I Own This Town: The Overconfident Songwriter

by Marty Dodson
Feb 20, 2024

I read a post on social media recently about a guy who said that he walked into a certain PRO (BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC) “like he owned the place” because he knew that his songs were better than anything they had. When he demanded a meeting on the spot, they escorted him out of the building. He was shocked. Then, he went across the street and tried that same plan out at another place with the same result. At the end of the post he claimed that someone else actually escorted him out of Nashville. While that part stretched believability, I’ve seen the first two routines in action several times and is what I describe as the overconfident songwriter.

Songwriter Dude, I’m sorry if you wind up reading this post and seeing yourself here, but I have to say that your plan is a bad one.

You don’t own this town. You don’t own your PRO. And, nobody here owes you anything. You didn’t build the town, or the PRO, or any of the artists involved. You may be very talented. But you have to understand where you fit into the big picture before you will ever be welcomed into the fold.

A young songwriter once came to me and told me that he had written a song that was being performed in lots of churches and youth groups. He wanted to register it with ASCAP so that he could get paid for some of those performances. I gave him a name to call. After he tried 2-3 times and didn’t receive a call back over a month’s time, he called me very upset. Among other things, he said “They must think I’m a nobody”. I inquired about his messages. The first one he left had been nice. The second one expressed a little frustration. And the third one pretty much blasted the person for not calling him back.

I responded – “A) You ARE a nobody and B) You’re being a jerk. Nobody wants to help a jerk.”

I went on to explain to him that the reps at the PROs are dealing with thousands of writers, most of whom think they have an urgent request. He, as a writer of one song that is getting performed is not a priority. Plus, he could have and should have registered the song himself online. Then, he wouldn’t have a problem.

The vast majority of people I see succeeding are people who are businesslike, show respect to everyone they meet and who accept their place in the pecking order of the music business. I have had over 125 songs recorded and 10 #1 songs, but I realize that there are TONS of writers at BMI who are more successful than I am. They are going to get priority over me when I call because they are making lots of money for the company. Way more than I am. That’s how life works. So, I’m patient and polite. If they don’t call me back, I wait a reasonable amount of time before I politely call them again. I don’t become the overconfident songwriter.

So that I don’t become an overconfident songwriter, I remind myself from time to time:

1) You don’t own this town

2) Nobody owes you a call back

3) You’ve got to earn any respect you get

Those three little reminders help me keep things (and myself) in perspective.

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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