Acoustic communication signals are typically generated to influence the behavior of conspecific receivers. In songbirds, for instance, such cues are routinely used by males to influence the behavior of females and rival males. There is remarkable diversity in vocalizations across songbird species, and the mechanisms of vocal production have been studied extensively, yet there has been comparatively little emphasis on how the receiver perceives those signals and uses that information to direct subsequent actions. Here, we emphasize the receiver as an active participant in the communication process. The roles of sender and receiver can alternate between individuals, resulting in an emergent feedback loop that governs the behavior of both. We describe three lines of research that are beginning to reveal the neural mechanisms that underlie the reciprocal exchange of information in communication. These lines of research focus on the perception of the repertoire of songbird vocalizations, evaluation of vocalizations in mate choice, and the coordination of duet singing.