Category Archives: Think Like A Pro

Writing Songs That Are “Just As Good” Isn’t Good Enough.

Ever turn on the radio, get mad and think, “Well, my songs are just as good as THAT!  Why aren’t MINE getting cut???”

Raise your hand if you’ve been there.  Yep.  Me, too.  And you might actually be writing songs that are, in fact, just as good as a few of the ones on the radio.

But “just as good” isn’t good enough.

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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

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Unless you’re already one of the cool kids on Music Row with a track record and a strong network, being “just as good” equals “just as good as invisible.”  It’s not enough to get you noticed or to get your song on the radio.

If your songs are just as good as a pro’s, expect the pro writer to get the cut.

After all, the pro has paid his (or her) dues, written a lot of really good songs, has industry contacts and might be writing with the artist or producer.  If anyone’s going to get their mediocre song recorded, it’s them, not you.  It might not seem fair, but a songwriter in that position has earned it.

Your songs have to be better. Period.

Not only do your songs have to cut through all the clutter of “bad” songs, they have to leapfrog all the “good” songs and be so good they land in the stack of “great” songs.

Sure, vanilla songs will get cut, but yours probably won’t.  As an outside songwriter (one without strong industry connections), you’re up against songwriters who DO have those connections.  Basically, your song has to be so good or so right for the artist that they pick yours INSTEAD of their buddy’s (or even their own song).

Write songs so good they can’t be ignored.

So… how do you actually do that?  The shortest answer is just to “dig deeper.”  (Have you ever heard that in a song meeting?  I have.  And it used to drive me NUTS.)

Thankfully, I don’t hear that these days.  Why?  Well… I’ve learned to DIG DEEPER!

I’m a lyricist, so I’ve found my advantage in finding and developing ideas.  Find an interesting title.  Then find a compelling, fresh angle to that idea.  Then develop the idea into something that makes sense commercially.  Then finish strong.  Sounds simple.  But it takes hard work and dedication to the craft of songwriting.

However, becoming known for consistently bringing in strong ideas – and knowing what to do with them – will help you attract great cowriters and maybe even land some great cuts.

I want to help you find, develop & finish great song ideas.

A great idea is one of the best ways to get other songwriters to not only notice you, but to tell their friends about you. If you can make another songwriter say, “I wish I’d thought of that!” they’ll remember you.  And if they remember you, it’ll speed up your success in the music biz.

I want you to be memorable.

If YOU want you and your songs to be memorable (in a good way), I have an awesome opportunity for you.

In the month of January, I’m hosting a transformative online songwriting event called, “Building A Hit: From Blank Page To Finished Lyric.” In this powerful 4-week online workshop, I reveal:

How to find great song ideas. Kill writers block and fill up that blank page again and again.

How to focus your ideas for maximum impact. Don’t waste any more great ideas by leaving them under-developed or confusing.

How to frame your ideas for maximum commercial appeal. Having a great, compelling idea isn’t enough. You have to build your song in a way that an artist will want to sing it and an audience will want to hear it.

How to finish your song. Stop leaving your best ideas unfinished! Nobody loves a song they never hear, and a song that’s only 99% finished will never get recorded, get on the radio, or change your life.

If you want to join me on a journey that will help you think and write like a pro songwriter, click on the link below. Spots are limited for this event, and I only host it twice a year. Miss out, and it’s gone for another 6 months. Don’t delay. Transform your songwriting today..

DON’T MISS OUT- CLICK HERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY.

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, a #1 in Canada & a top 10 in Texas… so far.

Don’t Write With Artists That Do These 5 Things (Even If They’re Great Singers)

Album credits make one thing perfectly clear – it’s smart to write with the artist.  There’s no denying that.  However, not every artist is worth your time and creativity.

Here are 5 red flags that mean you should probably NOT write with the artist.

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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

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Okay, if the artist is already a star and cuts their own songs, you should definitely write with him or her if you get the chance.  Do it, be thankful for the opportunity, and bring your best work.

