Tag Archives: Lisa Shaffer

The music biz is a recommendation business.

The music biz has often been called a relationship business – and it IS.  But how you GET those relationships is often a matter of recommendations.

And I want to help you get more of those recommendations.


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


First off, let me tell you about a few referrals and how they have really affected my songwriting career.  Why?  It’s not about me or my story.  I’m not bragging.  I’m sharing because I want to prove to you that recommendations MATTER.

Chad Green, my ASCAP representative at the time, picked up the phone and called Major Bob Music.  He recommended that they listen to my songs.  I ended up signing my first publishing deal with them.

I used to do some gopher / bookkeeping work for a producer in town named Miles.  He recommended I write a young, unknown Canadian singer/songwriter named Aaron Goodvin.  We eventually did, and years later, Aaron helped me land cuts on Canadian artist Drew Gregory and Sony Canada artist, Tristan Horncastle.  Aaron himself is currently an artist on Warner Music Canada.

Separate recommendations by my cowriters, Lisa Shaffer and Brandon Kinney, led to my third publishing deal – a deal with Writer’s Infinity.

A cowriter, Skip Black, brought me in on a cowrite with singer/songwriter, Benton Blount.  (Any time a cowriter brings you in with an artist, it’s a recommendation.)  Benton Blount went on to land a spot in the Top 10 of America’s Got Talent Season 10.  I’ve had several cowrites and cuts on Benton’s indie albums, and I have one in the can for his upcoming Pacific Records debut.

I met radio host and record promoter, Jay Karl, several years ago.  He liked my song “Armadillo,” and recommended it to one of his artists, Junior Gordon.  Junior recently released it as a single in Texas, and “Armadillo” has reached the top 10 on the Texas Regional Radio Chart.

One of the major values of relationships is the recommendations they generate.  And the relationship doesn’t have to be with the artist or producer.  Jay Karl was just a total stranger who wanted to do a short interview for a radio show.  I didn’t think it would lead to anything other than me feeling important and cool for a few minutes.  Sure didn’t think it would lead to a successful Texas single.

Miles was just a guy who needed some part-time help putting his receipts in Quicken, and Aaron Goodvin was just a kid from Canada.  Aaron was a good guy, and I could tell he had real hustle, but I didn’t think he’d end up as an artist on Warner Canada (all my Canadian friends need to go buy his album, by the way).

It’s not enough to JUST have a relationship.  Your contact has to do more than just know you or be aware of your existence.  They have to have a reason to make a recommendation – either TO you for FOR you.  And those reasons usually fall into one of two broad categories.

They want to help themselves.

If a cowriter brings you in to write with an artist because they know you’ll kill it… and you DO kill it… who comes out looking cool?  Your cowriter who hooked it up!  He or she gets to be the one who “made it all happen.”  Plus, he benefits from being part of a better song.  He also strengthens his ties with the artist.

If a publisher hooks you up to write with a pro, it’s because they hope you either already have “the goods” or they can help you develop “the goods.”  Why?  So they can publish your hits, that’s why!

Your relationships are definitely NOT gonna hook you up if they think it’ll make them look bad to their friends or bosses.  Why should they?  Even if you’re friends and he wants to help you, what’s the point?  If you don’t have the skills or personality to take advantage of the opportunity, you might feel good in the moment, but all you’ll really accomplish is wasting someone’s time and hurting your reputation.

To help someone else.

Sometimes your contact will hook people up or pass along a song with little or no self-interest.  Maybe they think you’ll be a great cowriting team or just good friends.  Or he knows Artist X needs a hit, and he believes your song is it.  So he passes it along.

Your contact may not have any direct financial stake in that recommendation.  But he or she will still benefit from the good will and hero status a successful recommendation can bring.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ll be honest, I would LOVE to hit hero-status as part of YOUR songwriting journey.  I want to be part of YOUR success story.  And you know what?  I also want to be part of the success stories of my publisher friends.  I want to help you get your best songs heard, and I want to help my publisher friends find great songs.

Which leads leads me to a cool opportunity…

I’m hosting Songwriting Pro’s Play For A Publisher event in September.  Our guest will be Dan Hodges, who publishes hits such as “Good Directions” for Billy Currington and “Dibs” for Kelsea Ballerini.  But the deadline to apply for this event is AUGUST 31!

CLICK HERE to learn more and submit your song before it’s too late.

