Songwriter U: Why Collaborating is So Important

Written by Jody Friedman
Music Supervisor & Founder,

Videos by American Songwriter

For some of us, we start out and we discover that we’re artists and that’s what we want to do.  At first, we look around and see all of this art being made and we don’t realize that so many people are involved in that creation. I used to assume that Madonna wrote all of her own songs because she was the artist. She was singing it. They were songs that felt like her and matched her brand—and that wasn’t the case. She covered songs that other songwriters wrote for her.  

Because I didn’t know that, when I started songwriting, I started doing it all myself—and that was the wrong mindset to have. For a long time, I was really closed off to collaborating with others. I didn’t really start co-writing with others until I was in my thirties. To give you perspective, I started playing guitar when I was 14, so that’s fifteen years of my life that I wasn’t collaborating with others when I could’ve been. It was a missed opportunity to learn from others.

The best part of collaborating with others is that you open up your world to their world and everything they know. You get to see their lyrical insight or melodic wisdom. You also get to share with them what you know as well. It becomes a “cross-pollination” of influences and worlds, musically. It’s an amazing thing.  

Another great benefit of collaborating is quality control. When you get so lost in making music on your own, you can forget to check yourself. You fall in love with your own art and are eager to share it without caring about getting that quality control check on it. You don’t always stop to ask yourself if it’s the best it can be before releasing it. Collaborating with others can help you know when it’s good enough. I believe it was Picasso that said “It takes two artists to paint a painting. One artist to paint it and the other to say it’s done.” The same could be said for writing songs. 

If you’re in a band, you’re collaborating (obviously). When someone in the band starts to only think about themselves and loses the collaborative spirit, that’s when you see those bands fall apart. But when you see a shared vision and purpose, that’s when bands last. This is hard to achieve when there’s so much ego involved.  That’s why it’s so important to put ego aside when collaborating. It’s not about you. It’s not about the band. It’s about the art…the music and the fans.

When I first started collaborating with others, I went to Nashville, Tennessee.  It changed my whole world.  Some of the best songs I’ve ever written have come out of my trips to Nashville.  If you ever get a chance to write with any songwriters there, be prepared.  Make sure you show up with lyric and melody ideas because it’s something they take very seriously and you should as well. They make a living writing songs for publishers so they are very well-versed in their craft. And be open to learning from them!

I believe collaboration is so important that I created a company called Collaborate Music with my partner, Jennifer Lanchart. We started Collaborate Music with the idea of creating songs for trailers and ads by collaborating with other artists and composers to create really high-end products. Each product we create has about six to nine months of work behind it and then we end up licensing it. And we’ve licensed to several big trailers, including projects like “Gunpowder Milkshake”, “Picard” & “Big Sky”.

Many artists don’t realize it, but collaboration is so important when it comes to your success in music.  In music licensing, you can create amazing masters by collaborating. You can bring in other singers, bring in other writers who are better at lyrics or melody than you are. As you keep writing songs, you’ll start to discover your own strengths and what you can bring into a collaboration. Maybe you’re better at melodies. Maybe you’re better at arrangement. Whatever it may be, find a co-writer who will complement those strengths.  

Make sure you go into your session and have a discussion about what’s going to be accomplished in the session. Create with intention. Make sure you and your co-writers are on the same page about that intention. Once you know you’re aligned, shut down those cell phones and any other distractions, focus, and crank out that song.   

About Jody
Jody Friedman is the founder of License Your Music (, an online coaching solution for musicians wanting to learn how to build a thriving career in Music Licensing.

Jody is an active Music Supervisor for Film, TV & Ads, and as a Music Publisher, Record Label Owner, Sync Agent & Creator.   Since 2008, he’s licensed over 10,000 songs to hundreds of projects and grossed over $1.75M in license fees and over $500k in Royalties.

Jody serves as Music Supervisor for ASICS Shoes as well as other music supervision projects including projects such as “Ugly Delicious “ (Netflix), “Breakfast Lunch Dinner” (Netflix), “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (Focus Features),  “Ingress: The Animation” (Netflix), “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead” (Netflix), Fear, Inc (Lone Suspect), “The Music Of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble (HBO + The Orchard) & more.

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