Great Advice For Songwriters From Hit Music Publishers!

Play For Pub

Here are some great lessons from our most recent Play For A Publisher Events!

So far, I’ve had the honor of hosting three great “Play For A Publisher” events. Our guest publishers, Tim Hunze of Parallel Music  and Chris Oglesby of BMG Music on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee, have dropped some major value bombs. Today, I’d like to share some of the best takeaways from these evenings.


I’m a “title freak.” If you have a great title, I’m already interested.

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. I still get 10-to-1 ballads. Even from pro Nashville writers. I always need 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.

Challenge yourself to come up with a new idea. A unique spin on an old thing. I listen 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.

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.)

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

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


Classic country is pretty fresh right now because everything is so pop. I like to play things that stand out.

When songs are really good, sometimes it’s just about finding an artist that relates to it the most.

After a while, the “trick” of a lyric is over. We get how clever your idea is. Now just focus on the relationship in the 2nd verse. The “tricky” chorus will bring us back. Focus on the takeaway of the song. Everything points to the big takeaway. Focus on the takeaway, not the vehicle for the takeaway. (In other words, don’t get so clever with your theme or gimmick that you forget the heart.)

A song must connect on BOTH a lyrical and emotional level.

Mentioning things like “texting” or other in-the-moment technology (“Facebook” “MySpace”) is a red flag in a song. Those things can make a song obsolete overnight or keep it from aging well.

Just because a line is cool so say, it still has to sing well. Singability is huge!

Sometimes writers get so busy “writing the story” using all kinds of clever craft- that they forget to just TELL the story. Don’t get too much in your head that you forget the heart.

Assume the girl you’re singing about is in the audience and listening.  Especially when it’s a positive love song, make sure to weed out the lines that might offend her.  Just assume she’ll take things the wrong way.

Be sure that it’s clear from the beginning of your song who you’re singing to.  Don’t take me out of the song by making me try to figure it out.

Play songs for publishers that YOU love.  Don’t just play what you THINK the publisher will love.  After all, you probably don’t really know the publisher personally, so you don’t really know what they’ll like.  But songs that YOU love will tell the publisher a lot about YOU, and that’s valuable.

If YOU’D like your chance to play YOUR song for a real-deal Music Row publisher, I have good news!

Tim Hunze is coming back to do another Play For A Publisher event in June!  Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited.  CLICK HERE to check out all the details and submit YOUR song for Tim!

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.


2 thoughts on “Great Advice For Songwriters From Hit Music Publishers!”

  1. Brent-
    This is a million dollar post. So many important facts right here in one place. I think everyone should print it off and keep a copy in their hook book–thanks!

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