Finding Co-Writers

Your local songwriting association or branch of Nashville Songwriter's Association International (NSAI) is an excellent spot to meet potential co-writers. You can also meet songwriters from all over the world at Internet songwriting forums and chatrooms. Of course, if you live in a music hub, there'll be a lot more writers around, possibly even a music scene of clubs and coffeehouses where songwriters hang out and perform. Open mike and writer's nights have a distinct advantage over some of the other places you might look for co-writers: You get the opportunity to hear people perform their songs before you actually begin working with them.

A Word of Warning

In music hub cities, there's a delicate set of manners involved in asking someone to co-write. You shouldn't ask anyone to co-write until they've heard some of your songs. Be prepared to give potential co-writers a CD to check out. If you are an unknown writer (i.e., you don't have a paid staff-writing position or any major label cuts), don't ever ask an established writer for a co-write. This is considered extremely bad form. If you know an established writer, you may ask his or her opinion of your material. If you are friendly acquaintances, you might ask for an opinion on a few demos. You might even suggest to an established writer who has befriended you that you look forward to the day when you are well enough established to co-write with someone as talented as he or she. All this is fine, but you must never ask point blank for a co-write with an established writer.

Be careful when getting to know a potential co-writer. Don't give out your home address to someone you haven't met. Instead, arrange to meet first in a public place. Remember, just because someone writes songs, even great ones, doesn't mean he or she isn't a serial killer, con artist, or long-distance service telemarketer.

Why is this such a big deal? First, most publishers have the right to approve co-writers for their staff writers, and it can be a hassle to get approval for an unknown when your other co-writers have hits, cuts, or are professional staff writers. Second, if it weren't considered impolite to ask, established songwriters would be inundated with thousands of co-write offers from every idiot who ever wielded a pen or strummed a guitar. This rule keeps established writers from having to say, “No” a hundred times a day and from having to deal with irate or hurt songwriters demanding to know why not. Hopefully, you'll someday have the opportunity to be grateful for the protection offered by this rule. In the meantime, find co-writers on or slightly above your own level who are working hard to get to the next one.

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