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The Frettie Journal
A collection of interviews, updates, tips and resources for songwriters.

What is your songwriting horizon?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 31, 2018

At different times in my songwriting history (and I guess I’ve been doing this long enough to officially consider it “history”) I’ve had various “horizons.” What is a songwriting horizon? The horizon is the basic target your songwriting...

What songwriting story are you telling yourself?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 24, 2018

Songwriters are storytellers.  We love to tell our listeners about the world as we see it- what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, what we believe in, etc.  But the most important story you will ever tell as a...

5 signs that you should stop writing with an artist.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 17, 2018

Album credits make one thing perfectly clear - it's smart to write with the artist.  There's no denying that.  However, not every artist is worth your time and creativity. Here are 5 red flags that mean you should probably NOT write...

Set your cowriters up for success

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 10, 2018

About an hour into the cowrite, I knew I'd made a mistake.  This song was gonna be good, but it probably wasn't going to be great.  And it was my fault.  I shouldn't have brought this idea to this guy...

Hey, Songwriter.  Please stop showing off!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 03, 2018

Sometimes, it’s tempting and a whole lot of fun to get really clever with our songwriting. And I mean REALLY clever. We start getting good at spinning a phrase or using double meanings, and the next thing you know,...

How do you know when your song is done?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on September 26, 2018

So how do you know when your song is really done? My usual joking answer is, "when it's shrink-wrapped at Wal-Mart." Of course, that's not true. And it's also a dated joke, so let's dive into the question. First of...

Do your songs let the artist “preach?”

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on September 19, 2018

DO YOUR SONGS LET THE ARTIST PREACH? No, I don’t mean you have to write spiritual songs. And I don’t mean that the artist is looking to tell his audience how to live. The artist wants to do...

Are you on the Songwriting P.A.T.H.?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on September 12, 2018

Songwriting is a journey. If you have big dreams for your songwriting, then it’s a long journey. It’s been my experience that a wise path is critical to a successful journey. Here are the elements of a wise...

Small Details = Big-time Songwriting

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on September 05, 2018

There is power in finding images that go deeper than the obvious or cliche'. I had a publisher tell me once, ”write about the truck from the INSIDE THE CAB, not from the OUTSIDE” "The truck," of course, is a...

Fail. Fail again. Then win.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on August 29, 2018

Let me share some failures with you. But don’t worry. There’s a happy ending. Elvis Presley was booed off stage in Batesville, Arkansas (my hometown). Garth Brooks got passed on by every record label in Nashville.”Bless The...

If your songs confuse, they lose.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on August 22, 2018

If you CONFUSE the listener, you LOSE the listener.  And the scary thing is... your songs might be confusing and losing your listeners without you even knowing it. First off, does it really matter if the listener gets a little...

I’m nothing special- and that’s good news for you!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on August 15, 2018

I’m nothing special. There’s no big obvious reason for the moderate success I’ve had in the music business. I’m not a musical child prodigy. I wasn’t born into a music biz family. I don’t...

Do you feel invisible to music publishers?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on August 08, 2018

Most songwriters can't seem to get a music publisher's attention. They're simply invisible, or at least it feels that way.  And maybe your songs are good.  Maybe they're really good.  But that doesn't matter much if you're missing the other...

Do you have to go to a songwriting or music school to be successful?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on August 01, 2018

Is it necessary to go to a school (college or university) to learn how to write songs?  Or is there a faster, better way? Well, you'll be happy to hear that no, you don't HAVE to go to a college...

Songwriting Success: D.R.I.P. by D.R.I.P.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on July 25, 2018

Success is not an overnight explosion- regardless of how an “overnight success” might be viewed by others.  No, success is usually more like water wearing away a stone, drip by drip.  It’s little things making a big difference over...

Your Friends Determine Your Songwriting Future

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on July 18, 2018

"Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future." Yes, I know that probably sounds like something your mother would say. But I think it’s true. And, if it IS true, it really matters who you let into...

Are You A Shawshank Songwriter?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on July 11, 2018

If you feel trapped in your day job- if you feel like you’re locked in a prison, I recommend watching “The Shawshank Redemption.” There is an important lesson in there for folks trying to escape their day jobs for...

Day Job: Songwriting Prison… or Songwriter Patron?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on July 04, 2018

If you have the dream of being a full-time songwriter, singer/songwriter, or other type of creative, I know it’s easy to think of your day job as a prison. You feel chained to your desk, or to the...

Where Have All The Story Songs Gone?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on June 27, 2018

It's easy to listen to current Top 40 country and pop and wonder, "Where have the great story songs gone?" And where are the songs that make you think? Are all the music fans REALLY this stupid and shallow these days?" ...

