The Woodshed

Collaboration In Song Writing

1

Thoughts and insights appreciated.

I can write a hook and a riff and a bridge, verse, chorus like no one's business. Can I write a verse of lyric that isn't complete garbage? Noooop.

So I find this cute drummer girl, seasoned and not a kid anymore. Writes poems like you have smokes or beers or meals. Pours out of the girl.

We hit it off and while she can't invent a song if her life depended on it, she just loves what I play off the cuff and when I get to earnestly writing something, she's crazy for it.

So a partnership blossoms. Never had this sort of thing happen before and it's been a couple of months in the making so I am pretty sure it's the real deal.

What should I be aware of, know and do and not do?

2

If you want it to last: Don't sleep with her..... ;)

3

Get a bass player too, :D. I don't know man, don't over-complicate it. How does she take criticism? Or are you so happy to have found a musician like her that every little thing she does is magic? (sorry, couldn't resist). I mean, you don't have to say that "what you just did was f-ing s", but maybe "how about we try this and that bit again, I think we can get more out of that".

Either way, it's great to read stuff like this, musicians complementing each other so well, having fun. Do you have some recordings yet?

Cheers,

Jan

4

Enjoy every minute. Couplings like these sometimes do not last for very long but they bring out fantastic results. But as Jan said: Don't over-complicate it.

And though it might not feel very pleasant talk about the business part of the collaboration.

5

"What should I be aware of, know and do and not do?"

What are your goals? Just writing songs for fun may be a goal, but it probably won't end up being productive. I would set a goal for your collaboration such as writing a album's worth of good songs, recording the songs, and releasing the album in some form and hopefully performing those songs live. Along the way, you'll need to deal with issues like copyrights and who gets credit for a given song (probably both).

Good luck - it sounds like a lot of fun and can end up being very artistically enriching for both you.

6

Agree to split everything 50-50 with her right up front whether or not anything actually materializes from it. It will motivate both of you to keep coming up with your best.

7

Great advice folks, thanks.

No worries about sleeping with her, we're both firmly attached in long term relationships. 32 years this year for me and my wife Laura.

Our goal is to write good original songs, record them and when there is enough good material for an album, release it. We haven't had the money talk yet. What we do earn at this point has gone directly to band expenses which at this point have far outpaced our earnings.

Copyright is something we will need to learn about and arrange so that we're all protected and the material ownership remains with us.

8

Sounds like a win, win, so far. Go with it if it works, I say. I play in two bands. I write the music for one and Toby writes for the other. Me, being a songwriter as well, try to help him when he writes on the fly in practice but he clearly wants it to be his own. No worries but it's odd that we have been playing together since 2006 and he has no interest in doing a collaboration. It's all good, though.

Copyrights are so easy these days, in a way. Just put it on youtube and it has been dated and will make for a great argument in court. JMO.

9

Try co-writing two or three songs on a trial basis first. Do it together if possible to avoid creative differences caused by distance and direction, otherwise compromise will later divide you both. Poetry doesn't always make good song lyrics that flow with the music. If you're still talking to each other after the trial run, engage a patent attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property and get your arrangement spelled out in clear, legal terms on paper. It's showbiz after all and neglecting the business aspect notoriously ends in bitter recriminations. Whether or not there's intimacy involved, remember a successful working relationship is a marriage of sorts. Working together and living together 24/7 is a big ask because neither of you can get away from your dual passions. Inevitably, your music and your private lives will spill over into each other... and that could be beneficial or it could be divisive. Obviously, you are both going to need to be thick-skinned enough to take constructive criticism but, if you survive the process and, hopefully, thrive professionally and personally, the mutual satisfaction will be immense and the monetary gains should follow if your manager doesn't cheat you. The entertainment industry is littered with the bodies of broken song-writing teams - that goes without saying. So be aware from the outset what you're both letting yourselves in for. I hope you make it on all levels. Having tried collaborations myself, I'm less than optimistic quite frankly but "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." is a cliche because it's true. Give it a go. Good luck. You'll need it. Persist. Love what you do.

