What Are The Odds? How To Change Your Odds In Any Creative Business

From time to time, someone asks me “What are the odds of getting a cut?”  In my mind, what they are really asking is “Is this even worth trying?”  I’m going to suggest here that this is the wrong approach to dream chasing of any form.

Let me put it to you this way.  What are the odds that a Nashville guy with middle school and high school band experience as his only formal music training finds himself in New York City writing songs for 2 plays, conducting a band and helping the NYC music director from “Jersey Boys” chart out music?  Almost ZERO.  Yet, here I am.

What are the odds that a guy who grew up with no connections in the music business at all, figures it out, gets more than 110 songs recorded, and writes 6 #1 songs?  Not great odds.  Yet, here I am.

What are the odds that two songwriters with no formal business training create a business that has grown from day 1 and has served more than 4,000 songwriters all over the world?  That’s laughable.  Yet, here Clay and I stand.

The longer I live, the more I realize that it’s really not about the odds unless you are playing the lottery.   In that case, there really are odds that are stacked against you. Those odds are measurable and accurate.  They are based on math.  They are real!

In any creative endeavor, however, the odds are not so fixed.  You can figure out ways to cut them WAY down.  How do you do that?

Focus On What You Want

Keep your eyes on the prize.  Keep your goal in sight and the mountains in between you and the goal will diminish.  If I want a Grammy badly enough, I can figure out what I have to do to get to that goal.  I can study people who have them.  I can figure out which categories are most and least competitive.  I can steer my writing toward those categories with less entries.  I can cut my odds significantly.

You Can Refuse To Quit

The people who achieve their dreams are the people who don’t quit – 100% of the time.  Think about that.  No person ever achieved their dream by quitting.  The winners are ALWAYS the people who kept going even when it was tough.  You increase your odds immeasurably just by keeping on going.  As time goes by, you’ll see many others falling by the wayside.  Don’t join them and your odds of success go up.

Work Hard

I run into lots of songwriters who don’t want to work very hard.  Even some with songwriting deals.  These writers never succeed long-term.  Why?  People who are willing to work harder pass them by.  I can’t tell you the number of writers who are MUCH more talented than I am, I have passed by on the road to success.  They wave from underneath their shade tree as I hustle down the road, but I gain so much ground that they can’t catch up when they hop back on the road.  You can outwork most of the “competition” if you are willing to put in the hours.

Work Smart

Writers who work hard AND smart are a force to be dealt with.  That’s a powerful combination.  Learning HOW to work in smart ways and then outworking everyone you know can turn “odds against you” to “odds in your favor”.  Don’t simply work hard – learn about the RIGHT things to do and work hard at those things.

All of that to say – don’t worry about the odds.  Change the odds!

Best of luck!

Marty Dodson

Co-Founder SongTown

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

29 thoughts on “What Are The Odds? How To Change Your Odds In Any Creative Business

  1. Great advice! Love it!!!💖 You guys are always helping us… Marty and Clay…Thank you sincerely for that!
    I write a lot… probably everyday… It comes pretty easy for me… I used to be pretty cocky about it… (I probably still am) but not getting your music out to the world nationally after a bunch of years of doing your craft well, has a way of humbling you (well, me).
    I’m getting older (we all are) I’m praying for a miracle with my music…
    (but I still love my life even without a hit song… I love my friends, I love my family, I love other people’s friends and other people’s families, and I love SongTown! We all have a ton of things to be thankful for if we just learn how to count our blessings…
    I’m learning that listening to music that I haven’t written, and enjoying it, is something I haven’t appreciated for a long time… I only wanted to sing and hear my own my songs…pretty dumb, huh?
    Good songs will always be out there even if I’m not the writer of them… I thank God for those songs because they bless my life and many other people’s lives as well! A good song is sooo much fun!
    I have trials! Many of them… but that’s where half of my songs come from…so I’m even thankful for my trials…
    Sometimes when I hear the story behind a really great song, and it’s a sad story, I pray that God will never give me a song that’s THAT good… because I don’t want what that person had to go thru to get that song… but sadly, life is hard, so those songs are gonna be written… it’s the way we writers deal with our lives…
    But God is good to me everyday… I can see Him everywhere I look…He helps me press on when I get frustrated that I may have missed the boat with my music.😔
    When I lived in Tennessee for a few years, I heard writers at the Bluebird Cafe say that they prayed for a hit song…
    So I’ll work hard, ( because I’m a
    song- workaholic, anyway), and I’ll PRAY too!!!
    💖🙏🎶😊 God Bless you today, my precious SongTown Family!!! Just to have this”gift” of being able to “write our lives in song,” is proof that God loves us…
    (because not everyone can do this), so you should feel very special…and don’t forget that He has a future and a hope for us too!
    So, everyone…write on!!!

