5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

How To Finally Break Up With a Co-Writer

[Editors Note: This was written by Dan Reifsnyder and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog. Late in 2016, TuneCore Blog contributing writer Mason Hoberg also covered fractured relationships among artists in his article titled, “How To Kick Out a Band Member”.]

 

Sometimes, it’s time to pull the plug on a relationship. It happens all the time, and co-writing is no different. Even the best co-writing relationships can go sour (think Lennon and McCartney, for instance), and it’s wise to think about an exit strategy if things are looking bleak.

Breaking up can be difficult for obvious reasons, whether it’s with a co-writer or significant other, and you may notice some parallels between the two. Sharing your creative side with someone and pouring energy into a project can certainly be a bonding experience. Not to mention the fact that co-writers often know quite a bit about each other, especially if they’ve been at it a long time.

Regardless of the stage of your writing relationship, here are three ways you can let your partner down in the most professional and kind way possible.

1. Be direct

This is by far the most difficult option, but I find it’s usually the best. Letting someone know – kindly, but firmly – where you stand often clears the air very quickly and begets the least amount of negativity in the long term.

If you’re unsure of what to say, try some variation of the following: “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel we’re working well together right now – our artistic sensibilities are just too different.” The other person may ask questions about your decision – in fact, that’s likely.

Your level of honesty depends on your relationship. If you’re too honest, it could piss off him or her. At the same time, if there’s a particular reason (maybe he or she needs to work on listening to his or her co-writers or brush up on his or her lyrical chops), that person deserve the chance to fix it for the future. Your (now former) partner may even appreciate it, albeit in hindsight.

Keeping someone as a friend after being direct can often prove difficult, but I suggest trying to leave a door open. You never know where either of you will find yourselves in the future, and you may change your mind about working with him or her down the road.

Offer to hang out in a non-writing setting sometime. Send him or her a text or an email every once in awhile or reach out on social media. You can never have too many friends in this industry, and it’s always smart to do your best to avoid creating grudges.

2. Avoid writing together

I’ve seen this done a lot to varying effect. If you’re not comfortable with the direct approach, this option may be more diplomatic. A word of warning, though: It can take longer and has the potential to create bad feelings if you don’t do it right.

The simplest way to go about this is to be busy. It can help if you really are swamped with work or working on other projects. Say you can’t write at the moment, but you’ll revisit in a few months. This serves two purposes: First, it lets everything cool off. You’re not writing together as often and maybe talking less. It can soften the blow for the eventual “breakup.”

Second, it can give you time and space to gather your thoughts about writing together. Perhaps you’re just getting burned out. If so, you can return to the project in a few weeks or months since you haven’t officially burned any bridges.

If you still decide you two don’t make the best writing team, continue to be non-committal about making time to get together. Most people either get the idea and drop it or forget about it entirely. (After all, your partner probably has a busy life, too.) If he or she presses, be honest and give an honest answer. And with the benefit of time away, he or she just may come to agree that it’s the best thing.

A word of warning: Don’t lie. In other words, don’t tell the other person you’re not feeling very creative when it’s obvious you’re writing every day. If anything rings untrue – or worse, is an outright falsehood – it will be taken personally and you’ll look pretty scummy… the very thing you want to avoid.

3. Ghost

This is, by far, my least favorite option  because it leaves the most room for hurt feelings and burned bridges. Sometimes, though, it’s the only option – especially if your co-writer isn’t getting the hint or has put you in an uncomfortable, awkward, or dangerous situation (unwanted sexual advances, illegal activity, or just being generally sketchy).

In that case, feel free to ghost and ghost liberally. For those who don’t know what “ghosting” is, it’s sudden and complete radio silence. You can go as far as blocking the other person on social media or from your phone, and that may be necessary depending on what he or she has done. Save this for all but the most serious situations – it will unquestionably end your relationship (professional or otherwise) and potentially sour any mutual contacts you have.

Be wary of ghosting too often, however – if done too much, you will appear to be flaky and unreliable (or possibly unstable), and people will be reluctant to work with you.


As Paul Simon once said, there are 50 ways to leave your lover, and that goes for co-writing relationships, too. These are just some of the most common and effective ways I’ve found. With any luck, though, you’ll never need to use them.

7 Great Ways to Accelerate Your Songwriting Skills

[Editors Note: This was written by Zac Green. Zac is a regular contributor to the Zing Instruments Blog.]