However, most artists are NOT stars.  They’re unsigned artists who hope to become stars.  And maybe they look great and even sing great.  I know in those cases it can really be tempting to go “all in” with those artists in the hopes that they’ll make it big – and take you with them.

But most artists never become stars, and here are five reasons many of them are doomed.

If your artist cowriter (or potential cowriter) is doing any of these things, consider it a major warning sign.  These artists probably aren’t going to make it.  Sorry.

1. Doomed artists disregard their fans (or potential fans).

In the old music biz, maybe you could get away with being mysterious and aloof.  But in the social media age, you can’t be too cool for school.  Look at Taylor Swift.  She’s one of the biggest stars on the planet, and she built her career by LOVING her fans.  She surprises and delights them.  She cares about them.  In return, they care about her.

If your artist expects their music – and ONLY their music – to build a legion of raving fans… they’re sadly mistaken.

2. Doomed artists are waiting for a hero.

Is your artist friend waiting around for someone else to make their dreams come true?  Are they just killing time until they get discovered by a manager, booking agent or label who will do all the hard work and open all the right doors?

The artists who are likely to make it have an incredible work ethic.  Their attitude isn’t “who’s going to let me?”  It’s “who’s going to stop me?”  They get off the couch or out of the studio, and they hustle.  They book their own shows, they connect with fans.  Those are artists who are likely to be discovered – because they’re discoverable!

3. Doomed artists treat music like a hobby.

This is similar to the previous red flag.  But while the last type of artist really wants to succeed but has given away their power, this artist either doesn’t really want success or is just plain lazy.  This artist is probably naturally very talented and hasn’t had to work that hard to get some attention.  As a result, maybe they’ve never learned how to grind.  Or they just aren’t willing.

Either way, their lack of work ethic means they’ll probably never become a star.

4. Doomed artists act entitled.

I don’t care who your artist friend is, the world does NOT owe them success, or even attention.  Just because they care about their own music doesn’t mean that anyone else has to.  Why should anyone treat them like a star when they are NOT a star?

Also, entitled artists usually don’t have as much hustle because they feel like success and attention should be handed to them by the mere fact that they want and expect attention and success.  That kind of attitude will turn off folks in the music biz, and it’ll eventually turn off fans, too.

5. Doomed artists radiate bitterness or negativity.

Believing that you won’t succeed is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So if your artist friend believes he or she is being “held down” by gatekeepers, publishers or record labels and THAT is what’s keeping them from success… run away.

This negative, bitter attitude gives away the artist’s power and ownership over the situation.  They’ve allowed themselves to become a victim.  This attitude will also repel real music biz pros.  And even worse… it’s contagious.

You do NOT want to catch a negative attitude from the artist.  Before you know it, you’ll start seeing all the reasons you CAN’T succeed, and you’ll stop seeing all the reasons you CAN succeed.

There you go.  Five warning signs that you should not be writing with an artist.  Now, if you write amazing songs with this person, it might be worth it to keep writing with them- IF you treat them like a non-artist cowriter.  In other words, don’t wait around for that artist to take those songs to #1.  If they’re great, pitch them to other artists.

If your cowriter doesn’t want you to pitch them anywhere, use these cool songs to get new cowriters.  Then move on.

I know this may be hard to hear.  I know it may force you to confront an uncomfortable truth you’ve been ignoring.  But I’ve personally wasted too many songs and days on artists like the ones on this list.

I want you to avoid my mistakes.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic- or any other songwriting problem you might have, it’s time to sign up for a coaching session.  These sessions are personal (1-to-1), confidential, and it doesn’t matter where in the world you live.  We meet online, so it’s like we’re in the same room (only you don’t have to wear socks and shoes).

This is your chance to ask me YOUR questions, work on YOUR songs, pick my brain, etc.  Basically, it’s my time to serve you however I can, on a comfortable one-to-one basis.

You can learn more or sign up for a helpful coaching session 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. SWP 4

Advice From A Hit Songwriter

Buckle up, songwriters.  I’m about to throw a bunch of songwriting advice at you.  Gather ’round, y’all.

