I was reading an online article about songwriting recently — a kind of “top ten ways to write great songs” sort of site — and one of the bits of advice was this: since practically all songs you find on the Billboard Hot 100 these days are the results of songwriting collaborations, you should definitely pursue a collaboration as a pathway to songwriting success.
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I disagree with the basic sentiment of this statement, but it comes down to how you define songwriting success. If success for you is measured in dollars, a collaboration might make things easier, if only for these two reasons:
- A collaboration makes it possible to finish songs more quickly.
- A collaboration connects you to people who may have more experience with what sells.
So if you measure your success by the number of songs you write, and by how much money you might make per year, then forming a partnership with other songwriters might be good advice.
But I tend to look at songwriting as an art form, and I suspect a majority of the readers of my blog would look at it that way. To me, some of the difficulties of songwriting are simply problems to be overcome, and with the completion of each song you find yourself becoming a better songwriter.
The Good Part of Songwriting Partnerships
I actually think there are good reasons for serious songwriters to do at least some writing as part of a collaboration. By partnering up with others, you get to see how other writers solve creative problems. You also get to see how your own approach to songwriting can be nuanced and shaped by the influence of other good writers.
But a partnership as a way to make songwriting easier may be causing you to miss the point of what songwriting — or any creative art — is supposed to be.
There have been great partnerships and collaborations out there, ones that have resulted in some really great music that will still be studied a century from now as pinnacles of the art of songwriting. In the best of those collaborations, one often focused on the lyrics while the other focused on the music (Bacharach & David, Elton John & Bernie Taupin, etc.)
And true, the songwriting process does speed up when you have several working on the song. But if you find that your main reason for writing with a partner is simply to make it easier, you may not really need that collaboration.
My feeling has always been this: if you’re involved in a songwriting partnership that makes you a better songwriter, you should stay in that partnership and become the best you can be.
But if the partnership is simply making it possible to churn out more songs more quickly — songs that may or may not reflect your true songwriting philosophy — it may be best to develop your skills as a solo writer, and not worry too much that it may take longer to finish your songs.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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