Co-writing is not only a great way to network with other writers but also can expand the impact of your songs.
However, not practicing co-writing etiquette can do the exact opposite, creating less than desirable songs, or tarnishing your reputation in the music industry.
Here is our “NOT TO DO” list for co-writing:
1. Don’t talk over other people.
Be sure not to over-dominate others with your ideas. Even if you have a naturally dominant personality, it’s important to learn when to speak and when not to. This will not only help create ease in the room, but it can also help you learn new things about writing. It’s important that everyone in the room is able to input ideas and feel heard.
2. If you’re writing for an artist, go with what they want.
Put aside your agenda, and remember it’s ultimately their record. They have the final say about what does and does not go into the song. Of course, they want your input, otherwise, they wouldn’t be writing with you. But try not to dig your heels in on an idea that they aren’t feeling. Be flexible, and hold on to your opinions loosely if you want to book another write with them again.
3. Don’t laugh at another writer’s ideas.
This may sound obvious, but we can’t tell you how much of a vibe kill it is when someone laughs at another writers’ crazy thoughts. Here at FCM, we always say “Dare to Suck”. It’s sometimes the only way to get unique ideas. One great way to turn down an idea you’re not on board with is by saying something like, “We could do that, or we could try….” or “Let’s pin that, and see what else we can come up with.”
4. Don’t show up late or cancel at the last minute.
Respect your co-writer’s time. A lot of writers plan multiple co-writes in a day, or have very busy schedules. The last thing you want to do is give them a reason to be frustrated even before you write. If you are planning a ton of co-writes in the upcoming season, purchase a planner specifically for jotting down co-writes, and set reminders
5. Don’t be the guy or gal who only shoots ideas down, but doesn’t offer any good ideas yourself.
You will probably get kicked out. Or kicked. Maybe both. Co-writing takes a level of vulnerability, you will have some good ideas and some not-so-good ideas. But the point is, you are there to offer input and ideas to further the song, not just critique the process.
6. Stay on task and focused.
One of the worst things you can do in a co-write is not actually participate in the writing. Make sure your phone is put away. If you’re constantly texting, taking calls, or scrolling Instagram, that can make the other writers in the room feel extremely taken advantage of. It’s a team effort, so be present and a part of the process.
7. This one is for the producer: Don’t take months to get a demo done.
Finish your demo on the same day if possible. Or at least within the week. Nothing kills excitement over a song like time passed. Keep up the momentum and work with a sense of urgency.
8. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Perfection is the enemy of creativity. Perfection is also subjective. Focus on the song and telling a story in a way that captures your listeners. No song will please everyone, but being true to connecting with the lyrics and authentically expressing ideas will always be appreciated by someone.
9. Avoid talking about “songwriting.”
Just write. Don’t talk about how the chorus needs to lift and how the rhyme scheme should be set up. Don’t give your melodic analysis as we are writing the melody. Don’t talk about prosody and how the feeling of the music should match the feeling of the lyrics.
Yes, those are all the basics for you to master in your own time. But keep those concepts in your head during a co-write. Otherwise, you can suck the magic out of the co-writing room by making it overly scientific.
10. Don’t focus on the result.
Focus on the relationship. Make that one co-write opportunity turn into a friendship and maybe dozens more regular monthly co-writes. Yes. You want a good song. But really what will serve you better is having a good relationship.
Last tip, leave your ego at the door. Be there to serve the song, and to serve the other people in the room. Now go make incredible music!