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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

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Opportunity is attracted to activity.  If you only write songs every now and then and you never leave your bedroom, you are not going to get many opportunities.  But if you’re writing a lot of songs and building relationships, more opportunity will find you.

Nothing is sadder than writing songs you don’t even like because you’re aiming for a hit – and then failing, anyway.  Write something you love.  If you fail, at least you still have songs you’re proud of.

Write with people you can be honest with.  How can your song be honest and deep if you and your cowriter can’t even be honest and deep with each other?

Keep writing.  Your best songs are ahead of you.

If an unsigned artist isn’t working hard, working with them is probably a waste of time.

Songs are about communication.  If you aren’t clear about what you want to communicate in your song, you will probably only communicate confusion.

One quality of a great lyric is that it is SINGABLE.  A singer should enjoy singing your words – they should feel natural.  In short, if it won’t sing, it won’t get sung.

There is no one path to songwriting success.  Everyone’s path has its own twists and turns.  Don’t worry if your path isn’t like everybody else’s.  Make a new way!

Whether you write for hits or for personal enjoyment, be sure and have fun along the way.  You can have self-enjoyment without hits, but you probably won’t write hits if you don’t enjoy yourself along the way.  So have fun!

Each of your songs has value – even the so-called “bad” ones.  After all, without the bad ones, how do you ever get to the good ones?  You have to write THROUGH the bad songs to get TO the good songs.

It is vital that you have a positive attitude – protect it like a mama bear protects her cubs.  A positive attitude helps get you through the inevitable discouragement, heartbreak, and long periods when it feels like nothing is happening for you.

Avoid “work for work’s sake.”  For example, checking your email 50 times a day might make you busy, but it won’t make you productive or successful as a songwriter.  It is better to do something effective for one hour than to do something busy for eight hours.

Before spending your hard-earned money on a demo, ask yourself: “Does this song beat out what I’m already pitching?  Is it something I don’t already have available to pitch?  Honestly, will I pitch it enough to justify the financial investment?”

The first line of your song is extremely important.  If the first line is a boring cliche’, you’re in danger of losing the listener right off the bat.   But if your first line is fresh and interesting, odds are the listener will stick around a while.

If you’d like to sit down with me (online from anywhere in the world), I have some coaching slots available.  This is your chance to ask me YOUR questions, work on your songs, pick my brain, etc.  Basically, it’s my time to serve you however I can, on a comfortable one-to-one basis.

You can learn more or sign up for a helpful coaching session 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. SWP 4

Change Your Songwriting Story To Have More Success

Songwriters are storytellers.  We love to tell our listeners about the world as we see it- what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, what we believe in, etc.  But the most important story you will ever tell as a songwriter… is the story you tell YOURSELF.

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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

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The story we choose to tell ourselves will have a huge impact on our growth, creativity and success as songwriters.  I know they have in my career.

I figured out early in my songwriting that I wasn’t any good at writing melodies.  I’ve never been a good singer, and melodies are frustrating.  But the words?  Words have always been my thing.  I’ve always loved playing with them- and I have a knack for it.  Along with this realization of my strengths and weaknesses came a choice.

What story will I tell myself- about myself?

Will I tell myself that I’m “only half a songwriter?”  That I’m “not a real songwriter?”  Will I tell myself it’s not fair that life didn’t hand me all the talents I’d like to have?  Will I tell myself that no “real” songwriter would want to write with “just a lyricist?”

As you can probably guess, that’s NOT the story I told myself.  I told myself, “I’m a lyricist.  I’m  a specialist.”  I told myself myself that country music loves great lyrics – so I do something valuable.  I told myself I don’t have to be great at everything.  I told myself that as long as I’m great at one thing, I’d have a seat at the table.

This self-story has made an incredible difference.

It has allowed me to act from a position of confidence instead of doubt.  Instead of approaching potential cowriters almost apologetically like “I’m sorry, but will you please write with me?  I’m only a lyricist,” I could look them in the eye without shame and say, “I’m a lyricist, and I have some ideas I think you’re gonna love.”

What story do you tell yourself?

