The Top Ten FAQs On The Business Of Songwriting #5

by Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, April 2002
QUESTION 5: What Are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Co-Writing?

Their names are etched on the Walls of the Songwriting Hall of Fame: Holland-Dozier-Holland; Mann & Weill; Bacharach & David; Ashford & Simpson; Jagger & Richard; and of course -- Rogers & Hammerstein -- songwriting teams that have changed the landscape of American Music! What ingredients go into a successful songwriting collaboration? How do you know if and when you should try to write with another songwriter?

Most of us begin our songwriting career writing alone! We start by wondering if we are even able to write a song...so when no one else is around to make fun of us, we try to put some word and notes together. And then, very cautiously, we unveil our creation to a listener -- usually a spouse or a very good friend. To our amazement, we discover that some of our listeners actually like our songs and we decide that maybe we "ain't half bad!" We try another song... and then another... and before you know it... we start to believe that we really are songwriters!

That's exactly what happened to me! I loved writing songs whenever the Muse visited me with an inspiration. I had found a comfortable method of letting the melody and words "evolve" together and songwriting became my own private passion! And then... I went to a songwriting seminar and heard the word co-write. Apparently, there seemed to be some sort of value in including another person in the songwriting process. Frankly, the whole idea scared me to death! I couldn't imagine letting my ideas "all hang out" in front of another person. What if they thought I was an idiot? Turtle that I am, I decided to retreat back into my shell and keep writing by myself!

But, the co-writing concept would not leave me alone. The more exposure I had to the craft and business of songwriting, the more I realized that most of the greatest songs ever written were composed by more than one songwriter. So, at length, I swallowed my fears and made the attempt to co-write with a friend of mine. It was not the most positive experience, but at least it allowed me to overcome my fears and try again with another writer some time later. Over the years since then, I have come to value the co-writing experience as one of the great "perks" of the craft and today most of my writing is done in collaboration with others. Let's take a look at some of the advantages -- and then, some of the possible pitfalls -- of co-writing.

Advantages of Co-Writing


There are, of course, many more advantages to the co-writing process than those listed above. Good co-writing relationships involve a transparency and intimacy that are unlike other friendships. In my own songwriting journey, I have met many wonderful people and have had a hell of a lot of fun co-writing with them!. We have laughed together till our stomachs ached at some hair-brained idea we had and we have wept together as we tried to put into words and music the pain of lost love or of letting go. But as with any other human relationship, there are also pitfalls and possible landmines along the way. Let's take a look at a few of these.

Cautions for Co-Writers Remember this is a friendship as well as a creative collaboration. Even if the "chemistry" between you as collaborators is not all you hoped it would be, you will still be the richer for the friendship. My standard answer to such questions is that all the writers involved in the creation of the song should sit down together as soon as possible -- while memories are fresh -- and discuss these matters in an open and honest way. When they have come to an agreement, they should write down what they feel are fair divisions of the song credits. They should record these agreements in a simple letter which all the writers sign and date. Such an agreement is a binding contract and will help to refresh everyone's memories later when and if the song begins to generate income. A simple letter of agreement is that "ounce of prevention" that can literally save friendships down the road!

The experience of co-writing a wonderful song with another person is one of songwriting's truly great blessings! The assets definitely outweigh the liabilities, so don't miss out! Start where you are -- in your music community -- to find other writers who might be interested in collaborating. Your local songwriter's association is a great resource. Or you might visit a college or university music department; introduce yourself to the director and tell him/her that you are a songwriter looking for a co-writer. Even a large church music department will have musicians skilled in more than Gospel Music. It may take several "dates" before you find the perfect songwriting partner, but don't give up. There are great songs out there just waiting to be written by you and ____?____.

**From her earliest childhood years writing simple songs and poems with her father, through her twelve years as an overseas missionary, to her present, multi-faceted career as an author, lyricist/songwriter and conference speaker, Mary has always been adept at using words to communicate her heart to others. She is the President of CQK Records & Music of Dallas, Texas, a company which creates and produces songs in a panorama of musical styles for a variety of audiences, She is the host of "I Write the Songs," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, especially created to inspire and instruct the more than 40 million aspiring songwriters in the U.S. Mary is a frequent public speaker and seminar lecturer and teacher of songwriting in her popular Living Room Seminars. She is a Contributing Editor for The Internet Writing Journal ®. You can visit her website at: www.cqkmusic.com. You can reach Mary by email.



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