Songwriting 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 captaining the ship alone, find the process of collaborating with one r more other captains, 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 (hopefully) 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 and 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 were raised 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 likely give your submissions additional credibility.

But the biggest advantage to a co-write situation  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 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.

A Song Cut Contract for Dan Mathews

ghosts-in-swampLong term Play It Again Demos client Dan Mathews has obtained a cut on his song “Cajun Moon” which was a collaboration with Play It Again Demos producer Bill Watson. “Dan and I did a co-write on Cajun,” explains Watson, “We did the demo and started marketing it around town. The song was originally asssigned to publisher/producer Marsha Brown but the contract expired without a cut and rights reverted back to us. We didn’t promote it after the that figuring Marsha had shopped it thoroughly and there was no point in pitching it to the same companies/people again.

Then back in fall Marsha contacted Dan about a band she’s producing she thought Cajun Moon would be perfect for. We signed off on the deal with Heath Brown Music (ASCAP) two weeks ago (in early February ’13) and it’s being recorded now. We’re just waiting for the CD to come out this summer. The lessons here are it’s all about timing and it ain’t over ’till it’s over.”