[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Many songwriters are initially scared to write with others for a number of reasons, most of which are completely valid. Putting your feelings down on paper, (and then perhaps singing them out loud), is tough for many, and it becomes even tougher when knowing that not only will others consume this work, but that someone might be there to see it while it’s in its messiest stages.
I am not a songwriter, but I can empathize with those who have concerns when it comes to writing songs with other people. I feel strongly that it is worth exploring, no matter how frightening or strange it may feel at first. Many hit songs these days are collaborations between a number of people, and even if you’re not looking to top the charts, there are many reasons why writing a song as a part of a group can benefit you–here are just a few of them.
1. Get Used To Something New
Whenever you’re doing something creative, whether it be writing a song or something completely different, it’s good to mix things up. Becoming stuck in a habit or a routine can be helpful in a few ways, but when it comes to igniting your creativity, trying new things with new people in new places is an absolute must. Whatever you’re used to, ditch it, and go for something you’ve never done before.
When they first start out as songwriters, most artists do so on their own. Typically, they pen tunes in the comfort of their own home, and they don’t present anything to the outside world until they feel it is one hundred percent ready. That impulse is perfectly understandable, but at a certain point, it must be shucked in favor of something different, and, honestly, truly terrifying to some.
Writing with another person opens you up in a way you might not be accustomed to, and that’s a good thing. You need to expose your true feelings to others, and you’ll be unable to hide your process. When you can be that free when putting pen to paper, amazing things can happen, and you can become an adaptable songwriter…and all because you tried something new!
No matter how far along in your career as a songwriter, there will always be things you can learn. Even the most successful in the world admit that they like to work with talented musicians and other writers, as they get to learn more about their craft.
You may find, as is the case with a large number of people who compose songs, that many of your tracks begin to sound the same, or that they all fit into a certain formula. This is natural, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it, as it happens to almost everyone. You have a style and a sound and a method, and that’s why most of the time, your art will be easily identifiable as your own…but it’s good as an artist to at least learn new things, and then decide how you’ll incorporate them into your work.
Whether it be ways of phrasing words, new song structures, or perhaps even just a new idea or way of seeing a topic or the world in general, there are countless things that can be learned simply by partnering with someone else and seeing how they go about putting words together into a finished song. In the end, the education can only benefit you.
3. Seek Out Inspiration
If you write most of your music sitting alone somewhere, you may find that inspiration dries up from time to time. Even if you have a lot going on in your life that you’d like to talk about, finding a way to do so, and particularly, the right words, is tough even at the best of times, let alone when inspiration evades you.
When you sit with another, listen to not just what they say, but think about how they approach the same topics and issues as you. They may see things in completely different ways, and they may have a million different thoughts that never crossed your mind. This is all good news, as you can use them all for inspiration for your own music, whether you write it with that person or not.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, anyone, and at any time, so don’t think you necessarily need to travel far or meet with superstars to be inspired. All you may need is to try a different room with a friend who also likes to create music.
4. Open Up New Career Opportunities
This might not be the case for the most successful songwriters in the business, but for everyone else, forming new connections and meeting others in the industry can be a very important component to succeeding. The music industry is built on talent, but it runs on relationships, and the more you have, the better.
When you write a song with others, they may be able to get it to artists you might not have access to. Even if you’re the more successful writer in the group, those you work with might have better relationships either with big names or up-and-comers who may turn out to be very exciting.
If you don’t want to hand over your lyrics to others, you may be able to push your own art further if you include other songwriters, as they many have connections at labels, sync companies, PR agencies, or with journalists, playlist makers, DJs, and so on that you haven’t formed yet. Simply making them part of the process, both creatively and financially (if they co-write a song with you, they get a cut of the profits) can be a fantastic way to spread your own music, if that’s the route you want to go.
5. Just Do It!
Like Nike tells us: just do it!
I have just listed a number of reasons why this is good for you as an artist and as someone who needs to pay the bills, but at the end of the day, you can choose to write a song with someone else…simply because. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it doesn’t need to be hard, and you don’t need to commit to working this way for any real length of time, so why not try it out? Like anything in this world, you never know if you’ll like it until you give it a go!
Hugh McIntyre writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.