The Case For Co-Writing

Co-writing songs may not be for everyone all the time, but every writer can draw benefits from the experience.

© 2019 Vinny Ribas

Many songwriters insist on writing their own songs for any number of predictable reasons. But in most cases the reasons are more ego-driven and far outnumbered by the reasons you should co-write. Here are some of them of the excuses I have heard and the realities that should be considered:

  • I can’t find anyone to write with. With online forums as well as songwriter organizations just about everywhere, this excuse doesn’t hold any water. It often takes writing with dozens to find 2 or 3 writers you gel with.
  • I can’t find anyone who thinks like me. That is not the goal. If you both think exactly alike, one of you isn’t necessary. You’re looking for someone who will challenge you to think differently and who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.
  • I don’t like restrictions. There are rules and guidelines for writing most commercial songs in any genre. You need to know them so you know when it is acceptable to bend or break them.
  • I like writing alone. This is legitimate if you only write for yourself, or if you already are an amazing writer. But if you’ve never found a writing partner who compliments you, you’ll never know how good your songs can actually be.  
  • I write when I get inspired, not on a specific day or at a designated time. There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t preclude you from sending your first draft to someone else to add their magic to it. Not all co-writing is done face-to-face or at specific times.
  • I don’t write well under pressure. When you have a strong co-writer, there will not be any pressure. You go with the flow and have your productive days as well as your unproductive days. Only when you’re writing with a deadline should there be any pressure.
  • I write well enough by myself. That may be true. Or, you may be settling for mediocrity when you could be great.
  • I don’t want to split the revenues. That’s fine if you’re generating lots of money from your songs already. If you’re not it might be because there is an ingredient missing. When the song is irresistible to artists, playlists, radio etc. the revenues will be far more than you’ll ever make with less-than stellar songs.

And here are some reasons co-writing might be a good option for you:

  • 2 heads are better than one. You have strengths and weaknesses. It’s magical when you write with someone whose strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa. It’s better to write one great song than a bunch of mediocre songs.
  • New perspectives and inspirations. Many writers write about the same things over and over, coming from the same viewpoint and repeating the same thought patterns. A strong  writer will challenge you to approach your topics from different angles and bring life to your over-written sentiments.
  • New ideas. Your co-writer will bring new ideas to the table that you’ve never considered writing about.
  • 2 writers = 2 song promoters. When you co-write a song, chances are each writer will promote it heavily within his or her own personal channels. This doubles your visibility and increases your chances of getting notoriety, industry attention and/or cuts.
  • Gets you unstuck. A good co-writer can pick up the ball and run with a concept you have become stuck on. They can also inspire you when you’ve hit a mental roadblock.
  • Rising tide floats all boats – When one writer gets a publishing deal, a cut, a job in the industry or even  releases one of the songs you co-wrote, it increases your credibility dramatically and opens doors that weren’t open to you before.
  • Reduced demo and marketing costs. Your co-writers should split the costs of recording demos of your songs and share in the promotional costs. Your co-writer might even have a studio where he/she can record the demos, eliminating that cost completely.
  • Raises your skill level. It’s always best to ‘write up’, meaning it’s to your benefit to write with someone a little bit better than you. You will learn more and more about the craft. The best songwriters never stop studying and analyzing other writers. Your co-writers will thus challenge you to rise to their levels.
  • Built-in cut – If you’re writing with someone who is also an artist, you may have a guaranteed cut. The same happens when you write specifically for an artist who does not write.

Co-writing is not for everyone. But I will venture to say that every writer, regardless of his or her skill sets, can benefit from the experience. And once you start seeing those benefits, you just might get hooked on the process!

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.