A Hit Songwriters Advice On How To Survive
Now, I certainly don’t know everything about songwriting and how to get cuts- if I did, I’d be writing a song on a beach somewhere right now. But I have been blessed to land a top 5 country hit in the US (“Monday Morning Church” by Alan Jackson) and a #1 country hit in Canada (“When Your Lips Are So Close,” by Gord Bamford) and several other cuts by artists such as Lady Antebellum, Randy Travis, Joe Nichols, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens and others along the way.
I’ve had just enough success and more than enough failure to learn a few things. Today, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned so you can hopefully have some of the same successes and avoid some of the same failures.
Don’t try to import sand to the beach.
If your songs are doing what everyone else’s songs are doing, nobody has a reason to cut your songs. Be bold. Be innovative. Give the artist a reason to cut a song that comes from outside their established relationships.
Your team matters- build it wisely.
It’s been said that you are the average of your five closest associates. Make sure that those closest to you are people who will lift you up. What
you want is a team you can rise WITH to be successful, not a team you have to rise ABOVE to be successful.
Get to know as many decision-makers as possible.
The story of a cut is often the story of relationships. The more (and deeper) relationships you have with decision makers in the business, the better chance you have of getting cuts.
Enjoy the journey.
If you want to “go pro,” be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. You have to enjoy every mile. If you don’t have an attitude of gratitude and celebration along the way- if you delay gratification until you get your first #1 – you’ll likely burn out and quit long before you get there. Work hard, do the hard things, but make sure you enjoy yourself.
If you enjoy songwriting, it’s easy to get caught up in playing – writing with whomever comes along, demoing whatever song tickles your fancy, and pitching sporadically. You need to be intentional. You need to have a purpose to your actions. Otherwise, you could end up being like an octopus on roller skates- there’s a lot of activity, but it isn’t getting anywhere.
Choose your song ideas carefully.
Don’t just write the first idea that pops into your head or the first one your cowriter throws out. Without having analysis paralysis, try to write the best idea you can find- the idea best suited to help you achieve your goals.
Be patient, but not lazy.
You have a long journey ahead of you. You need to pace yourself so you don’t burn out or get too frustrated too early. But you also have to be persistent. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re being patient when you’re just being lazy. You can’t ONLY wait for good things to come to you – you have to get out there and work.
Keep a modest lifestyle. Keep your overhead low so you can afford to take a low-paying publishing deal (if that fits your goals). Save money for when you’re between publishing deals. And if you get a hit, don’t spend it. Save and invest the royalties. Cash in on the street cred a hit gives you, so you can get more hits.
Write with a future-focus.
Country music of today isn’t the country music of the 1990’s, or even of the 2000’s. What is “commercial” evolves, and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll look up from your guitar one day to realize everything you’re writing sounds dated.
Music is a wonderful companion, a thrilling career, and a gift from God. But music is NOT your god. If you let it be an idol- if you make it into a god- it will become a demon. It can break up your marriage, destroy you financially, and turn you into a self-centered jerk. Music is an incredible thing, but it’s not meant to be your everything.
Thanks. I hope you find this helpful. If you want to read more of my songwriting tips, check out my blog at manvsrow.com.
This was a guest post from my good friend and hit songwriter, Brent Baxter. Thank you Brent. Stay Tuned for our upcoming podcast The C.L.I.M.B. (Creating Leverage In the Music Business).
PS: If you haven’t already downloaded my free Music Marketing On Twitter book, please enjoy it on me. Go to GiftFromJohnny.com put in your name and tell us where to send it. It’ll teach you how to get 1,000 new targeted followers every month for just 15 minutes per day.
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