What I Wish I’d Have Known When I Started in the Biz: Part I

What I wish I’d known about the songwriting world that I had to learn the hard way.

So THERE’S a topic!!!!

I take on two groups of songwriters to mentor each year, and one of the main questions I get in those groups is HOW DO I GET MY SONGS CUT?

Oh, dear writer. How I wish I could give you the magic recipe. How I wish I had the magic recipe.

Of course, there isn’t one. And ultimately, who knows?


Having been on both sides of the aspirational coin, let me clue you in on a few facts that may just keep your self-esteem out of the toilet when you feel like you just can’t get anything recorded.

1. Sometimes you just big fat don’t have a shot at a recording.

There are so many reasons. I can’t even begin to fully delve into the politics, the egos and the financial machine that is the ‘biz,’ but you should know that there are truly times when you just don’t have a shot.

It’s not you.
It’s not your song.
Bottom line: It’s just not going to happen sometimes.

2. Some slots are solicited behind the scenes.

Every project that comes up is NOT wide open. Here are a few examples of why:

Artists solicit writers they know & trust. Sometimes it’s just easier.
Labels may want to own some of the publishing on a recording so their writers get 1st consideration.
Artists want to write on their own records so they co-write with established writers.
Producers want to get their own tunes on the record (royalties, anyone?)

Bottom Line: There are a lot of things going on you don’t know about.

3. It really is who you know sometimes.

Ask my mentorees, I preach about making connections. No, I actually harp on it. NAG, even. Why?

Because your chances of getting your songs heard are ASTRONOMICALLY better when you’re shooting something over to a friend vs. stalking some guy through a dark parking lot. (Trust me…wait…what?)

Bottom Line: Relationships matter.

Listen Up!

This is NOT a rant about the big, bad business. Make no mistake. Niles Quote1

Instead, this is a reminder that you don’t have to take every pass personally. It’s really not always about you.

The next time you’re sitting in your pool of pitiful feeling like you can’t write your way out of a paper bag, remember that things aren’t always as they seem on the surface.

I know it can feel tough sometimes. That’s even why I added my Platinum level of mentoring. I definitely can’t guarantee anything for anyone, but I know that if I co-write with someone, the song will at least get heard. I’ve been in the vacuum before, and I know how it feels.

My first publisher told me something when I moved to Nashville that I’ve never forgotten.  He said the difference between a lot of successful writers and unsuccessful writers is persistence.

He said, “I’m successful because a lot of more-talented writers than me got discouraged and went home.”

Hold that one in your heart, Gang.
You just might need it one of these days.