Recently, I wrote about the advantages of cowriting <READ IT HERE>. I’m a big fan of cowriting. As a lyricist, I need a great melody writer to have a prayer of getting my songs cut. However, there are a few potential downsides to cowriting. I want to point these out so you can be aware of them- and avoid them!
1. Getting lazy.
The great thing about cowriting is that you can lean on your cowriter to bring in great ideas and hooks, help you overcome creative roadblocks, and catch mistakes in your songs. The downside is that you might use your cowriter as an excuse to get lazy. “I don’t need to prep- Joe always has good ideas…” “I’ve worked on this 2nd verse for a whole 5 minutes… I’ll just take it in to Kelly…” You always want to strive to become a better songwriter.
Don’t use your cowriter’s strength as an excuse to become a weaker songwriter.
2. Getting too social.
One of the great things about cowriting is that you get to spend a few hours with people you enjoy. A danger of cowriting is that you get to spend a few hours with people you enjoy. It’s easy to let the “how ya been” turn into “where’d the last 3 hours go” as you chit-chat your whole writing session away. It’s good to open up and share your life with a close cowriter (it can lead to great, honest songs), but you shouldn’t use to avoid getting down to work. It’s easy to change the subject away from your song when you hit a creative roadblock. And it’s fine to step away for a minute or two. But you have to get back to work.
Don’t use too much visiting as a way to hide from the work.
3. Mis-writing ideas.
Sadly, it’s inevitable that you’ll lose a good idea or two (or more) to a bad or mismatched cowrite. It happens to all of us. Maybe you took your country-rap idea to a hillbilly cowriter, and it just didn’t turn out like you hoped. But you don’t want to risk insulting your cowriter over it, so you just put it away and hope they don’t want to spend money on a demo. Or maybe it’s a “first date” or “blind date” cowrite, and you throw out your best idea to someone who is both underskilled and overconfident. Next thing you know, your idea is hijacked and totally messed up. It’s not the end of the world, though it can sometimes feel that way. You’ll survive- you’ll have more ideas and more songs. But it is frustrating.
Sometimes the price of cowriting is wasting a great idea.
4. Writing vanilla by committee.
Cowriting can be great for polishing a song till it shines. And sometimes a cowriter can encourage you to take risks that you normally wouldn’t. But sometimes a cowrite can end up knocking off all the rough edges that made your idea cool in the first place. Sometimes “songwriting by committee” can leave you with a very middle-of-the-road, safe, vanilla, blah song. You might end up with a song that’s well-crafted, but heartless.
Two-heads-instead-of-one can sometimes leave your song without a heart.
In spite of these dangers, I believe cowriting can be hugely beneficial. (Read “The Advantages Of Cowriting” here.) I know cowriting’s been a big blessing for me. But knowing these dangers can help you avoid or deal with them. And knowing is half the battle. (Extra points if you can name that reference.)
What about you? Any other cowriting dangers that we should add to this list? Or cowriting horror stories? Leave them in the comments!
Pro songwriters know they have to face and overcome disappointments like frustrating cowrites now and then. And if YOU want to become a pro, you need to think like a pro, too. In my FREE e-book, “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” I not only reveal several of the mindsets which separate the pro songwriter from the amateur, but also…
- How to get on a music publisher’s radar
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God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.