Do you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how good your songs are because “you gotta know somebody?” Or do you say “I’m GOING to make it- and the better my songs are, the easier it’s going to be to get to know somebody?”

Do you tell yourself that publishers are stupid for not liking your songs?  Or do you tell yourself that publishers NEED great songs and you just have to write better ones?

Is your story that you were born in the wrong PLACE to be a songwriter because you’re hundreds of miles from New York, LA or Nashville?  Or is your story that you were born at a great TIME to be a songwriter because you can use the internet to connect with the music business from anywhere in the world?

The story you CHOOSE to tell will either help or hurt your chances for success.

Is your story “you gotta be lucky to make it, so it doesn’t matter how hard I work?”  Or is your story “luck loves songwriters that are serious and work hard, so I’m gonna work harder?”

Your story matters.

It’s time to do a check up from your neck up.  Be honest with yourself about your story.  Are your stories helping you or holding you back?

Does your story tell you why you CAN, or does it tell you why you CAN’T?

Listen, I’m not into fru-fru ya-ya mumbo jumbo.  I don’t believe success is attracted to me just because I tell myself I’ll be successful. No, if I believe I’ll be successful, I’m more willing to put in the work and take the chances that make success more likely.  My story doesn’t change the universe.  My story changes me.

If your story is that music publishers don’t know what good music is so they won’t like your music, you know what will probably happen?  You’ll probably play songs for one or two publishers – just enough to prove yourself “right” – and then just quit calling publishers.

However, if your story after one or two rejections is that you just haven’t found the right publisher yet, you’ll keep trying.  And that alone increases your odds of success.  Or if your story is that you just need to write better songs, you’ll stay in the game, writing, getting better, and building publisher relationships.  And then you might just get that big hit.

And THAT will be a great story.

If you’d like to sit down with me (online from anywhere in the world), I have some coaching slots available.  This is your chance to ask me YOUR questions, work on your songs, etc.  Basically, it’s my time to serve you however I can, on a comfortable one-to-one basis.

You can learn more or sign up for a helpful coaching session HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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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

_________________________________
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. SWP 4

Stop Calling Your Own Songs “Great!”

Stop calling your own songs “great.”  YOU don’t get to decide that.  And neither do I, to be fair.  Today, let’s talk about who DOES get to decide if your song is great.

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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

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When I was writing my earliest songs back in Arkansas, my cowriter, Tim Meitzen, and I would feel great about some of our songs.  But I remember Tim being reluctant to call those songs “great.”  Now, in the excitement of creation, we probably said things like, “Man, this is great!”  (I’m willing to bet that I did on several occasions.  I was wrong, but I didn’t know that then.)  But when speaking about those songs outside the writing room, it was a different story with Tim.

I remember him saying once, “I have a hard time calling one of my own songs ‘great.’  I’ll say ‘I love it,’ but I don’t think I can call it ‘great.'”  I took it as a healthy dose of humility and uncertainty on his part.  After all, what qualified us to call our own songs “great?”  What had we accomplished, other than recording some work tapes around a campfire?  What gave us the right to proclaim greatness?  Nothing did.

We don’t get to decide if our own songs are great.  Only the market gets to decide that.

If the market (the listeners) decide your music is great, then it IS great.  If the market decides your music is forgettable, then guess what?  It IS forgettable.  If the market decides that your current album isn’t worth their time, then the market is right.  If that same album is “rediscovered” ten years from now and the market decides that it is brilliant… then the market is right.

Like it or not, the market is always right.

But how can that be?  Because the greatness of music is ultimately a qualitative decision.  It’s subjective- a matter of opinion and taste.  Music isn’t math.  2+2=4 no matter what the majority decides.  Music isn’t like that.

Yes, you may be able to point out objectively how your song has a more sophisticated structure, rhyme scheme or melody than “cliche’ and stupid” hit songs on the radio.  But at the end of the day, you haven’t proven that your song is great.  You’ve only proven that is is more sophisticated.

I personally don’t really care if you call your own songs great.  Sure, in certain settings, that will make you sound like an egotistical amateur.  But whatever.  That’s not the biggest problem.

