Fail. Fail. Fail… Win.

Man vs Row

Let me share some failures with you. Don’t worry. There’s a happy ending.

Elvis Presley was booed off stage in Batesville, Arkansas (my hometown). Garth Brooks got passed on by every record label in Nashville. “Bless The Broken Road” was a non-hit single for an artist named Melodie Crittenden in 1998. A songwriter named Brett James gave up on the music biz and moved back to Oklahoma. A young songwriter named Kenny Chesney was told by a cowriter they should hire a demo singer for their song because Kenny “can’t sing.” “Monday Morning Church,” written by two unknown writers, failed to make NSAI’s Pitch-To-Publisher Luncheon.

What a bunch of losers, right? What a bunch of nobodies who never made it and songs that failed miserably.

Of course, we all know that’s not how these stories end.

Garth, Elvis, and Kenny became hugely successful artists, selling millions of records. Brett James started getting cuts, moved back to Nashville, and has written a ton of hits. “Bless The Broken Road” became a multi-week #1 and career song for Rascal Flatts. “Monday Morning Church” went top 5 for Alan Jackson and got me into the music business.

That’s how life often works. Fail. Fail. Fail… Win.

Obviously, not every song and songwriter that gets rejected will eventually find major success. Honestly, most won’t. Some songwriters have countless “fails” before a win. Some don’t have very many at all.

So, if you have some failures on your ledger… so what? Dust yourself off and try again. Learn from your failures. Fail again. Fail better.

The truth is, we rarely know when we’re close to a success or a breakthrough. We just keep working hard, plugging away. Fail, fail, fail…

I know. It’s easy for me to say. I’ve been blessed with some wins to go along with my losses. And I can’t promise you that your next (or first) win is just around the corner. But I can promise you that failing is just part of the process. It’s a part of every success story.

Don't Fear Failure

Maybe you’ve had so many “fails” in a row that you’re considering quitting your pursuit of professional songwriting or getting cuts. If that’s where you are, there’s a book by Seth Godin that may serve you. It’s called, “The Dip,” and it’s about when to stick it out and when to just get out. I’m a fan of Seth’s work, and while I haven’t read this book just yet, it’s on my to-read list. Here’s a link if you want to check it out.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you read “The Dip?” What did you think? Have you heard (or lived) any good Fail-Fail-Fail-Win stories? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,


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.

Man vs Row

6 thoughts on “Fail. Fail. Fail… Win.”

  1. Without being too pessimistic most songwriters should be getting out because the market and opportunities are too small for a good percentage to every make a great living working the most common songwriting model.

    But having said that it’d be awful if a Brett James or a Mark Irwin quit because they finally grasped that reality.

    If you write for the love of it first then you’re always getting rewarded even though you might be in “the dip” financially a lot of the time.

    I think in the current market songwriters need to start looking for other ways to generate income outside of hoping to get cuts that become singles that chart. That’s just not a good business model by itself.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in the dip myself and the number of times everything changed and something fantastic happened.

    But those great things usually happened because I pursued a course of action or multiple courses of action that had a reasonable chance of succeeding.

    There’s nothing wrong with chasing a long shot but you don’t want a business model that is entirely based around chasing long shots and a lot of songwriters I’ve met are really struggling because that is their business model.

    1. As they say, Andrew, “hope is a terrible strategy.” Thanks for adding your thoughts. I agree- most songwriting success is found in completing a song you love, not at the bank. Build a financial model that’s sustainable- that’ll give you time or something amazing to happen. Or not. But either way, you get to eat.

      1. “Build a financial model that’s sustainable- that’ll give you time for something amazing to happen. Or not. But either way, you get to eat.”

        Brent that might be the most profoundly wise piece of advice I’ve read on your blog. Very cool.

  2. Great post Brent! I haven’t read the book yet but will definitely check it out. No major successes yet but am writing with a great writer/artist…which I feel is a great success for me. Been getting some nods with my writing and melodies and making the ones to watch list more easily as I’ve continued trying to write better and have improved on my rewriting. I would have never come as far in my writing as I have had I ever thought quitting was an option. I’m trying to teach my kids that the only one who can truly tell you that you’ll never make it…is yourself. Thanks for the great blog posts and ebooks you write for us who are trying to break into the industry!

  3. Billy Ray Cyrus made 13 trips to Nashville from Kentucky the year he finally got Achy Breaky Heart accepted. He believed in it and refused to take “NO” for an answer.
    Another song I can’t remember the title of now was passed on a bunch of times and sat around for five years, at which time it became a huge hit. Not one thing was changed on the song; the only thing that changed was the time. A song has a life of its own.
    But all this aside, if you know that songwriting is truly your calling, you have to do it or live a zombie life. And maybe even explain to your Creator some day why you didn’t believe that He really does equip
    those who are called to a purpose.

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