Things I Say “No” To

Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more.  He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

Two weeks ago, I discussed where I say “yes” to putting my time.  You can read it by clicking <HERE.>  Here’s the flip side of that coin – the things that maybe I used to say yes to, but now I usually can’t.  And none of these things are bad in and of themselves.  I just can’t say “yes” to everything.  This list might be useful when you’re deciding where to spend YOUR time.

1. Unsigned artists.

So few artists ever get signed, and I have so little time, that I just can’t invest for a few years on something with so little chance of success – especially when it would mean taking up time I could be spending with a signed artist.  I wish I could write when more unsigned artists (I know some great ones), but I just can’t right now.  A few exceptions are a couple of close friends (who rock, work their backsides off and cut our songs).

2. Random cowrites.

I’ve had to put off writing with several of my regular cowriters because of time constraints- friends with whom I expect to get good results.  So it sure doesn’t make sense to sit down with a stranger- unless I have good reason to think they fit one of the things that make me say “yes.”

3. Non-commercial songwriting.

I’m trying to earn enough in royalties to “buy” my way back into full-time writing.  I have to focus on where I have the best chance to make the most money.

It’s not easy to say “no.”  There are times I feel like a jerk, and there are probably people who think I AM a jerk for saying “no.”  But I can’t let that determine my decisions.  I have to do what’s best for me and my family in the long-term.  And let me be clear- what you might want to say “no” to is not necessarily going to be the same things I say “no” to.  Each situation is different.   If you’re going to be successful (and as you become more successful), you’re going to have to say, “no,” too.  Just try and be honest and graceful when you have to turn down an opportunity.

God Bless,



Anything you’d like to add or ask?  Leave a comment!  Are there any topics  you’d like to see addressed in a future MvR post?  Thanks!


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13 thoughts on “Things I Say “No” To”

  1. Can’t wait for the “free stuff”! And by the way, you’re a great blog writer, concise and entertaining.

  2. Always entertaining Brent – – life is full of filters and as you get more and more successful you start to filter out the things that take away from your core purpose. Its sad on one hand because you start to limit yourself from discovering new and wonderful people, but good on the other hand because you are not losing sight of your prize. The internet allows so many people to reach out and collaborate and share experience and wisdom. I think thats its cool to say “no” to requests, but I think one should always say “no” with grace 🙂

    1. Michael, it certainly is difficult, though having to turn down opportunities because you have too many is a good problem. You never know what you’re missing out on, and I sometimes worry people will think I’m a jerk or “just about the money and not the music” or whatever. But since I can’t physically say yes to everything, I try to say yes to the things that give me the best chance to keep writing music AND feeding my family.

  3. Wow, this is great! Thank you very much Brent for always trying to help out your fellow writers. Even though I’m not a writer, I look forward to reading & participating with this awesome blog of yours every week, thank you again! =)

  4. Brent – What do you do if you are a no-name songwriter trying to make a name? I don’t feel I’m in a place to only say yes to signed artists. Heck – those artists usually don’t have time to write with me (a songwriter who only has a few independent cuts). I have a 2-year goal to make enough income from writing/tv & movie cuts that I can quit my teaching position. What are some good ideas to move in that direction?

    1. Hey, Nate. I think the trick is to say “yes” to the most effective things within your particular orbit- wherever that is at the time. Writing the best songs you can with the most professional, connected cowriters you have access to (if you cowrite). Then you take those songs to the industry at whatever entry point you have available, whether NSAI or the head of Big Machine. As you and your crew do better and better work, meet more people, etc., your orbit will spiral up. You’ll become more and more connected & you’ll have access to more potential cowriters, etc. That’s the only way I know to do it, unless you just happen to be hometown friends with a star. But remember, neither Erin Enderlin nor I had ever had a cut before Alan recorded “Monday Morning Church.” Neither of us had a staff songwriting deal at the time, either. Hang in there, bud. I’ve heard your stuff. You have talent, and you’re a good guy. And, hey, if your Seahawks can win the Super Bowl, anything is possible!

  5. Brent I just want to let you know how I love to read your blogs on Man vs. Row… Im so proud of you… and your great talent…

  6. Brent I can’t thank you enough for the time you get to spend helping us here on your blog. I absorb every bit of info and advice you share like a sponge. I’m excited to be coming to Nashville at the end of July to cut my first few demos at Daredevil Productions with Johnnie D. and Kelly and I am am taking all your suggestions to heart in order to make this the best demo session I can possibly do. Thanks for any and all time you give. ~Debbie

  7. I’d like to read your opinion about free streaming, and free down loads and the impact it has had on the industry as a whole… Ya know? People (signed & unsigned) oversaturating the market, and giving their music and work away for free?

    1. Boy, that’s a big can of worms. I think it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, you don’t need “permission” from a label anymore to get your music out there, as an independent artist. It can be good for the artist who knows how to use the free music to drive folks to a paid item (live show, full album, merch, etc.). To my understanding, most major-label artists don’t make much off album sales, anyway- they make their living off touring, merch, etc. So taking a loss off an album doesn’t hurt them too much, not if it brings more folks to shows. However, it’s not very good for songwriters. Spotify pays dittly to writers. Album sales have plummeted. Hopefully, this is just a rough time of transition before the money catches up. After all, music is played more than ever, it’s just paid for less. If the money doesn’t catch up, you’ll have most writers (even the ones getting cuts) won’t be able to live off just songwriting. But that’s mostly been the case for a while, I’d reckon.

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