Once in one of our sessions a songwriter asked me, “If I don’t like the way a song turns out with a co-writer, am I free to take the idea and write it with someone else?”. It was very easy to answer her question as it’s pretty obvious and I was kind of surprised seeing that she didn’t know the answer, but on the other had the answer to such question is not written anywhere as a rule or anything. Maybe because it’s just simply too obvious, and no one ever cared to actually make it clear for anyone who might not know. The answer to her is; No. Not really. Generally, once you write an idea with someone, you are in it for good with them. It’s considered as a very bad form to take your idea and write it one your own or with someone else. And it would probably destroy your relationship with writer #1. If you are in such situation and you really don’t like the result of what came out with that writer but you really like the topic, I would suggest that the better approach is to see if you can get your co-writer to agree to bring in someone else to help you fix it or make better, while the writer #1 is also involved in the process. If he / she agrees, then the three of you could sit down and hopefully get it where it needs to be.
I believe that the scariest moment for any profession is the moment before you start. And the exact same goes for songwriting too. Most of us have voices that play in our heads. Those voices often tell us that the task at hand “can’t be done”. “You aren’t good enough”. “You can’t handle this”. “Songwriting is not something you can just do if you aren’t born with it”. You know the drill. It is the rare person who has never heard those voices. The negative self-talk keeps us from starting. If you don’t start, or don’t try, then you can’t fail. Or so “they” tell us. So, we drift through life taking the easy road because these nameless voices don’t believe in us. When you think about it, it seems silly, doesn’t it? Letting nameless, internal voices change the course of our lives? And giving up on something we are dying to do because we can’t summon the courage to just give it a try. And this is not just about songwriting. In fact for anything in life, whenever we want to start something new, we hear voices telling us that it is impossible and it scary and this and that. And they only shut up when we get into it, start doing what we wanted to do and start getting results. Show the voices “who the boss is”.
If there is one thing that I have learned in my journey through the music business, it’s that I’ve never made one dollar from excuses. Yet I lose count of people around me, usually newbies or unsuccessful seniors in the business who keep making excuses to justify everything rather than just taking responsibility and accepting that they could change the situation simply by working harder – or in some cases simply just by “working” instead of waiting for someone else to do their job for them. “It’s harder than ever to get a cut” “You have to write with the artist to get a cut” “I write songs that are too deep for the market” “People don’t understand my music”. These are the excuses I’m hearing on a daily basis and yes, they may all be true. But the fact remains there is that, if I write an amazing song, someone will notice. Will they notice my average songs? Not unless I have some special connection. Will I be able to sneak a “decent” song through and get it recorded? Not likely, unless I wrote it with the artist and, even then, that is a longshot.
One of the big areas of tension when we write is the battle between commercial and creative. This had been going on between the artists since the whole concept of art is created, to create art for art or art for people. The “artistic” community has often propagated the idea that you can’t be both. Typically, those putting forth this idea are not being successful commercially, which makes one wonder if, just maybe, they are a little bit bitter because no one is buying their music. So, to make themselves feel better, they try to convince the world that their “art” is on a higher plane than the “so-called” art that people are rushing out to buy. I beg to differ. I don’t think there’s anything noble about writing songs that no one wants to purchase. If someone chooses just to write for their own pleasure, that’s awesome. If they float those songs out there and people don’t care for them, it really doesn’t matter. But that doesn’t make them better songs or more “artistic”. If you are trying to write commercially, I would suggest the following thoughts for making your songs both creative and commercial.