Choosing To Be Terrible Can Help You Become A Great Songwriter

Confession time: I’m a below-average guitar player, I couldn’t write a hit melody to save my life, and I sing like a horse.  But you know what?  Choosing to stay awful at those things has helped me become a successful songwriter.  

Choosing to be terrible just might help you, too.

____________________

To BE a pro, you need to THINK like a pro, and this FREE ebook will help transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success.  Get it today!

Click Here For The Book

_________________________________

I’m not kidding when I say I’m not good at singing, playing or writing melody.  It isn’t false humility- it’s the truth.  I’m not naturally gifted at any of those things.  And that’s okay.  I’ve still been able to write some cuts and get a song or two on the radio.  As a matter of fact, choosing to stay awful at those things has been one of my wisest business decisions.

Choosing to be terrible at most things has helped me be great at a few things.

I’m a word guy.  Words and ideas are my thing.  I’ve always played with words and made up stories.  That’s my natural gift.  so early in my songwriting journey, I decided that my best chance for success was to be great at one thing- at least ONE thing.  I didn’t have to be great at everything.

I went all-in on my natural strengths.

I could’ve wasted a lot of time just trying to get my singing, playing and melodies up to average.  And the time spent on those skills (or lack thereof) is time I could’ve been using to sharpen my lyrical skills.  I could’ve ended up being average at everything.

Nobody turns pro by being average.

I figured if I got great at lyrics and ideas, I’d earn a seat at the table.  While nobody is dying for a mediocre lyricist, a lot of songwriters value what a highly skilled lyricist can bring to a cowrite.  That’s where I’ve made my value and created opportunities.

Of course, I’d love to be great at everything.  But, like most writers… everything ain’t my thing.

You’re probably not good at everything, either.

I mean… if you ARE outstanding at several skills… God bless you.  Run with them.  That’s awesome.  But if you’re like most of us, you have some strengths and you have some weaknesses.

Is it time to go ALL-IN on your strengths?

Are you missing the chance to be remarkable at something- to have a calling card as a songwriter- in an effort to be great at everything?  If you have one really valuable skill that people need, you’ll have the opportunity to be successful.  You don’t have to be great at everything.

After all, that’s why God made cowriters.

 

What do YOU think about this?  Are you equally skilled at several things, or do you have one “songwriting superpower?”  Do you think you’ve focused too much on your weaknesses and not enough on your strengths?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

By the way, I’m blessed to be the new owner of a cool site called Frettie.com!  It’s a place for songwriters to share our songs, get creative kickstarters, and a bunch of other cool stuff.   Check it out if you get a chance.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

Wordplay Thursday #184

Welcome to Wordplay Thursday!

Today, we’re going to try something a little different for your writing prompt- something called “First Line Borrowing.”

Take the first line of a pre-existing song and see where it takes you! Write some lines, or just brainstorm song ideas that could go with that line.

Here’s a line to get you started. Feel free to use it to start off YOUR song, then go back and change the original line up a little bit. After all, other people will be using this one, too!

“She left some tears and a diamond ring…”

I’d love to hear what you come up with, so please share in the comments. Oh, and please keep your posts below an R-rating. It’s a family show, after all!

Wordplay Thursday is a fun way to generate new song ideas- and who doesn’t need more song ideas?  If you’d like MORE “creative kickstarters,” join the Frettie.com community!  In our private Facebook group, I share a handful of creative kickstarters every week.  Plus, there’s plenty more cool stuff for Frettie members!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT FRETTIE!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

The C.L.I.M.B. #62: Sorry, your awesome songs have NO value.

I hate to tell you this… but your awesome songs have NO value in the marketplace.

This week on The C.L.I.M.B., Brent & Johnny discuss how the value in your art has to be CREATED in the marketplace.  Your song doesn’t automatically or magically have value to other people just because you wrote and produced it.  You have to create the value, not just the art!  So give this episode a listen as we give YOU the tools you need to succeed as a songwriter.

