6 Songwriting Tiebreakers

Man vs Row

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

Let’s say you’ve written a very, very good song and it’s on hold for an artist named Luke Paisley.  It’s down to your song and one other as what they’re gonna cut.  The artist likes both songs, so it’s basically a tie going in.  That’s when the tiebreakers might kick in.  These tiebreakers may include…

Personal relationships.

Is one of the songs written or published by a friend of the artist?  It’s more fun to call your buddy and say you just cut his song than it is to explain that you didn’t.

Business interests.

Would a publisher, manager, or someone else owe the artist or feel thankful if the artist cut one song over the other?  Is there some hidden long-term advantage to be gained?  Or would the artist or producer be returning a favor by cutting a particular song?

Financial interests.

If the artist is a writer or publisher on one of the songs, he makes more money by recording that one.

Safer bets.

If one song is written by a proven hit songwriter and the other isn’t, the artist (and his team) may lean towards the hit writer’s song.  Since it’s always a bit of a guessing game as to which songs are hits, a song written by a hit writer feels like a safer bet.


Does one song fit the artist and his brand a little better?  Will it speak to his audience in a way that’s a little more “on point?”  That can make the difference.  Or is one song too much like what he’s already recorded, and it doesn’t take him anywhere new?


Is one song more easy and/or fun to sing?

Now, you obviously can’t control which songs are your competition.  You just have to do what you can to give your songs the best chance to win.

Write the very best song you can.  Always.  But also spend time thinking about the tiebreakers and how you can turn them in your favor.  It’s not easy, and it won’t happen overnight.  But as you are mindful of this stuff as you build your career, it’ll pay off big time down the road.

What do you think?  What are some other tiebreakers I might’ve missed?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

God Bless,



Thanks to those of you who have already downloaded my book, Hit Songwriting: How A Songwriting Coach Can Fast Track Your Success! You made it an Amazon bestseller in both the Songwriting and Music Instruction categories, and I really appreciate it! However, if you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, you can get it FOR FREE at www.GiftFromBrent.com or by clicking on the image below. Enjoy!

Gift From Brent Songwriting 3


18 thoughts on “6 Songwriting Tiebreakers”

  1. My PRO rep whose husband is a hit songwriter paints a very ugly picture of songwriting in Nashville currently. You have 3 and 4 writers on every song because everyone is starving for cuts and the money you make from a cut is significantly lower than what it once was. Unless you live in Nashville and write every day with other writers, it’s almost impossible to get a cut.

  2. I personally think the cream will always rise to the top. I’d be greatful to shape the souls of others with my music, as to worrying about one person’s perception of an industry as a whole. Persistence, patience and a day job wouldn’t hurt anybody. A little humbleness goes a long way as well I figure! Look for the ugly, and you find ugly. Look for the good, and you find the good. Don’t let the Voodoo, create a Whoodoo.

    To me, tiebreakers can be success! Learn from it. Build on it. Perfect it. Like minds who think alike can shape what they want. Maybe the Pro’s only a “Pro” in their own mind.

    1. I’m not trying to be a downer or squash anyone’s dreams but you need to know the facts. It’s a brutal environment now more than ever for everyone in the country music industry. Labels don’t and haven’t developed artists for years. You have to be ready to go the second you’re signed. Song cuts are harder to come by than they’ve ever been and those getting cuts are writing with other songwriters and giving up publishing to get cuts. Mechanical royalties are down significantly due to the lower volume of song unit sales. And songwriters are compensated off an antiquated model that hasn’t been updated since 1903 to compensate them fairly and take into account current technology. That’s reason number one for joining NSAI and a PRO like ASCAP
      BMI or SESAC. They are fighting to get that changed in congress. So, what can you do? Not give up is the first thing. I can tell you what I’m doing in addition to continuing to pitch songs for cuts. I’m pursuing cuts in other genres besides country. I think writing songs with crossover appeal is a no brained and writing songs that aren’t country is a smart thing to do if you can do so. My PRO is taking one o of my songs to film and t.v. decision makers. Pursuing songs for film, t.v. shows and commercials is another avenue for getting cuts and making a name for yourself. Also, pursue cuts outside of the United States. Canada and Europe offer real opportunities. Finally, find a new promising artist or band to write for or with. That way you’re in place when they get signed and need songs. More importantly you have an established working relationship and know what they are looking for. I’m doing that currently with a very talented female duo.

      , BMI or SESAC. They are fighting to get that changed by
      congress. Everything Brent said in tie breakers is true and relevant.

