6 Resources That Helped Me Become A Hit Songwriter (And None Of Them Is A Guitar)

Man vs Row

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.

Here is my list of 6 resources that helped me become a hit songwriter.  Will merely using these resources guarantee that you end up with a top 5 Alan Jackson single like I did?  No, of course not.  But they were helpful to me, and I hope they’ll be the same for you.  Now, let’s get to the goods.

1. NSAI (www.nashvillesongwriters.com) 

NSAI, or Nashville Songwriters Association International, is a great organization with chapters across the world.  I attended Angie Owens’ workshop in Bono, Arkansas, while I was in college.  Not only were the lessons (and occasional pro writer) sent from Nashville educational, it made me feel that Nashville wasn’t so far away.  It made the dream more real.  I also used the Song Evaluation Service, where a published songwriter would listen to the song I sent in and give me their feedback.  It was both encouraging and educational.  NSAI also gave me a place to go on my 1st couple trips to Nashville- their office and their Thursday night workshop.  NSAI has a lot more services now than back when everything was off-line, so I definitely recommend checking them out.  There is also a similar, newer, organization called Global Songwriters Connection.  Check them out at www.globalsongwriters.com.

2. ASCAP (www.ascap.com)

ASCAP is a performing rights organization (PRO).  Basically, they collect airplay money from radio stations, etc. and send it to their writers and publishers.  I joined a few years before moving to Tennessee, and it gave me a place to play songs.  Now, I had to call early and often, but I was usually able to get a sit-down meeting with a writer’s representative, who would listen to my mediocre songs and give me advice.  There are two other PROs in the US- BMI (www.bmi.com) and SESAC (www.sesac.com).  Check each of them out, and get in where you fit in.

3. Songwriting books.

I read whatever I could find on songwriting and music publishing.  Not only did these books give me a lot of techniques and info which helped my writing, I learned a lot about the music biz.  That helped me look like less of a novice on my first trips to Nashville.  Here are some that really helped me out, along with links…

“All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald Passman

“Writing Better Lyrics” by Pat Pattison

“The Songwriter’s Guide To Music Publishing” by Randy Poe

“The Songwriters Idea Book” by Shelia Davis

4. My Local Music Scene

I was living in Little Rock at the time, and there wasn’t much of a songwriting community.  But I connected to what I could find.  My cowriter (pretty much the only one I had at the time) played one of the rare songwriter nights in Little Rock.  (I’m a non-performing lyricist.)  This led to us meeting an aspiring music publisher, who introduced me to my first real live Music Row publisher in Nashville.  He was also the guy who first told me about Erin Enderlin, who would write “Monday Morning Church,” our Alan Jackson hit, with me.

5. An Organized System.

What good is an inspired idea or an unfinished lyric if you lose it in the back of a drawer or under the seat of your car?  I keep a “hook book” full of potential titles and song ideas.  I’ve kept the same list since I started writing songs back in 1994.  I only take titles off it when I write them.  That’s the one place I can go to sift through all my potential ideas.  I also have folders on my computer for “unfinished songs,” “finished songs,” “lyrics ready for cowriting,” etc.  I also have lists of potentials titles such as “beach ideas” and “gospel ideas.”  But everything goes on the master list.  Having an organized system allowed me to easily find “Monday Morning Church” when I was looking for lyrics to present to Erin.  The earliest draft of that lyric was 1 1/2 years old when I showed it to her.  That’s a lot of old notebooks to look through, if I would’ve even remembered to look for it.

6. A Talented, Connected Cowriter.

Songwriting is a team sport.  I was very blessed to be on a team with Erin Enderlin for “Monday Morning Church.”  I lived in Little Rock and really didn’t know anyone in the biz.  Erin, also from Arkansas, was going to college in Middle Tennessee and had been making connections.  And she’s a talented enough writer to take advantage of those connections.  A great idea and her talent and connections gave “Monday Morning Church” a real chance to go from a title in my hook book to a hit on the radio.

So, there you have it.  These are the 6 resources that helped me become a hit songwriter.  Everyone’s journey is unique- so your mix of talents and resources won’t be the same as mine.  But I hope I’ve given you some hope and some things to think about.  And thank you again for checking out Man vs. Row.  I hope it helps you become a more efficient, effective, and successful songwriter.

What about you?  What resources have you used or are currently using?  What results have you gotten?  I’d love to hear from you!

God Bless,

Brent

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12 thoughts on “6 Resources That Helped Me Become A Hit Songwriter (And None Of Them Is A Guitar)”

  1. One resource I use that is similar to the hook book is a software program called “Masterwriter”. It allows me to keep all of my ideas in one place and has tools for creating metaphors, phrases with key words, rhymed phrases and words, thesaurus, and much more. I chose the monthly lease option, so every month when my credit card is charged 9.95 it reminds me that I should get my money’s worth and go in and work on unfinished songs.

    I also use Pat Pattison’s book “Writing Better Lyrics”, and have all 3 of his books. Pat was my English Lit and Song Lyric Analysis professor at Berklee in 1976-1979.

  2. One great resource I have found to be invaluable is Frettie (http://frettie.com/), it’s run by songwriters for songwriters, and basically lets you upload songs or demos for feedback from other songwriters on there. It’s a great way to get an objective opinion on your song, and because it’s other songwriters the advice is really useful. I’d recommend it to anyone serious about developing their craft. Also I use an app on my iPhone called Songwriters Pad (http://songwriterspad.com/). It’s a cool piece of software, you can organise lyrics into blocks like verse, chorus etc., add chords, record audio and keep ideas all on your phone. It means that wherever I am if I get an idea I don’t have to rush home, just get my phone out! Hope this helps. Peace.

    1. Phillip,

      We really appreciate you sharing your love of Frettie with others! Glad to hear you’ve found it to be a valuable resource to your growth as a songwriter! We’re thrilled to have you a part of the community and look forward to the future! A special gift is on its way!

  3. I’ve been writing, writing and writing for 3 decades and have had the fortune of writing with a few pro-writers…I really liked this article and most of your articles which I enjoy reading…Out of the six resources you noted here I use all except No.3 so I must be doing something half right, well thanks for your input and keep’em comimg…Ben C

  4. Hi Brent… I was thinking of something songwriters would love to hear…and that istools that you use on a daily basis..such as:

    recording apps for your phonecomputer based programs for lyric  (word or pages if mac)rhyming dict  (Masterwriter or other?)Places you look for title ideas?  (Blogs, movie quotes, other resources)Recording software for the work tape (phone app or garageband)How and where you store ideas? (I know some writers store on Mastwerwriter then back up) I have my tools but I know many that have those questions..  Love the inspiration you provide.I had 3 great writes a few weeks ago in Nashville and I’m back in early Feb.

    blessings, Lance

    From: Man vs. Row To: lancefranklinmusic@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, November 24, 2014 3:18 AM Subject: [New post] 6 Resources That Helped Me Become A Hit Songwriter (And None Of Them Is A Guitar) #yiv9832665255 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9832665255 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9832665255 a.yiv9832665255primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9832665255 a.yiv9832665255primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9832665255 a.yiv9832665255primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9832665255 a.yiv9832665255primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9832665255 WordPress.com | Brent Baxter posted: “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.Here is my list of 6 resources that helped me ” | |

  5. The best book I’ve read about songwriting is a book about writing books titled: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. Other songwriting books were too musically technical for my use.

  6. Easy test for telling vs showing lyrics: Ask this question: Does the lyric contain the conclusion? If yes, that lyric is telling and needs to be rewritten. EX:

    tell- He came into the room mad as a wet hen
    show- His face was a bulging red and purple
    conclusion – He was angry

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