Dan Hodges will be joining us for our next Play For A Publisher event in September!  He’s a successful publisher and owner of Dan Hodges Music in Nashville, Tennessee.  Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited.  And the deadline to enter is AUGUST 31!  CLICK HERE to check out all the details and submit YOUR song for Dan!

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

The Power Of Community

Man vs Row 

Even LeBron has a coach and a team.

Even Springsteen has The E Street Band. Even Han Solo (yep, a guy with the last name “Solo”) has Chewy.  Scooby Doo has Shaggy and the gang. Heck, Kool has The Gang.  And I have too many examples.

Here’s the deal.  There’s a romantic notion about being a creative island- of being an artistic hermit  who produces great art and sets the world on fire while never leaving their cabin in the mountains.

That might be fine if you just want to create for yourself or for the sake of creating.  That’s great.  But if you want your art, your songs, to connect with a larger audience… if you want your songs to get on the radio… you can’t be a lone wolf.

You need a community.  Just like I do.


Over the years, my community (friends, cowriters, and music biz peeps) have introduced me to great cowriters that have become close friends.  They’ve opened doors for me to get jobs and publishing deals.  They’ve gotten record deals and have recorded my songs.

And, perhaps most importantly, my community has challenged me to become a better songwriter, and they’ve encouraged me when I felt like a lousy one.

There’s Mike Doyle, my first ASCAP writer’s rep, who told me that I had talent but also said I needed to keep working on the craft.  There’s Neal Coty, who has continued to write with me and tell me, “I’m gonna get us a cut,” even when I’m frustrated.  There’s Lisa Shaffer, who told Paul Compton he should consider me for a publishing deal when I was without one.  And there’s Paul himself, who sent me back to the writer’s room on many occasions to dig deeper- to rewrite even when I didn’t want to.  There’s Tim Meitzen, my first cowriter, who gave me the thrill of hearing my song played for an audience for the first time.  There’s Sheree Spoltore at NSAI who introduced me to Ruthie Collins, who ended up becoming a friend, cowriter, and an artist on Curb Records.  There’s Matt Cline, who has never failed to tell me I’m good enough- even when I’ve doubted it.

And there’s more.  There are many friends and cowriters who have prayed for me and opened their hearts, guitar cases and hook books for me.  They’ve made me a better songwriter, and they’ve made me a better person.

Do you have a community? If so, give them a shout-out in the comments or share this post with them and say “thanks.”

It can be hard to find a community sometimes- a group that understands the struggles of an aspiring songwriter.  Folks who don’t just nod and say, “sorry, bro…” when you share a wall you’ve hit- folks that can really relate because they have bruises from those same walls.  It can be difficult to find those people- especially when you live outside of a major music city like New York, LA or Nashville.  I know- I lived in Arkansas in the days before social media.

I want to help you form a community.  I’m putting together a small group to meet through a series of live, online, interactive video workshops called, “The C4 Experience.”  We’ll meet (from anywhere in the world) online for a total of 8 hours over two months.  I’ll lead our discussions, but everyone will be encouraged to participate- to share your struggles and victories, and to ask your questions.  We’ll spotlight each of the 8 group members of the course of the C4 Experience, and we’ll work together to help each other grow as songwriters.  It’s my hope that once the C4 Experience is over, you’ll stay in touch with each other, either as cowriters or as fellow travelers on the songwriting journey.

In short, we’ll start building a community.  And you know how I feel about those.

Here are the details of the “C4X.”


“C4” stands for:


The C4 Experience is about celebrating your creative spirit and sharpening your commercial songwriting, guided by expert coaching and encouraged by a supportive community.

Let’s look at each part of this:

I want to celebrate you because I’m a fan of you! I love dreamers and doers. And while I take the craft of songwriting very seriously, I believe it should be fun. If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops or live events, you know I like to have fun while I’m teaching- so you can have fun while you’re learning. And I also believe you can be creative while being commercial, which brings me to the next “C.”

This workshop series is for songwriters that want to write commercially successful songs- either for yourself or for others to sing. By the end of this workshop, my goal is for your songwriting to be a lot more commercial.

Each two-hour session will begin with 30 minutes of teaching and a lesson review. Each lesson will be based on one of the four sections of “Cut/able.” You’ll do the reading and exercises before each workshop, and we’ll meet online to discuss the lesson and answer any questions. Each student will also receive 45 minutes of “spotlight coaching.” This is a time for us to focus on YOU- your situation, your challenges, and your songs. I’ll lead, but the other students can also give their advice.

