Where Are You in the Big Game?

WHERE ARE YOU IN THE BIG GAME? (this primarily applies to Country Songwriters but other may find it useful also)

One of the most important considerations in tackling Music Row is being able to accurately place yourself at the proper level, or position, in the game. By acting as if you are at one level, when you are actually at a lower level, you not only brand yourself as an amateur but you block yourself from learning the craft further. If you look at the Songwriting business as a baseball game (I like analogies) you must place yourself honestly at the right position, if for no other reason than you will then have a sense of where you need to go next.

As a songwriter you will be at one of the following levels/positions:


You have just decided to become a songwriter. You like making up ditties in the shower and your family always tells you how talented you are. You don’t play an instrument and you’ve never read a book on songwriting or any kind of writing.

What to do next:

DON’T: Send your song lyrics into "Looking for Poems" classified ads.

DO: Figure on the next few steps in the process taking 5-10 years if you’re very, very lucky.


You have a certain amount of proficiency on your instrument and/or you have started to analyze lyrics and top-ten songs. You’ve written 10 songs and your family tells you they are as good as anything on the radio. You think you’re ready to take Nashville by storm and you can’t wait to spend hundreds of dollars cutting full-blown demos.

What to do next:

DON’T: Send your songs into a Publisher positive that you have the next number one for Taylor Swift (she writes her own stuff anyway).

DO: Join NSAI (615-256-3354) or THE SONGWRITER’S GUILD OF AMERICA (615-329-1782) and seek out other writers at your level or slightly above.


You’ve kept at it and continue to be willing to learn. You’ve written at least 20 songs and a couple aren’t bad. You have an understanding of structure although lyrically you’re still sounding derivative and bit more trite than you’d like to. You actively seek professional advise and can see the progress you’ve made and where you need to go next. You have learned the value of a "pro" attitude.

What to do next:

DON’T: Stop writing, figuring the well has run dry or that you’ve already written enough hits for a lifetime.

DO: Begin to talk to publishers and ask them to listen to those two songs you feel are your strongest. Expect nothing but an open door for when you really learn how to write. Make sure your second submission is a noticeable improvement over your first.



You’ve written 50 songs. 10 are competitive. One or two are really, really good. You can just smell that first single-song contract. You realized that if a Publisher has said that the door is open to further submissions, you have to come back in six months and really wow them with even better songs.

What to do next 

DON’T: start thinking you’ve learned all there is to learn.

DO: Either move to Nashville, or visit at least a couple of times a year. Or… if you already live in Nashville, treat yourself to a fresh baguette at Provence in Hillsboro Village

Up At Bat

Your first single-song contract. You’ve had a lot of passes but each one has led to an open door. You’re learning all the time and perhaps are starting to seriously co-write. You’re accumulating an impressive roster of contacts.

What to do next:

DON’T: Get discouraged when you see how far you still have to go.

DO: Go to Chambers (or Gruhn Guitars, or Sam’s, or Music Man, or Cotten Music, or Corner Music, or Guitar Heaven, or Rock Block or any of the other great Nashville music stores) and play every expensive instrument you can get your hands on. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll actually be able to afford one!

First Base

You’ve had 5, 6, 7 single song contracts and are concentrating on one Publisher in hopes of getting a staff writing deal. A song gets put on hold. It gets dropped. Another hold. Another drop. And then… a cut on a minor album that goes nowhere but it feels great when you mail a copy to Mom.

What to do next:

DON’T: forget to include a nice letter in that package to Mom.

DO: Go back and rewrite some of those older songs, using all that you’ve learned to improve them.

Second Base

Staff writing deal. Lots of competitive songs. Holds. Cuts. Still not a whole lot of money, but it feels good.

What to do next:

DON’T: Expect other drivers in Nashville to use their turn signals or let you in when you’re trying to merge.

DO: Take a nice walk around Radnor Lake.

Third Base

Your first top ten song.

What to do next:

DON’T: Get cocky… or quit your day job if the benefits are good!

DO: Go to Planet Hollywood to celebrate (if for no other reason than to get it over with so you can swear you’ll never go back again!).


Numero Uno!

What to do next:

DON’T: trust any weather reports or any driving directions anyone gives you in Nashville. You will get wet, and you will get lost.

DO: Go back to that guitar shop and pay cash for that beauty (it's deductible)!


Your song gets picked up for a Chevy/Ford commercial!

What to do next:

DON’T: Forget who your friends are (just you and me, right?).

DO: Move to Hawaii and let someone else have a go.