With an estimated 60,000 songs uploaded to Spotify every single day, it’s harder than ever for artists to get their music heard. One of the best ways to cut through that noise is to become an active member of a musical community, aligning yourself with like-minded artists through collaboration. In doing so, you’re giving yourself a head start in finding an entirely new audience.
And the benefits of music collaboration don’t stop there. In addition to extending your reach, working with other creatives can be cost-effective, allowing you to pool resources – including studio time – as well as knowledge. Crucially, keeping your horizons open can only help widen your vision, encouraging you to reach new creative heights you might never have scaled solo.
In this blog, we look at some of the different ways in which you can collaborate with other artists – both in person and remotely – and look closer at some of the best collaboration songs that have helped break new artists.
- Lil Nas X – ‘Old Town Road ft. Billy Ray Cyrus (Remix)’
- Wizkid – ‘Essence ft. Tems’
- Powfu – ‘Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)’
- Rema – ‘Calm Down ft. Selena Gomez’
- Justin Bieber – ‘Despacito ft. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’
Lil Nas X – ‘Old Town Road ft. Billy Ray Cyrus (Remix)’
Peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 consecutive weeks, ‘Old Town Road’ saw Georgia-raised rapper Lil Nas X redefine the parameters of viral success.
Built from a beat bought online for $30, the song blends country music with trap, a novel combo that helped Lil Nas X play the algorithm on TikTok.
To take things up a gear, he reached out to country music legend (and Miley’s dad) Billy Ray Cyrus to feature on the remix and – voila! – music history was made.
Wizkid – ‘Essence ft. Tems’
In linking up with Afrobeats legend Wizkid to co-write ‘Essence’, Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems increased her clout tenfold. The first Nigerian song in history to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, the track was subsequently nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Global Music Performance’ and received a remix featuring Justin Bieber.
Tems has gone on to collaborate with Drake and Future, and to write Rihanna’s recent comeback single ‘Lift Me Up’.
Powfu – ‘Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)’
In a collaboration between two emerging artists, Canadian singer/rapper Powfu intepolated parts of 'Coffee' by Filipino-British singer-songwriter Beabadoobee into this alt-pop smash.
Since going viral on TikTok, the track has amassed more than 1 billion streams on Spotify, while both artists have become household names.
Rema – ‘Calm Down ft. Selena Gomez’
‘Calm Down’ by Nigerian artist Rema was already one of our standout tracks of 2022. But when Selena Gomez jumped on the remix, the track’s success was taken to another level entirely.
At the time of writing, it’s still riding high on the BBC Radio 1 playlist.
Justin Bieber – ‘Despacito ft. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’
While Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have long been legends of the Latin music scene, this link-up with pop prince Justin Bieber helped propel ‘Despacito’ to an even wider audience.
As well as hitting the top of the Billboard Hot 100 (and being placed at number 2 in the year-end chart), the remix was nominated for three Grammys. More importantly, it helped kickstart a wave of Spanish-language pop that continues to this day, paving the way for a host of other Latin American artists to achieve breakout success.
Food for thought for anyone contemplating making songs with multiple artists.
Different Ways to Collaborate
- Co-write a song
- Contribute a guest verse
- Sample an artist
- Share a tour
- Swap gigs
- Do a remix
- Produce a track
- Cover each other’s songs
- Make music videos together
- Collaborate on a live session
- Do Instagram Live performances
From co-writing and remixing to live social media broadcasts, there are lots of different ways in which you can collaborate with other musicians.
We detail some of the key creative options below.
Co-write a Song
To co-write effectively it’s essential you leave your ego at the door: it’s a collaboration not a competition. Take advantage of the invaluable opportunity to receive constructive feedback. Be prepared to discard ideas that aren’t working, or to reshape them entirely for the greater good. And don’t let the fear of rejection limit you – the more uninhibited your creative process, the more likely you’ll create something memorable.
The cornerstone of collaboration is ‘Yes, and…”, an improvisational technique in which you run with one another’s ideas, expanding on your partner’s line of thinking. Why not try it in your next co-writing session.
