Great Advice From Our Newest “Play For Publisher” Event!

Play For Pub

Here are some great lessons from our latest Play For A Publisher Event!

Last week, we another great “Play For A Publisher” event. Our guest publisher was Tim Hunze of Parallel Music on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee. Today, I’d like to share some of the best takeaways from the evening. I’d like to give a hat-tip to Chris Smith, who put many of these points together. Thanks, Chris!

Tim’s a big sucker for cool opening lines.

Tim is a “title freak.” If you have a great title, he’s already interested. You’re “winning before your song is spinning.”

Don’t just sit in the same situation for the whole song. Have some sort of resolution or journey.

If you can demo it, do it. Much of what is coming to him has at least a track or loop of some sort. Most of his writers are writing with track guys. That said, if you’re not in the industry full time, a guitar/vocal will work. A great song will get through.

What’s the “WHY” of your song? Why are you sharing this song/story with the listener? Why should the listener care about hearing your song?

Keep writing up-tempo. He still gets 10-to-1 ballads. Even from pro Nashville writers. He always needs up tempo.

In songwriting, most of the time girls like sensual more than sexy. So don’t just talk at her, paint her into the scene.

Sometimes Tim will cover the choruses with his hand and just read the verses to make sure the verses have a good, natural flow to them.

Challenge yourself to come up with a new idea. A unique spin on an old thing. He listens to 100+ songs a day, so ideas, melodies, lines, titles, all need to be fresh.

Sometimes songwriters forget that they know more than the listener- and they don’t get enough of the important information out of their heads and onto the page. As a result, the listener is either confused or emotionally disconnected from the song.

For commercial country music, don’t rely too heavily on mystery. Spoon feed the listener. Don’t be too clever and don’t leave them wondering what the song was trying to say. If the listener is trying to figure out what’s going on, they’re in their heads- not their hearts.

There’s value in bringing a “change-up” song to a publisher or A&R person- a song that’s great but not “the usual.” Even if it’s not exactly what they need, it’ll be a breath of fresh air. (As long as the song is killer, of course.)

Two things Tim harps on with his writers are idea and melody. Neither can be stale.

If you have a stale melody, the best lyric in the world won’t be heard.

What does Tim look for in a writer? He said it’s a “feeling and a vibe.” It’s a feeling that the writer “has something to say.”

How do songwriters get songs to a guy like him? Events like Play For A Publisher, NSAI, PROs (ASCAP, SESAC, BMI), attorneys…

He probably gets 5 or 6 random writers reaching out to him each day. That 8-15 new songs per day, in addition to his writers and other writers he knows.

If you were there, what takeaways did YOU get from the session?  Please leave it in the comments!

I want to give another shout-out to all of the writers who joined us for the event. Tim was honestly impressed by the overall level of the songs and songwriting. Ya’ll really represented the Songwriting Pro community well!

“Steam” by David Hill, Gelman, McKinney
“Never Be Tennessee” by Curtis McCabe
“Some Days” by Barry McGuire
“Drink You Up” by Leslie Bowe, Karen Kiley
“Jesus, The Beatles & Me” by Donna King, Lee Black, Gina Boe
“Bent” by Mindy Gars Dolandis, Amanda Williams
“Leavin’ Town” by Chris Smith
“Girl In Every Song” by Jim Logrando, Sean Spollen
“Santa Fe Rain” by Roy Semlacher, Allen
“Grass Stains” by Pat Aureli, Todd Dickinson, Marty Dodson

Tim specifically mentioned reaching out to a couple of ya’ll. If he does, please let me know- I’d love to share that with the community!

Also, I know many of you who entered would still love to get personal feedback on your songs. While I didn’t have time to send feedback on each of the Play For Publisher entries, you CAN book a one-to-one coaching/mentoring session with me. I’ll be happy to discuss your song with you (and anything else you want). CLICK HERE TO BOOK A COACHING SESSION.

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.


14 thoughts on “Great Advice From Our Newest “Play For Publisher” Event!”

  1. I think any feedback an aspiring writer gets from an established publisher is good. However, I’ve never heard of any songwriter getting a song picked up by a publisher at one of these pitch to publisher events. If you’re a songwriter do it for the feedback, but don’t expect to get a single song contact with the publisher. And I’ve been writing a long time and have had cuts.

    1. That’s how this event was presented. It’s a door-opener, not a deal-closer. It definitely put some of these songs and songwriters on Tim’s radar. Of course, all I can do is make the introduction. After that, it’s up to the writer to have “the goods.” But I agree- go in with a an attitude of “I want to learn as much as possible.” If you just go in wanting to be discovered, you’re probably wasting your time.

      1. His comment regarding women like sensual as opposed to sexy was spot on. Now you have to explain what that means to your readers. Ha ha!

  2. Thanks for sharing Tim’s valuable insights, Bret. And I hope many of these songs find artists who will do them justice. One question. Can you properly define “track guy?” Thanks again.

    1. It’s a person who can basically produce tracks (the music production) on their own. They might not even write melody or lyric (sometimes they do). But they can make beats, loops, tracks, and produce.

    1. Great question! It really depends on who the next publisher is. As soon as I confirm the guest, I’ll let ya’ll know. Then you can decide it rock might be a good fit for them.

    1. No, for this event, it needs to be complete songs. Knowing that a publisher can’t do anything with lyrics-only, they’d never make the top ten. If lyrics-only couldn’t make the top ten, it wouldn’t be fair to encourage folks to send them in.

      1. Hi Brent…
        Thanks for the response. I sent you two songs; just lyrics. Its good to know you didn’t do anything with them. I shall submit them to “lyrics only” contests. Any suggestions??
        Merry Christmas. God bless. ; )

          1. No need for apologies, regarding the instructions. They were very clear. I just took my chances; thats all.

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