Songwriting

Songwriters: How To Find Better Co-Writers

by Marty Dodson
Sep 17, 2017

Finding the perfect co-writer can turn Elton John into a superstar. It can turn Burt Bacharach into Bacharach/David. But, how do you find the perfect person to collaborate with and make musical magic. For most of us, it involves kissing a lot of frogs before we find the prince. But, that’s not a bad thing. In kissing the frogs you learn about yourself and become a better collaborator yourself.

In face, I would suggest that FINDING the perfect co-writer begins with BECOMING the perfect co-writer. Just as in dating, becoming what you hope to find is essential to a happy relationship. If I want a partner that is truthful, kind and loyal, I have to be those things myself.

In co-writing, I suggest making a list of things you want in a collaborator. For instance, you might say “I want someone who communicates well and is prompt in helping me finish everything we start.” Or, “I want someone who is businesslike and treats songwriting like a business”. Make your list. And then check yourself to make sure YOU are all of those things.

Here are some things that would be on my list:

Open-minded – not set on doing things their way or any set way

Respectful of my time – shows up on time – doesn’t flake out and miss appointments

Always prepared to work – comes in with ideas and mentally prepared to write

Respects my abilities – let’s me do what I do best

So, I begin with making sure I’m being all of those things all of the time. Then, I begin my search. I have spent a good deal of time soul-searching and being honest with myself. That honestly led me to the conclusion that my strongest talents are ideas and lyrics. So, I’m super honest with potential co-writers. I ask them up front what their strength is. If they say “I do it all”, I usually pass. Almost all of us “Do it all” in the sense that we CAN do it. Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should. I’m searching for that person who says “I’m best at melody – I need lyric help”. Then I know I’ve found someone who’s being real and has it figured out.

I tend to give those people a shot. More of them aren’t spectacular than are, but I’m giving myself the best possible chance by finding people whose skills compliment my own. It’s the equivalent of “Match.com” pairing people with similar or complimentary interests. You get a bit of a head start on a possible match that way.

Once I feel like I’ve identified my talents and I am being the co-writer I want to find, I start turning on my radar for possible matches. In SongTown, there are hundreds of profiles you can check out. You can look in the feedback forums to find writers that are writing great songs and who are getting attention from the pros or their peers. Give those people a chance. Ask them to write.

You can also join local groups like SongTown SongCircles in Minneapolis, Chicago and Nashville. Put yourself out there. Ask people to collaborate. Once words gets out how professional you are to work with, people will start asking you to write. But remember, BE what you hope to find.

Write on! ~Marty

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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