Collaboration: The Nashville Standard, But Why?

Many songwriters, unaware of the benefits of collaboration, question why anyone would collaborate on a song. Typically they consider only what they perceive as the negatives: splitting the royalties and losing creative control. Perhaps some, used to driving the ship alone, find the process of collaborating a bit odd.

Some hits are indeed penned by just one songwriter. But take a good look at the Billboard Charts, especially the country charts: an extremely high percentage of songs are co-writes. Sometimes a song’s credits will list six or seven collaborators.

So if hit songwriters regularly collaborate there must be some benefits. First, writing with a partner or two you obtain immediate feedback that will nip poor ideas in the bud. Also, songwriting is usually a difficult process as you try to perfect the original idea and collaboration provides helpful creative input, for example, when you’re stuck on a particular section the co-writer may inject an idea that is usable that keeps things moving forward.

Collaboration expands the well of experience available to draw from as you write. More ideas. Better lyric lines. And fatal mistakes due to simply being unaware are often prevented. For example, frequently a writer will try to use a phrase or expression common to the area they grew up in that is foreign to everyone else. A co-writer who lives in or grew up in another area of the country would immediately notice that particular phrase is not going to work and question it long before it gets to radio or even A & R.

While most writers believe the best possible song would result from them running the entire show because they assume it would be a more cohesive product, the truth is that collaboration more often produces the best work.

Co-writing can also make you appear to be more professional. Why? Because pro writers generally co-write constantly while amateurs rarely do. Cross over into the co-write camp, write great song, have truly pro demos made, and song publishers will automatically give your submissions additional credibility.

But the biggest advantage to a co-write situation, in my opinion, lies not in the creation of the work, but in the marketing of the work. Instead of one person marketing the song you have two or three. And it’s amazing how often a particular song you’ve long forgotten suddenly gets a hold or a cut because a blast from the past co-writer has been pitching it on projects all along.

Before you co-write with anyone be sure to sign a contract specifying the song title, date of creation, what the contributions of each songwriter are (music %, words %) how royalties will be split and sign and date it. Some points may be unknown at the start, fill those in as you proceed and initial it.

Consider taking on a partner to write your next song and perhaps you’ll soon be singing the praises of an old cliche: Two heads are indeed better than one!- B. E.