Are you writing songs from the most powerful point of view?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on June 20, 2018

Sometimes we hit a roadblock with our song because we’re writing from the wrong (or less than best) point of view. Let’s say you’re writing about domestic abuse. (I know, I know. It’s an uplifting topic,...

Pick Up The Tempo To Pick Up More Fans

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on June 13, 2018

You should probably be writing more uptempo songs than you already are. Why? Let me tell you. Tempo is the speed of your song in beats per minute, or bpm. As a general principle, uptempo songs are in higher demand...

Write The Video Before You Write The Song

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on June 06, 2018

As songwriters, we sometimes to leave too much information IN our heads and OFF of the page. This is a big mistake, and it can leave our listener either confused or emotionally disconnected from our song. So why do we...

Why Won’t A Music Publisher Respond To My Email?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on May 30, 2018

Okay, you know the drill.  You email a music publisher, and you wait for a reply.  And you wait.  And you wait.  And then you say bad words and wait some more.  Man, I've been there, too- and it just...

The Danger Of Songwriting “Shambition”

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on May 23, 2018

“Shambition” – noun. “When you talk like you have songwriting ambition, but you work like you couldn’t care less.” It’s time to take a hard look in the mirror. Statements of ambition are all over social media. Writers and...

How Pro Songwriters Know Who’s Looking For Songs

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on May 16, 2018

You might be writing great songs, but you won’t get them recorded if you don’t know who’s actually looking for songs to record. It’s hard enough just to write great, commercial songs. Finding out who’s...

The Cure For Your Songwriting Pain

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on May 09, 2018

Songwriters are a sick bunch of folks. And, no, I don’t mean we’re crazy for doing what we do. (Okay, maybe a little, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.)  What I mean by sick...

6 Ways To Make Your Songs More Commercial

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on May 02, 2018

If your goals are like mine- getting cuts and hits, then your best bet is by writing well-crafted COMMERCIAL songs.  Here are six simple (though not always easy) ways to make your songs more commercial. 1. Write uptempo. Learn to write...

Turn A Negative Title Into A Positive Song!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on April 25, 2018

Commercially-speaking, positive songs are in higher demand than negative songs. (That’s not a surprise if you listen to the radio.)  But what if most of the titles and ideas you come up with are sad/negative? Well, then... I...

Songwriter, Please Don’t Chase Rhymes!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on April 18, 2018

It’s easy to start chasing rhymes. But it's a big mistake. This is when you write a line with a setup rhyme and, instead of concentrating on what needs to be said, you just try to get the payoff...

Are your songs on the inside or outside?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on April 11, 2018

When an artist is working on an album, there are two types of songs which will (or will not) be considered: inside songs and outside songs. So what are these, and why does it matter to you as a songwriter? ...

Your songwriting needs to show, not just tell.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on April 04, 2018

Imagery is a very important part of your lyric- especially in country music. The saying in Nashville is, ”Show me, don’t tell me.” There are a few reasons we’d rather you show us your song than tell us. 1....

Every cliche’ lyric is a missed opportunity.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on March 28, 2018

Every time you use a cliche' in your song, you miss an opportunity to do something great. Cliche's get used so much because the’re so easy. They are the first things that come to mind when we want to...

Do you call your own songs “great?” Don’t.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on March 21, 2018

Stop calling your own songs "great." YOU don't get to decide that.  And neither do I, to be fair.  Today, let's talk about who DOES get to decide if your song is great. When I was writing my earliest songs...

Here’s How Songwriters Can Make A Great First Impression

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on March 14, 2018

A few years back, I met the owner of a certain publishing company. It was the first time we’d ever met. Within ten minutes, he said he was interested in talking about a publishing deal with me. How did...

Are you building your songs in the right neighborhood?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on March 07, 2018

The 3 most important things in real estate are also very important in songwriting: location, location, location. In probably any town, certain neighborhoods have certain personalities. One neighborhood is full of SUV-driving soccer moms. Another is mostly middle-class country folk. Another...

How To Get A Music Publisher To Notice You

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on February 21, 2018

If you're like most songwriters, it's really difficult to get a music publisher's attention.  You're simply invisible, or at least it feels that way.  And maybe your songs are good.  Maybe they're REALLY good.  But that doesn't matter much if...

How To Make A Music Publisher Fall In Love With You (Musically)

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on February 14, 2018

Getting a publisher to offer you a publishing deal is kinda like getting one to marry you.  It's a big commitment, and it's one that isn't taken lightly by a publisher.  It's a tough, tough business, and they need enough...

Pitching Your Songs Is Like Playing Guitar.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on February 07, 2018

Remember when you first picked up the guitar? It was a mystery. How do those great guitar players do it? Then you watch a YouTube video or pick up a Mel Bay book (showing my age) and it tells you...

The 4 Cornerstones of Songwriting Success

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on January 31, 2018

I believe there are four cornerstones to professional songwriting success. You can remember them by the acronym, “W.R.A.P.” They are: 1. Write This one’s pretty obvious. We’re songwriters, aren’t we? If you’re a writer......