The C4 Experience is limited to just 8 students, so there will be time to get to know everyone else in the group over our 8 hours together over 4 nights. You’ll encourage each other and probably find out that your challenges aren’t that different from anyone else’s. Successful commercial songwriting is a team sport, and this just may help you build that team.


The C4 Experience is an online event, so you can join in from anywhere there’s an internet connection. You do NOT have to be in Nashville. You can join us from anywhere in the world. We’ll meet via Fuze, an online videoconferencing platform. Basically, I’ll send you a link before each session, and you just click to join in. If you have questions, you can find out more about Fuze, here:
System requirements
Join Fuze meeting through an internet browser

We’ll meet 4 times:

     Tuesday, January 12, 7:30pm to 9:30pm (Central time)
     Tuesday, January 25, 7:30pm to 9:30pm (Central time)
     Tuesday, February 9, 7:30pm to 9:30pm (Central time)
     Tuesday, February 23, 7:30pm to 9:30pm (Central time)

Each night will begin with a 30-minute lesson from “Cut/able.” We’ll work through the workbook in order:

*Session 1- W.I.L.L.power: Proving Personality & Emotions Through Your Lyrics (Connect on a deeper level with the artist and listener through effective use of imagery.)

*Session 2- PUL’D To Success: The Value of Positive, Uptempo, Love/Depth Songs (Give the artists what they need, give radio what it wants, and give the fans what they like by learning the importance of writing positive, uptempo, love/depth songs.) Read more here.

*Session 3- Neighborhoods: Where Will You Build A Home For Your Songs? (Develop skills to identify an artist’s “brand” so you can write songs that fit that brand and speak to the artist’s core audience.) Read more here.

*Session 4- Fill The G.A.P.S.: Growth, Achievement, Preaching/Positioning, Songwriting (Pinpoint areas of opportunity within an artist’s catalog- slots you can fill with your songs, songs that fit the artist’s brand without being just like what they’ve already done.) Read more here.

After the lesson/Q&A, we’ll do two 45-minute spotlight coaching sessions. We’ll focus on one of the group members each session (two per night). Each of the eight community members will get his or her own spotlight over the course of the event.

The cost of the entire C4 Experience is $250, which is a great deal. It works out to $31.25 an hour (for 8 hours). I usually charge $150 for just one hour of coaching. But with C4, you get 4 30-minute lessons with Q&A and a personalized 45-minute spotlight coaching session. PLUS, you get to participate in the spotlight sessions of the 7 other songwriters. Believe me, there will be plenty you can learn from their sessions, too!

An average demo in Nashville currently costs anywhere from $500 to $1000. That’s just for ONE SONG. That’s a fine investment if your song is commercially strong. If it isn’t… you just wasted a lot of your money. Wouldn’t it be better to spend $250 to keep from wasting $1000 or more (again and again)? For less than the price of demoing one song, you can learn how to write song after song after song that’s worth demoing!  And the friends you stand to make- the allies and traveling companions?  What are they worth?  You can’t even put a price on that.


Since we’ll be learning from my workbook, “Cut/able,” it only makes sense to give you a copy when you join C4. It sells for $25, but I’ll throw it in for free. (If you already own “Cut/able,” there’s a discount code in the back of the workbook. Use it at checkout, and it’ll knock $25 off the price, so it’s like you get it for free!)  Click here to find out more about “Cut/able.”

Tickets for this event are on sale NOW. There are only 8 spots open, and I expect them to go fast- so don’t wait too long and miss your chance to take your songwriting to the next level!

I look forward to seeing you in January- CLICK HERE or on the image below to reserve your spot now!


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.


The Email That Helped Me Get A Joe Nichols Cut

Man vs Row

Recently, I posted a lesson called, “Here’s Why Music Biz Professionals Aren’t Emailing You Back” (read it here).  Today, I want to look at an email that resulted in a phone call, a hold, and eventually a Joe Nichols cut.

A few years back, I wanted to get my song, “Crickets,” to Joe Nichols.  I just thought it’d be perfect for him. But how do I get it to him?  I didn’t have a personal connection with anyone in his camp.  However, I did happen to get the email address of the owner of Joe’s label (thanks to a sungplugger friend of mine).  I decided it was worth a cold email.

