SongTown: Things I've Learned The Hard Way

1) There is no substitute for a GREAT song. A great sounding demo and lots of connections won't help you get a weak song cut.

2) You have to get outside your box. I don't naturally like to mix and mingle with people. I'm an introvert. I've learned that I have to get out of that box because it limits me and hurts me as a businessman. I have to get out and get to know people, build up my network and be seen around town.

3) Getting a publisher doesn't guarantee cuts or solve all of your problems. I've still gotten a big proportion of my songs cut myself. My publishers have gotten me some significant cuts, but the majority I got through writing with artists or pitching myself.

4) You never get anything for free. Early on, I had people tell me that I should "Never sign away" any part of my publishing. I finally realized that publishers have to make money too, and they aren't going to pitch my songs for free. The cost of doing business is that you will almost always have to give away some part of your publishing if you want to get cuts. You will ALWAYS have to give away part of it if you want a staff writing deal.

5) Don't demo every song you write. As much as I hate to admit it, they aren't all worth spending money on. I try to be very objective and critical of my songs when I'm deciding what to demo.

6) Watch where you spend your money. Most of us don't have unlimited funds. Pick and choose carefully where you spend your money. I recommend that people spend money on a) things that make them better writers and b) things that increase their chances of a cut. Other than that - BEWARE!

7) It takes time. I thought originally that I could write for a couple of years, start getting cuts, and be financially independent writing songs within 5 years. Not going to happen. I don't know anyone who has had that experience. You have to settle in for the long haul.

8) You have to decide how bad you want it. Only those who want it enough will succeed. I can generally predict someone's success based on their drive or "want to."

Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and succeed more quickly. Write on!

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here:, at and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit

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