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Taking the Labor Out of Collaboration From Creation to Realization
By Bill Pere - 05/10/2011 - 01:27 PM EDT

Look at the credits for a song and you most likely see more than one name. Having multiple writers, artists, producers, and engineers is not unusual in navigating the path from creation to realization..  The music business, like any entertainment industry, is a business based on people interacting to shape and market the products of a creative process.  


Collaboration literally means “working together”. Any time two or more people combine their efforts toward a common goal, they are collaborating.    This happens at all phases in the life of a song – writing, revising, arranging, performing , recording, and marketing.  No one person is likely to do all of these things with great success.   Collaboration is most often mentioned in terms of creating the music and lyrics of a song, but any time a writer interacts in a mutual way with an artist, arranger,  studio engineer,  agent, etc. collaboration is occurring.    It is important not to confuse the process of collaboration with the form of the agreement governing that process.

When multiple people contribute to any part of marketable property,  some kind of understanding is necessary as to how credit and payments are to be shared. If you simply hire someone to record your song, arrange it, or market it, you typically negotiate a fee-for–service. This means that the person you hire has no ownership interest in the actual copyright.  However, your interaction with that person can certainly be collaborative in nature if involves mutual input.  When you work together with a studio engineer and a vocalist to record your song, you are collaborating with them even though they may typically receive a one-time flat fee and they have no claim of ownership on the song.  If you wish, you could alternatively give some portion of ownership in lieu of a flat fee.     Whatever arrangement you make, be sure to put it in writing before you actually start working together.

In the actual writing of a song, all the contributors have an ownership in the copyright, but if a creator agrees to exchange his or her interest for an up-front payment, there is nothing wrong with that.  Thus, the nature of a collaborative interaction may be governed by whatever business terms the parties agree to.  The important things are to be sure that

• all parties feel fairly treated

• the value of their contribution is adequately recognized and compensated 

• agreements are written down in clear and precise language, at the start of the process


• Songwriter Associations

• Songwriter conferences and workshops

• Trade magazines and newsletters

• Internet forums

• Local music stores

• Local performance venues

Geography need not be a factor.  Collaboration can occur by phone, fax, mail, or e-mail.

However, when it comes to resolving the inevitable differences of opinion, there is no

substitute for face-to-face interaction.  If you are working over the Internet, Skype is very

useful for video conferencing


 In addition to the business side of collaborating, there is the all-important human side. The process of collaboration can go a long way toward enhancing your creative output, but it also can be a source of great stress and  frustration.   How can you attune yourself to spot potential collaborators who will raise the quality of your creative endeavors, while avoiding partnerships that will simply raise your blood pressure?  Just because a person has a proven track record, does that mean they are  a good collaborator for you?  Can a person who has never had a song published be the catalyst you need to write the next chart-topper?    Bands are by nature, collaborative units.   Bands tend to break up  or  be held back because of human interaction issues probably more than for any other reason.

There are several aspects to achieving success in the human aspects of collaboration

                        • aligned goals

                        • complementary skills

                        • compatible personalities

                        • respect for different views and approaches


Before entering into a collaboration agreement with someone, be absolutely sure that you both are working toward the same goals.  If you want a commercial hit while your partner wants a self-expressive classical symphony, it is going to be difficult to have a satisfactory final product.  You may not want to formally collaborate with someone who is heading in a different direction than you are,  but  be aware that talking and bouncing ideas off someone who is of a different mindset  can give you new ideas as well.  Differentiate between a collaborative partner and people who are good sources of creative inspiration.


Collaboration causes the least friction when the strengths of each participant are complementary, i.e., each contributes something that the others cannot.  If you are only a lyricist, you need a composer.  If you can write and play but not sing, you need a vocalist. If you can write and perform but are not technologically adept, you need an engineer.  Those are obvious pairings, but can two people with the same skills work together?   The answer is yes, if they approach their craft from different perspectives, and if each sees the different view as a source of new ideas rather than as an obstacle.  In short, it’s a matter of understanding and respecting the differences between people, which of course leads to….


People are obviously quite complex, but based on decades of extensive research,  there are four dimensions which, when taken in their various combinations,  explain a wide range of human interaction.   This is the basis of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), the most widely used profiling tool in the world, explaining people's preferences for giving and receiving information.