The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast Episodes 59 is live and ready for download!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON STITCHER (for Android)

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ON THE C.L.I.M.B. WEBSITE

The C.L.I.M.B. stands for “Creating Leverage In The Music Business,” and that’s the goal of this podcast- to help singers, indie artists and songwriters like YOU to create leverage in the music business.  What is leverage?  It’s “strategic advantage; the power to act effectively.”  We want to help YOU make stuff happen in the music biz.

It’s exciting to see how folks are digging the show- and being helped on their CLIMB.  If YOU like it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave a rating or review on iTunes.  Positive ratings and reviews help us to climb the iTunes rankings so more people become aware of the show and we can help more singers, songwriters, and indie artists like you make The CLIMB!The CLIMB iTunes review 3

CLICK HERE TO LEAVE AN iTUNES REVIEW

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

If you aren’t on iTunes, you can listen to the show at our website:

TheCLIMBshow.com

If you have an Android phone, you can subscribe to the show on:

Stitcher

Thanks for your time. It means a lot to me, and hopefully it’ll be a lot of help for you!

God Bless and keep C.L.I.M.B.ing,

Brent

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.

Listeners aren’t dumb, they’re just…

It’s easy to listen to current Top 40 country and pop and wonder, “Where have the great story songs gone?”  And where are the songs that make you think?  Are all the music fans REALLY this stupid and shallow these days?”

Well… no.  They aren’t dumb.  They’re something else.

____________________

To BE a pro, you need to THINK like a pro, and this FREE ebook will help transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success.  Get it today!

Click Here For The Book

_________________________________

I love a good story song.  I love those songs that grab you right away, then keep your attention for a killer payoff 3 (or 4) minutes later.  “The Gambler,” cut by Kenny Rogers.  “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and “The Legend Of Wooly Swamp,” cut by Charlie Daniels.  “Where Have You Been” by Kathy Mattea.  “The Thunder Rolls” and “That Summer” by Garth Brooks.  Killer, killer, killer.

Where are the NEW story songs on the radio?

It’s not like writers aren’t writing quality story songs.  Heck, I have several available for cutting RIGHT NOW (hint, hint- if you’re reading this, Garth).  But artists aren’t cutting many story songs these days.  And why aren’t listeners demanding more story songs?  Are they too dumb to recognize great songs?  Are they too dumb to follow stories?

Listeners aren’t dumb.  They’re distracted.

Man, I remember getting a new album and cranking it up – either keeping my eyes closed or reading along with the liner lyrics.  You might remember doing that, too.  Heck, you might still do that.  After all, we need music like most people need air and water.  Music will get our full attention.

Music never gets the full attention of most people these days.

Think about it.  How much can you connect with a story song while you’re texting, driving, eating, doing homework, making out, on social media, gaming on your phone, or any of the other billion things we can be doing while listening to music?

Ever try to talk to someone while they’re also checking their phone?  Annoying, isn’t it?  You know they’re not REALLY listening, even if they are technically hearing you.

If our own friends and family won’t give us their full attention, how can we expect strangers to give our songs their full attention?

I think that’s why a lot of songs these days don’t require much from the listener – either in thought or attention span.

In country music, production is being asked to carry more and more of the weight of the song, and there’s less reliance on ideas and lyrics.  (Of course, that’s a general statement, and there are examples to the contrary.)

Many lyrics are built where the listener can zone in and out and still get the point of the song.

They won’t really be confused.  After all, “Girl, get your cutoffs on my tailgate” doesn’t really need an intricate story.

Does this mean you should only write shallow songs?  No.  My suggestion is that you present your deep idea in a way that is easy to “get” by the short-attention-span audience.  My kids never have a problem eating their sweet gummy vitamins.  Why?  Because they taste good.  They want candy.  They need vitamins.

Solution: give them vitamins that look and taste like candy.  One cowriter friend of mine calls it “putting cheese on the broccoli.”

