Songwriters: Ordinary Is The Enemy

songwriters: ordinary is the enemy

I can’t count the number of times I have had songwriters tell me that the music business is “trying to keep them out” or that they can’t break into the “cliques” in Nashville, LA, or wherever they are trying to break in.

I’d like to give a different perspective on all of that. I put forward that ordinary is the enemy.

In my experience, nobody is trying to keep anyone out.

There are camps that try to keep most of their artists cut songs from within the camp.  But, even those camps are after the same thing.  If you increase their chances at getting that one thing, then you are in like the long lost cousin at a family reunion who just won the Powerball.

What is that one thing, you might ask?  $$Money$$, my friends.  It’s the same reason the family reunion welcomes cousin Lenny who was last seen stealing granny’s Oldsmobile 20 years ago if he pulls up this year in a Bentley.

If you come in with a song that sounds like money, people are going to be fighting over it (and you).

You see, the enemies of the songwriter are not publishers, artists and record labels.

Ordinary is the enemy. Taht pile of ordinary songs that ALL of us have.

I have hundreds of them.  Maybe thousands.  They are never going to get recorded because they just don’t stand out in any way.

The people I played them for earlier in my career weren’t trying to keep me out.  I just wasn’t giving them anything unique enough to work with.  I was playing them ordinary songs.  Just like hundreds of other writers were playing them.  And I thought they were amazing.

Consequently, the SongTown mantra is and has always been “write a better song”.  Ordinary is the enemy! If you aren’t getting anywhere with publishers, write a better song.  If you don’t get a prize in a song contest, don’t keep submitting that same song to every contest in the world, write a better one.

The answer to ANY lack of progress in your songwriting is to simply write a better song.

When you finally write that song that is OUT of the ordinary, you will see a different response when you play it for people in the business.

So, if you are so inclined, drop out of the blame game and fight against ordinary, not against the music business.  That’s the ticket to succeeding.  Refuse to write ordinary ideas.  Refuse to settle for ordinary lyrics.  Realize that ordinary is the enemy and keep digging until your melodies are unique and stand out in a crowd.  Then, and only then, will people start to pay attention.

Write on,

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

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

16 thoughts on “Songwriters: Ordinary Is The Enemy

  1. Stop trying to write hits!…and start getting into movie soundtracks…whilst a record company likes your initial track and then says they want 8 more like it, to make an album…whereas, movie makers
    don’t want that…they want your diversity of tracks/songs…besides it’s still lucrative…like HELLO!

    Ray Karl Hall / KinetiKindred

  2. I call BS. The crap I hear on the radio is all about money and who you know. A newbie has little chance of being heard. Write a better song? I’ve written dozens of songs the are head and shoulders above the garbage songs with same chord progressions on the radio. Sameness and lameness is SOP in the music biz. It’s who ya know and who b**w.

  3. If I’m pitching and promoting, I’m pitching and promoting MY Songs. I don’t play covers. If I’m playing, I’m playing MY Songs. In that sense, I’m tryin’ to keep everybody out, past, present, future. And I can see that same motive logically operating in the biz. If they don’t ‘sign’ someone, if they don’t pick some Song, they’re out of business. So they sign artists and pick Songs, and that’s who and what they put on the market, to the exclusion of and in competition with other artists and Songs. These are the artists and Songs they have their money invested in, who will earn them a Return-On-Investment (ROI), if any is earned. It’s true they’ll grab an artist who has something unique, a look, a sound, hopefully more than one Song that is also unique. But mostly they’ve made decisions about where they’re going to invest their money and aren’t looking to make any new decisions. So, write better Songs, be a better artist, and go get them to sign you or your Songs and be the decision they make for the next cycle.

  4. I like the repeated reminder to write a better song. So many times people have an incredible story that they are trying to tell with a song, but because the song might not always do the story justice, they get offended and frustrated with people not getting the story from their song. I’m going to quote you next time this comes up so that the probably to be perceived criticism isn’t from me 🙂 “As Marty would say.. ‘write a better song’ “

  5. However, I do hear a lot of mediocre songs on mainstream radio these days. Not being negative or sour. Just a fact. But, you are correct, it all comes down to money.

  6. Marty, I love this, thank you for sharing it. I do believe we need to keep pushing ourselves and keep reaching to write the best songs we can. I feel inspired by hearing this because we can allow ourselves to get stuck and feel defeated. I appreciate your support and all you do to keep everyone lifted up.

  7. The song You Light Up My Life sung by Debby Boone was turned down by many record labels, the composer said in an interview.
    Lots of songs were accepted & not accepted not because they were deemed inferior or great…many factors are involved.

  8. I believe you are correct. With the thousamds of songs out there today it’s hard to sift through it all to find that special money song. It’s hard to get songs to the right people. It’s not that they are keeping us out they are just makong it harder to get in. There are just so many writers today. And many are great. And songs I would think never even make it to the right artist. It just takes persistmace really listening to the top forty. They know what they are looking for. However I have pitched what I thought were song right in the pocket and was turned away. I thought wow, these songs would be a gift to an artist today. So ya never know. Keep pluggin’

  9. “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
    ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

  10. Thx Marty , I see what your saying and thanks for the input on that idea, I have been writing songs for years and really never thought I was in a caliper to be a professional until my whole family on both my Mom and Dad,s sides have spoke up to me and I should have tried this long time ago. They think I should sing my own songs, and some want me to try out on the Voice. I have laughed about this because I’m 56 years old. I would really like to be known more as songwriter, however I don’t mind performing sometimes. Thx for all your input. Sincerely Farrell Dewayne McKnight

  11. Such a great perspective – when you’re spending your last buck fifty on coffee at @Moe’s in East Nashville or at @Frothy Monkey, it’s easy to get bitter on the scene – but go to a table and write whatever comes out, then work with it and keep going. Once you’re moving, all those feeling are in the rearview mirror…

    Great post, Marty!

  12. This idea stands out from all of the other ideas I’ve read about in the last five years Marty. Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *