Songwriter, are you working IN your business, or ON your business?


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.

Sometimes, I get so busy working IN my songwriting business that I forget to work ON my songwriting business.

Let me give you an example.

When I signed my publishing deal with Major Bob Music in early 2005 (my first publishing deal), I was an unknown songwriter who had an Alan Jackson single climbing the charts. “Monday Morning Church” would eventually land in the Top 5, I would be nominated for the Music Row Breakthrough Writer of the Year, the song would be one of only 12 voted that year by NSAI’s pro writers as a “Song I Wish I’d Written,” and it would also win an ASCAP Airplay Award. 2005 was an incredible year.

How did I respond to this blessing? I wrote my backside off!

I dove headlong into writing full-time. That year, I finished 102 songs. I wrote like crazy. That’s pretty much all I did. Write, write, write, rewrite, and occasionally demo.

And it was a mistake.

I spent too much time working IN my business and not enough time working ON my business.

Working IN my business included scheduling cowrites, songwriting, rewriting, and demoing. And I did plenty of all of that. And those aren’t bad things. After all, nobody else can write my songs for me. And without songs, I have no business.  Still, though…

I wish I had worked ON my business more.

I work ON my business when I’m doing the higher-level strategic thinking and planning that make sure that my activities are the right activities. Working ON my business is doing those activities which will give my songs a better chance to succeed. And I had every chance to succeed.

Like I said, 2005 was an awesome year, and it opened a lot of doors for me. Additionally, the guys at Major Bob asked who I’d like to write with, and they helped book some cowrites for me. They also pitched my songs and set up some demo sessions. All good things.

But if I had it to do over, I would’ve spent more time:

1. …having Major Bob introduce me to A&R reps and producers around the Row so I could start building relationships with them, and pitching my own songs.

2. …investing in my craft and business knowledge. Sure, I learned by writing a lot and writing with a lot of better writers, but I should have sought out some great, high-level mentors to accelerate my learning curve on both the craft and biz sides of songwriting. I should have asked a lot more questions over a lot more lunches.

3. …seeking out strategic cowriting relationships. I mostly jumped at every cowrite that came my way without much consideration. That kept me so busy that I didn’t spend as much time SEEKING OUT my best cowriters.

4. …building the “Baxter Brand.” While the Major Bob crew flew my flag around the Row, I should’ve done a lot more flag waving myself.

Working ON my business more would’ve helped me write songs that were more well-written, more marketable, and heard by more decision-makers, sooner.

Yes, my songs got better because I wrote a ton (and, yes, they needed to get better, so writing a lot was a good thing). My network slowly expanded organically. And I eventually started pitching my songs. And these are things that have brought my best results.

Working ON my business would’ve gotten me there faster.

So what about YOU? Do you need to spend more time working ON your music business? What activities are the ones which will accelerate your success? And what are the activities that are fun, but are working IN your business? I’d love to hear your comments!

God Bless,



Thanks to those of you who have already downloaded my book, Think Like A Pro Songwriter! It gives you insight into valuable things like “how to connect to a music publisher,” “how songwriters know who’s looking for songs” and more!  You can get it FOR FREE at or by clicking on the image below. Enjoy!


4 thoughts on “Songwriter, are you working IN your business, or ON your business?”

  1. I used to spend a whole lot of time ON the business end of music, way more so than IN the music.

    I set up all kinds of structure, long before I really had any content to manage with all that structure. Hey, I had to be ready when that 20th song I wrote hit and it was all going to launch!

    I guess I started on the other end of the tunnel from you. Like your post, it was good and wasn’t a waste, it just wasn’t the best balanced approach to head down the path where I want to eventually end up.

    Good news is I didn’t have to back all the way out of the tunnel, it didn’t collapse and I didn’t have any head on collisions. I sort of became a musical meerkat in that I took off into other tunnels and made a few of my own, still in the same colony though.

    We’ll get there, slow and steady progress is the current approach, keeping the plane level and at a manageable decent and ascent rate.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. I am now balancing both but man it is hard. I have two children, two jobs and two bands along with managing all my great co-writers who are very successful and singing the demos and pitching my songs all over. I am now also going to be a student at Berklee online in September so I’m going to sop up some major business courses on how to pitch and read contracts. Thanks for giving us your advice. We all need it, tough business. Love it.
    Kim Yarson

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