For many of you, your biggest problem is that you’re too busy blaming the market for being stupid and wrong when you should be focused on writing better songs.

If people don’t “get” your songs, it means one of two things:

  1. Your music isn’t for that audience, and you need to find the audience that WILL love it.
  2. You’re in front of the right audience, but your music isn’t good enough yet.  You need to keep working on your craft.

Let’s say you love country music, but you hate “today’s country music.”  That’s fine.  I can respect that opinion.  But if you want to write hits, what are you supposed to do?  Calling the market stupid does you no good.  Instead, study “today’s country music.”  What is it that the market likes about this music?  What makes it relevant to today’s country audience?

Don’t hate.  Investigate.

Once you start to understand that, you can incorporate some of those elements into your own songs – making them more relevant, or market-smart.  Or you can choose to stay inside your current musical box and hope that the market eventually changes its mind abut your music.  Hey, that’s fine.  Some writers stick to their creative guns, and sometimes the market eventually decides to like it.  Either choice you make is fine – as long as you understand the implications.  Just…

Don’t waste your valuable time blaming the market.

If you want some guidance on how to write “market-smart” songs that artists want to record and audiences want to hear, I have something you should check out.  It’s called, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market-Smart Songwriting,” and it’ll help you give your songs their best chance to one day be called, “great.”

Click here to take your songwriting to the next level.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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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

_________________________________
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. SWP 4

Is Your Spouse Jealous Of Your Songwriting?

I love my wife.  I’ve loved her since shortly after I met her.  But I also love songwriting- and I’ve loved songwriting LONGER.  I don’t know if I’ve ever loved songwriting more than I love her… but I know for sure that she’s sometimes FELT like I love it more.

I hope you won’t make this same mistake.

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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

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My wife, Emily, knew she was marrying a songwriter.  “Monday Morning Church” had just been a hit single for Alan Jackson when we met through her brother, my roommate and a fellow songwriter.  She knew I was a songwriter, but there was no way she knew what all came with that.  Honestly, neither did I.

I’m not ready to confess all the painful details, but let me just say I’ve wounded my wife a lot over the years, and songwriting has usually been the blade.

I’ve let songwriting carry me away from her too much.  From days in the writing room to nights in the home office or at showcases to just being gone in my mind when I should’ve been fully present with her and/or our children.

Why was I gone so much?

Fear, partly.  Songwriting is a a very, very competitive business, and there is ALWAYS more you can be doing.  Couple that fear with a lack of faith – faith that God is in charge of my success, not me – and you have the perfect recipe for workaholism.  Add in the fact that I love love love songwriting, and it’s even easier to get sucked in.

And when this priority imbalance leads to hurt feelings and conflict, where have I usually turned?  To more work and songwriting.  Music is my alcohol.   Songwriting is my drug.

Songwriting has been my affair.  And my wife has rightfully felt cheated.

I’m not sharing this post to air my dirty laundry.  It’s embarrassing, honestly.  I’m not the husband I promised I’d be.  Thankfully, God has enough grace to cover me, and He’s doing the (painful) work of making me more like Christ.  He has a long way to go, just for the record.

I’m writing this blog post because I want to spare you and your spouse from making these same mistakes and causing or feeling the same hurts.

Songwriting is NOT more important than your marriage.

You didn’t stand in front of God, family and friends and vow to be faithful to songwriting “till death do us part.”  You made the promise to your husband or wife, not to music.

Take some time today to really be honest with yourself.  Have you been unfaithful?  Have you been cheating on your spouse with music?  Go ask your husband or wife if they feel cheated.  You might not like the answer.  But don’t go into defensive mode.  Just shut up, listen and honestly consider what they have to say.  It might be time for an apology.  It might be time to take a break from writing bridges.  It might be time to start rebuilding them instead.

Love is more valuable than love songs.

 

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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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

_________________________________
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. SWP 4

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.

TIM HUNZE: PARALLEL MUSIC

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…

CHRIS OGLESBY: BMG MUSIC

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

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.

SWP 4

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.

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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

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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.

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.

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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

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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.

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.

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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.