Whether you’re trying out co-writing for the first time or you are well-seasoned writing with others, here are a few tips on how to “get in the writing room” with people that you want to write with.
NSAI TOOLS TO FIND A CO-WRITER
I wouldn't be doing my job as a Membership Representative if I didn't explain the NSAI benefits you can utilize regarding finding co-writers! First off, meeting people face-to-face is always ideal. Our Nashville office hosts workshops every Thursday night where you can meet other members and suggest writing together. Feel free to attend these workshops anytime you’re in town; there is no pre-registration required. If you’re outside of the Nashville area, we have about 120 Regional Chapters that meet up once a month. Attend the one nearest to you and meet some potential co-writers! Another resource you can use is the Member Directory on our website. This allows you to enter in specifications like Genre, Logistical Co-writing Preference, Performer Experience, Studio/Instrument Experience, Writing Strength, and Proximity to find the most compatible co-writer!
*Make sure your account is opted-in to be viewed in the member directory. The set default is for member profiles to be hidden for privacy.
FINDING CO-WRITERS ORGANICALLY
One simple way to seek out people to write with is to go to local shows and find performers that love music as much as you do. This is a great way to screen the level and style of their writing beforehand to gauge whether or not you’d be a good match. In the Nashville area, there are “writer’s rounds” all over the place! If it’s not a writer’s night, then most likely it’s an artist playing a set or showcase… but hey, they need songs too! Seek out a bar or restaurant in your area that has live music and don’t be shy to introduce yourself to the performer afterwards or during their set break!
This is where creativity can come into place as far as getting people to want to write with you. I always tell members to “think outside the box of me”… what can you provide for them? Have you thought about hosting a writers round at a local venue and inviting writers to play alongside you, or going to their shows and showing support by tipping them and talking with them afterwards? Maybe you could introduce them to other people they could work with, invite them in as a third person to a co-write you already have set up, or ask them to coffee or lunch to talk about music?
That’s how you become friends with strangers, you offer to help them. I guarantee that they will be much more willing to co-write with you in the future once that generous relationship has been established. It’s a fact, people enjoy working with their friends. But, don’t be the person that only does nice things to get something in return right away. Just be a friend; good karma will catch up to you.
RULES ON ASKING
Don’t be scared to throw it out there that “We Should Write Sometime”. You never know!
If you don’t have recordings of what you’ve written on your own yet, that’s the first step. Potential co-writers want to hear or see what you're capable of and get a feeling of who you are as a writer. It doesn't have to be a fancy recording, even work-tapes recorded on your phone will do. It is very standard to suggest sharing music before putting a writing session on the calendar. That way you both can listen to each other’s music, decide whether it’s a co-write worth your time, and agree to write or not. Popular music sharing sites include SoundCloud or Dropbox, where you can send them the link to your music directly. Others prefer to give out business cards with a listed personal website where music can be found.
Know your strengths and play those up! For instance if you're skilled at coming up with great song ideas or hooks, you can mention to the person, “Hey I’ve got a few killer ideas that would make for a hit. I feel like we’d work really well together, are you interested in co-writing sometime?” In this scenario, the cowriter already knows that you’re bringing something valuable to the table and is more tempted to say yes. Or maybe you’re an artist/writer trying to find great songs to put on an EP, that’s very enticing for a songwriter, because they would be working towards a project and might get a song cut!
Another important point is that co-writing doesn't have to feel like a blind date. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in trying to write with everybody, that we book writes and meet the person for the first time essentially the day of. This can be overwhelming and not always the best nesting area for the next #1 song. There’s no reason you can’t spend time with a person before you sit down and pour out feelings into a song. Suggest something like coffee, or hiking, or going to a show together. In fact, getting to know the other person before scheduling a co-writing session probably makes for a better song, more vulnerability, and less nervousness in the room.
In Nashville, songwriters can be very strategic as to who they write with. The idea is to always be writing “above” you or with someone who can teach you something. Even further than that, many writers are trying to write with more artists, because the chance is much higher of getting a song cut on their record. When you get into the professional writing world, it’s important to understand that this a business and time is money. So don’t take it personally if someone “can’t fit you in their schedule” or never even responds to your request. That’s what we call the “Nashville No”. You can’t expect to write with the big boys unless you’ve got some major credit and proven talent behind your name. Let that be a challenge to you.
HOW’D IT GO?
Did you finish part of a song? An entire song? How was the writing chemistry in the room? Did your strengths complement the other writer’s weaknesses? Was any one person too controlling or too timid? Did everyone put in equal amount of effort? Was the process enjoyable? Are you proud of your work?
These are all questions to ask yourself after a co-write. This should give you a good idea whether or not the co-write was successful and if you should schedule another writing session with that person.
If it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, that’s completely normal. Not everyone can write well together. You can be best friends or super fans of each other’s music, but that doesn't necessarily mean it’s going to be a productive or pleasant co-writing relationship. If that’s the case, brush it off, keep them as a friend, and fill up your calendar with other co-writers!
Blog Writer: Erin Kidd, NSAI Membership Representative
Image provided is a shirt available by Whiskey Jam, a show residency series in Nashville. www.whiskeyjam.com