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

Songwriting Out-Of-Towners -SONGTOWN


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.”

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 it’s 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 is co-founder of SongTown and a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter. He has 2 Grammy nominations and is the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing. 

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

  1. I’m interested in the “getting your song heard” part as well. I’ve been in Songtown for a couple of years (major fan of the site), watched basically everything and this is still a total mystery to me and to most other songwriters I’ve met. The cowriters I’ve had area also not in music cities and as clueless as I am about pitching. So there’s a networking aspect that seems to still go directly back to music cities to get past the “no unsolicitied demos” rules.

    To me, it would be cool if Songtown offered a pitch to publisher in the critique service. At least then maybe some of these songs would have a shot at getting heard?

    1. Hey KD, email me at … There are lots of ways to get your songs heard. We have members who have gotten major artist cuts, staff writer deals, and record deals. Our Edge groups where you work monthly with a publisher have gotten cuts for writers as well. We have song feedback events with publishers, etc. Those publishers have personal relationships with producers and artists, so there’s not an “unsolicited” issue. Also there’s a lot you can do yourself. So let’s get you headed in a more productive direction.

      Cheers, Clay

  2. I’m keeping hope alive and putting in the work. Trying to get “right” what I didn’t do the first time round. SongTown is a tremendous asset not only for helping connect writers but for the incredible resources that unlock the mystery of effective songwriting. ST has helped me greatly with my journey.

  3. Thanks for the article Clay. It is a struggle sometimes to keep the dream alive for those of us living outside of a major music city, especially for those like me who are also holding down a full time day job and supporting a family. Your words of encouragement help. I appreciate all that you and Marty are doing with Song Town.

  4. Thank you very much for this article.
    First comes the work and hopefully the rest will follow……Note to myself..

  5. I am a Dimond member and its actually slightly cheaper. You just pay the year up front. Its about the commitment. Lots of benefit in terms of mentorship.

  6. My question is slightly different. How can I get my songs heard? I had my song reviewed by a pro on Songtown and they said it was ready to be shopped to an artist. When I asked your staff if they had any suggestions on how to pitch it, they did not. So, what do I do? (I used to be able to walk into the Brill building and get a record deal, four in fact. Being out of the business for thirty-five years, I’ve learned that is no longer the case.

    1. Harry, you can set up a mentoring session with a publisher at anytime on our member website. We also have pitch opportunities for Diamond members. Email me anytime. Always happy to help.

      Cheers, Clay

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