SongTown USA: No Rich Relatives

I used to sit around and daydream about having a rich relative that would pass away someday (sadly) and leave me a fortune. When I began to look around at my relatives, I realized quickly that I had better start buying lottery tickets if I wanted a windfall like that. No offense to my relatives, but there's just not lots of money growing on my family tree. I figured out that any money I was going to fall into was likely going to be the result of really hard work on my part. Sobering, but true. I was going to have to get my money the old fashioned way - with time and sweat. By the time I started trying to write professionally, I had already come to the "no rich relatives" conclusion in my personal life. Still, it took me a while to realize the implications of that truth in my songwriting career. Here are the lessons I learned in regard to a big windfall as a songwriter:

1) There is no back door. At first, I kept looking for shortcuts and ways to get around "Hard Work Mountain". I hoped somebody would notice a great song of mine and send it straight to Garth Brooks who would cut it and make me millions. In my experience, that never happened until last week when my publisher sent one of my songs directly to Garth. That's the first "direct to Garth" pitch I've had in 17 years of professional writing. Don't count on a shortcut. Keep climbing Hard Work Mountain.

2) There's no charity program for writers. At first, I hoped to find someone who would help me out of the goodness of their heart. Kind of like a dentist might see a poor homeless child with a toothache and help her for free. I realized quickly that the music business is a BUSINESS and there are no musical emergencies.

My being pitiful and cutless did not cause publisher's hearts to break enough to help me for free. Really, it was silly of me to think they would. Once again, I realized that I have to make it happen. No rich relatives, remember? As I improved as a writer, I realized that there were a lot of people who would help me, but not as a handout. They were helping me because they saw me working hard and improving myself. Most of them were helping me because they believed they could make money from my songs. That's ok. That's how a business works.

3) Good songs rarely get cut. When I got my writing deal and began hearing the songs that our other writers wrote every day, I quickly understood why I had no cuts. My songs were not as good as theirs. I realized that Garth was not cutting my songs because my songs were not great. They were good, but not great. He cut GREAT songs.

Once again, Garth was not going to cut my song because I was a nice guy or because I needed a cut badly. He was going to cut really great songs. There is no shortcut around quality. No one will cut your average song. Their careers depend on the music they choose and they want GREAT songs (Ok, a few non-great ones sneak on albums because the artist wrote them, but as a writer, you and I have to write great ones!) The same principle applies in all areas of life. If you develop a product, Walmart is not going to carry it just because you are nice. They will carry your product IF it is better than what they currently sell and IF they think they can make a profit from it. Don't expect anything different in the music business. People are in business to make money and provide for their families. If you want them to help you, then help them see how working with you can help them make money.

So, if you want to succeed in the music business, and your uncle is not John Mayer, your best chance at success is to work hard, to expect to earn everything you get and to write GREAT songs. Don't walk around with your hand out, put your hands to working crafting better songs each day. Keep climbing and improving. Write on!

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.

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