Some fear partnering with another songwriter will weaken your music, but the opposite is usually the case.
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Writing music is a very personal activity. We usually have to dig down into our very souls to find the right words to convey our thoughts and feelings. And once we get those words, we need to come up with melodies and accompanying harmonies that bring those words and thoughts to life. I repeat: writing music is a very personal activity. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from finding a dedicated songwriting partner. In a world where being good is not good enough, a partnership can take your music from being good to being great.
If you’ve never considered getting a songwriting partner, it may be time to think about it. There are lots of good reasons, and here are some thoughts to consider:
- Songwriting partners can “fill in the gaps.” Every songwriter has strengths and weaknesses. If your strengths are strong enough, your audience may not notice those weaknesses. But the right songwriting partner can make those weaknesses go away. So if writing melodies is a particular strength of yours, partnering with a great lyricist can suddenly make your songs noticeable and powerful.
- Songwriting partnerships can broaden your audience base. If your music is more toward the pop/rock side, partnering with someone who’s normal genre is dance, techno, country, folk or some other style can make for an interesting mix. This one is tricky, and doesn’t always work, but success in blending two genres means that you have potential for crossover attraction, and that’s a good thing.
- Songwriting partnerships can help you finish songs that you’ve started, but don’t know what to do next. Playing your unfinished song fragments for another writer can stimulate their imagination, and suddenly you’ve got new ideas to try.
- Songwriting partnerships can give you new instrumental possibilities. Because most songwriters are performers, you’d normally be limited to a small set of instrumental possibilities. But a partner can mean you’ve now got another guitar, or a keyboard, or some other instrument. It also means that you have access to your partner’s circle of musician-friends.
- Songwriting partnerships give you opportunities to influence another writer’s music. It’s easy to see that a partnership can help you with your own music, but you’ve also got an amazing opportunity to create music using someone else’s initial ideas. In that sense, partnering with someone gives you the potential to immediately double your output.
As with any partnership that has the potential to make money, you need to treat this like a business, and get the terms of your partnership in writing. Even if your songwriting partner is a close friend, or a relative, you will want to have any collaboration clearly laid out and described, along with percentage share of any royalties (usually 50-50). If the partnership has real monetary possibilities, you may want to consider getting legal advice and help in drawing something up. That will cost money, but could save you lots of stress and anguish. Make sure an agreement spells out how you can end the partnership. That’s important.
If I were to give one other piece of important advice regarding formalizing a songwriting partnership, it would be to stipulate that any music brought to the table be automatically considered to be under the terms of your agreement. That will hopefully prevent a situation where one songwriter takes the ideas of the other, and then creates their own song with it, outside the agreement.
Social media makes it easier than it used to be to find songwriting partners. But in my opinion, songwriting partnerships still work the best if the two (of more) are playing in the same band, or at least can look each other in the eye. It’s tricky, but not impossible, to have a partnership with someone purely through the internet. But be careful, and document your agreement with precision before starting your collaboration.
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