Give the listener what they NEED, wrapped in what they WANT.

Part of this can be done with tempo.  If you have a “message song,” try NOT to write it as a ballad.  See if you can give it some tempo.  If it’s catchy, they listener might like it even if they NEVER hear the deeper message.

Another way is to wrap it in a simple story or in simple wording.  Don’t use “$5 words.”  Use simple words.  Use simple phrases.  It’s hard to explain, but don’t present your song as “this is really important, so you’d better listen closely because it will change your life.”

Of course, some ideas may NEED a serious presentation, and that’s fine.  But it’s usually a good idea to see if you can wrap your vitamins in sweet gummy goodness.

Try to present a deep or positive message in a shallow way.

Still not sure what I mean?  Here’s an example of a recent song I wrote with Steve Leslie and Zarni de Vette.  We take a positive message (praising a woman’s inner qualities) and wrap it in fun.  See what you think.

LOVE YOUR BODY (Baxter, Leslie, de Vette) 

What do YOU think about this?  Is this just a product of our times, or are we just dumbing down as a general population?  Do you think we’ll ever get back to a lot of story songs?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

If you want me to reveal more about commercial songwriting, then you should definitely check out my new, expanded and upgraded version of “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.” Its five powerful lessons will help you write songs that artists want to sing, radio wants to play, and listeners want to hear! CLICK HERE TO WRITE CUT/ABLE SONGS.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

Wordplay Thursday #183

Welcome to Wordplay Thursday!

“Monday is __________.”

Here’s a writing prompt for you. It’s a simple fill-in-the-blank. You can use one word or several. Feel free to get as crazy, genre-appropriate, or as imaginative as you want. The point is to get the creative juices flowing. And it’s a good thing to dig deeper, so don’t stop at the first idea that hits you. Try coming up with at least five things- and try to get IMAGERY in at least one of your plays!

“Monday is  ___________.”

I’ll give you an example to get you started:

“Monday is a 9-hour prison in khaki shackles.”

I’d love to hear what you come up with, so please share in the comments. Oh, and please keep your posts below an R-rating. It’s a family show, after all!

Wordplay Thursday is a fun way to generate new song ideas- and who doesn’t need more song ideas?  If you’d like an inside look at the techniques I use to find song idea after song idea- ideas that YOU can use, too- I have just thing for you!

CLICK HERE TO FIND GREAT SONG IDEAS!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

The C.L.I.M.B. #61: You’ll regret not bringing this to your next cowrite!

Wanna hear about the time Brent had a total cowriting FAIL?

This week on The C.L.I.M.B., Brent & Johnny discuss how bringing in this ONE THING can give you a better chance at having a successful (and 2nd) cowrite- and how NOT bringing it in can pretty much mess everything up.  So give this episode a listen as we give YOU the tools you need to succeed as a songwriter.

The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast Episodes 59 is live and ready for download!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON STITCHER (for Android)

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ON THE C.L.I.M.B. WEBSITE

The C.L.I.M.B. stands for “Creating Leverage In The Music Business,” and that’s the goal of this podcast- to help singers, indie artists and songwriters like YOU to create leverage in the music business.  What is leverage?  It’s “strategic advantage; the power to act effectively.”  We want to help YOU make stuff happen in the music biz.

It’s exciting to see how folks are digging the show- and being helped on their CLIMB.  If YOU like it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave a rating or review on iTunes.  Positive ratings and reviews help us to climb the iTunes rankings so more people become aware of the show and we can help more singers, songwriters, and indie artists like you make The CLIMB!The CLIMB iTunes review 3

CLICK HERE TO LEAVE AN iTUNES REVIEW

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

If you aren’t on iTunes, you can listen to the show at our website:

TheCLIMBshow.com

If you have an Android phone, you can subscribe to the show on:

Stitcher

Thanks for your time. It means a lot to me, and hopefully it’ll be a lot of help for you!

God Bless and keep C.L.I.M.B.ing,

Brent

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.

