In a VERY unscientific poll, I’ve concluded that co-writing relationships are falling apart at a similar rate to marriages. I come in contact with so many people who are struggling with co-writing relationships which is unfortunate because co-writing is THE biggest contributor to most songwriter’s success. If you look at the charts in ANY genre, you will see more than 90% of hit songs are co-written. Most of the time, it’s 100% of the hits that are co-written.
So, if co-writing is so important, why are those relationships failing?
I believe it’s the same reason that so many marriages fail. We aren’t taught how to succeed in relationships in school. In fact, most of us don’t get any coaching on relationships until we are in one that goes badly and we go through counseling.
The same thing happens in co-writing. People dive in and run into situations they don’t know how to manage, so they come to Clay or myself in SongTown to mediate and help them resolve their differences. And, that’s fine, we’re glad to do that.
However, the BEST approach is to get coaching BEFORE problems arise. Think of it as the co-writing equivalent of pre-marital counseling. Clay and I believe that it’s super important to educate yourself in these areas if you want to be a great and successful collaborator:
1) The Business of songwriting.
So many conflicts arise because co-writers have different understandings and assumptions about how to handle business. So, someone offers one co-writer a single song contract and the other co-writer doesn’t know what they are supposed to do. They wind up either doing something that messes up the deal or agreeing to give up something they didn’t have to give up. All of that can be avoided if you educate yourself on how the business of songwriting works.
2) Honestly assessing your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
Knowing who YOU are helps you find better collaborators. Just like in the dating world, if I don’t know who I am, I’m unlikely to find the right partner. If you can learn who you are and clearly define what you need in a co-writer your chances of success jump dramatically. Doing that work allows you to set up co-writing rooms that are primed to succeed because you have everything you need to write a great song.
3) Co-writing etiquette.
Most of us learn on the job so we all stumble through the same mistakes and reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can get coaching on co-writing etiquette even if you have co-written for a long time. You can learn from the mistakes of more experienced writers instead of falling into the same old potholes yourself.
Clay and I created the Ultimate Co-Writing CrashCourse to address all of those issues and more. But, whether you take a class or not, it can be a game-changer to up your co-writing game. Neither Clay nor I started getting major cuts on our songs until we learned how to be great collaborators. Becoming a super-collaborator makes more people want to write with you. I consistently hear writers say “I love working with Lucy, she makes everyone in the room feel valued and brings out the best in all of us.” Or “I like working with Jeff, I learn something every time we work together.”
Those things don’t just happen by accident.
Those writers have worked on their co-writing relationship skills so they make each co-write a great experience for everyone. So, no matter how many co-writes you have under your belt, I encourage you to ask yourself what you need to do to up your co-writing game. If you learn to do it well, you’ll get better co-writes and you’ll have a much better chance at success.
The goal is to be co-writing at a pro level BEFORE you get that opportunity to write with a pro or artist. So, don’t sit back on your co-writing laurels, proactively do things to make sure you’re always growing and expanding your skillset as a collaborator.