Artist collaboration is one of the biggest creative forces driving music today. And if you’re an independent artist looking to project your talents onto a wider audience, it’s probably one the best success strategies out there.
It could hold the key to your entire career!
So, with that small matter in mind, we’re going to look at the following:
- How collaboration works in the music industry today
- Why you should be doing it
- How to find likeminded artists to work with
- The rules that will make your artistic collaborations a success
How collaboration works in the music industry today
We’re living through a significant era of music collaboration. w. Collaborations are providing breakthrough opportunities for new acts and reinvigorating the careers of more established ones.
What’s making that happen?
The main driver for this is the massive rise in online streaming, which now accounts for around 50% of all music consumption in the UK and US markets alone. With social media playing such an important role in promoting artists’ work, producers and musicians are taking advantage of the obvious benefits that ‘piggy-backing’ on each-others fan bases can bring.
Both phenomena lend themselves well to collaboration, so you can see why it’s now being regarded as the best pathway to launching a successful track. It’s worth pointing out that the bulk of collaborations are taking place across hip-hop and EDM, with producer/artists seeking multiple collaborations with solo musicians and singer/songwriters. Bands tend to be build a more defined, tribal identity with their fans and this can get diluted when you start bringing in other artists on a regular basis.
But that’s not to say bands don’t collaborate! Let’s not forget, the most significant collaboration in the history of music ever was ‘Walk this Way’ featuring Run DMC & Aerosmith waaaay back in 1986. That collaboration brought hip-hop to the masses. I’m sure you’ll agree, that makes it a fairly big deal!
Why you need to be collaborating with other artists
At this stage in your career, it goes without saying that the biggest challenge you face is being seen and heard by a wide enough audience. The beauty of collaborations is that you can work with other artists in the same boat, allowing you to pool fan bases and promote each other to your fans, whilst also inspiring each other with your creativity and ideas at the same time! If you find the right partner, it can open-up a whole new world of sounds, styles and opportunities. You’ll certainly learn more and grow faster than you ever could sitting alone in your bedroom.
Furthermore, as we’re about to find out, discovering artists to work with has never been easier.
How to find other artists to work with
The great things about collaboration these days is that you don’t need to be in the same city, or even country if you want to work with someone. In many ways it even makes a lot more sense to look for artists who do not share your location, or musical style. In fact, the best collaborations are often the ones that fuse contrasting styles together.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and working with artists from different sides of the artistic coin gives you the best chance of building that creative friction. This has been known to occasionally allow magic to happen. When producer Rick Rubin first pitched the idea of rapping Aerosmith’s original lyrics to ‘Walk This Way’, Run DMC were less than impressed by the idea. In fact, DMC’s exact response was:
“We said, ‘Motherfucker, this is hillbilly gibberish, this is fucking bullshit!'”
If you asked him now, he’d probably admit that he’s glad he changed his mind. So, it certainly pays to be brave in your choices and to keep an open mind.
There are lots of website’s out there that help you find likeminded artists to collaborate with. Some of the best include:
A platform that lets you produce music in real-time with producers all around the world.
A place to find producers, sound engineers, songwriters, vocalists – everything you need to get creative, basically.
A dedicated community that lets you seek out and find other artists to work with.
While we don’t have collaboration features, we do have an active community of over 180,000 artists. The best way to discover some of the amazing talent on our platform is via our curated playlists, if you find someone you’d like to explore working with, simply track them down via their social media channels. If you go this route, we’d love to hear more about it!
How to make your collaborations a success
In this age of streaming and social media, the truth is that it shouldn’t be too difficult to find artists you want to work with. The difficulty is making that collaboration a success. The most important thing you need to get right, in this regard, is to make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to establishing how the collaboration is going to work. It’s too easy to rush off and start working with people in that first flush of enthusiasm, only for things to turn sour further down the line.
If there is one thing you all need to do from the outset; it is to be very clear about each other’s goals and your expectations of one another.
Who’s in charge?
This is an easy question to answer if one of you is more successful than the other. If Calvin Harris asks you to collaborate with him, you’re probably going to expect him to call the shots. When you’re both in a similar position, there is a huge risk that one of you is going to become frustrated or that a misunderstanding will poison the atmosphere further down the line.
The best way to avoid this is to make sure you have all the difficult conversations upfront.
Bad communication kills dreams so make sure you have discussed the following before you begin:
- What do they expect for themselves
- What do they expect from you
- Are you confident your artistic needs are understood
- Have you been clear about what you expect from them
It might all sound a bit serious, but we’d even go so far as to write it all down before you begin in an agreement. It will help to be able to revisit what you originally agreed when you’re in the thick of the project and there is a disagreement.
Working with established artists
The brave amongst you might be aiming to set your sights a little higher. And hey, why not? Even the biggest artists on the planet are desperately looking for their next source of inspiration, and there’s no reason why that can’t be you. Access is always difficult. And while there’s no recipe for success, some really determined artists go to great lengths to get close enough to pitch their tracks to the right people.
Writing for artists you admire is a great technique, and if you think you have something they’ll like then you’ll need to find a way of getting it heard by them. Some producers go as far as hiring studios in the same building as artists they want to work with. Others boast of befriending friends of their friends and slowly working their way in from the outer to inner circle. The most important thing you can do is make sure you are always ready. You never know when you might bump into the right person so always keep your music with you.
Finally, if you do see them, keep it low-key and make sure you sell it as something that adds value to them. Every artist is interested in working with people who can help them improve; no-one is interested in collaborating with a crazed super-fan.
Collaboration can be a great tool for success; it can help you discover new styles, grow your reach and inspire you to new creative heights. Get it wrong however, and it can be a waste of time, effort and energy. Take your time to find the right people and follow the above steps before rushing into the heavy commitments of a new projects.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Don’t forget to keep coming back for more useful tricks and tips to help you with your musical journey. Hopefully, we’ll soon be featuring your next collaboration on our Spinnup Artists’ Playlist.