5 Ways Songwriters Shoot Themselves In The Foot And Sabotage Songs

by Marty Dodson
Mar 17, 2024

In a 20+ year music career as a songwriter, I’ve shot myself in the foot so many times that it’s amazing I can walk.  I thought I’d share some of them to help YOU avoid doing the same thing.  Here are some of the worst “shots” I’ve taken in the foot.

Getting too excited over one good thing.

Positive feedback is great.  But, I need to keep my head about me when I get good news.  Having a publisher or artist like my song is awesome.  But I can’t become their new best friend – emailing or calling constantly to check on the status of the song.  Doing so puts me in the “crackpot amateur” category and hurts my chances of a longterm relationship with those people.  As they say in football – “Act like you’ve been in the end zone before”.  Play it cool.  Be patient.  Don’t behave unprofessionally just because you are excited.

Having sacred cows in a co-write is a proven way to sabatage songs.

I have ruined several co-writing relationships by being unwilling to let go of a line I loved.  Co-writing is a partnership.  In a partnership, there has to be a lot of give and take.  If I value my great line over the writing relationship, I’ll lose the relationship and be left with one great line.  Be open-minded.  Be flexible.  Acknowledge that your co-writers idea could possibly be better than yours.  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting can help you navigate the ins and outs of collaborative relationships.

Pitching songs before I had GREAT ones.

I hurt my chances early on by getting excited and pitching the best songs I had, regardless of whether or not they were commercially competitive.  So, I began sending everyone I knew (and some I didn’t) CDs of really consistently average songs.  Pretty soon, they stopped listening.  Years later, I still had to work hard to rebuild some bridges I had burned.  Pitching average or even good songs is going to hurt you.  They have to be GREAT to compete.  Looking back, I wish I had spent less time pitching my average songs and more time trying to write great ones.

Trying to write “up” too much.

There are some people in town who I wrote with early in my career that now have more than 20 #1 songs.  I thought they were ok at the time.  But at the time, they didn’t have much going on (neither did I), so I was more concerned about trying to land a co-write with a current “big hit writer”.  If I had invested more in the relationships of those people at my level, I could have remained in their writing circles and I would have more cuts – possibly LOTS more cuts.  Looking up instead of looking around cost me big time.  Find other writers at your level that are good and invest in longterm relationships with them.  That’s the best route to success.

Not spending enough time networking and hanging out.

I’ve always been the “let’s get down to business” type.  I wish I had spent more time really getting to know co-writers and hanging out with them outside of the writing room.  I also wish I had gone to more writers nights, #1 parties, and other industry events so that I could expand my network.  Investing time in those kinds of things will be really valuable in the long run.

Don’t shoot your size 10s the way I did.  Learn the easy way – not the hard one!

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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