Tag Archive for: Cole Swindell

Song Not Enough

Good Songs are not enough.

I received a tremendous response to my last article entitled “Your Biggest Mistake Ever” (thank you). It seems everyone is starting to catch on to the importance of marketing. Songwriters (hopefully) have great songs but struggle with getting attention and getting them monetized and I want to thank those of you who asked me to write about some strategies on how to advance a songwriting career using marketing techniques.

Songs Cartoon Man

How does one influence the buying decision of someone looking for songs to cut?


The answer is presentation and relationships.


I have some ideas.


Songs B2b B2CRight off the bat, if you aspire to be a songwriter and not an artist then your business model is B2B not B2C. Meaning you want to sell your songs to people who will make recordings that generate revenue as opposed to creating the actual recording that will generate revenue.

Get it?

B2B = Business to Business.

B2C = Business to Consumer.



Trust me when I tell you that your game plan has to be ALL about relationships. The more relationships you have, the more opportunities you create for yourself. Songs Bonds


Relationships in the entertainment industry are everything and songwriting is no different.


Songs 2 Turtle Doves


You need relationships with other songwriters and up and coming artists. These relationships will naturally lead to connections with producers, A&R execs, publishers, song pluggers etc.



Songs Network Computer Key


Did you ever notice that when Adam Sandler makes a movie it’s always got the same cast? Those people are his friends.Songs Sandler




Songs NigelDid you ever notice that whenever Christopher Guest makes a movie (“This is Spinal Tap”, “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show”) the cast is almost exactly the same? Those people are his friends.


Could Sandler and Guest find superior talent with other actors and comedians in their industry?  Sure, they’re big stars, their movies make money, and they can get anyone they want.

I happen to love their casting choices, but there is always someone more talented or someone with bigger and better marquis value, right?

Why stick with the same old, same old when you can get this year’s “Johnny Hot Sausage”?

They make business decisions to write and cast their movies based on relationships first.


Is it surprising that Ashley Monroe is singing a duet with Blake Shelton when you find out she is friends with Miranda Lambert?Songs Ashley Monroe

Is it surprising that Ashley Monroe co-wrote a couple Miranda Lambert songs like “Me and Your Cigarettes” and “Heart Like Mine”?


Did you know that Cole Swindell was frat buddies with Luke Bryan?

Is it surprising that Cole Swindell co-wrote a ton of Luke Bryan hits?


Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Good, so we’ve established that while you certainly need great songs, success as a songwriter requires relationships.

Great songs are simply not enough.

Songs How picOk, so HOW do you create relationships?


My first (and very obvious) thought is a Sam Kinison’s advice to end world hunger, tell the hungry to “GO WHERE THE FOOD IS!”


Move to where there are a ton of songwriters. The more songwriters and artists, the more opportunities, right? It’s a numbers game so stopSongs 1940 crowds having your dream build up and get crushed on 1 opportunity.


You will require many.


If you can’t move to an artist-centric city like Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles then you can certainly visit from time to time and make it worth your while; have a strategy for targeting and creating relationships.


Songs LocationI know, I know, that’s not possible for all of you to physically move. Let’s explore some other ideas.


Let’s tackle the big question, what if another songwriter, publisher, producer, or artist says “YES”?



Do you have a solid professional representation of your songs that demonstrates your talent or will you be presenting your product with excuses and disclaimers about the quality of songwriting and/or recording?Songs No Throwing Garbage

Disclaimers suck.


Songs Cars Covered in IvyThink about the concept of disclaimers in a different light. Let’s say you go to purchase a car and you ask the person selling the car if it works. They tell you the car looks great but it needs a new engine, tires, A/C, and transmission because they never took care of it and they had a bunch of REALLY GOOD reasons why they couldn’t afford the time and/or money to do it.


Would you buy the car?

Would you care about the reasons why it didn’t work or would you simply focus on the fact that the damn car doesn’t run?

Nope. This is business, man, that car needs to get you reliably from point A to point B.

