The Biggest Obstacle To Songwriting Success- Failure to Failure

by Marty Dodson
Jun 19, 2016

6,000 demos to get 100 artist cuts…

Many of you have heard me tell that I have demoed over 6,000 songs and have just over 100 cuts. That’s not a great cut to demo ratio. I don’t even want to know what percentage that would be.

But, I have discovered that one of the keys to being successful is failing a lot while keeping your enthusiasm up. My first song catalog contained over 2,000 songs. From that catalog, I had 1 top ten hit, one major album cut, one single that died at 37 on the chart and a few independent cuts.

Quantity songwriting is your education…

Those 2,000 songs were my “education”. I was learning to write while I wrote them and I was getting better all the time. Almost all of those cuts came in the last year of a 5 year deal.

In catalog #2, I had two multi-week #1 songs and quite a few cuts. Things started to pick up significantly. I had learned a lot from the first catalog and I was writing much better songs. I had also learned a lot about the business and made a lot of connections. I wrote about 3,000 songs for catalog #2. My cut ratio improved a little bit, but I was getting bigger and better cuts.

Last year, (catalog #3) I averaged more than one cut per month. I’m still building on what I learned from catalogs 1 and 2. I’m working smarter. I’m writing better. This year, I hope to improve on that average.

There are no shortcuts for writing well…

It has taken a long time and lots of hard work – 6,000 songs, most of which will never be heard to get to the point where I’m having regular cuts. There have been many discouraging moments and MANY years with NO cuts at all.

Looking back, I realize that the biggest factor in my success may just have been that I never gave up. I never soured on writing when I wasn’t having any success. I didn’t become bitter and jaded. I still love writing more than any other “job” I could imagine and I get up every day excited to write something new.

Being positive during the lean times is key…

Keeping my enthusiasm for writing during the hard times has allowed me to press on when times were hard. If you get discouraged and feel like giving up, put the Winston Churchill quote somewhere that you will see every day. Don’t focus on success or failure. Just write. If you are like me, writing is the part that brings the most joy anyway.

You can give up on writing, but no one can take it away from you. If you started writing because you LOVE to create and express yourself, the music business can’t take that away unless you let it. You can always get that same satisfaction from writing whether anyone listens (and pays you) or not.
You’re in the game as long as you….write on.

Marty Dodson

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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