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Starting the process of writing a new song can take just as long as finishing it. So here’s seven tips to help you speed up your songwriting.

1. Work in a group, then alone

Having a few people to bounce ideas around with helps the creative process get started. After you’ve got your song started, the democratic process is more likely to slow you down. If you’re writing songs as part of a band, it can be better to go and complete your parts individually once you’ve gotten the overall idea in place.

2. Drink alcohol, then coffee

Research has shown that drinking alcohol boosts your creativity, but makes it hard to focus. Coffee, and other drinks containing caffeine, has the opposite effect. For your brainstorming session, loosen up with a few drinks. This works especially well if combined with the first tip, but be careful not to get carried away and turn it into a drinking session. Once you’ve sat down to start writing the ideas you have onto paper, fire up the kettle.

3. Give chance a chance

After a long music career, you might find that all of your songs are starting to sound the same. There’s nothing wrong with having a recognisable sound, but you don’t want to get stale. Shake things up by writing different elements of songs onto pieces of paper, such as keys, lyrical themes, and so on. Place them into a hat and draw five at random. Force yourself to use these, no matter how badly they seem to go together. The results can be surprisingly good – and more importantly they help you to think outside of your usual boundaries.

4. Write somewhere different

Creativity doesn’t exist in a void. If you want to be inspired, go for a long walk somewhere far away from your usual haunts. The change of scenery, fresh air and act of walking itself can be great for generating new ideas. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to let yourself relax. Stress is a major impediment to creativity.

5. Learn your music theory

I don’t care how unappealing this seems. You might think that learning theory chokes your freedom or that it’s boring. However, if you don’t know what the rules around music are, it’s impossible to break them in a way which is both purposeful and well-executed. This applies no matter what genre you’re in. For example, my own personal foray into EDM was vastly improved when I started learning about cadence, a concept from choral music.

6. Steal from other songs

Now let me just clarify something before we go any further. I am absolutely not telling you to copy somebody else’s song in it’s entirety and try to pass it off as your own. That’s not songwriting, and you’re unlikely to get away with it for very long.

What you can do, is jot down interesting chord progressions, licks and lyrics. Playing around with these later, such as using inverted versions of the chords, trying it in a different key or modulating can lead to something brand new as the changes you’ve made will lead to a naturally different conclusion.

7. Use good notation software

Writing music by hand can take quite a while, and you can’t always check to see if it sounds right straight away. By using notation software, such as Sibelius, or if you can’t read music, just programming the notes into a digital audio workstation (DAW) can transform your songwriting process completely, as it’s quite easy to quickly change sections of your music without having to rewrite every single note.

Armed with these tricks, your songwriting skills will change practically overnight. It doesn’t matter if you apply all of them at once (although that isn’t entirely practical) or try them out a few at a time. Your own process is going to be a factor in this, so perhaps some of them won’t be entirely applicable. Don’t fret about this, just do the ones that feel ‘right’ to you.

10 Ways DIY Musicians Can Make The Most Of Their Lyrics

[Editors Note: This blog was written by our friends at LyricFind, the world’s largest lyric licensing service.]

1.) Include lyrics on your website. You can create a whole page dedicated to lyrics, or even offer a downloadable PDF for fans, in exchange for an email.

2.) Use lyrics on social media to engage fans. Include lyric snippets in your social media posts and tweets, when you share a video or audio track, when you post a picture from a gig, rehearsal, studio session, or epic brunch.

3.) Post playful photos of your lyrics to Instagram and social media. Post-its, flyers, chalk… they all suggest quirky, fun ways to put your lyrics out there. Need something more serious? Try your hand at something more calligraphic, or track down a letterpress and commission a few printed cards.

4.) Make lyric videos to promote your new song. Lots of bands with big marketing budgets are opting out of the big produced video, and looking for a simpler way. Indie musicians can, too. Start with a straightforward lyric video. If you’re not a whizz at motion graphics or After Effects, try Superstring.

5.) You can also go lo-fi for your lyric video. It can be as simple and impromptu as Bob Dylan’s iconic video for Don’t Look Back. Get out the poster board and markers, gather your friends and get creative. Find approaches that capture your artistic aesthetic and that feature your words.

