The dance of co-writing songs is like dating. You have two people passionately connected to music who decide to give a relationship a whirl based on that commonality. You get together a few times in attempts to get to know one another. You might even write a song or two. But there are red flags, the chemistry isn’t there and he or she is just not that into you.
It isn’t that they don’t like you as a person (well, sometimes it is, but that is an entire blog by itself). Songwriters have individual tool kits that are unique to them. In the tool kit of your strengths and abilities you may find the following – strong lyrics, great musician, rich story teller, diverse musical tastes, or beautiful melody writer. Every one of these attributes is a tool you bring to the table. If you are strong with your lyrics but weak on an instrument, you may not be a good match for a lyricist who can’t sing a note and never picked up an instrument. Two lyricists writing together may feel like two people building a house with 2 hammers and no saw… you will not be able to build very much.
When you make the realization that the two (or more in some circumstances) of you are not going to make a good match, you need to move on. But how you accomplish this without offending the other person is the question. First of all in most circumstances is it NOT about the person so it should NOT be taken personally. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, period. But how do you break it off without burning bridges?
Here is an example of what NOT to do. A friend of mine was telling me about an e-mail they got from a co-writer and it went something like this, “I guess since I haven’t heard from you, we aren’t writing anymore. What did I do wrong? Did I offend you? I guess you didn’t like my style or think I was good enough. You would think a person could call or e-mail to tell someone else that they were through with them. I guess I won’t be hearing from you again.” Talk about picking a fight!
Have you ever received an e-mail like this, or sent one yourself? Here are a few tips on confrontation that can be applied to the business of songwriting:
- When someone doesn’t seem like a good fit as a co-writer, do not string them along. You owe it to them professionally to be honest with them and let them move on. If you are not committed to a writing relationship it wastes their time as well as yours.
- If you aren’t good with in-person confrontation because you back out of saying what you really feel, then send an e-mail. This is less personal than actually talking to them, but at least with this method you can check yourself for content and say what you mean to say without offending the recipient.
- Avoid insults at all costs. Creativity is subjective and just because they don’t end up being a good creative match for you doesn’t mean they lack the ability. They might be a good fit for someone else, just not you.
- If someone approaches you like the person in the above e-mail does, always take the high road. Explain to them what you can and then walk away. Don’t give this type of middle school un-professionalism the last word.
- If they seem distant and non-responsive. Don’t avoid them and move on. Give them a reasonable amount of time to schedule a new co-write. If they don’t respond, send a message saying something like, “I loved our last session, can’t wait for our next get-together. Let me know when you are free.” Stay breezy, as Monica on Friends would suggest. This way you stay on their radar, but you don’t stalk them. If they don’t respond, they are either not professional and you don’t want to waste your time with someone who doesn’t want it as much as you OR they are just not that into you.
No matter what side of the road you find yourself on, don’t take it personally. Do not let one bad co-writing experience taint your view of collaboration or let ie prevent you from writing. If you are desperately in search of a co-writer you have to realize every combination won’t work out. When it is over, you need to move on and find someone new. If you are the person having to “end the relationship” be kind and be professional. One day, you too could be on the receiving end of a “break up” conversation. Don’t lose heart, you will find co-writing partners and you will “just know” if it is a match.