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.
THE PRO KNOWS
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