You don’t have time for nonsense when it comes to your car, do you?

Disclaimers about your product, i.e. the song or the recording, are UNPROFESSIONAL.

Professionals don’t have time for nonsense from non-professionals.

Make sure you have at least a couple competitive recordings of your very best songs so you can start a possible relationship off proudly, without a disclaimer.Songs Better


Get down to business with your presentation. Consumers want to be wooed and transported to your artistic world, business people need to hear what you wrote immediately so they can make decisions.


Remember, you’re selling the lyric, melody, and vibe of the song NOT the recording. In short, have a demo edit just for B2B presentations, no fat, just meat; similar to a movie director’s artistic cut vs. the distributed version of the film.

Once you have the tools you need to begin a professional relationship, I would focus on how to create a symbiotic relationship.

Symbiotic means both parties add value to the relationship.

One sided relationships never last, ever, think about it.


One sided professional relationships are impossible to start when it’s obvious that they are one sided. (The ONLY time one sided relationships have a chance is when they are a valued relationship for other reasons, but I digress)



In plain English, the big hit songwriters are not going to be beneficial to you immediately so I wouldn’t waste time and energy treating them like a “make or break” priority in your career.


Songs Ying Yank

This strategy will only render negative results which creates frustration and will leave you second-guessing yourself.


Find relationships within your “class” or “generation”. In this metaphor “class” and “generation” have nothing to do with age and everything to do with a measurable spot on an artistic journey.


Find your beehive.


Songs Beehive in a Tree

Don’t ignore or lament your place on the artistic journey, honor it.

It’ll make you better.

It’ll make you honest.

It’ll make you work.Songs Work For It


It’ll make for better songs.


If you’re really writing hit songs, believe me, you will attract attention from the appropriate people.

If you are somewhere on your way to writing hit songs, believe me, you will attract the appropriate people.


Songs Sandbox


Focus on finding songwriters who are willing to play in the sandbox with you, first; expand from there. This strategy will render immediate results that will add fuel to your fire rather than snuff it out.

Start targeting songwriters for co-writes.



If you’re in a big city, find out where the songwriters hang out and go there.


Participate in writer’s nights, open mic nights, go to artist shows, etc.


I would also be looking to target songwriters online.  There are HUNDREDS of songwriter communities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

The best way to create any relationship is to do something for them rather than asking them to do something for you.Songs Pepper Chef


What could you do for a songwriter you would like to work with? What are you good at? There is literally no better relationship builder than one person doing something for another person expecting nothing in return.


Expect nothing in return.


Songs GiftTime is something we all have and it’s the best gift anyone could give. How could you offer up your time to benefit someone you would like to create a relationship with?

Daredevil Production creates regular, long lasting relationships with all the interns we work with.  They offer their valuable time in exchange for knowledge and a course credit.

This means the world to me. I NEED it.

Get it?


What do other songwriters need?

Everyone needs gas money, grocery money, musical equipment, gift cards, etc.Songs Good At

What if you went online to a songwriting community and offered up a simple contest? For instance, if you are a lyricist you would post up your best lyric and offer a $25 gift card to songwriter who can write the best melody to it.




Get weird.


That’s a nice little artistic challenge with a possible immediate payoff.

You just created a relationship with a writer who possesses a clear talent to complete your artistic circle and it only cost you $25.


Maybe a songwriter needs a service or skill outside of the music business that you can offer up.

Maybe they need web design, logo design, construction work, legal help, accounting advice, automotive maintenance, recording time in your home studio, etc.


What do you have that is of value?


Quit focusing on one song. This will limit your responses and become disappointing. Maybe your one song is a smash hit song but it isn’t trending right now.Songs Attention

For instance, in the 90’s ballads were huge, ballads were trending. Now they are not in style. So if you’re emotionally pinning your hopes and dreams to a ballad in today’s market you’re going to get a ton of rejection.

Nobody is buying ballads today, regardless of the quality, like nobody is buying hamburgers for their vegan restaurants.



