compete with that, then this is a town that you should move to. But if you don’t, then you need to stay where you are. Don’t relocate your family because there are other people doing it every day and are willing to work very hard on their careers.
Name a time in your career when you said to yourself, “Wow, this is really cool!”
Wow, there are so many great things that have happened. My most memorable moments are usually when someone else has done something really great. One of my favorite moments was when my husband won Songwriter of the Year at SESAC. It was a good night. Also having my son at a No. 1 party was a special moment. Being able to see my friends go from pounding the doors, up and down the Row, and writing songs, to having record deals and publishing deals. Each one of those things is celebrated. In those moments, I think, “I’m so glad and so thankful that I get to work in this business and get to celebrate with people who deserve it.”
It’s important to celebrate the women in our industry who are succeeding, like yourself. How has being a female in our industry personally shaped your career?
In the music business, it’s changed a lot. When I first started, there were only a handful of women who broke the mold. There were certain jobs that females did. I got to see, for instance, Frances Preston and Connie Bradley running big companies and doing some really great things. I came up in a time that it was starting to change. I feel like it’s going in a really great direction right now. People like Leslie Fram, Tracy Gershon, and Beverly Keel with Change the Conversation, is a great example. I look up to those women and have a lot of respect for what they’ve done. I’ve been very fortunate. My mother is a very strong personality and has always been able to point me in the right direction when I may not be seeing the big picture. She’s my source of inspiration and has always been a person who I can pick up the phone and call. And I’ve got a sister who is a badass and very successful in real estate here in Nashville. I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of great women around me.
What advice would you give someone wanting to succeed? What would you tell yourself 15 years ago?
Don’t ever underestimate yourself. Through the years, I realized that I have an opinion. I have an opinion that matters and people actually want to hear my opinion. I feel like I’ve grown in a business sense a lot in the last five or six years. Things that I was hesitant to say in a room before, I’m not. I wish that I had not hesitated years ago because I do know what I’m doing. I think we all give ourselves a hard time and underestimate what we know and what people want to hear.
The growth of Nashville is changing so much with so many people moving here. How is this growth affecting the industry from your perspective?
I feel like one of the beautiful things about Nashville is the sense of community, and no matter how spread out our entertainment music business gets, I feel like we still have that. There is something very exceptional and unique to this town and this genre of music. I see it growing but I don’t see that sense of community going away. Our sense of community will always set this town and our music business apart from others. The music business is not only a business to me—it’s my lifestyle. The people I’ve chosen to work with and those who have chosen to work with me are an extension of my family. That’s what I love about what I do and I’d like to see that continue. Our generation can really help the younger generation keep that sense of family here in Nashville.
What are your thoughts about celebrating 15 years with SESAC?
Old [laughs]. When I first came to SESAC, it wasn’t necessarily a home. It was the next transition in my career. But it became my home and there have been so many fabulous transitions in my journey inside SESAC. People like Kelli Turner, John Josephson, Dennis Lord and Sam Kling have given me a lot of strength and courage to do things differently at SESAC. SESAC’s adapting and changing, just like everything else.
I can honestly say I’m more excited at the future of SESAC than I have been of the previous 15 years, which is a really cool thing to say about a company that you’ve been working at for so long. I don’t have to go out and sell SESAC. People come to SESAC and ask questions now.
It’s not just SESAC, a performing rights organization, it’s SESAC, a music rights organization. That really drives me to expand and learn different things. Being able to look into all of these ways to help writers get more money and having a company that’s growing like this, makes it a brand new day at SESAC.
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