  2. Hey Marty and Clay,
    Thanks for your wise words. I started a business working with kids outdoors in the wild, character development 15 years ago called Attitude Matters. I’ve been thinking about ‘the odds’ lately too and wrote:

    Holding a Different Hand as a result.

    V1

    All those bills are still unopened
    And the kids are late for school
    Will it always be such a struggle
    To get out the door?

    V2
    You’re gonna need a little fortune
    A little help along the way
    If you’re gonna get a little better
    With the plans you made

    Ch
    It ain’t the hand that you’ve been holding
    It ain’t the cards that you’ve been dealt
    All these wheels you’ve been spinning
    Are getting you nowhere fast
    May the good lord walk beside you
    Reach out and take your hand
    Set you down in the right direction
    Where you can start again
    Holding a different hand

    V3
    Well the Queen is on the table
    Though the Jack may take it all
    And the King is right there waiting
    For you to call

    Ch
    Br
    Well how long girl you gonna blame yourself
    Running round and round
    Burying all your hopes and dreams
    In this one way town?
    Ch

    As always, thanks for your time, energy, experience and faith.
    Craig T

  3. I have had some modest success in music and seen people who I thought were less talented than I was do better. Since coming to Songtown, I have seen why, though I suspected some of it in the first place.

    Many of the songwriters I see here have what I think is enough talent to succeed, including me, so I have been thinking about what may be holding us back. I can only speak for myself, though.

    The first thing is a person’s relative inability to be objective about what they are doing. That’s only natural because our experience, our whole perception, is subjective. So we need outside feedback, which can be gotten through mentoring and forum feedback, for example.

    I pay a LOT of attention to the pro feedback, and in the forums, when I find myself disagreeing with the feedback on my song, I force myself to ask myself, “What if they’re right?”

    The second thing is that it is too easy keep going down the same road, in effect writing the same song over and over. It’s important to try different things. Recently, I took Marty’s challenge to write from the POV of the opposite sex. Long story short: it helped.

    Finally, it is important to stay current, so I look at the current hits closely from time to time, playing along and listening actively, analyzing from every angle: it always helps.

  4. You had me laughing out loud with the ‘dream-chasing’ line. If that ain’t a Song it ought to be!

    The positive vibration of this advice is stirring! I know of a ‘consultant’ in one of the big music towns (NYC, LA, Nashtown) whose advice I would sum up as “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! There’s no money in it! Songwriting competition numbers in the billions so how could you possibly compete? And, by the way, if you’re ever in town, look me up and, for a fee, I’ll show you around!”

    The simple advice for any commercial endeavor is embodied in your post. Want it, work at it, believe you can get it, get it. Compete. Don’t worry about the competition. Compete. Create. Write. My standard advice is that despite thousands of years of Songwriting the possibilities have not been exhausted. Someone will write a great new Song. Why can’t it be you?

    I’ve gotta carry this back to songwriterjunction.com and justplainfolks.com

  5. The odds are measurable , look at the writing credits on the current top songs, songs that charts, the hits and money makers. Look em up, it’s fascinsting. 90 % are by people with 10 to 20 or more years experience in writing, performing, living and breathing country music in Nash. ST can help make connections for folks, and help with your craft. Totally. Armed with a half dozen killer songs, well produced and carefully aimed and crafted at today’s country market, Clay says he can help open some doors. That’s more encouraging than the 10 yr town talk. Or work with a great young undiscovered artist and help them with songs, then when they get signed after years of hard work and luck yer right there with them. But that might take ten years and a maxed out credit card.

    Lotta great stuff in story Marty, smart hard long hours of work hard to beat in any pursuit.

    1. Odds may be tough, but 2 years … 40% of the awards at the ASCAP awards were won by first time award winners. That’s over 40 beards for first times. So people are beating the odds.
      Somebody has to do it!

      Clay

  6. So what does it take to get a cut
    Study your craft and bust your but
    Utilize tools to to help along the way
    Listen to what the experts have to say
    Adapt and adjust and always rewrite
    Transform your skills to a new height
    Map out your journey along the way
    Be the best and it will happen one day

  7. Great info and inspiration.We all need a little so to say shot in the arm inspiration to keep us going and not quitting,this one does this for me.Thank you so much for keeping me going.

