5 Things Songwriters Must Know To Go Pro


Nobody can provide you with an exact roadmap on how to get from being an amateur songwriter to being a professional songwriter.  But here are five things you must know – and act upon – if you want to go pro.

1. Nobody turns pro alone.

You have to build a network.  Songs move from hand to hand (or inbox to inbox) and into the right hands based on relationships.  These relationships can range anywhere from business acquaintances to best friends.  You MUST get to know people, and they must get to know your music.

2. “Professional” means your songs earn money.

In order to earn money, your songs have to have value in the market- somebody wants to record them, and a bunch of somebodies want to buy them.  To live off your royalties or to get and keep a pub deal, you songs have to earn significant income.  Your job is NOT to write songs.  Your job is to write songs that make money.

3. Songwriting is NOT your hobby – it’s your business.

If you treat it like a hobby, that’s all songwriting will ever be for you.  And that’s fine.  But if you want it to be a business, you have to act like a professional.  The serious writers make the serious money (sometimes).

4. Good enough isn’t good enough.

To break into the biz, your songs can’t be “just as good as” the worst stuff on records and radio.  If an artist wants to cut mediocre, they’ll cut THEIR OWN mediocre song, or their buddy’s or their producer’s.  Your song has to compete against everybody else’s BEST songs.

5. You WILL have to sacrifice.

The professional songwriters are the ones who have been willing to sacrifice.  They came home from their day jobs and picked up the guitar instead of the tv remote.  They spent their Spring Break in Nashville instead of at the beach.  They left family to move to Nashville.  They waited tables – even though they had a masters degree – just to be there.

Thanks for hanging in there with me- I know this post is more about perspiration than inspiration.  Work hard, good luck, and God bless!



What did I miss?  Anything you’d like to add or ask?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment!


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Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter

Brent Baxter Music:  http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com

8 thoughts on “5 Things Songwriters Must Know To Go Pro”

  1. Brent, I would like to thank you for writing this blog, for telling us how it is, for trying to motivate and giving inspiration, and for wordplay Thursdays which helped me write a new song. Songwriting has been a hobby for me for 30 yrs but one of these days I would like to make it a new career. And now since I am following your blog I love to see Man Vs. Row in my inbox. Thanks again, Mark

  2. harder for lyricists these days, once upon a time I would have been taken on just for my writing skills, seems there are no opportunities like that anymore, so much for winning SCALA, though I will persist, learn to play the guitar put down my own demos, possibly in a few years, patience is a virtue I’m told. written some 70 odd song lyrics by the time I learn to play I will be not be able to find the time to arrange them LOL, it is about patience though.

  3. In the mid 90’s I read a book by Ken Kragen called LIFE IS A CONTACT SPORT. Ken organized We Are The World, and Hands Across America. Some of his clients have been Kenny Rogers, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. One thing that this read did for me was change me from a songwriter to a lyricist. I finally took a hard look at what my real skill sets were and were not. It seemed when writing music everything I ‘d written was filtered through my fingerstyle folk style of playing, the words weren’t great but they were solid, with the help of a song coach I worked on becoming much less attached to what I’d written the “first time” to what I can make it with re-thinking and re-writing, with much attention to structure and flow. Words are free, make them work for the song. Then a little later came the songU experience and membership in NSAI. Then I had people wanting me to “fix” their lyrics…I’ve ended up with my name on a lot of song by-lines because of that and a lot of successful songwriters in Nashville and London happy to work with my words. Life is a contact sport…
    Hey Brent, sorry if I’m out of line here

  4. Hi Brent,

    I’ve really been enjoying your articles, keep up the good work! Like many aspiring pro songwriters I do have a question/concern about copywriting: Is it important to copyright songs prior to getting them “out there”? Thanks!

  5. As a Lyricist I would advise you to collaborate with a great composer. It could take years to find the right relationship. It too me six long years. Many melody makers do not have the story lines to compliment the composition. Put an ad on Craigslist in Nashville offering to pay for day work. You will get many inquiries. Do not be impatient and wait to find the right artist. Don’t fall in love with your lyrics as the composer may only retain the chorus or hook to finish your demo.

    1. JD,
      Thanks for sharing, welcome to the MvR conversation! I don’t know about paying for a cowriter. Guess it really depends in your goal. If it’s to get cuts/hits, you probably want to find a cowriter that is looking for the same success. That may not be the same person who is willing to write for a day rate- unless you can pay for a pro. But even then…
      Again, thanks for sharing!

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