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American Society Of Composers, Authors, And Publishers (ascap)



“I try and help people achieve their musical goals; I help anybody who is willing help themselves. I'm like a lawyer for the musical spirit. I'm here to help facilitate and gravitate towards success,” says Herky Williams.


Skills that helped Herky Williams become successful are his ability to tell the difference between good and great music. “There are a lot of people walking around with really good songs. The great songs are the ones that have an impact. The difference between good and great is millions of dollars. I have an intuitive instinct that enables me to sit right here and help out.”



“A lot of times when people sit in the chair opposite me, they are looking for a helping hand. I teach them that they have one at the end of their wrist and I show them how to use it.”

“You need to have a ‘triple H degree.’ That's hangin’ in, hangin’ on, and hangin’ out. You've got to hang out and know who the competition is and how high the bar is; see why someone is making lots of money and how you can incorporate what they are doing into what you're doing to make you more successful.”

“I try to devote time each day to catching up on listening to music,” says Williams. “I receive anywhere from 90 to 115 writer or artist packages each week. A lot of times I don't have good news for them. People don't realize how high the bar. After listening to music, I have appointments with people I'm working with.” On any given day, Williams may attend a writer or artist showcase, or help present an award to a songwriter who has just had a number one hit.


“Dealing with people who are so rigid and so sure they know what they're talking about that they won't take any input or constructive criticism. I don't think I'm the last word, but I think I have a voice.”


“Knowing I helped facilitate something that was successful. There is a young girl over at EMI Publishing named Nikki Hassman, and I was in the mix in helping her secure a major label deal with Tommy Matolla. I was playing golf with some people and played her music for them. They took it and the rest is history. Those kind of things make me feel successful.”


“I think you've got to really love music and be a student of it if you want to pursue it as a job. The industry takes 100 percent of your involvement to succeed. Whether you're trying to get your songs cut, be a producer, a publisher—whatever—go work in the mail room and learn the business. It's a competitive business on all levels. The people who are persistent and persevere are the ones who succeed. Hangin’ in, hangin’ on, and hangin’ out applies. You've got to know the town and how it ticks. Know who the players are.”


In the 1970s, Herky Williams was an Austin, Texas golf pro with a passion for music and an ear for a good song. Although he made friends with the many music artists he golfed with during their tours through the area, few of them took his interest in the music business seriously. (“I was giving lessons to Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker, Jerry Jeff Walker.”) “I don't write, I don't sing. I don't play an instrument. For years I was trying to get in the music business and they would always introduce me as their golf pro. I had to overcome that. It took a long time to get where I am today. I tell people, ‘I slept on more couches than Lassie.’”

He made an unsuccessful attempt to break into the Nashville music community in 1982, and went back two years later after finding songwriter David Lynn Jones, whose work he believed in. Armed with a tape of eight songs, he made the rounds of his contacts, but none of them paid any attention. Back on the golf course in Texas, friend Willie Nelson offered him encouragement and took a copy of the tape when he returned to Nashville to record with Merle Haggard. When Haggard left a session and didn't return, Nelson pulled out the tape and recorded six of the songs. Living in the Promised Land became the title of the hit 1985 album, a number one single, and a Nelson classic. On the strength of that success, Williams moved to Nashville to make a place for himself. “I struggled. My wife worked and supported us. I used to tell people ‘I'm in the music business, but I can't prove it.’”

After struggling for four years, golf buddy, mentor, and Capitol Records head Jimmy Bowen discovered just how broke Williams was and gave him a job at his publishing company, Great Cumberland Music. “I never asked Bowen for anything,” explains Williams. “He thought I was doing great because I could always pay my golf debts—I didn't lose many back then.” After his wife gave birth, complications prevented her from returning to work and the family found themselves strained financially. “Scott Simon and James Stroud went to Bowen and said, ‘We need to help Herky get a job. He's not doing too good financially.’” Hired as an entry level song plugger, Williams proved he had a gift for discovering and nurturing talent. Among the many artists he found and signed were John Berry in 1990 and Deana Carter in 1991. When the publishing company was sold in 1992, he moved to Capitol Records as head of artist development. Following a major label shake up, he decided to move on, but was unable to find work for 18 months. When Deana Carter's 1994 debut album sold five million copies in the first year, Williams’ creative abilities were once again recognized. He settled into a position as director of creative services at ASCAP Nashville, focusing on what he does best: discovering and nurturing musical talent.

In 2001, Williams was promoted to assistant vice president of creative services, membership, Nashville, reporting directly to senior vice president Connie Bradley. His duties include securing publishing and record deals for ASCAP members as well as placing songs with artists, labels, and producers.

Since 2000, Williams has also served on the board of directors for Stereo Vision Entertainment, Inc., a film production company focused exclusively on developing low-cost, high-quality, 3-D films. He is acting secretary-treasurer for the company. www.ascap.com and www.stereovision.com

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessEVENTS, ORGANIZATIONS, SOCIETIES, AND UNIONS - South By Southwest Annual Music Festival, National Association Of Recording Arts Sciences (naras), Country Music Association (cma)