      Now, let me spread some sunshine. This is what I’m doing

      1. Sure cant argue with any of that, Jeff. And remember, ya’ll- tiebreakers give you an edge, but they aren’t the ONLY reasons songs get cut.

        Yes, it’s hard and ya’ll have to be patient. I just want to lay down some truth so you guys know what you’re in for and can build your business accordingly.

        And hopefully you’ll feel thankful enough to write with me when you’re all hugely successful writers!

    2. Kim, there’s some good country music coming out of Canada (I’m partial to guys like Gord Bamford & Tristan Horncastle, but there are royalty reasons for that).

      While working toward Nashville, don’t neglect those artists and writers up there. Some artists make the jump from Canada to Nashville successfully. Same with writers. Ole has a big presence here and in Canada. And CanCon rules favor you over Americans like me. Use that to your advantage.

      Hang in there and enjoy the journey.

  3. Good list. Would a paragraph like the following belong?


    – Visceral connection –

    Maybe one of the songs deals with the passing of a beloved grandfather, and the producer’s died recently. Or the song talks about a cause, belief, or point of view that the artist feels passionately about. Whatever it is, the song that plucks the heartstring will have an edge over the one that doesn’t.


    1. I think that’s an excellent point! Alan Jackson mentioned how “Monday Morning Church” made him think about his mom after his dad passed. “The House That Build Me” reminded Miranda Lambert of growing up.


  4. Excellent info Jeff! Now let’s go write a song together! I do appreciate the cold, hard facts you guys are pumping out! Keep it comin! I’m all ears!

  5. Everything you said in tie breakers is true and useful information. A writer has to be on top of their game and develop meaningful business relationships to enhance their chance of success.

  6. I think a lot of what is coming out of Nashville right now is crap. I think it is time to give some independents a chance… either by law such as PSA’s on the radio (so many minutes of every day must be set aside for broadcasting independents) or by a contest or spoof. I would love to pay for 3 minutes of air time on a country radio station to play one of my songs and see how many calls and emails come into the station of people wanting to know who does it and where they can get it. That would prove Nashville is a loaded phony system not giving anybody but the insiders a chance.

    1. Well, I guess you can take some encouragement in the fact that in a few years all new cars will be equipped for satellite and/or wifi so you’ll have a ton more choices like XM’s The Highway which spotlights new and unsigned artists.

      And beyond that, are you getting your music out through the channels that aren’t guarded by gatekeepers? Are you building a fan base on YouTube, ReverbNation, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, etc?

      Sure, the gatekeepers still decide what goes on major radio and halftime at the SuperBowl, but there are more ways than ever to get your music out to fans and see if they really do like it.

    2. I understand frustrating but you do realize you came here insulting the guy who posts all the time and answers our questions and shares his knowledge with us. I hear this argument all the time about no good music coming out of Nashville. First off it’s obviously not true as you can look at the song sales and the concert sales, seems to be a ton of people that think it is good music. Is it different than it use to be? Sure, but all genres of music change as society changes. The entire world works on getting your foot in the door if you are trying to write music, publish a book, become a CEO, etc. It is estimated that only 15-20% of all jobs are even advertised that means 75-80% of jobs are based on “only giving insiders a chance.” And if you want to pay to get people to hear your songs pay for youtube advertising where you can pay to have a whole video played as an advertisement, I’ve found songs I never would have known of just like that.

      1. I’d say you’re both right. First, music doesn’t have to be good to make money. Ever hear of ghetto rap? Secondly, anyone who is a big fan of traditional country music or is a die hard songwriting purist who believes in great melodies and lyrics is unhappy with Nashville currently because an overwhelming number of songs don’t meet that criteria. Say hello to Bro Country. It’s selling, though. Traditional country music left Nashville and moved to Texas a number of years ago. It’s called The Texas Music scene. However, you won’t hear it on major radio. If you want to write great traditional country songs, Texas is where you need to be. If you plan on seriously writing in Nashville for mainstream country then you need to write either what’s in favor or ahead of the curve. Hopefully at some pont more artists and labels in Nashville will committ themselves to great songs and the public will embrace it. However, for mow that’s not the case.

  7. Brent’s blog and ebooks are pretty much spot on. It’s easy to get discouraged with all the “politics,” but learn the game and play it better than anyone else (with a kick-arse song or two in tow!). I’ve seen the gatekeepers nearly wipe out an EXTREMELY talented songwriter, who eventually got signed as an artist with Sony/Epic. Not long after, he died of cancer. Wasted years, wasted talent. But he was doing what he loved. That’s the key…

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