SongTown USA: Overnight Success

by Marty Dodson
Posted Mar 28, 2014 at 1:42am

I read an interview with the lead singer for a band that just had their first big hit single.

The person doing the interview (out of ignorance) said, “What’s it like to be an overnight success?”

The lead singer’s response was priceless. He said, “That was one hell of a night.”

This band had started out working at a theme park. You’ve seen those shows. You play 4-5 shows a day in the heat while tourists drink Icees and eat corn dogs. Then, you hang out with nothing to do in between sets.

They did that for many years. Then, they tried touring on their own. In a van. Doing all of the driving, selling their own merchandise, setting up and tearing down for each show. All together, this band’s “overnight success” took more than 10 years of grueling work. They sacrificed time with their families and they sacrificed financially to get that record deal.

When we first hear a song from a new artist, the tendency is to think that they just came out of nowhere. Like the reporter, we assume they are overnight successes. I would guess that there really aren’t many overnight successes in the music business – if there are any at all.

All of the people I know who are succeeding have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get where they are. When their first hit comes, they have likely been working for years for FREE before they ever earned a penny in the business.

My first single was “Can’t Stop Thinkin’ Bout That” by a group called Ricochet. It died at #37 on the chart, but was my first top 40 song. When it came out, I had written for three years with no pay, full time.

Then, I had signed a publishing deal and wrote for $866 per month for four years. I made about $8,000 on that single. Do the math and I wasn’t making much money for all of those years I spent trying to succeed.

By the time my first #1 song came around, I had added three more years of hard work. I heard some comments at my #1 party about my success just “coming out of nowhere.” I recalled the “hell of a night” comment and had to laugh.

Success as a writer almost always comes from a lot of time holding a guitar and looking at a blank computer screen or notebook. Years and years of honing the craft and pouring your heart into songs is the only way I know to become an “overnight success.”

If you want to succeed in the music business, or at anything in life, really, you have to put in the time. There’s no substitute for hard work and persistence.

Write on.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here: www.facebook.com/songtownusa, at www.facebook.com/martydodsonsongwriter and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit martydodson.com