Replay Wednesday: Bullseye

Replay Wednesday

(Here’s a Man vs. Row post from back in the archives.)

You walk into a room called “Country Music” and Mr. Music Row hands you darts.  He says, “These darts are your songs.  Hit a bullseye with a dart, and that song gets cut.”  You look at the wall on the far side of the room, and you notice that there are bullseyes of all different sizes.  Some are fairly large, and some are small.  Some are so small, you’re not sure they’re really even there.  It’s up to you to pick your darts and start throwing.

The room is also full of other songwriters.  Some are just lobbing darts in the air.  They don’t aim at anything, they just throw.  They figure if they throw enough darts, something is bound to land eventually.  Some songwriters throw dart after dart after the smallest bullseyes on the wall.  Some throw darts at blank spots on the wall, where they would like a bullseye to be.  Some are so busy aiming, that the dart never leaves their hand.

If your goal is to get a song recorded by major artist, your best bet is usually by throwing at “the big bullseye.”

Well, how do we do that?

We make choices as songwriters.  And the better we are at our craft, the more options are available to us.  For example, you can choose to write an idea as a slow ballad, or you can choose to write it as an uptempo (fast song).  The uptempo song is the bigger bullseye.  You can choose an idea that makes your singer look good (bullseye) or look bad (small bullseye).  You can write the song from the point of view of an 85 year old woman (small bullseye) or as a 21 year old girl (bigger bullseye).

How do you know what the big bullseye is?  Well, size of the bullseye is simply a measure of how much demand there is for a certain type of song.  This changes over time, so you need to be aware of the market.  Trends shift.  What was a big bullseye in the 1990’s might not be a big bullseye anymore.

However, one type of song always seems to be a big bullseye.  This is the “first-person uptempo positive love song.”  That’s not exactly shocking news, if you pay much attention to the radio.  This type of song is probably your best bet to get a cut.  I’m not saying, however, to never write a small bullseye.  Those can be hit from time to time- it’s just harder to do.  What I’m saying is to be aware of the realities.

Be intentional.  Be aware of the choices you make.

God Bless,


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.

Man vs Row

6 thoughts on “Replay Wednesday: Bullseye”

  1. Brent,

    I’m listening to “50 Number Ones” compilation album by George Strait. I’ve reached track 22 and have noticed there are relatively few first-person uptempo positive love songs – in fact, seems to be predominantly “blue” ballads.

    So my question is, how do you account for that? Different era(s)? An artist who has had success going against the grain? All the uptempo love songs are later in the album?


    1. Eric,
      First of all, as I look at my copy of “50 Number Ones,” I know what I’ll be listening to in the truck tomorrow…

      Secondly, good question. I think it’s a mix of things. Era probably accounts for part of it (like you said, more tempos appear later on the album). Plus, Strait, as an established hitmaker can better “get away” with a ballad than most new artists. Plus, that album came out in 2004, and that’s a while back. I think the “positive uptempo” thing has been pushed more and more since then. Great question, though! (And great album!)

  2. Brent,
    Thank you for this fresh reminder. I think I aim for too many tiny bullseyes. It’s where I feel most comfortable. But it’s time to climb out of the imprint I’ve made on my worn couch. Thank you!

  3. “Uptempo positive love song.” are always in….
    If a guy posesses the skill and desire to lyricize such uptempo positivity about his love for intangible force ..whether it be a spirit or a muse or a thought or whatever he wants to poeticize about, as long as, like i said, it exhibits skill, passion, positivity, uptempo love…then…it’s likely cuttable, yes??

    1. Nick, I wouldn’t say that anything is ever “likely” to be cut (just because of the math)… but, yes, I’d say it’s MORE likely to get cut than other types of songs.

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