6.) Get your lyrics into the publishing pipeline (and onto streaming platforms and other services). Publishing has opened up and is now accessible to artists at all stages of their careers, thanks to aggregators like The Harry Fox Agency. As LyricFind works directly with these aggregators (and many more), it makes it easier for your lyrics to become discoverable through platforms like Apple, Deezer, Shazam, and MetroLyrics. Look into what publishing services your distributor offers (ed. note: be sure to check out TuneCore’s Publishing Administration offerings!). Make the most of them.

7.) Make merch with your lyrics. Your song’s words would look perfect emblazoned on a t- shirt. Later this year, LyricFind is entering the merch scene with a new on-demand product that allows fans and consumers to print legally licensed lyrics on many kinds of merchandise.

8.) Make lyric posters. Remember that letter press idea? Why not print up a few dozen (or thousand) posters or flyer-sized arrangements of popular lines from your fans’ favorite songs? Or find other creative ways to present your lyrics visually.

9.) Are you artistically inclined? Are you a doodler? Make an old-school zine-style lyric chapbook for fans, as special thank-yous or perks. Print it, jot some fun notes or little drawings on it, and toss it on the copy machine.

10.) Make sheet music or charts for a song. It’s not hard to generate the chords or tablature for many songs. Check out Ultimate Guitar or Fender to make your own sheet music for fans to play along with.

Got any other cool ideas when it comes to sharing your lyrics? Let us know in the comments!

3 Problems Most Lyricists Face

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]

 

Being the main lyricist for a band is arguably one of the most difficult positions in music that one can hold. You have to be part musician and part poet, and you have to learn a ton of rules and techniques that go above and beyond what the average musician would have to know.

Because being a lyricist and a musician is such a balancing act, there are a host of problems that can occur. In fact, there are way more than can be named in this article. However, time and time again there seems to be three main stumbling blocks that lyricists happen to run into.

If you’ve been having trouble as a lyricist, or just want to avoid running into to some all too common problems, you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you three great tips to help you on your road to being the lyricist you’ve always dreamed you could be.

Side note: Yes, there are exceptions to every rule below. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found a flaw in my logic. They are the exceptions that prove the rule, and most of them are either purposefully breaking a rule as a part of a larger message (“I Am The Walrus”) and/or work because the other elements that make them up are so strong, (a lot of Bob Dylan’s work).

1. Not Simplifying Your Song

Ideally, every song you right should have one main point. Everything else in your song should work to flesh out this point (or in some cases cause the listener to reinterpret it). Think of your song like an essay. You have your thesis, a few points regarding it, and then a few supporting details.

A common problem with a lot of lyricists’ songs is that they don’t follow this. By not outlining and sticking to one clear point their song becomes almost unintelligible. It confuses the listener, and it keeps your song from resonating with your audience.

To use the essay analogy again, imagine if an essay about the history of Coca-Cola had a five-paragraph section in the middle about party clowns. This would (rightly) confuse the reader and distract from the main point of the song.

2. Inconsistent Rhyme or Meter

You don’t necessarily have to rhyme to make a good song. You can also be relatively flexible with things like meter. However, you cannot have wild swings with either element. For example:

                  The red duck is red

                  He hides under my bed

                  Next to my bed is a trunk

                  It opens with a solid thunk

The example above would be okay. The syllable count is similar enough (a deviation of a syllable or two isn’t overly distracting) and everything rhymes. This on the other hand:

   The red duck is red

                  He curls up on a blanket under my bed

                  Next to my bed is a chest

                  It opens loudly with a very solid thunk

Would definitely not be okay. It doesn’t flow well, and quickly abandoning a rhyming scheme is distracting. Again, in certain situations this could work, (for example, it could be used as a technique to increase tension or draw attention to a line), it’s just not something you should do without a larger purpose. This isn’t the most elegant analogy around, but hopefully it illustrates the point.

3. Being Overly “Artsy”

If you analyze the work of your famous poet, you’re most likely going to see that the complexity and beauty from their point comes from the subtlety of their language. They don’t use overly descriptive phrases to sound deep, because by doing so they remove the audience’s agency.

The reason that a lot of poetry and/or lyrics resonate so deeply with people is that the author leaves room for the words to resonate with the audience. They leave their work open to interpretation so that the audience can fill in the gaps with their own experiences or expectations.

There’s a famous story of Ernest Hemingway winning a bet with some friends to see who could write the best novel with only four words. His response was “baby shoes; never worn.” These four words tell a huge story because they’re so open to interpretation. The story you thought of when you read them could be about a couple who miscarried, or it could have been a variety of other situations.

