The Case For and Against Songwriting Collaborations

 Songwriting partnerships should not exclude the demonstration of healthy egos.


“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”, 3rd editionThe new 3rd edition of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” ebook manual is now released! A songwriting manual that’s part of Gary Ewer’s 6-ebook bundle. Take your songwriting to a new level of excellence!

Get the eBooks..


Beck - BeyoncéEvery once in a while, the notion of several musicians collaborating on the writing of one song becomes a noticeably public topic of conversation. An amusing graphic surfaced recently, comparing the number of collaborators involved in the creation of Beck’s Grammy award-winning album “Morning Phase” — 1 –, to the creation of Beyonce’s self-titled album — dozens.

The graphic was meant to support the simple and debatable notion that the fewer musicians involved in the making of music, the more deserving it is of any accolades it receives.

I tend to agree, though not necessarily all of the time.

I am a believer in good songwriting collaborations if those collaborators had a reason to hitch their horses to the same wagon. As a composer of music, if you find another writer who shares some of your own basic philosophies of why you write music in the first place, and can fill voids you have in your songwriting technique, you’ve got the makings of a powerfully effective collaboration.

But I find myself rolling my eyes at the scenario where 5 or 6 or more musicians, all sitting in a studio, attempt to hammer out a new tune for some high-profile singer to present to the world. I don’t like those kinds of collaborations, at least most of the time. And I dislike them mainly because the music usually lacks an initial vision, and the lack of vision comes from a skewed underlying philosophy behind music.

Any one songwriter’s philosophy is usually hard to define, but it’s something you sense. Bob Dylan, for example, may be quite interested in the money he makes from music, but you don’t get the sense that it’s the main underlying philosophy. He’s usually trying to get a message out there.

It’s too simplistic, I believe, to suggest that having 9 musicians getting a writing credit on a song (Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love”) automatically means that it lacks vision. In fact, it may simply be the way a lot of music is being written today:

“We just kinda had a party. It was so great, because it wasn’t about any ego, we weren’t trying to make a hit record […] we were just having fun…and I think you can hear that in the record.”


And it’s also a reflection of how songwriting credits are doled out these days. It seems that anyone in the room while a song is being put together gets a writing credit. And to be truthful, it may be unfair to suggest that having 9 songwriters in the credits automatically means that the song lacks an initial vision, or isn’t supported by a sophisticated philosophy.

Having said that, I question whether the best music anyone can write will come from musicians who “…just kinda had a party.” I still believe that today’s best music is being written by one or two songwriters, who practice the art of songwriting, and who do so with a disciplined, positively critical mind.

And regarding Beyoncé’s statement that “…it wasn’t about any ego,” I actually want ego when I listen to music. I want to hear ego loud and clear, and so should you. Ego is only ever bad when it’s overbearing and loud for no good reason. A healthy ego does not arrogantly silence other voices in the room.

And maybe that’s the best part of healthy songwriting collaborations: two egos in a room, confident to acknowledge each other’s talents, and producing music that’s really worth listening to.

Whether you’re part of a songwriting team, or hammering out your tunes all by yourself, the question is: Does your music start with a vision (a message), and does the end product honour that initial vision?

That’s what good songwriting has always been. If you can get that with a team of 9 songwriters, more power to you.


Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Posted in Opinion, songwriting and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. well thing here is gp don’t understand how writer credit goes.
    in pop and hiphop gerne, producers, beatmakers tend to get writer credit too.
    so it’s apple to orange. because rock producers, folk music or AC type producers, they don’t get writer credit unless they contribute to lyric and its melody. but in those pop,hiphop gerne, If you make drum pattern, credit. or stiring session, credit. hot beats here and there. credit.
    that’s why all those hiphop music and some electronic gerne have 5~10 writer lists.

    for example, drunk in love have like 10 writer list but.
    timbaland & j-rock (timbaland’s producing partner) – production
    Detail – production
    The order(3people) – production team hired by detail
    boots – additional production
    Beyonce- writing lyrics
    jay z – writing his rap

    it’s just different culture. credit here is more of recognition of involvement/contribution.
    taylow swfit write herself but once she crossed to pop gerne and started to work with pop producers, her writer list is no longer herselfor or with partner. 3~4 people on the list..

  2. First, define MUSIC. I think Beyonce and others of her genre have a very different definition of music than the rest of the world. Seems to me that is where we find the dividing line. Once we have a boundary around that, it is easy to define and conduct effective collaboration.

    • I don’t think a definition of music is needed for the purpose of considering your post, Rick. Regardless of the definition, can you provide insight into how Beyonce and “others of her genre” (pop? r&b? hip hop?) have a different definition of music? Aside from sections of various songs where rapping is the primary vocal, I can’t grasp what you mean. Her music has the following elements: lyrics, rhythm, melody, and harmony. These are the building blocks of music non? Nothing too experimental as far as time signature, musical scales etc. As far as I know, she’s using the same 12 notes as everyone else (in western music). Perhaps that’s why the Grammys decided to include her as a nominee. I honestly can’t figure out what you mean.

  3. Glad to read on this topic, as I have been thinking about it lately as well. My reaction to the notion that 1 writer is automatically superior to more writers is that, the people making that assertion have never tried to co-write in their life! I find it incredibly challenging to have more than one chef in the kitchen! And you make a good point that merely being in the room for the party can net a writing credit while perhaps only one or two people actually did the “work” of writing the song… I’m only troubled by the lack of willingness-to-think by the general population, when it comes to music-industry issues. The discourse is good, however it has to happen though!

    • Thanks very much for your thoughts on this post. I encourage songwriters to experiment with co-writing, as long as that collaboration is fuelled by a genuine desire to create something visionary and artistic. And perhaps I could make that point even stronger, to say that every song that someone writes should be seen as visionary and possibly epic. We don’t really know while we’re writing it. History has treated many Beatles songs well, and there is no doubt that society several hundred years from now will still be treating some songwriters with the same reverence we offer to Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Mozart, Beethoven, and other masters. I wonder if McCartney thought he was writing an epic for the ages when he wrote “Yesterday”, “Let It Be”, or “Fool On the Hill”? In any case, every piece of music we create should be done in such a way that we see it as possibly an epic creation that will be looked at for centuries.

      Thanks again,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.