Last week I started telling you about 7 things you should BE when you co-write. If you missed that post, read it here. Keep reading below for #4 through #7…
4. BE COMMITTED
I have written with literally dozens of people who came into town one year and left town the next. The competition is fierce and the attrition is high. While there is no way to know about someone’s long term interest and commitment to a chosen profession, there is some hedging you can do should a co-writer decide to ditch songwriting in favor of a more regular paycheck before you have finished your song(s).
One is to make sure you have that person’s up-to-date contact information. Whatever you start with that co-writer is going to be like a marriage, should that song reach it’s money-making potential. If the song remains unfinished (I have about 50 of those in my catalog), you can contact the co-writer and tell them that you’d like to finish the song without them. You’ll have to make clear that any participation on their part, creatively or otherwise, is not necessary unless of course they’d be willing to share the financial burden. I have found this to be a very rare case once someone has left the business. By the way – unless the other person agrees otherwise, you still have to credit that songwriter as a co-writer and they still own their share of the publishing.
I liken songwriting partnerships to a marriage with children. You own these children in perpetuity and you’re still a co-parent of them together, divorced or not.
5. BE OPEN
That’s the beauty of co-writing… the notion that two heads are better than one. But this is another way that co-writing is like a marriage. Sometimes you’ll have differing opinions as to the direction that a song should take. This could lead to butting heads. Being open to the other person’s opinion will go a long way in creating what could be a very long-lasting and fulfilling writing partnership. Easier said than done – as Lennon and McCartney will attest to – but it’s good to maintain perspective. If things just aren’t flowing, it may be best to part company on a business level and maintain friendship on a personal one.
6. BE PRESENT
Turn off your cell phones and PDAs. Turn off your life drama. Turn off your “to do” lists. Give your writing session your full attention. If stuff comes up that you can’t ignore for a few hours, then re-book the session. You collaborator will appreciate that you didn’t waste his/her time.
7. BE YOURSELF
A lot of people think that getting a co-write with a huge hit-writer is the coup de grace. Actually, that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes that kind of pressure makes it impossible to be on “equal footing” creatively and can stop the creative juices from flowing. Your ability to contribute may become muffled by insecurities or lack of comfort. I have been told by many successful songwriters that it’s best to work with people “in your graduating class”. Meaning, work with your peers – the people with whom you are comfortable and can express yourself with ease. People who are on your side of the mountain may make for better climbing partners, versus someones who’s cruising down the backside.
Case in Point: I know of a few “hit songwriters” who behave like assholes just because they can. Those sessions aren’t going to be fun. Not because the person isn’t a phenomenal songwriter, but because an a-hole is still an a-hole, no matter how many awards you slap on them.
Writing with peers works because you can be yourself and not be inhibited during the creative process.
So, those are my top on the list.
With all that said, go forth boldly into the collaborating venture. More often than not, it can be an extremely fun, rewarding and productive.