Is it ok to put brand names in my song lyrics?

Ask Your SWP

Today, I want to tackle a question I got from a Songwriting Pro reader…

QUESTION:

“Is it a good idea to put brand names (Nike, Snapchat, Wal-Mart, Chevy, etc.) in my song lyrics?  Do I need permission?  Can I get in trouble?”

ANSWER:

The short answer is that it’s okay, but it may or may not be a good idea.  Let’s dive in.

Let me start off my saying that I’m NOT a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice.  Do your own research.

With that out of the way, let me say that I’ve never heard of needing permission to put brand names in a song.  I’ve turned in several songs with brand names to my publishers, and they have NEVER said anything about it, pro or con.  So between that and actually hearing brand names in songs on the radio, you should be good to go.

Now, if you decide to namedrop brands in your lyrics, I want you to do it wisely.  So here’s some advice:

Endorsement deals and deal breakers.

Most major-label and major indie artists have endorsement deals of some sort.  I don’t worry about them too much when I’m sitting down to write.  However, if you’re writing a song specifically for a particular artist, do your research.

For example, if your target artist has a Chevy endorsement, there’s no point writing and pitching him a song about how great Fords are or how terrible Chevy’s are.  On the flip side, a song with a line like “her love pulls me through the hard times like a Chevy pulls a trailer” might make your song more appealing to the artist- or at least his manager.

Expiration dates.

It’s usually better to use classic brands than trendy ones.  Why?  Because it usually takes a while to get a song cut, and you generally want to avoid references which may sound dated in a year or two.

For example, Jack Daniels is a classic brand that’s been used in songs for decades and will be used for years to come.  It’s a “safe” brand to mention.  Other brands, especially in social media or technology are a lot more risky.  Anybody singing about their iPods, flip phones or Myspace pages these days?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Negative isn’t a positive.

It’d try to avoid making a negative statement about a brand.  An artist may not want to risk offending fans of… I don’t know… American Airlines, Toyota, or McDonald’s.  It might be funny to say, “her dress left her more uncovered than a BlueCross BlueShield patient” or that she’s “blowing up my phone like a Samsung battery” – yeah, it may be funny… but it might also scare away an artist.

What about you?  Have you name dropped brands in your songs?  Have you gotten any feedback it?  Leave a comment!

And if YOU have a question you’d like me to address in a future blog post, email me at brent@songwritingpro.com.  (I can’t get to them all, but I’ll answer your question here on the blog if I think it’ll help the Songwriting Pro community.  Oh, and I’ll leave your name out, so you’ll keep your privacy.)

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO START HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

 

Wordplay Thursday #182

Welcome to Wordplay Thursday!

“Songwriting is __________.”

Here’s a writing prompt for you. It’s a simple fill-in-the-blank. You can use one word or several. Feel free to get as crazy, genre-appropriate, or as imaginative as you want. The point is to get the creative juices flowing. And it’s a good thing to dig deeper, so don’t stop at the first idea that hits you. Try coming up with at least five things- and try to get IMAGERY in at least one of your plays!

“Songwriting is  ___________.”

I’ll give you an example to get you started:

“Songwriting is rhyming the truth.”

I’d love to hear what you come up with, so please share in the comments. Oh, and please keep your posts below an R-rating. It’s a family show, after all!

Wordplay Thursday is a fun way to generate new song ideas- and who doesn’t need more song ideas?  If you’d like an inside look at the techniques I use to find song idea after song idea- ideas that YOU can use, too- I have just thing for you!

CLICK HERE TO FIND GREAT SONG IDEAS!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

The C.L.I.M.B. #60: Faith Requires Hard Work

What does your career have in common with George Michael’s?  You gotta have faith (faith faith)!

This week on The C.L.I.M.B., Brent & Johnny discuss the importance of faith in your career.  If you don’t BELIEVE you can succeed… you CAN’T!  If you DO believe… you’ll work your backside off!  So give this episode a listen as we give your career a faith-lift.

