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BLOG: Laying The Foundation

By May 1, 2015February 15th, 2016Blog

If you are anything like me, you are afraid of being the one hit wonder, the flash in the pan, the overnight success and then thrown to the curb. If you want to have a life long career in songwriting you need to have an approach that is foundational to who you are and why you are writing.

Here are some tips to help you address the foundation of your songwriting.

1. Mission

What is the purpose behind your writing? Who are you trying to reach and why?

These are some of the most important questions you must ask yourself in each season of writing. Writing a mission statement helps you create a filter through which each song can be run. A mission statement will help you stay on track and not stray away from your purpose in writing so that each and every song is fulfilling and rewarding. Know that your mission statement can change in different seasons of life and that this statement will change many times over your lifetime. You will see it be more and more refined; it will line up with your current passions and with where God is directing your hearts cry.


  • Has God called you to be a songwriter? How do you know?
  • Who are you trying to reach with your songwriting?
  • If you could communicate one idea in just one sentence, very simply what would you want to say to the people you are trying to reach?
  • Why do you want your audience to know that?
  • After identifying the answers to these trying to put the answers all together into one mission statement that defines who you are, why you are writing, who you want to reach, and what you are trying to say to them.

2. Focus

One of my brilliant friends, Dustin Smith has said this phrase to me multiple times in the last year and I believe that you should hear it too. He says, “By narrowing your focus you will broaden your influence.”

  • What genre are you putting most of your efforts into? Be more specific than just Christian music.
  • Is it Christian: Rock, Pop, or even Worship? Name that genre and focus in on it.
  • Who are you writing with? Are they the best to collaborate with on the genre and mission statement that you’ve been called to?
  • Will they help multiply your efforts or will they take away?
  • Who should you be connecting with to gain exposure on your music?

3. Knowing what works / knowing your competition / knowing your audience

Identify the top 10 songs in your genre this week.

Go to and click on the “Charts” tab. Scroll down through the different genres until you find your specific genre and find EITHER the top 10 songs on the radio OR the top 10 selling songs. You can also go to the iTunes store and click the drop down arrow on the side of the “Music” tab. Scroll down that list until you find your genre, and then find the top 10 selling songs. Write the song title, the artist who recorded it, the overall theme/message of the song, the mood of the music (how does the music make the listener feel: happy, sad, energized, etc.), and use a metronome to find the tempo of each song.

Mike Murray from Integrity Music says it this way: “Be a student of the game”. Know every little detail of what works and what doesn’t work in your genre of choice down to the age of the listener, production style, etc. By knowing what works now you can position yourself to know what will work next, and that will give you a leg up on your competition and set yourself up for long term success.


Stephen Duncan has worked with such writers as Seth Mosley: Billboard Christian’s #1 producer and #3 writer of 2013, Aaron Shust, Jason Gray, Unspoken, Lauren Daigle and is responsible for getting more than 500 songs recorded in just 3 years as a publisher in the music industry. Stephen is also the founder of Next Level Songs: a place where songwriters can realize their potential, and grow in their talent through strategic resources, partnerships, and 1-on-1 development by one of the leading publishers in the Christian music industry. Check out for opportunities to grow and take your songs and your career to the Next Level!

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