Quit focusing on getting ROI on 1 song or a limited amount of songs. If you require instant return on your investment to believe the journey is worth it, professional songwriting and the entertainment industry is not your bag, baby.

Songs Austin Powers




The more you write, the better you get, the more relationships you create and/or deepen.

The more you write the more product you have to monetize when you do get a big break with your first cut and/or single.



The more you write the bigger your body of work becomes which makes you look more professional.


Songs Twisted NailThink about it this way, if you were buying a house would you trust the carpenter who’s built 100 houses or the new guy who has big dreams and no reputation?



One final way I can think of (at the moment) is to do some business.

  • Organizations like NSAI are a great place to run into other songwriters.Songs SWAMB
  • PAY for mentorships with hit songwriters. You will learn, you will improve, and you will develop relationships, you write better songs.
  • Songwriter Conferences like
    • SongwritingandMusicBusiness.com are FANTASTIC events to meet other writers, industry pros, network, and get great feedback/advice on how to navigate the songwriting business.
    • Tin Pan Alley
    • Here’s a Music Connection guide to songwriter conferences.








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Prove Your Worth

We are constantly hearing comments from up and coming indie artists like “I just need to get my deal [and then I’ll be successful]” or “If I could just get in front of the right person, I know I could be successful.” I got news for you, the record business doesn’t work like that anymore. These days it’s simply not enough to have talent, you have to PROVE that you’re worth it.

You have to PROVE that your art has value in the marketplace.Prove Show you are valuable small


In other words you have to create success for yourself before anyone of value or power will believe that you can generate revenue for them.

Do you see the naïveté in those comments?

You cannot intelligently approach this dream of yours thinking that someone else is going to make you a star.

Record labels are no longer developing artists, they are now buying small business and turning them into big businesses.

Prove Daredevil Production

The Daredevil Production, LLC business model is built around this fact. Kelly and I develop artists artistically and in the marketplace to help them become small profitable businesses so they will be more attractive to the big money players.

You can’t build your business model around a 20 year old music business model.  Yes, there are exceptions to the rule.

  • What intelligent business model is built around exceptions to the rule (A.K.A. winning the lottery)?
  • If you did win you would actually lose because your deal would suck so bad you might end up being a broke country star.

Prove National LotteryFYI, there were plenty of broke rock stars in the 80’s and it wasn’t because they were bad with money, it’s because they were rock stars making $400/week.


Pretty sad, huh?


Do you want your deal to look like this?




I got more news for you, even in the heyday of the record business, the “easiest” record deals came to the derivative acts.  The acts that were signed simply because the labels saw some quick money to be made with an artist that could capture a little Prove Iconicmarket overflow from a lane forged by an iconic trailblazer.


The game-changers, the icons we know today HAD TO PROVE THEIR VALUE IN THE MARKETPLACE because they were so different.

The story hasn’t changed much.

This statement is relative to every decade in the music business.Prove High Risk

No one wants to sign something that is different from what is happening right now on terrestrial radio because it’s too risky.

How do they know if the market will like it?

If a genre or artistic lane is getting a lot of love on terrestrial radio (like “bro-country” for instance) there is proof that the style is popular in the marketplace and therefore money to be made.

If you are different or new, in any decade, YOU would need to provide evidence that even though terrestrial radio is currently not playing your style, your music has VALUE in the marketplace.


Prove DIY

You are going to have to do this yourself.





Here are 20 artists who had to prove their music had value to get their record deals.