One final word of advice. Edit out all but the strongest songs before you release any. It's the lesser material the public never gets to hear (though grist for the mill) that makes the great songs great.

10

You do not need a patent attorney. You just need to write. And write. And then, write some more. Collaboration is a great thing when it works. You find out things about yourself you didn't know were there. You learn patience, which is very important when working with someone.

Sometimes those songs you think are just great are, in reality, not so hot. They're work songs, and they help get you to where you hope to be. The best writers have file cabinets full of them. I think it's exciting that you are inspired by the possibilities here...good luck!

Let us know how it goes.

Oh, that whole legal thing is definitely important and I'm not discounting it at all. Writers split things 50/50 when there are two of you. You can make an agreement, both sign it, put it away till you feel it's needed. As mentioned above, when you record something, be it a demo at home or put a video up on YouTube, the date is established when you save the file to your computer or upload it.

11

The dates that a computer shows a file as having been saved can be very easily altered. I'm not saying that you need to hire an IP attorney, but I wouldn't be entirely sanguine about using the save dates on a computer.

12

Did I sound sanguine there?...sorry.

Email an mp3 to yourself, or a pal. Fill out copyright forms online. Do whatever makes you happy, but just write. Don't kill the joy right out of the gate.

13

Did I sound sanguine there?...sorry.

Email an mp3 to yourself, or a pal. Fill out copyright forms online. Do whatever makes you happy, but just write. Don't kill the joy right out of the gate.

– Deed Eddy

Did I sound like a killjoy? I think I was just being a realist. No-one would publicly air an un-copyrighted song if they thought it was anything more than mediocre. Including you, I notice.

14

Oy.

My point is to just jump in and try to create something that inspires you to try again.

Have fun with it, Jetrow.

15

I think Deed's right. A quick hand-written 50/50 agreement is all you need. When you have some finished material, deal with whatever decisions need to be made together as the need arises. For now, just make lots of music!

16

As said above---50-50, witnessed, notarized, and both of you get a copy. CYA. Duo's have gotten by with just a handshake---but, nowadays, be safe. Just remember how much great music has been written by duos---Lennon/McCartney, Boyce & Hart, John & Turpin, etc. Best of luck to the two of you.

18

I believe Deed is right: write, write, write.

All the writers of a song are given an equal split of the songwriting credit (regardless of the amount contributed to the song) unless there is an agreement otherwise, so if it's just the two of you and you're planning on a 50/50 split you do not need an agreement otherwise.

You'll want to register your songs with the Library of Congress. The songs are actually copyrighted when you write them, but having that copyright certificate from the Library of Congress is going to trump most other claims of ownership.

You can save yourself a big pile of money if you register multiple songs under a single collective title (something like an album that has a title and then 10 songs with their own title, or an orchestral work such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons Suite which is comprised of four separate concertos).

Songs are actually comprised of 200% of shares, surprisingly. There's a 100% of songwriting and 100% of publishing. If you write a song by yourself and don't write for a publisher, you own 100% of both the writing and publishing. If you write with a partner and there's no other agreement otherwise, you each get 50% of the songwriting and 50% of the publishing.

If one of you (person A) decides to sign with a publisher to pitch your song to various artists with the hopes of getting the song cut, that person is likely going to turn over their publishing (sometimes just a portion of their 50%, but most likely all) to the publisher in return for their efforts working the song (and maybe an advance check).

If the other person, person B, isn't offered or declines to sign with that publisher, or any other publisher, they retain their 50% of the publishing...effectively becoming their own publisher when the song is released. Both writers still each own their 50% songwriting shares.

Of the money the song earns (now think in terms of total money in a regular 100%), person A will get 25%, person A's publisher will get 25% and person B will get 50%.

The point is, publishing is complex, so Deed is also right that there are other, and better, resources for legal songwriter quandaries.

Unless you're thinking of something other than a 50/50 deal, don't put the cart before the horse. Now is the time to write and build a catalog while the muse is sitting by your side.

Congratulations on a fruitful collaboration!


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