When Kevin McCarty and Richard Casper got together to create an app a few years ago, they had a simple mission: Get two songwriters in a room together. They never expected that a global crisis would kick things into high gear.
Since shelter-in-place orders went into effect, their Nashville-based company We Should Write Sometime (WSWS), which uses swipe-right technology and geotagging to pair up compatible songwriters based on their personalized profiles, has seen a huge surge in activity and downloads. When comparing the time between February and mid-March to mid-March and April 30th, WSWS has seen a 61% increase in daily average downloads. It’s also noticed a 215% increase in sessions per active device (showing that songwriters are logging on a lot more each day), a 14% increase in cities with songwriters geolocating to their area (meaning songwriters are expanding where they find other songwriters), and a 52% increase in matches (co-writes) being set-up.
But the success spawned from humble beginnings. Casper served in the Marine Corps and while overseas, suffered from a brain injury and other serious issues when his Humvee was hit several times. He turned to songwriting as a form of therapy upon his return home and in 2013 launched a nonprofit called CreatiVets, which uses music and creative writing to address the psychological and emotional needs that arise from combat-related trauma. He began to build his reputation in Nashville, setting up one-on-one sessions between veterans and pro songwriters. Over the years, CreatiVets established partnerships with Music City’s famed Grand Ole Opry and record label Big Machine, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. Casper and McCarty — who has a tech background, but has created music his whole life — both moved to Nashville around the same time and met through a mutual friend.
“I used to go out every single night of the week. I thought, ‘Why can’t I just have the comfort of sitting on my own couch and hanging out with my wife, while also finding songwriters. I really thought about it and realized this was an issue everywhere. This was an issue in L.A. This was an issue in New York and Atlanta. It was even an issue in Nashville.”
“I used to go out every single night of the week. I thought, ‘Why can’t I just have the comfort of sitting on my own couch and hanging out with my wife, while also finding songwriters,” Casper, who says he became more of a writer and creator through helping veterans tell their stories, tells Rolling Stone. “I really thought about it and realized this was an issue everywhere. This was an issue in L.A. This was an issue in New York and Atlanta. It was even an issue in Nashville, especially for introverts and people not old enough to go to bars.”
The app is free to download and use. Like a dating app, users create a profile and a bio. In it, they can highlight their genre styles, list their skills (e.g. topliner, lyricist, melody-maker) and include what instruments they play, while also providing links to their Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube accounts. Now, when an aspiring songwriter flies into town, they immediately have access to more than a thousand songwriters. With the user setting their range to 50 miles or 100 miles from the city of their choosing, the app streamlines the process of setting up co-writes — one of the more tedious duties a publishing company will often handle. Even if two writers aren’t in the same city, they can find each other and set up a virtual session — an option that is now more popular than ever.
Once the app is available in more countries, the goal is to make the collaboration process possible on a global scale. “I was doing a podcast with a buddy in music, and we were interviewing singer-songwriters and musicians,” says McCarty. “Some pretty big-name writers were coming in, and they were saying a lot of the same things that Richard was talking about. When they moved here, it was really difficult for them to find the right songwriters — to find their group — and they didn’t want to be out ’til 2am every night just trying to meet songwriters.”
McCarty and Casper are planning a pro version of the app with something similar to Instagram’s blue verified checkmark to separate novices from signed hitmakers — and aim to launch it soon as this summer. That pro tier could help a songwriter who’s big in Nashville get a session with a big pop writer the next time they’re in L.A.
McCarty and Casper are also hoping to partner with a video-messaging platform like Zoom, so they can offer users extended chat times that normally come with a paid, premium Zoom membership.
“What we’ve found is there are a lot of older writers who had Number Ones in the Nineties that are getting on this app because they’ve kind of aged out of Nashville,” McCarty points out. “We have a few people who have Number Ones on there. We have a guy who wrote ‘Lucky’ with Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. I told Jonathan Singleton, one of the biggest writers in Nashville, about this and he signed up instantly. He said, ‘At this level, I might not use this to find people to write with, obviously, but I’m always looking for new talent.”
The duo believe their platform can solve a lot of issues in the music industry, whether that’s on behalf of aspiring songwriters who don’t know where to begin or older hitmakers who have “aged out” of the scene — or even the working writer who has a publishing deal, but isn’t necessarily an executive’s priority and isn’t getting enough attention.
In fact, WSWS would eventually like to work with the major publishing companies. “As we grow, we’re going to relieve a lot of what publishers do,” the pair says. Scheduling and coordinating sessions “won’t even fall on the publishers anymore. We see how this could be ginormous.”
Publishers have already begun noticing the app’s potential as a discovery tool, asking them who the biggest “swipe-righted-on” person is in different markets, the duo says. While the app is only a year and a half old, the quarantine era has given it a major publicity boost — which the founders hope to carry on into the post-lockdown future.