by Marty Dodson
Jul 15, 2022
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 this 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.
The #1 rule in song collaboration… 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 collaborator, but with a little practice you can master the art of cowriting.
Write Better Songs Faster
Songwriting Success is Clay & Marty's 10-day video series that will help you level-up your songs and finish them faster. Enter your email address to get started!