Updated: Jul 6
The only alternative to face to face co-writing is writing online. With so much software out there to video call, and share electronic documents, it is very achievable. If you are feeling unsure about doing this and maybe a little daunted, hopefully you will find this useful practical advice and put your mind at ease.
Like face to face co-writing, this works best if you already know the person to some extent.
If you don't, then spend the first call actually seeing if you have something in common music wise and aspiration wise. This is good advice for both face to face and online collaborations.
I would also strongly recommend you don’t just start writing with a complete stranger online. Start with recommendations from people you trust. You have a better chance of success and no time wasters or worse still - weirdos.
Always make the first online meeting short - agree say 20-30 minutes, and just chat about ideas and perhaps what music you like or want to make; this will really help to see if you are on the same page. Make it clear that this is the only purpose of the first call. It will quickly become apparent if you get on with this person. If it’s a struggle, it’s time limited so you have an end point, and if it’s going really badly, make an excuse and end the call sooner. Just remember though, this leaves them with an impression of you too. A bad online co-write is just as likely to get you a bad reputation as is a face to face meet. So be pleasant, respect the other person’s time, and play nicely humans!
Second meet up
Try to agree when you will online meet again at the end of the first call. This is probably your biggest insight into whether the other party enjoyed it or it will work on not! Be honest with each other - if you really can’t see it working, just say I’m not sure if this is going to work out and hopefully they will understand or agree themselves too. Don’t push it, a good song will not come out of that environment. Agree what you will work on, so you can both prepare ideas in advance. Show up on time to the next meeting!
I’ve found the best way for lyrics is to use a shared document to record everything you write together. Typically I’ve used Google docs and folders. You can then share an entire folder for everything related to your online co-write including audio files too. I would suggest at the top of your lyric sheet, you write clearly the split agreement. You can of course still write and draft stuff using paper and pen as you create, but ultimately everything has to become electronic to be shared.
WWW - World Wide Writers
The biggest single advantage to online co-writing is that you can write with anyone anywhere in the world. Time zones do have a big impact of course, but there is nothing stopping you being up late, or up early if it’s what you want to do.
I’ve written like this with people in Aberdeen, France, Italy, and even closer in the UK too just for quick convenience purposes.
I asked a songwriter friend of mine who I have only ever co-written with online to provide some pointers as to what works and what doesn’t. The crazy thing was I only realised today that we have never written in the same room despite opportunities!. We have been on several songwriting retreats including sharing a room in Spain, but we have never written together face to face!!
I introduce a great lyric writer - Mike Wheeler.
Please give him a follow at his FaceBook page, and say hi from me:
Reduced carbon footprint
No travelling means more session time.
You can be more focused by setting a definite duration of the session.
It’s easy to have a session if you only have a space 30 minutes/hour in an evening after “real” work finishes
You can write with people on the other side of the world
If you’re ill, you can still work without the worry of sharing your cold along with your ideas
There’s usually a slight signal time delay (about half a second) so you actually have to listen to someone finish so you learn to not interrupt.
You can ping ideas across and with something like Google docs, you can both work on a document at the same time.
It can be safer to write if you have anxiety/security issues
You can crank out ideas before spending time in an expensive studio
You can break off and restart the session at will so if there’s a basic idea, you can go away and work on it and then come back to see how you’ve both developed it.
Your internet access and resources are all at hand whereas you might not have WIFI at a face to face venue (no packing/unpacking stuff)
More potential distraction from others in the same room, outside noises, and because you are online, your emails might interrupt you / distract you etc.
Can’t really jam together due to signal time delay
If you’re both working on a document at the same time, someone might delete something that the other person wanted - good communication is the solution to this one
Harder to read body language
Technology issues - unfortunately this can be a major one, and often the first five minutes of a call can be just getting connected or sorting video / sound problems out.
Another place to find online songwriting collaborators is Collaboration Nation:
I found this FaceBook page after entering the UK Songwriting competition, and there are a number of like minded, talented and creative people in a relatively small group. I’ve worked with at least a couple of people from that group, even doing a new Logic Pro production for one of the writers on there.
So happy on-line Co-writing, and remember stay safe out there!