The lesson to learn with this anecdote isn’t that Ernest Hemingway was awesome, (even though he was!), it’s that in order to have a piece of media that resonates with a variety of people you have to leave enough gaps for them to insert themselves into.

Bonus: Use Relevant Themes

This isn’t necessarily a tip to make a better song, which is why it isn’t getting a number of its own. Rather, it’s a way that you can help your songs become more popular.

Something you should strive for if you’re looking to appeal to a wider audience is writing songs with themes that are both relevant to a wide number of people (heartbreak, having a lame job, having a p.o.s. car) and easily identifiable in a song. There are countless examples of this, and pretty much every famous artist has at least one.

To do this, just pick something that’s happened to you in your life that happens to other people. If you have a tense relationship with your folks, write a song about it. If you had a significant other cheat on you, put your experience to music. Just make sure that the basic storyline is easy to follow.

In Conclusion

Writing a good song is hard, and writing a great song is even harder. While this article may not give you all the information that you need to start pumping out hits, it can give you a leg up on your competition.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and write music that artistically fulfills you. We may not all get to be famous, but we can all have a great time playing music.

How To Work That 9-5 and Still Be an Inspired Musician

[Editors NoteThis article was written by Rachel Bresnahan originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog.]

I speak for myself when I say this, but I’m sure plenty of other musicians think the same: we all want a consistent, full-time, make-a-living-off-of-music job. Whether that’s behind the scenes or center stage, being able to sustain a life off of our music would be fantastic.

But because we all need to have a place to live, buy groceries, and pay off student loans, we sometimes have no choice but to opt for a nine-to-five job. It may not be music related, but a day job can make life a little bit easier to handle. However, there are times when it may seem as if you’re focusing less and less on your music and losing touch with that part of your identity.

Even if you aren’t playing or booking gigs every day, that doesn’t mean you’re giving up your musicianship. There are ways to focus on your day job as well as your passion for making music.

1. Set music-related deadlines (and stick to them)

Making time after work to go to the gym, maintain relationships, eat right, and just plain relax requires plenty of effort all on their own. So at the end of the day, we don’t blame you for not wanting to sit down with a metronome or manuscript paper.

Maybe you’re too tired or feeling uninspired, but it’s so incredibly important to keep yourself emerged in a musical mindset with music activities. You don’t have to write a full-length, best-selling album in a night, but you do need to maintain some focus in music.

Try setting some personal or professional deadlines for writing music, practicing, self-marketing, or any other part of your musicianship. If you’re in the process of writing lyrics, plan to have a part of the song done by the end of the week or spend 20 minutes a day drafting emails to send to venues. Creating deadlines and goals, however big or small, will help you keep music in mind even if playing a gig or writing seem too far out of reach for a day’s work.

2. Plan some relaxation time that includes music

A passion for music is great in this way – you can continue to grow as a musician even if you’re not practicing for two hours every day.

Sit down with an album and make the time to actively listen to it – don’t make a snack or check your social media. Just sit. Listen. Think. Doing this will help you listen for elements that may inspire you further to create and add-on to your own music.

3. Ask yourself, “Is this a healthy break, or am I avoiding music?”

I can definitely “out” myself with this one. After taking some time away from music, there are moments when I avoid my craft all together. If you’re like me at all, it’s never a fun practice session when your hands are out of shape. The fumbling, the mistakes, and the frustration can be discouraging and it becomes a vicious cycle. I don’t want to practice because I’m self-conscious of the way I sound, but only practicing will help me get back in shape.

However, taking a well-needed break is also healthy. Hitting the restart button will not only clear your mind, but it will also hopefully make your heart miss making music. What’s the saying? “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” It’s totally okay to take a step back, but make sure you’re doing it with intent.

4. Surround yourself with musicians who inspire you

Spending time with like-minded friends is never a bad idea. Being able to talk to others about music is a wonderful way to keep your head in the game. Take a second to talk about, analyze, and explore music in an intellectual way. These conversations can help you think about music critically; you might even continue to learn new ideas and techniques from others. I find that the people that I surround myself with inspire me the most with my music and keep me constantly thinking of my presence in music.

It’s no easy task to balance a music career while maintaining a life outside of music. But you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re compromising your passion for a steady paycheck. Let us know in the comments below how you’ve managed being a full-time musician with a nine-to-five job.