Getting a foot in the door of rock ‘n’ roll business can be tough.
Ron Saltmarsh, a multi-award winning producer, composer and a professor at BYU’s School of Music, spoke with students in a lecture about how to be in the music industry, but not of the music industry.
“Use your talents for the benefit of mankind,” he said. “Some of the most meaningful and important things I’ve done with my music have had very little to no money attached to them, but they have meant more to me than the royalties I collect.”
Saltmarsh lived in Nashville, Tenn., for several years where he helped produce songs like “One More Day” for the band Diamond Rio and worked on projects for companies such as SEGA Games and “Good Morning America.”
“Getting a start out there (in Nashville) is tough,” he said. “I advise anyone who wants to go to Nashville: Don’t go there until you’re at the top of your game here because I thought I was a good guitarist until I went to Nashville.”
Saltmarsh told the students about how a production company offered him an opportunity that would have made him more money in one project than he had made total in the previous year. The project was for nationally known brewery’s advertising campaign.
Saltmarsh said it was not an easy decision for him to make, but he had to decline the offer because of his personal standards as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I’d never seen money like that,” he said. “But I have to be true to who I am. At the risk of ruining that entire professional relationship, I told them I would have to pass on this out of my belief system. I had to make the decisions that were right for me, and you’ll have to make the decisions that are right for you.”
Saltmarsh added that he not only learned new skills while living in Nashville, but also learned more about himself.
“I thought I had moved to Nashville to do music,” he said. “I did a little bit. I found that when I let the Lord put his hand on my head and steer me, things turned out really well.”
Matt Pace, a graduate of BYU’s media music program, from Las Vegas, Nev., was among the listeners. He noted some things Saltmarsh said that would help motivate him in his career ambitions to write musicals.
“I really liked his message that when he lets the Lord point him in the right direction as far as his career goes, that everything turns out all right,” Pace said.
Michael Bahnmiller from Montana, studying media music at BYU, hopes to write film scores.
“One thing he said reminded me about not checking your religion at the door,” Bahnmiller said. “I liked his message of being a Latter-day Saint in whatever situation you’re in, not hiding that.”
Brantley Henderson, from West Jordan, is a BYU graduate student studying vocal performance.
“I thought it was interesting that he mentioned tithing your talents,” Henderson said. “The thought of taking one out of ten projects and dedicating that to the Lord hit me as a way to better use my talents.”
This story was updated on Jan 19, 2012.