  8. Thanks, Marty! Not just great advice, but almost necessary for people like me. So, really appreciate it. Setting goals is so important. They have a quote somewhere on SongTown that says to achieve your dreams you have to wake up. Meaning eventually you have to take action and not just sit around dreaming. My problem was I spent a couple years telling myself I wanted to be a songwriter and I didn’t even hardly write anything. I read some songwriting books and once in a while wrote down some ideas/hooks, but that was it. Now, I’m still reading those books and taking a course, and watching and learning on SongTown from all the lessons. But I’m also writing everyday and putting stuff up for critique and rewriting based on comments, etc. I’ve also had a mentoring session and have set goals for myself. I am 52 myself and have a family and don’t live in Nashville, so I know my path will be different from other people’s, but I’ve factored that in with my goals so I have a realistic plan in place. Here’s what Clay & Marty have taught me: Write as often as you can, Getting better at your craft/writing songs is key, co-write with other people, seek out advice from people in the business who know what they’re doing, stay positive. It’s hard to impersonalize rejection and hearing people say they don’t like what you’re doing but we have to if we want to get into this business. Believing in yourself is key! Marty knows this and that’s why he does blogs like this because he’s been there and wants to give us encouragement.

    Thanks!

  9. I recently had a friend who just started writing songs ask me to listen to his new song and give my opinion. I had a song being played on Simply Country Radio in the UK. So he thinks I know what I’m doing. (Dont worry I laughed too) I didn’t like his 2nd vs and told him why. He changed it and liked it better also. I told him to join songtown and as many other songwriting forums as u can. Any good advice will help you write better. Even one little tidbit can make a difference.
    Then he asked do these places help u get a cut? Not sure but they help u write better songs.
    So today’s post really got me thinking. You said songtown has grown to over 4000 writers and for easy math let’s say they have 10 songs each (obviously most have way more) so we have 40k songs available to the ST system, how many have been cut? Made top 40? Any top 10s? I get it, you’re not sifting through 40k songs looking for a hit. You’re not a pub co. But for all the great advice and motivation you guys give. Sometimes some hard numbers can be even more motivating. Like hey Bob Smith got his 1st cut today etc. I’m not saying u dont do that, I’ve just not seen it. I appreciate all the advice but the 4000 member comment really got me thinking about numbers that’s all.

    1. Hey Joel, Marty can give a better answer but here’s some things I’ve learned being a member here for a couple months or so: On people’s profile pages there are badges (icons) that show if they’ve gotten either an indie cut or a major artist cut. I think they even have ones for staff pub deals and single song pub deals. Also, there is a place on the forum where people can post achievements they’ve gotten like pub deals, etc. Plus, in certain videos sometimes Clay & Marty will mention people by name who have been/are members who have gotten songs cut, etc. They don’t have a place where they give all these stats in one post, but if you search around the site and read/take part in the forums you will see the different success stories that some of the members have.

      Thanks!

    2. Joel, SongTown has over 100 writers in our edge Groups and Staff Writer Group. Those writers applied and the top applicants got in. they work with a publisher each month and if their songs are good they get them pitched to major artists. We started this a few months ago and it’s exciting!

  10. Love this! It’s all about being smart, working hard, not taking no for an answer, being patient, and keep the goal in focus. Thanks for helping it seem less scary and less random.

  11. Eric age hasn’t got anything to do with the wait I’m 62 started writing 14 yrs ago it’s not a 10 yr your in type of town
    Marty sums up my belief don’t quit no matter what no means keep writing

  12. Marty, I am feeling good about my writing but am not exactly a performer. In other words I am a songwriter who sings not a singer songwriter. I am prolific and finally have put the songwriting pieces in line to write good songs. Everything I do I do to be my best so I want to try and become successful. Success will get my song heard and that is a big goal of mine.

    What can I do to take a shot at getting tracks cut?
    I see a couple of options for me.
    – Get a studio to do a demo
    – Form a band
    – Get co-writers who sing and know the next steps.
    – Also I am 58 years old and am not likely to spend a decade working my way through the Nashville “10 year town” situation

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated,

    Thanks, Eric

  13. I’m printing this out, to read every time I get discouraged. Thank you so much for your wisdom and inspiration, Marty!

Leave a Reply

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