(Note: Normally, I wouldn’t send a song to a label owner.  But I know this particular owner actively listens to songs through email and has a say in what end up on his artists’ albums.  See my post “The Big Yes.”)

Not knowing the owner, this is how I worded my email:


Song for Joe Nichols: “Crickets” (Baxter, Shaffer, Whyte)


Mr. Brown,

I’m a songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson (“Monday Morning Church”), Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, and others.  Here’s a song for Joe.  Thanks for listening!


(Brent Baxter, Lisa Shaffer, Bill Whyte)

Lyric and mp3 attached.

God Bless,

Brent Baxter



Sometime later (maybe a day or two, maybe weeks), I got a call from the owner.  He said he loved the song and wanted to hold it for Joe.  Eventually, they cut it and it became the title track to Joe’s debut album on Red Bow Records.


Okay, let’s break down the email and see what we can learn.

I was proactive and pitched my own song.

I didn’t wait for someone else to make my dreams come true.  See my post, “10 Reasons Songwriters Should Pitch Their Own Songs.”

I used an appropriate communication channel.

This was an email address that the owner regularly uses to listen to songs.  It wasn’t his wife’s personal email or some other inappropriate email.  I was conducting business through a business email address.

The subject line is very clear and professional.

No hype.  No bull.

I kept the message very brief and to the point.

One quick glance at the message isn’t a turn-off.  He could read it very quickly, so he was more likely to actually read it.  Long emails are intimidating and look like too much work.

I presented pro credentials briefly and in the beginning.

I opened with a few choice cuts to set myself as a pro in his mind.  It increased the chance that he’d take my email seriously and expect a good song.  If you don’t have these, just get to who the song is for.  It’s better to skip this completely than say how you won a local talent show.  Your song may be killer, but if you’ve only has small success (so far), they might think you only have small talent.

I provided contact info both in the email and on the lyric sheet.

He called be back partly because I made it easy for him to find me.

I provided both the mp3 and the lyrics.

Some folks don’t look at the lyric when they listen.  Some do.  I don’t take chances.  I want them to have everything they might need.

The song was well-written and a good fit for the artist.

The email was written to get the song heard.  But getting the song heard doesn’t help if the song itself isn’t good or isn’t a good fit for the artist.

What about you?  Have you had any success with cold emails?  How did you word them?

Pro songwriters know how to act professionally.  And if YOU want to become a pro, you need to think like a pro, too.  In my FREE e-book, “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” I not only reveal several of the mindsets which separate the pro songwriter from the amateur, but also…

  1. How to get on a music publisher’s radar
  2. How the pros know who is looking for songs
  3. Six simple ways to make your songs more commercial
  4. And more!

To get your FREE, INSTANT download of “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” just click on the image below, or CLICK HERE!

think like a pro songwriter 3D

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

Never Take “No” From Someone Who Can’t Say “Yes”

Man vs Row

If an A&R rep, manager, or whoever doesn’t have the authority to tell you, “Yes, my artist WILL cut your song,” then that person doesn’t have to power to tell you, “No, my artist WON’T cut your song.”

If someone who can’t really say “yes” says “no,” it just means you need to find a different person to pitch that song to. Knock on a different door. Or maybe you need to knock on that same person’s door again after some time passes (you never know how the direction of an album- or how someone’s mood- might change).

The point is, don’t quit on a song you believe is right for that artist. Keep going until you’ve exhausted every avenue to that artist.

Actually, you don’t quit even then. You wait for a new avenue to open up.

That’s what happened with “Crickets,” which I wrote with Lisa Shaffer and Bill Whyte. We thought it was a good Joe Nichols song, but we couldn’t get it through his label, Universal South. After a while, he left them and signed with Red Bow.

We pitched it to the new label, and they loved it. Joe finally heard it, and he cut it as the title track to his current album.

If you believe in a song, keep pitching it. And never take “no” from someone who can’t say “yes.”

Have you had that experience where you’ve had success after refusing to take “no” from someone who can’t say “yes?” It doesn’t have to just be music: “She’ll never go out with you.” “You’ll never make the team.” Etc. I’d love to hear from you!

Not taking “no” from someone who can’t say “yes” is how pro songwriters think.  And if you want to become a pro, you need to think like a pro.  In my FREE e-book, “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” I not only reveal several of the mindsets which separate the pro songwriter from the amateur, but also…

  1. How to get on a music publisher’s radar
  2. How the pros know who is looking for songs
  3. Six simple ways to make your songs more commercial
  4. And more!