Songwriters, Don’t Count Lines

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on January 24, 2018

When you write a song with a cowriter, it’s standard practice in Nashville to have even splits between all the cowriters, no matter how much they contribute.  This means every writer on the song (or their publisher) owns an...

Boats & Rivers

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on January 17, 2018

In the music business, songs travel on relationships like boats on a river. Think of your song as a boat and your network of relationships as the water in the river. You can have a big, deep river (a lot...

Bullseye!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on January 10, 2018

Imagine you walk into a room called “Country Music” and Mr. Music Row hands you darts.  He says, “These darts are your songs.  Hit a bullseye with a dart, and that song gets cut.”  You look at the wall on...

Set your goals like dominos!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on January 03, 2018

Prioritize your goals like you’re setting up dominos. Which of your goals, if you accomplish it, will make it easier to accomplish your OTHER goals? Like toppling dominos, which goal, when accomplished, will help to knock over your next...

You Don’t Have To Be Great At Everything To Be A Songwriting Superhero

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on December 20, 2017

I’m bad at a lot of things. I don’t sing well. I don’t write melodies. I’d be an atrocious producer. I hardly play guitar (don’t even take it to cowrites). Yet... I’ve written cuts...

Do you keep a Hook Book? You should!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on December 06, 2017

I keep a hook book. It’s where all of my song ideas go. It’s a literal notebook I keep in my desk or carry around with me. There’s also a running list in a file on my...

Songwriting Success: Put It On Layaway

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on November 29, 2017

Remember the days when people largely believed in paying for something BEFORE they walked out of the store with it? A lot of stores like Wal-Mart and Sears used to offer something called layaway. Back when I was a kid,...

Songwriting Patience and Endurance

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on November 22, 2017

Be patient in your pursuit of songwriting success. It takes years of hard work to become a professional-level songwriter. It can also take years to develop the relationships that will open doors in the music business. So endurance is a...

Is Your Song Telling Too Much?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on November 15, 2017

Are you telling TOO MUCH of your story in your song? Is it really important that you and your love had a fight over whether to go for tacos or pizza for dinner (and you wanted tacos because it was...

Debt is a dream-killer

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on November 08, 2017

Beware of debt- it’s a dream-killer. Financial debt limits your options. Debt raises the amount you have to earn every month just to make ends meet. How free are you to transition from your day job to the roller...

Songwriting Monsters!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween! There are more than a few monsters that haunt songwriters, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you today. Be on the lookout for these ghouls! SCAMpires- These suckers are looking to bleed your wallet...

Songwriting Truth Beats Real Life Facts

Tips & Resources by BRENT BAXTER on October 25, 2017

Remember, if you’re writing to get cuts, your songs aren’t about you. Your songs are about the artist and the listener. You might write a song inspired by a true story from your life, but don’t be...

You Win By Adding Value

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 18, 2017

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...

Are Your Songs Contagious?

Tips & Resources by Brent on July 19, 2017

I read this quote (of a quote) in the book “If You Want To Write” by Brenda Ueland. I think it’s worth considering, so I thought I’d share. “Tolstoi, in a famous essay called, ‘What Is Art?’ said...

$91 vs. $91,000

Tips & Resources by Brent on July 12, 2017

Right now, the statutory mechanical rate in the US (set by Congress) is $0.091 per unit sold. Meaning, each time someone buys an album at Wal-Mart or iTunes, each song generates $0.091 to be split among that song’s writers and publishers. ...

The Big Yes

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on June 28, 2017

When pitching a song, there is a “Little Yes” and a “Big Yes.” The Little Yes is a person who ONLY has the power to pass your song up the ladder. The Big Yes is one of those very few...

Jigsaw Songwriting

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on June 21, 2017

If you’ve ever put (or attempted to put) together a jigsaw puzzle, you know how you set the box right in front of you so you can keep looking at the finished picture? That’s how it should be...

Ignorance Is Bliss… And Sometimes Helpful

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on June 14, 2017

“My song is just as good as the stuff on the radio!” Beginning songwriters everywhere have said it, and I was certainly no exception. And, like beginning songwriters everywhere, I was WAY wrong. Not only did I not know I...

The Links Between You And A Cut

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on June 07, 2017

I think of getting a song cut as a chain- I’m on one end and the cut is on the other. Each link in the chain is someone who has to say “yes” to the song and pass it...

Pick Your Pain

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on May 31, 2017

Success comes at the cost of comfort. And once you have the dream of writing songs for a living (or just getting a song cut) pain is unavoidable. So pick your pain. You can either have the pain that comes...

