5 Co-Writing Errors To Avoid While Songwriting – Or Dating!


Co-Writing songs is a lot like dating. It takes work to find and develop good co-writing relationships. And, not every date is going to work out. So, you keep kissing frogs until you find a prince, metaphorically speaking. If you treat songwriting relationships like REAL relationships, you can avoid some of these mistakes that I’ve seen LOTS of people make.

Here are some real life relationship rules that you can apply to make your co-writing relationships better.

If I introduce you to my girlfriend, don’t ask her out behind my back.

Unfortunately this is a common mistake in the co-writing arena. If a co-writer of mine brings an artist in to work with us, I don’t go behind his or her back and try to get the artist to write with me alone next time. This happens to me at times as well. A writer friend of mine asks if I will write with him and a friend of his. As soon as the guy I know goes to the bathroom, the one that I don’t know starts saying “We should get together sometime, just you and me.” Bad form – in life or in co-writing. If someone introduces you to an artist or to a hit co-writer, show your appreciation by continuing to write with the two of them.

Give 110%. Don’t expect it to be 50/50.

I can’t count the number of times a first time co-writer has come into the writing room and said “I’ve got nothing – what have you got?” That approach is not likely to lead to a second date in the real world, so why would it work in the co-writing world? It won’t. Bring your best to every co-write and you will get a reputation for being a very desirable co-writer. Give every write everything you have. And be prepared.

Life is not a party.

A lot of people have his image of the music business as one big non-stop party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who are succeeding are not generally the ones at the party at 4 AM when they have to write the next day. I’ve never once had a pro writer walk into the room and say “Man I’m hungover and I just went to bed at 4 AM”. But, I have had a bunch of aspiring writers do just that. Keep your partying and your work separate. You don’t show up for a date with the homecoming queen and say “Sorry I’m hungover and didn’t sleep”. So, don’t do that in the co-writing world.

Don’t steal from me.

If I throw out titles that we don’t use, they remain MY titles. You don’t have a right to go write them with someone else. Should go without saying, but it doesn’t, unfortunately. Don’t use lines from our song in another of your songs. Don’t take our title and write it with someone else – even if it was a title you threw out. If we write it, it is now OUR song. Treat it that way.

Give me credit as your co-writer.

If you are talking about our song, tell people who you wrote it with. I’ll be doing the same for you and we will both get good publicity. Don’t say “Here’s a song I wrote”. Word gets around. You might be writing by yourself next time.

All it takes is some respect and a little bit of common sense to be a good co-writer.

Marty Dodson

Singer/Songwriter/Producer/ Co-Founder Songtown.com

16 thoughts on “5 Co-Writing Errors To Avoid While Songwriting – Or Dating!

  1. If the man from Cape, Jason Brooks would get ahold of me I would appreciate it, I am a crazy song writer, by this I mean that I can’t leave it alone, I have written over 100 songs and never grow tired of any part of it. you can hear some of what I have done by going to my web, I have 5 in Nashville now getting the music put down and I am hoping they may be some of my best. I live in Doniphan, 30 miles from Poplar Bluff.

  2. Word on the street is that common sense ain’t so common!
    And respect? Well, it’s a measure of character that quickly clues you in about a person.

    A friend told of a co-work situation where they were speaking with people in various companies. Leaving the meetings the other guy would consistently start bad-mouthing the people they’d just met. She saw it as exposure of a character flaw that would limit future cooperation with him in the business with all the maligned people.

    I’ve had that experience too, becoming tongue-tied when the people we’d met together I met again and they said something like, “He seems like a nice man,” about the other guy. I couldn’t say, “Well…he ain’t!” And I couldn’t say, “Yes. He is.”

    Speaking of kissing frogs, a friend was in college, carrying a full load of courses, busy, busy, busy, when she passed through a wooded area and came upon a talking frog!
    “Kiss me and I’ll turn into a handsome prince!” the frog implored.
    She picked the frog up, looked closely at it, and put it in her backpack. She put it in a terrarium at home and each day when she passed by the talking frog would tell her, “Kiss me and I’ll turn into a handsome prince!”
    Finally the exasperated frog asked, “Why won’t you kiss me?”
    She looked through the glass and said, “Well, I’m really busy right now, and don’t have time to have a boyfriend. But…having a talking frog…that’s pretty cool!”

    College girls! Whattya gonna do?

    The moral of my story? Well…I didn’t know I’d have to have one…but…Get together with co-writers…expect…and give…respect…and…use some common sense. Otherwise you’ll be watching the world go by from inside the terrarium.

    No? Ok. Sorry. You can’t blame a frog for trying.

  3. Ha Ha i always think about Marty and that girl throwing some idea out her storming out of the room
    Forgot what it was some fairy tale hook

  4. That last point Marty, giving credit. I’ve seen many well known, successful pro writers not practicing this protocol. Yes credit is given where credit is required in print but in concerts co-writing credit is rarely given. Interesting, the parties continue to co-write.

  5. Another that I would add is to realize that once the idea, title, riff, whatever is on the table in a co-write situation, it becomes “OUR” idea, title, riff, whatever, in contrast to “MY” whatever. I’m not talking about those that are no used, but the ones that are picked up. I’ve been in sessions where the person who puts it down never gives it up. I truly appreciate those who have take my ideas and have improved them.

  6. While I’ve never co-written a song, I really want to try. Since I don’t live in Nashville anymore it may be difficult but I’m searching here around Cape Girardeau, MO for just such a jewel. Becoming a member of this site may be the best thing I have ever done for my songwriting hopes, dating back to about 1986 with a huge break for a three-decade career in another field {having kids’ll do that}, building my home-studio again just two years ago. This particular article is perfectly balanced and extremely welcome. Thank you for your important insight and generosity. Best site I’ve thus-far found on the web for kick-starting this profession that I love.

  7. How we conduct ourselves as writers is a significant factor in how far we go in our careers. Breaking the “silent” rules is something the great writers don’t typically do. There will always be those who will. But word gets around fast.

  8. What an excellent piece! I agree absolutely .I teach my theatre students/dancers “Never steal anyone’s thunder and leave people with a thumbprint of respect/kindness” This applies to ALL art forms-certainly music!

    Thank you Marty!!!

  9. #str8-up man w does reality facts,cause i no exactly were ur comx 4rm.human beings in entirety are de most complex and most sensitive being on earth.not givx credit or takx it alone 4 a song u co-wrote w a fellow artist—- hmmm mannn!!! u’ll realy be writx alone next time.

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