Don’t try and do everything yourself - collaborate!
As I have mentioned before nearly every song you hear on the radio is a collaboration, so don’t feel like a failure to call others in to help you. Humans work well when we work together!
It’s more about building a complete set of skills from a group of people, where each person’s skill gaps are complemented by another. We all see the world from a different perspective because of our own life experiences, and this makes for a healthy collaboration.
So what else makes a good collaboration?
I have experienced all kinds of collaborations, from two people to a collaboration with five of us trying to write a song. In general I would suggest that smaller groups work better, simply because there is less variety of opinions which could sometimes cause the idea for the song to become unclear or unfocused. If it’s a bigger group, then perhaps the roles could be made clear at the start. Who is lyric writing, who is thinking about melodies or music ideas.
One essential thing to get clear at the start is songwriting cuts - generally it’s an even split between all the people in the room. So four people, 25% each. You do not want to be getting into these discussions afterwards, especially if someone has a different idea! Those kind of things can break a collaboration.
Another important factor is - you really need to get on with the people you collaborate with, I mean actually like them as people! In any relationship, poor understanding of each other, or poor communication will not give the best results. So if you can, really spend time getting to know the people you are collaborating with. I appreciate this is not always possible if it’s a single day and you’ve got tight deadlines. Maybe you are writing for an artist you don’t know well. Time getting to know each other is always time worth spending. You are more likely to be in tune with song ideas and concepts, which will lead to faster and more harmonious work. I believe that the strength of the collaboration relationships will be reflected in the strength of the song.
No matter how difficult or hard a collaboration was, a golden rule is to never diss any of your collaborators to other people. Maybe it was a bad day, you didn’t connect or something else. Learn from the experience and move on gracefully.
If this does unfortunately happen to you, don’t take the exact same idea or lyric lines you dreamed up together and use them somewhere else just because that collaboration didn’t work out. Move on, and start afresh.
Be kind - offer to make drinks, offer food etc
Listen to what people say, don’t interrupt
Be nice humans and play nicely!
If you really like an idea someone is working with, tell them! It’s encouraging.
If you really don’t like an idea someone is working with, also tell them you are not sure about that, BUT offer another suggestion. Believe me there is nothing more demotivating than being told your idea sucks, but the person criticising has nothing better to offer - not helpful!
Don’t be scared to share ideas, or random thoughts. It might not be the best idea, but it could spark an even greater idea in someone else.
Songwriting is weird, because often you get into a room with people you do not know well, and start sharing very intimate and emotional sensitive stuff very quickly. That does not usually happen in everyday life.
Just to break up your read, here is a link to some professional songwriters talking about collaboration. One describes it as the “Best therapy they never paid for”:
So how do you go about finding these amazing collaborators to work with. In a later blog I will be talking more about the power of your network of connections and the benefits of connecting locally. In the meantime, I suggest you search for local songwriter circles and network groups and just go along and see who is there, and just make some new friends. Songwriting collaborations should naturally flow from these friendships.
If your collaborations go well, then be generous, and tell other people how great the person was to write with.
Next time: Is it possible to make a living from music?