  1. Mötley Crüe – Nobody wanted to sign Mötley Crüe. They were too weird.  They created their own record label Prove Motley Crue Too Fast For LoveLeathür Records and self-released Too Fast for Love.  Mötley’s local popularity was so huge in 1981 that they sold 40,000 copies in Los Angeles alone.  FYI the wiki link says 20k but I’m pretty sure my sources are more accurate. ;)  These sales led to an Elektra Records deal in late 1982 where they remixed the Crüe’s debut record and re-released it. Mötley Crüe incarnated the glam-metal-hair-band genre of the 80’s.  Thank you fellas!
  2. Ratt – Since 1976 many self-financed singles, records, and live show recordings were being distributed to galvanize Ratt’s (previously Mickey Ratt) LA club following. This led to a Prove Ratt Out of the Cellarmeager indie record deal where they released the Ratt EP in 1983.  After 20,000 units sold that was enough to convince Atlantic Records that they had value. Atlantic released their debut full length record entitled Out of the Cellar in 1984.
  3. Bon Jovi – Jon worked at a shoe store while mopping floors at The Power Station Studios in NYC where he was granted access to the storied recording facility after hours. When did he sleep?  He recorded 50 + demos of Prove Jon Bon Jovi“Runaway”(one was produced by Billy Squier) and shopped them to the labels.  Nobody cared. At the time, Jon was also WORKING for WAPP “The Apple” writing and singing jingles.  DJ Chip Hobart asked Jon to include “Runaway” on a compilation record for the station (a move Jon was very apprehensive about) and that single became a huge “local” hit.  Local was NYC which was the #1 market in the country and that was enough proof to entice A&R rep Derek Shulman to sign Jon to Mercury Records.
  4. Skid Row – The first Skid Row record was written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Prove Skid RowJack Ponti. Skid Row band members Dave Sabo and Rachel Bolan were listed as writers for the purposes of street cred which was mission critical to hair metal bands of the 80’s. This record was entirely created and funded by Jon Bon Jovi after the Slippery When Wet album tour was finished. He had proven his skills had value in the marketplace. Even with all that power behind him (Bon Jovi was probably one of the top 3 acts in the country at that time), and the record completed, Jason Flom from Atlantic Records wouldn’t give Skid Row a deal until Bon Jovi agreed in writing to allow Skid Row to open every date on the upcoming New Jersey World Tour.  After that contract was signed guaranteeing massive exposure for the band, Flom gave them a $1,000,000 cash advance.
  5. Florida Georgia Line – FGL was developed by one of the most powerful and successful Nashville songwriters, Craig Wiseman. They were produced by multi-platinum engineer/producer Joey Moi.  All this power and marquis Prove FGL Cruisevalue and every label still said “NO”; they were too different.  They STILL had to prove they had value.  They exercised a relationship on satellite radio where “Cruise” became a smash hit.  Then they orchestrated an 8 month tour to support the single (privately financed) where they succeeded in selling 100,000 downloads of the single. The record didn’t change, the songs didn’t change, and the production didn’t change. The only thing that changed was the perception.  Every label then said “YES” and they signed with Scott Borchetta’s Republic Nashville label under the Big Machine umbrella.
  6. Zac Brown Band – Zac had been touring over 200 dates a year with an acoustic trio Prove Zac Brownsince 2002. Constantly writing and recording and shopping to record labels. They were “too pop” for all the country labels and “too country” for all the pop labels. While Zac was touring they were selling records, tickets and merch. They managed a small profitable ZBB business for 10 years which was enough proof to garner one of the sweetest deals in town which is really a Joint Venture between Zac’s own Southern Ground (formerly Home Grown) label imprint Prove Luke Bryanand Atlantic Records.
  7. Luke Bryan – reached success as a songwriter to prove his music had value. He penned the title track to Travis Tritt’s 2004 release My Honky Tonk History. Which helped him get a deal with Capitol Records.  Here’s the thing, while he was working on his debut album he managed to co-write Billy Currington’s #1 single “Good Directions” which certainly helped when it came time for the label to allocate promotional funds for Bryan’s debut record.
  8. Brantley Gilbert – Proved his music had value in marketplace by writing hit songs first. Prove Brantley GilbertHe had cuts like “The Best of Me” on Jason Aldean’s 2009 release Wide Open. This resulted in an indie record deal where he released his debut record that included “My Kinda Party” which became a #1 after it was re-recorded by Jason Aldean for his 2010 release of the same name.  Brantley’s 2nd #1 was “Dirt Road Anthem” co-written by country rap artist Colt Ford.  This effort led to Brantley’s deal on Scott Borchetta’s Valory label and insured proper attention to Brantley’s releases once he got his shot.
