What Is Your Songwriting Endpoint?

Man vs Row

Brent Baxter 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.

At different times in my songwriting history (and I guess I’ve been doing this long enough to officially consider it “history”) I’ve had various “endpoints.”

What is an endpoint?

The endpoint is the basic target your efforts try to hit. It’s where you focus your effort and where most of your effort ends. It’s the horizon you don’t often look past.

When I first started out, my endpoint was a finished song and a worktape. It felt great, and I had a sense of accomplishment and something to listen to. I dreamed of hearing one of those songs on the radio. But pretty much all I did about that was dream.

Years later, after I had moved to Nashville, my endpoint was to impress a publisher so they’d start pitching my songs. Sure, I dreamed of getting songs on the radio, but on a day-to-day basis, I didn’t work at anything beyond landing a good publisher relationship.

Later still, I had a publishing deal and my endpoint was often getting my publisher to demo songs so THEY could pitch them. I’d even had a hit on the radio by this time, but I couldn’t really see beyond the demo.

These days, my endpoint is the farthest it’s ever been. The endpoint now is getting cuts and singles. I’m writing with just a few artists and the conversation and work centers on getting songs on their records and on the radio. Demos, if they’re discussed at all, are recorded to pitch to the artist’s label for their own record. (If it doesn’t make their record, then we’ll pitch it around. But that’s Plan B.)

Sure, I’ve worked for years to get to the point where it’s realistic to talk about cuts and singles. But how much further would I be in my career if hits had ALWAYS been the endpoint?

Instead of aiming at just writing songs, what if the endpoint had been writing songs that an artist would want to sing? (And not just what I wanted to say?)

Instead of effectively washing my hands and walking away when a song got demoed, what if I kept going, getting my demos in the hands of decisionmakers myself?

Instead of playing that demo for an A&R rep and then letting off the gas, what if I kept working to get the song to the people who made the final decision?

Instead of being happy to just write a song with a baby artist, what if I had really focused on writing that special deal-getting song with that artist?

Most of the endpoints I’ve had have not been set consciously. There were just set at the next song or the next step in my career.

And those steps (write, publish, demo, etc.) are each good steps. But they are each just steps on a staircase. If those steps are your focus, where your attention and energy is focused… you might just miss an elevator with its doors wide open.

I wonder how many I missed?

I encourage you to take a look at your goals for your writing- then take an honest assessment of where your attention and energy is focused. Have you set your endpoint where only a milemarker should be? Milemarkers are great- they mark progress and keep you feeling motivated.

But a milemarker is NOT an endpoint.

God Bless,

Brent

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9 thoughts on “What Is Your Songwriting Endpoint?”

  1. This is awesome!!!! Thanks so much for the reminders that we can control more than what we think and how powerful our actions can be.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Thank you, Brent. Could I share with you a moment? I hope you won’t mind.

    I am notorious for juggling too many ducks – too many to put in a nice, color-coded row and taking aim. 😉 I’m a freelance writer / designer (day job) and I am a songwriter, singer, musician, wife, mom by day and night. I’m in Central AR NSAI (love it) and I’m playing now and then as an artist and songwriter (trying to keep it respectful and not putting my schedule before theirs). I just won (this past week) a small songwriting contest. It left me and a buddy with a small amount of cash and local recording time that I want to use wisely.

    I feel like I’m a fortunate one to have gained a little attention. I also recognize about myself that I try to do too much and it comes back to debilitate / paralyze me sometimes. I’ve always had a hard time prioritizing and going one step at a time.

    I’m not sharing any of this as a complaint. I said all of that to say that with my struggles in mind, here is something I would gladly pay (as I can afford) for: a detailed consultation / coaching session where I could share all of my specific irons (goals and jobs / obstacles / opportunities) and get help prioritizing where to go from here, what to focus on first, second, third. Who to discuss this with, then that. If you’d be interested in providing that kind of a consultation – a nuts and bolts specific look at my situation, please let me know. I want to put some cards on a table and see where to go from here. Not looking to win the game just now … but would like to focus on finishing the first hand strong, biting off the second hand, heading to round three, etc. 🙂 Looking to come up with a semi-specific plan or at least a better idea of what direction (s) I should head in.

    If you’re interested, let me know what you’d need and how it could work. I’d love to get advice from someone neutral and separated from my situation. If it’s not something you’re interested in, I understand and that’s just fine. I’m still taking it all in and appreciating the advice you and others share. If you’d ever care to evaluate one of my songs to see if you’d be up for a country co-write with me, let me know. I’ll send one right over. 🙂 If I’m out of line asking that, I want to know that, too. I will learn from it and avoid repeating the mistake. You will NOT hurt my feelings with honesty. I’ve been in business too long for that. I’m just hungry to learn what I need to do, and I want to do it in a way that won’t adversely affect my family.

    So happy to see your success! Again, no complaints. If I’m over the line, just say the word. Thank you for listening.

    All the best, Casey

  3. @Brent, wonderful column/blog it had me written in every word ! @natalia616, so well put, and from the heart. I hope you get your opportunity !
    Happy Holy Days

  4. Good information. I have always felt my music will only have a chance when things are at the right place at the right time with the right people. I know I have done some good stuff but, as an outsider to Nashville, it appears there is no good blueprint for being discovered.

    As an example, recently I read an article how it is a good idea to have your music reviewed and, if they come up positive, post a line or two from the review with the name and source of the reviewer. Great advice but the article offered no list of where one is to submit their music.

    Also, it seems like the world of the performing and creative artist might be very different from the world of the purely creative artist who’s only desire is to write so that they may hear others perform their songs.

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