Facts vs. Truth

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on May 24, 2017

Remember, if you’re writing to get cuts, your songs aren’t about you. Your songs are about the artist and the listener. You might write a song inspired by a true story from your life, but don’t be...

Busy is lazy

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on May 17, 2017

Too many times, our busy-ness is really just laziness. We keep ourselves busy with organizing our writers room, checking email, or checking out an artist’s new record. And none of these are bad things- but neither are they usually...

Going Nowhere

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on May 10, 2017

Do you have cowriters that are going nowhere and taking you with them? You can’t drag a cowriter or potential artist across the finish line. If an artist or songwriter isn’t willing to do the hard things it...

Why won’t a pro write with me?

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on May 03, 2017

I know it can be frustrating trying to land a cowrite with a pro songwriter. I've heard writers ask before, "Why won't a pro write with me?" The question you might want to ask yourself is, “Why SHOULD a pro...

What It’s About

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter on April 26, 2017

The publishers and A&R reps on Music Row don’t want YOU to tell them what your song is about. They want YOUR SONG to tell them what your song is about. Your song needs to be self-contained and...

Before Your Pitch Meeting

Tips & Resources by Brent on April 19, 2017

Before you call to set up a pitch meeting, assume the A&R person or producer will have an appointment with Luke Laird right before you and Don Schlitz right after you. (Look ‘em up if you don’t know...

The Necessary And The Difficult

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, hit songwriter on April 12, 2017

The music business is a tough, tough business, and the path to success travels through setbacks, failure, and doubt. The journey requires you to have patience, and it requires you to do difficult, challenging things. I don’t know of...

Education: “Keep Your Story Moving” by Brent Baxter

All, Tips & Resources by Guest Author: Brent Baxter on September 04, 2014

Today we are excited to have Nashville songwriter Brent Baxter contribute to the Frettie Journal. If you're not familiar with Brent Baxter, he's not just a songwriter with songs recorded by Alan Jackson (the top 5 country hit “Monday Morning Church”),...

Opportunity: The Indie International Songwriting Contest

All, Announcements, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on June 04, 2014

The Indie International Songwriting Contest is an annual song competition to give recognition to some of the best emerging songwriters in the world, help develop their talent, and provide useful tools for developing the success of the artist. Over $54,000 in...

Opportunity: A Songwriter Spotlight on Country Uncovered

All, Announcements, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on June 03, 2014

Country Uncovered is the only show that features songwriters the way they should be! It's a two-hour radio program that airs weekly on WCLT-FM/T-100 in Newark, Ohio – part of the Columbus, Ohio radio market. In addition to interviewing hit...

Education: Cool Songwriting & Writing Spaces For Your Inspiration

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on May 19, 2014

When ideas start to run dry every songwriter knows the importance of their own hideaway to encourage inspiration. These spaces can be anywhere, though of course different places will encourage different thoughts. The key for many songwriters is to vary...

Sounds Garden 1: Alternate Tunings For Guitarists

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on May 12, 2014

Since we already started a series dedicated to helping lyricists expand their range and avoid writer’s block, we thought it would only be right to start a series to help out with the musical side of things. So we...

Open Exposure 1: Online Platforms To Start Releasing Your Own Music.

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on May 05, 2014

To start releasing music out into the general public is a daunting task that can quickly fill you with doubt. Will anyone like my music? Are my songs ready? Will people even listen to it? Once you have gotten over...

Education: Setting Up a Home Studio

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on April 28, 2014

Getting a professional sound from home recording gear has never been easier thanks to the range of cost effective, good quality equipment and digital recording devices on the market today. With a little time and research you can put together...

Word Games 1: First Person Character Writing

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on March 24, 2014

Word Games will be a semi-regular feature meant to start you thinking about your lyric writing. Do you feel your writing has gotten stale? Have you got writer’s block? Are you frustrated or even just bored by your own...

Education: Three Books to Jumpstart and Improve Your Songwriting.

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on March 09, 2014

Every songwriter has his or her process when writing. By learning about other peoples' processes, it becomes easier to find your own unique path. Let these books be a jumping off point for your own inspiration and creativity. 1.) The War...

Frettie + SongTopic

All, Announcements, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on February 01, 2014

Wouldn't it be great if you were provided an endless stream of song topics to write about? Well, let us introduce you to SongTopic.com. In their words; "SongTopic is an email based songwriting community that challenges songwriters to respond...

Education: 5 digital tools to help you capture your song ideas while on the go.

All, Tips & Resources by The Frettie Team on January 29, 2014

It's happens to all songwriters. You're going about your day and then all of the sudden a great song idea pops into your head. Great! But not so great if you don't have a way to capture that idea. And...

Education: The power of feedback.

All, Tips & Resources by Dennis Field on January 20, 2014

Feedback is an important part of any creation process. It's the core of what Frettie is built on top of. All songwriters know that feedback is important, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded about the true power of...