These four aspects of personality have profound effect on how we relate to people and to the world around us, both as a giver and receiver of communications and actions.  For people who communicate through songwriting and/or performing, who give or receive critique, and who interact with the business aspects of music, these dimensions play a crucial role.

In each of the four areas shown below, people have a natural preference for being on one side or the other, much like being left-handed or right-handed.  Neither is “better” than the other – they are just different.  Many situations in life require acting in a manner that is opposite to our natural preference.  The stronger the preference is for one style over the other, the more effort it takes to act the other way, and sometimes it is just not possible, despite our best effort.

The four dimensions, represented by pairs of letters, are:

How  we focus our energy:                                   

E= Extravert    (75% of the population)    

I= Introvert     (25% of the population)                     

What we pay attention to:

S= Sensor     (70% of the population)           

N=intuitive    (30% of the population)             

How we make our decisions:

T = Thinking   (50% of males, 40% of females)

F = Feeling     (50% of males, 60% of females)

How  flexibly we respond to new information and organize our lives:

J  = Judging     (50% of the population)

P = Perceiving  (50% of the population)

Thus, a person’s preference profile can be represented by four letters, one from each area.  There are sixteen combinations in all.  This does not mean there are only sixteen types of people.  Two folks with the same four preferences can be very different if one person expresses some of them very strongly, and another person doesn’t.  Also affecting expression in different people are a person’s individual upbringing, values, and experiences.  People sometimes doubt the accuracy and importance of these four areas, but as you read the brief descriptions below, think of how many people you know, including yourself, who are reflected by them.

The Extravert/Introvert choice (E/I)

Extravert: -  Outward focus;  Speaks first, thinks after; Action oriented;  Seeks social interaction to re-energize self;  At ease in crowds and social gatherings;  Does not typically reflect inwardly;  Talks loudly;  Deals with conflicts openly;   Emphasizes breadth;  Many broad acquaintances;

Introvert: -   Inner focus;   Thinks before speaking or acting;  Social interaction is draining;  Recharges self by turning inward;  May seem shy;  Reflective, has an ‘inner voice’;  Speaks softly;  Deals with conflict privately;  Emphasizes depth;  Fewer, deeper friendships;

The Sensor/Intuitive choice (S/N)

Sensor:   -   Pays attention to details;  Focus on trees instead of forests;  Deals with concrete, specific, down-to-earth things;  Precise,  "It’s 6:27pm";   Information coming through senses is taken at face value;  Language (lyrics) is literal;  Follows  instructions, recipes, formulas.  Likes what’s real.  Lives in the present;  Communicates in concrete, sensory terms.

iNtuitive: -   Pays attention to the big picture;  Focus on forests instead of trees; Deals with  abstract ideas and concepts;  Approximate, "It’s almost 6:30";    Information coming through senses is associated with other information to make new ideas (What if...?);  Language (lyrics) is figurative;  Creates own instructions, recipes, formulas;  Likes what’s possible;  Looks to the future;   Communicates in abstract, conceptual terms.

The Thinker/Feeler choice (T/F)

Thinker: -  Makes decisions based on logic;  Evaluates things rationally;  Objective;  What’s just is fair;  Words and actions are measured;  Must have good objective reason for doing something;  Rules and Laws before circumstances;  "What do you think about this?";  Detached;  Critiques things;

Feeler: -     Logic is optional;  Evaluates things based on how people will feel;  Subjective;  What’s humane is fair;  Words and actions show emotion.  Will do things if they create good or happy feelings ;   Circumstances before rules and laws;  "How do you feel about this?";  Involved;  Appreciates things;

The Judger/Perceiver choice (J/P)

Judger: -  Likes planning, and scheduling;  Pending things must get resolved;  Does things sequentially, one task  at a time;  Makes lists and sticks to them;  Draws conclusions,  makes decisions, takes action based on available information;  Harder to change direction once decided;   Needs order, bothered by things out  of place;  Things are filed in order;  Accurate sense of time, knows  when an hour has gone by;  Punctual;  Stays focused;

Perceiver: - Likes spontaneity;  Likes to leave things ‘open-ended’;  Does  many things at once, bouncing between them;  Makes lists and loses them or changes them;  Delays drawing conclusions, making decisions, or taking action because new information might change things;  Can change direction easily;  Not bothered by disorder, or randomness;  Things are piled, apparently randomly;  Elastic sense of time..."You mean it’s that late already?";  Easily distracted;

It’s no surprise that people with different preferences may have difficulty dealing with each other.    Introverts often say extraverts talk too much, are draining, and don’t mind their own business.  Extraverts often say introverts are uncommunicative, unsociable, or just plain strange.

