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Tim Gray Speaks at the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)


"This is not hard and fast rule, but for writers in their first year or two of a deal, I see a 1/10th trend. First every 100 songs written, 10 should regularly be on hold and 1 of those should be cut. That’s not even a single yet. Just a cut - not even a single yet. So I’m still hemorrhaging money until I get a single on them."

"If they don’t have at least this, we are in trouble. Something is not right on both sides of the ball (pub and writer).

"My hit writers are writing 35-70 WHOLE songs a year. (So 3 ways count as .33 and 2 ways as .5). These are pro writers with brands and access to artist co-writes. You have to work at least as hard as them."

Mike Molinar - GM, Big Machine Music Publishing


"In my experience, the writers who are having the most success are working the hardest.When I was still at Curb Records, I can remember driving home at 6:30pm or 7pm and seeing the Big Loud Publishing parking lot still full. Dallas Davidson, Rodney Clawson, Craig Wiseman, all of their cars were still there. These guys were all having hit after hit, but were still working longer hours and harder than any other writer in town. It’s no coincidence why they were having so many hits!"

"In my personal experience, I’m not the most talented songwriter, or the smartest executive, but I can out-work everyone. Work ethic and attitude are about the only two things you can control in your life and career."

"Even in signing writers now, I will take work ethic over talent any day."

John Ozier - Vice President, Ole Music Publishing


"In the early stages it’s all about learning/mastering the craft. The best way to do that is write, write, write."

"The majority of our professional songwriters turn in 75-100, fully demo’d, ready to be pitched songs per year. That’s not the number they write, that’s the number they actually demo and become ready to pitch. They may actually write 150 – 200 songs throughout the year."

Rusty Gaston, GM / Partner - THiS Music Publishing


To get better at songwriting, you have to work at it. Writing is like a muscle—the more you work out, the stronger it gets. Take time to live life and experience things, but you have to be willing to put in the time and the hard work to make it happen. Always show up with a bunch of ideas or half-songs, never show up empty handed. As the new writer in the room, you have to bring the fresh ideas and the more experienced guys can hone the lyric.

I think the quantity ultimately will produce quality. You have to be willing to grind for the first year, write every day and don’t say no to any co-writing opportunities. After the first year, take some time to re-evaluate which cowrites worked and which didn’t—only keep on with the ones that worked.

Write with the people you get great songs with. Don’t chase radio or the big name writers. Just because they are successful doesn’t mean they will make you successful too. The folks you write with the most are going to be the people you have success with.

Don’t get lazy—the top songwriters are still outworking everyone and writing 100+ songs a year. To get lucky you still have to work hard. Luck doesn’t replace hard work.

Think of songwriting like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets you buy the more chances you have to win.,

Will Overton, A&R Manager - Warner/Chappell Music


“Must be present to win” quote that still rings true.

We ran a report a year or so just to see if more songs written = more activity. Jaren Johnston is constantly touring, juggling a new baby yet still turns in more songs than a lot of people and therefore consistently sees activity with those songs. The same goes for Ross Copperman. He turns in at least a song or two a day. Granted, they have to be great songs so quantity over quality alone won’t cut it.

Songwriting is a job. You have to be constantly networking, developing relationships to get you in bigger rooms and last but not least, show up. EVERY DAY. Those things help your songs transition into cuts.

Not profound, but you definitely see the difference in activity from the ones that work their butts off versus the ones that like say “lets just get another day” and go hunting, etc instead of writing and nurturing those relationships.

Hannah Williams, Creative Manager - Sony/ATV Music Publishing


“Want, shows up in conversation, Expectation, shows up in behavior.”


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