The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast Episodes 59 is live and ready for download!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON STITCHER (for Android)

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ON THE C.L.I.M.B. WEBSITE

The C.L.I.M.B. stands for “Creating Leverage In The Music Business,” and that’s the goal of this podcast- to help singers, indie artists and songwriters like YOU to create leverage in the music business.  What is leverage?  It’s “strategic advantage; the power to act effectively.”  We want to help YOU make stuff happen in the music biz.

It’s exciting to see how folks are digging the show- and being helped on their CLIMB.  If YOU like it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave a rating or review on iTunes.  Positive ratings and reviews help us to climb the iTunes rankings so more people become aware of the show and we can help more singers, songwriters, and indie artists like you make The CLIMB!The CLIMB iTunes review 3

CLICK HERE TO LEAVE AN iTUNES REVIEW

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

If you aren’t on iTunes, you can listen to the show at our website:

TheCLIMBshow.com

If you have an Android phone, you can subscribe to the show on:

Stitcher

Thanks for your time. It means a lot to me, and hopefully it’ll be a lot of help for you!

God Bless and keep C.L.I.M.B.ing,

Brent

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.

Songwriters Win When They W.I.N.

There are so many distractions in a songwriter’s life – both inside and outside of the writing room.  They sneak up on us and steal our best work right out from under us.  But if YOU want to consistently move toward success, you must keep focused on your big W.I.N.

____________________

To BE a pro, you need to THINK like a pro, and this FREE ebook will help transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success.  Get it today!

Click Here For The Book

_________________________________

Every day, every hour, every minute, you need to be focused on your W.I.N. Your W.I.N. will help you beat back distraction, drama, and derailment.  Focusing on your W.I.N. will help you keep moving in the direction of your dreams in spite of disappointment.  Because, let’s face it… there WILL be disappointment.

W.I.N. = What’s Important Now?

You win when you W.I.N.

Yeah, I know it sounds simple.  But simple isn’t always easy.  There are so many things that keep us from writing, for example.

How many times do you check email during a cowrite?  That’s not W.I.N.ing.

Whatever MIGHT be waiting in your inbox is probably not more important than the song you’re working on.  Dreaming about your someday #1 party isn’t as important as the song you’re writing now.  Complaining about the music biz isn’t as important as that next song.  Playing your newest demos for your cowriter isn’t as important as the song you’re writing right now.

Sometimes, writing a new song won’t be your W.I.N.

Sometimes, your W.I.N. is to search for an idea worth writing.  And eventually, you’ll need to record your best songs so you can play them for people.  Sometimes, the W.I.N. will be pitching a song – and tracking down who to pitch it to.  Sometimes the W.I.N. will be a songwriting workshop or class so your future songs will be better, faster.

And sometimes your W.I.N. is to shut everything down for the day and be fully present with your family – so you’ll have people who will celebrate your eventual success with you (instead of resenting your songwriting).

Sometimes, the W.I.N. is to put down the guitar and spend time with your Creator, getting yourself in tune so you define success correctly.  “What’s Important Now” might be finding out what’s most important in your life.

“What’s Important Now” will be different at different times, so you’ll want to ask that question several times a day.  As a matter of fact, you might want to grab the image below and keep it where you’ll see it often.  (If you’re like me, you need frequent reminders to do the BEST thing, not just a good thing or the next thing.)

I hope this reminder will help YOU win in your songwriting- and in life.  I’d love to hear from you.  What are some of the things that distract you from your W.I.N.?  How do you stay focused or get back on track?  Leave a comment!

If your W.I.N. is to really dig in to what it means to write commercial, “cut/able” songs, then you should definitely check out my new, expanded and upgraded version of “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.” Its five powerful lessons will help you write songs that artists want to sing, radio wants to play, and listeners want to hear! CLICK HERE TO WRITE CUT/ABLE SONGS.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

Helping songwriters turn pro.