Music Business

The Out-Of-Town Songwriter: Getting A Major Artist Cut If You Don’t Live In Nashville, NYC, or LA

by Clay Mills
Jul 8, 2022

The number one question that fills our email inbox is “How do I get a song cut by a major artist if I’m an out-of-town songwriter?” “I don’t live in a big music city” is the challenge.

This strikes at the very core of why Marty Dodson and I created this virtual SongTown of kindred spirits. To bring a Music City feel and music business know-how to anyone living anywhere. It can seem like a daunting task living outside the scene and calling ourselves songwriters. But the community has grown to world-wide status with many success stories.

How do you get our music heard by people that matter?

Well, let me start by saying it is not an impossible task for an out-of-town songwriter! But, most of the time getting your music heard is not the hard part. And not the most important part of getting your songs cut by major artists. The first hurdle you must tackle is truly writing great songs. Not just songs your friends like or your family likes at a Friday night get-together, but rather songs that are universal and solid enough to turn millions of people on.

I’ll give you a great example of a great out-of-town songwriter and his journey. Many pros have similar stories but we’ll use the inspiring story of Tom Douglas. Tom has written big classic songs like “The House That Built Me” and “Little Rock”  but didn’t find his initial success living in Nashville, TN. In fact, Tom was a Real Estate agent bent on making a living and being responsible. He had a wife and family after all. He had actually given up the notion of being a commercial songwriter, and then he wrote a song called “Little Rock.”

Collin Raye- Little Rock- Songwriting from Out-Of-Town - SongTown

Tom decided to go to a songwriter seminar where he played producer Paul Worley his song.

“Little Rock” became his first #1 song and three years later he moved to Nashville. So what changed his luck? Tom had been writing for years and years. And had once lived in Nashville trying to make it as a writer. He had played publishers and producers songs before—but he had never played them a game-changing song! His “Little Rock” song found its way all the way from Texas to Nashville to #1 on the charts. His early songs didn’t make it down the street in Nashville.

As a veteran writer in Nashville, I hear these stories all the time. A writer comes seemingly out of nowhere to have a big hit. Then, after a little digging, you find the writer worked hard to become a great writer. That’s when the doors opened. That’s when things happened “overnight.” I am writing today to answer the emails we get about how frustrating it is not living in a music city. Marty and I want to help you level up your writing game, tell you the real deal and bring you opportunities when your songs are ready.

SongTown is built to help you level up your songwriting, meet co-writers, and connect you to the industry when you’re ready. Even if you’re an out-of-town songwriter.

We have members from all over the world co-writing with each other and working with our publisher mentors. We’ve also spent the last 8 years filming over 1,000 videos with 100 plus pro songwriters. All of these lessons and courses are all available 24/7 to watch. As well as our live zoom meetings and virtual co-writer meet-ups. For Marty and me it’s become our second family. It’s a fun town and we are so proud of our alumni that have collected major artist cuts, publishing and record deals, and many sync placements in TV and Film. Many have been out-of-town songwriters.

Oh, and by the way. I was an out-of-town songwriter when I landed my own first-time publishing deal in Nashville. So I can walk the talk and have been on your journey! A mindset that has helped me throughout my own career has been accepting this mantra…

A GREAT song can open any door, move any mountain, and change lives forever!

Write On! CM

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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