To get your FREE, INSTANT download of “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” just click on the image below, or CLICK HERE!

think like a pro songwriter 3D

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.

You Win By Adding Value


You win by adding value.  Opportunities come to those who add value.  For example, I brought the idea of “Caribou Barbie” (a Ray Stevens cut) to Matt Cline and Max T. Barnes because they added value by being in Ray’s camp and because they write that kind of song very well.  The value I brought was a title that Ray himself told me I should write.  Lisa Shaffer and Bill Whyte brought the title and idea of “Crickets” (a Joe Nichols cut) to me because they thought my lyrical sensibilities would make the song better.

Artists bring the value of having a record deal.  Published writers bring the value of experience and a team of songpluggers.  What’s your value?  Great hooks?  Do you do your own demos, saving your cowriters money?  Do you have artist potential?  Great melodies?  What can you do to add value?  If you identify it, you can sell yourself on it.  Good luck and God bless!



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Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter

Brent Baxter Music:  http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com

4 Ways Songwriters Benefit From Mentoring

First of all, what is a mentor?  It’s anyone who advises or trains.  It could be a more seasoned, experienced cowriter.  It could also be a publisher or PRO representative (ASCAP, SESAC, BMI, SOCAN…) who takes time with you.  It could also be a professional mentor from NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) or GSC (Global Songwriters Connection).  And there are several good independent mentors out there, too.

A quality mentor can help you get where you want to go more effectively and efficiently- if you’re willing to learn.  Here are four specific ways songwriters can benefit from seeking out a mentor.  (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to drum up business for my own mentoring services.  I only do two or so a month, since it comes out of my family time.)

1. Your mentor knows things you need to know.

He may or may not have some #1s to his credit.  He may or may not have a song on the charts this week.  But the important thing is that he has been down the road ahead of you and can point the way.  He’s seen more, learned more, and accomplished more than you have.  He can help accelerate your learning curve and avoid some of the pitfalls he’s experienced.

2. Your mentor is not your mom.

A mentor is not going to love your song just because they already love you.  And a mentor doesn’t have to see you at Thanksgiving or worry about the quality of the nursing home you choose for her.  Therefore, while a quality mentor will not be mean, she has the freedom to be honest about your writing- as she sees it.  She also doesn’t know your backstory.  This means your writing has to stand on it’s own– singing about Jenny you dated in high school means ONLY what the song says.  Your mentor can’t fill in the gaps from your shared experience- your mentor never sat next to Jenny in algebra class.

3. It’s good practice.

If you want to get songs recorded on a professional level, you’re going to have to get comfortable throwing your babies into the real world.  It can be scary and frustrating, but it’s something you need to get used to.  A quality mentor is a safe place to get that professional feedback.  It’s a step into the music business where you’ll be challenged and have to toughen up.  But it’s also safe because being “just okay” or even “bad” doesn’t close that door to him or her in the future.  After all, it’s your mentor’s job to help you get better.

4. A mentor is a potential entry point into the music business.

If you want to be a professional writer, you won’t get there alone.  You need a network of relationships in the business, and a mentor is a great start.  A mentor might recommend cowriters or publishers.  He or she can be your champion- especially at places like NSAI or GSC.  A mentor might even write with you.  Eventually. (But you should never be the one to mention it first.)  It’s important that you don’ expect this extra level.  I’m just saying, if you’re very good- and professional and would reflect well on your mentor, he or she MIGHT open additional doors for you.

Next week, we’ll start looking at how to maximize a mentoring session.  Thanks!

If you’d like to discover much more about how to find a songwriting coach- and get the most out of that relationship- check out my Amazon bestselling ebook, “Hit Songwriting: How A Songwriting Coach Can Fast Track Your Success.” It will help you prepare for the coaching session- what to do before, during, and after the session- and more! CLICK HERE TO FAST TRACK YOUR SUCCESS.


Any great experiences with a mentor?  Any nightmares?  Any advice on finding a great mentor?  Leave a comment!


Yesterday, it was officially announced that my song, “Crickets” is the title track to Joe Nichols’ new album on Red Bow Records, to be released on October 8, 2013!  Thanks to my cowriters, Lisa Shaffer and Bill Whyte.  And a big thanks to Joe Nichols and his team for recording it!

www.joenichols.com      www.lisashaffermusic.com      www.billwhytecomedy.com


Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter

Brent Baxter Music:  http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com