  9. Chase Rice – He co-wrote one of the biggest hits of the last 5 years “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line. BIG time proof his music has value.  Now he has a deal and a gold single with “Ready, Set, Roll”.
  10. Sam Hunt – He penned Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over”, Keith Urban’s “Cop Car”, and Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight” before independently releasing his own single. This led to a major label deal with MCA Nashville and his current #1 single “Leave the Night On”.
  11. Cole Swindell – wrote these songs to prove his music had value. Then he independently released “Chillin’ It” and THEN he got his deal with Warner Bros.Prove Cole Swindell
    1. Craig Campbell’s “Outta My Head”
    2. Luke Bryan’s “Just a Sip”, “Beer in the Headlights”, “Roller Coaster”, “Out Like That”, “I’m Hungover”, “I’m in Love with the Girl”, “Love in a College Town”, “Shore Thing”, “Shake the Sand” and “The Sand I Brought to the Beach”
    3. Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That”
    4. Scotty McCreery’s “Water Tower Town” and “Carolina Eyes”
    5. He also co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “This is How We Roll” with Luke Bryan
  12. Lee Brice – Co-wrote Garth Brooks 2007 single “More Than a Memory” which was the first single in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart to debut at #1. He also signed his artist deal with Curb Records the same year. Coincidence?
  13. Ani DeFranco – Ani has been independent all along. She started her own label Righteous Babe Records at the age ofProve Ani DeFranco 18. She recorded everything on her own with an 8-track reel to reel and toured her ass off.  She put out 5 records from 1990-1994 before partnering with Koch International to distribute her 6th independent release Not a Pretty Girl.  Who knows how many major label deals she has turned down?
  14. Granger Smith / Earl Dibbles Jr. – These are both the same person. By independently writing, recording, and releasing records Granger Smith has utilized social media to create an empire that generates over $1.5 million dollars per year in revenue. This activity created the college football picks on-air position Earl Dibbles Jr. holds every Saturday with CBS.
  15. Jamey Johnson – He co-wrote the huge Trace Adkins hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” which garnered him a deal with BNA Records in 2005.
  16. Randy Houser – Co-wrote “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” with Jamey Johnson and Dallas Davidson for Trace Adkins in 2005. That proof of value led to a major label deal in 2008.
  17. Karmin – Proved that her talent had value in the marketplace by posting consistent YouTube videos of cover songs. Prove KarminThe breakthrough was her cover of “Look at Me Now” by Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, and Busta Rhymes. That video currently has over 93 million views and led to a record deal and a solid fan base.
  18. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Are the first duo in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart to have their first 2 singles go to #1, both without the support of a major label. The duo accumulated 613 million views of their video for “Thrift Shop” on YouTube. They currently have over 1.3 million subscribers on their YouTube channel.Prove Macklemore
  19. Noah – Posted a cover that he creatively manipulated to his own artistic lane on YouTube for 77 weeks in a row. He built a steadily growing subscribership until the 77th video which was this version of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”. This video blew up and went viral.  Around 2 million views he started monetizing it.  Around 6 million views, he implemented a pop-up to direct viewers to his IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign where he was able to procure $100,000 for his first record.  He now has over 22 million views and a solid career.
  20. Thomas Rhett – is the son of hit singer songwriter Rhett Akins. Prove Thomas RhettStill, it took until he wrote “I Ain’t Ready to Quit” which was cut by Jason Aldean for his My Kinda Party album to prove his music had value in the market place which resulted a major label deal.




All these hit artists had to PROVE that their music was valuable BEFORE they got their deals or continue to prosper independent of major deals.


Nobody is going to come to your door and make you a star.

Nobody is going to risk their money on what you plan to do.

Major labels and big private money investors will only invest in your career based on your reputation.

You can only have a reputation based on what you have done, NOT what you are going to do.

Stay in tune.


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