Sensors may say iNtuitives are impractical and have their head in the clouds.  Intuitives may say Sensors are boring,  hung up on trivia, full of ‘small talk’,  and have no vision. The S/N difference can drive a great wedge between people... how can they communicate if they don’t see the same things to begin with, yet both are right in what they see?

Feelers can view Thinkers as cold, distant, aloof and uncaring.  Thinkers can view Feelers as irrational, illogical,  emotional, inconsistent, and trying hopelessly to please everybody.

For Judgers and Perceivers, just think of The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar.

Before being too quick to criticize someone who is your opposite, keep in mind that if they are weak in an area where you are strong, then they are strong in an area where you are weak.   For example, all “ J” and no “P” is a ship with a charted course but no wind in the sails.  All “P” and no “J” is a ship at full sail with no rudder.  It takes parts of all eight facets to  write good songs and market them to an audience.

•  Introversion           provides the internal reflection that allows ideas to form and

  a song to be born.    

•  Extraversion           provides the drive to share that song with others and the desire to want others to relate to it

• Sensing                 provides information about the world that gives concrete subject matter for  songs; Provides detail  that makes a lyric accessible to the senses.

• Intuition                provides creative association for presenting a topic in a new and fresh way, for giving  a lyric depth of meaning,

 and for providing a coherent  overarching  metaphor.  Intuition is a wellspring of the creative process for songwriting. 

•  Feeling                  provides the emotion that is a centerpiece of most lyrics and is a universal form of  expression, despite its subjective imprecision.

• Thinking                 provides the analysis and crafting needed to give polish and impact to song.  It lends precision for changing expression into communication.

• Judging                      provides the desire for structure and order in the song, and the drive to get it done.

• Perception             provides the openness to new ideas and the ability to change and rewrite as better words and phrases come along.  

Can one person do all eight things effectively? We inevitably do four of them better than the other four, and usually one of those emerges as our primary strength. It  usually requires collaboration to effectively cover all the bases.

Preference Profiles and Pairing Up:

When all four dimensions are taken together,  a person’s preference profile can be represented by four letters, one from each area.  For each of the sixteen combinations of preferences, there is a quintessential persona associated with it, as the four dimensions act together. Any of the sixteen types can successfully enter any profession, however there is a correlation between a person’s approach to life and the demands of certain professions.   Let’s look at some combinations that are relevant to a business driven by creative and performing artists:

An INTJ  is the quintessential scientist.  A person of this type is driven to know why things are, and lives to shape abstract ideas, symbols, and concepts  (including words and metaphors).   This does not mean that an INTJ must  become a professional chemist or physicist --It just means that all aspects of his or her pursuits will be approached scientifically,  conceptually, and inventively, always seeking innovation.   This is not a matter of good, bad, right or wrong.  It is simply how this kind of person is wired inside.

The opposite profile, ESFP is a quintessential entertainer.  An ESFP is always ‘on stage’, no matter what he or she is doing.  Performing is as natural as breathing.  ESFP’s live for each moment, squeezing all they can from it.   Stage and screen careers are natural magnets for these folks as they  exude energy (E), are  down-to-earth (S),  are spontaneous (P),  and show their feelings (F).  Billy Joel’s hit “Big Shot” is a perfect portrait of an ESFP.

Looking at another opposite pair, ESTJ and INFP, ask yourself  “what are the key qualities for a successful business manager?”  Interacting with others, focus on practical, ‘real’ issues, quick and objective decision-making, and a preference for order, scheduling, planning, and closure. It is no coincidence that more than half of business managers are TJ’s, with    ESTJ’s being the quintessential “administrators of life”.    If you are an introverted writer, an ESTJ is a great partner if you need someone to pitch a song and negotiate on your behalf.

