Nowadays, songwriters appear to be keener on giving up personal space to share breathing room with others in order to create something special. And it’s probably worth it. Most songs getting on the charts and receiving airplay in recent years have multiple songwriters, some as much as 10 or more.
Despite the apparent benefits, not every songwriter might be keen to jump on the co-writing bandwagon. It can be a big deal, especially if you’re an introverted musician or someone who considers the songwriting process a deeply personal and intimate thing. With that said, should you step out of your shell and give co-writing a go? If you do decide to try it, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure every co-writing session is beneficial to all.
1. Be open-minded
The last thing you want to do is to impose your own songwriting expectations and style on others in a co-writing session. For one, it can limit their creative output. Secondly, it can put a strain on the overall chemistry and vibe that should be present to allow a smooth exchange of ideas. Furthermore, there is no wrong or right way to write a song and the only way to create something ‘fresh’ is to just let it flow instead of pushing your own ideas or point of view. Sure, you want to enter a co-writing session with a goal in mind, but be willing to listen to others and make compromises as necessary so that everyone involved will be happy with the results.
2. Get the business part out of the way first
In the past, there have been conflicts between songwriters in trying to determine who should get what percentage of a co-written song that goes on to do well. This can be a messy situation, so you want to clear up the business aspect of collaborative songwriting before you hum a melody or write a single word. Will it be even splits, or will one person be doing most of the work and, therefore, demand a bigger slice? Unless you or another songwriter comes with a song that is already fully or partially written, it’s probably best to go with even splits across the board. In other words, 50/50 for two writers, 1/3 shares for three writers, and so on and so forth.
3. Find out if you should bring song ideas or not
It’s always a good idea to be prepared, which means each songwriter might bring an idea to flesh out. However, there are times when it might be suitable for the song ideas to be formulated on the spot. The latter might be preferable in situations where none of the writers know each other very well or are meeting for the first time. That’s not to say that you can’t be expected to bring ideas to a first-time meeting, either. The point is that there should be discussions in advance to determine whether you bring song ideas to the table or not.
4. Be clear about the expected outcome
Everyone’s goal from co-writing might not be the same. For one person, it might just be a chance to experience what it is like, while for someone else, they might be looking as far ahead as receiving financial benefits from a project. It could get nasty if, for example, one songwriter decides to promote the song on a website or tries to get it published, and the other writers preferred for it to just remain an extra track on a compilation or album. To prevent any unpleasantness, it’s best to declare your expectations beforehand, so that you can get feedback and know how to proceed once the song is completed.
5. Don’t be late
Showing up on time is one way to signify to other songwriters that you are a professional who’s serious about your music career. It’s also just a good show of respect for their time and that you are looking forward to working with them, which will be more incentive for everyone to give of their best.
Co-writing sessions can be quite fruitful for all parties involved but there are rules (often unwritten) to be followed for best results. It is our hope that you will find these tips helpful if you decide to try collaborating with other songwriters.