The INFP preference represents the quintessential idealist.  These folks are always committed to a noble cause, and to performing service to aid society.   A hallmark of the INFP is to reflect endlessly on the all-important question “Who am I”?  (e.g., Am I an artist?, Am I a writer? Am I  a parent?  Am I a lover? I am all of these, but what does that mean? Who am I?) .INFP’s, well represented on stage and screen, also are natural wordsmiths, writing in many fields. Think of how  many song lyrics are based on the question “Who am I?”

None of these profiles is “good” or “bad” or “better” or “worse” than any other. They are simply different. The music business thrives only through the interaction and cooperation of writers, performers, engineers, managers,  businessmen, lawyers, agents,  producers, promoters, roadies, consumers, etc.   The key to successful collaboration is understanding and respecting the differences between people, and seeing those differences as positive rather than negative.  

Each of the sixteen profiles has very specific gifts and strengths which lead them into certain areas of endeavor where success flows from those strengths.  Just as INFP idealists  cannot turn off their need to champion a cause, whether good ones or misguided ones,   the ESTJ corporate managers  cannot turn off their need to make decisions -- .good ones and misguided ones.   Just as an INTJ scientist cannot turn off their need to discover things -- some memorable and some forgettable --   the  ESFP entertainer cannot turn off their need to give performances -- some memorable and some forgettable. 

Interactions between different types has the potential to be mutually strengthening if the opposite preferences are appreciated and recognized, or mutually antagonistic if either party thinks the other isn’t the kind of person they “should” be.   In writer-writer collaborations, S/N pairs complement each other because both perspectives -- concrete references and an overarching metaphor -- are needed for an enduring lyric.   But it’s not always easy for S’s and N’s to “get on the same page” with each other. 

In a T/F collaboration, the T input provides the analysis of structure, meter, language and logic, while the “F” input provides effective communication through emotion.  Introverts usually don’t collaborate with other introverts, because they have an inner voice which they’d rather listen to, but in so doing, may limit their sources of ideas, and feedback.  Extraverts love to collaborate with others, but two extroverts collaborating  miss the dimension of quiet introspection, so important to adding depth to meaning and emotion in a song. An E/I team can produce great results if each respects the needs and quirks of the other.   J/J collaboration is usually the type where a specific time and agenda are decided in advance. A P/P collaboration means that either party can call the other at any hour of the night when an inspiration strikes.  Both of these methods seem to work well.  In a J/P collaboration, assuming the partners can get along, the J forces the P to focus energy on the task of writing, and usually pushes to get things finished. The P opens the J to the possibilities of developing inspirations outside of the appointed time and topic, and is more open to rewriting and revising.  ESFP entertainers and ESTJ agents make a good collaboration, The ES qualities allow easy communication, and the SP/TJ differences provide complementary strengths


Collaboration is more than just two writers getting together. It’s a mutual effort among any group of people who share a common goal, be it artistic, business, legal, or technical,  getting together in a way so that each can use their strengths to shine a light where the others  might have a blind spot.    Viewed in this way, reaching the pinnacle of art, craft, and commercial reward will be far less of the emotionally draining battle that it so often is.   The music industry will be healthier for it, and the world will be richer for what will be produced.

The personality preference  information presented here is based on the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), a well researched and globally used indicator of personality preferences.   Millions of people worldwide have been profiled since The MBTI was developed in 1942 by a mother and her daughter.   For more information refer to:  Gifts Differing   by  Isabel Briggs Myers, CPP Books;  Type Talk  by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen,  Delta/Tilden Press; and  Please Understand Me,   by Keirsey and Bates,  Prometheus Books.


Bill Pere was named one of the "Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry"  by Music Connection Magazine.  With more than 30 years in the music business, as a recording artist, award winning songwriter, performer, and educator  Bill is well known  for his superbly crafted  lyrics, with lasting impact.   Bill has released 16 CD's , and is President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association.  Bill is an Official Connecticut State Troubadour, and is the Founder and Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble (www.lunchensemble.com).   Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year,  Bill  is a qualified MBTI practitioner, a member of CMEA and MENC,  and as Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy he helps develop young talent in songwriting,  performing, and learning about the music business.  Bill's song analyses and critiques are among the best in the industry.

© Copyright 2011  Bill Pere.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reproduced in any way with out permission of the author.  For  workshops,  consultation, performances,  or other songwriter services,  contact Bill via his web sites, at http://www.billpere.com, http://www.ctsongwriting.com, and http://www.lunchensemble.com<

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