Contribute a Guest Verse
Looking to branch out beyond your current fanbase or genre? Why not write a guest verse for another artist. Not only can you take advantage of each other’s clout, very often a feature can help carry songs to heights they would never have reached solo.
Some high profile examples include Burna Boy’s turn on Asake's 'Sungba' and Cardi B’s contribution to Kay Flock’s ‘Shake It’.
Sample an Artist
One great way to collaborate is to interpolate a portion of an existing song into a brand new recording. Recent hits built around sampling include Central Cee’s ‘Obsessed With You’ (featuring portions of PinkPantheress’ ‘Just For You’) and Beyoncé’s ‘Alien Superstar (sampling both 'Moonraker' by Foremost Poets and 'I'm Too Sexy' by Right Said Fred).
As ever, it’s essential that you obtain permission both from the owner(s) of the copyright in the recording you are sampling, and from the owner(s) of the work’s publishing copyright. For more information on the legalities of sampling, head to the Musician’s Union website.
Share a Tour
Whether it’s a co-headline or a support slot, sharing a tour is another great way to pool fanbases and extend your reach.
Not only that, you can split the overheads and take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate onstage every night. It’s a no-brainer.
Another opportunity for live collaboration is to swap gigs. For example, you might invite an artist to open for you at your hometown show, and they’ll return the favour in their hometown. As with sharing a tour, swapping gigs is a brilliant way to widen your audience.
Do a Remix
Remixing an existing song is another surefire way to extend your reach.
Nowadays, the remit of a remix extends from contributing a guest verse (see Justin Bieber hopping on ‘Essence’ by Tems and Wizkid) to putting a new spin on the original production (hello to Cornershop’s 90s classic ‘Brimful Of Asha’, as remixed by Fatboy Slim). Whichever path you choose, be sure to put your unique stamp on the song.
Produce a Track
Producing a track for another artist gives you the opportunity to be creative while glimpsing someone else’s creative process and extending your creative network.
Artists who double up as producers include Jeff Tweedy of Wilco – who produced Low’s 2013 album The Invisible Way – and Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, who has produced everyone from Taylor Swift and Lorde to St. Vincent.
Cover Each Other’s Songs
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if Radio 1’s Live Lounge has proven anything, it’s that a cover version can unlock an entire new meaning.
Whether you’re offering a like-for-like interpretation or a radical twist on the original track, covers are a great way to collaborate.
Make Music Videos Together
The music video remains one of the most powerful promotional tools at an artist’s disposal, and it’s the perfect arena for some artist or band collaboration.
Collaborate on a Live Session
Why not document that creative chemistry in real time? Find out everything you need to know about capturing the best possible sound in our blog, How To Record A Live Session.
Do Instagram Live Performances
Creating a collaborative social media broadcast provides the opportunity for artists to pool audiences while offering their fanbases unique content.
Not only that, fans can interact with artists in real time, thereby feeling part of the performance.
How to Collaborate Remotely
- Set up a home studio
- Reach out to musicians
- Use the same software as other musicians
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that collaboration is not only possible at a distance, it can be a brilliant way to unlock brand new creative avenues.
Whether swapping files over email, or undertaking co-writing sessions over Zoom, suddenly the parameters of who you can practically work with are widened exponentially: all you really need is a decent internet connection and some great ideas to connect with musicians.
But practically, how do you go about online music collaboration? What hardware should you have at your disposal? And what music collaboration software is available to you?
Your Home Studio-Set-up
First up, you’ll need your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). If you’re completely new to home recording, why not try out free software like Apple’s GarageBand or Cakewalk by BandLab? If you’re ready to invest in your set-up, there are a plethora of paid options at your disposal, including Ableton Live, Apple Logic Pro, Avid ProTools, Cockos Reaper 6 and Steinberg Cubase.
In addition, you’ll want to get your hands on some studio monitors, a MIDI keyboard, an audio interface and a decent quality microphone or two.
Reaching Out to Musicians
DMs are a great way to reach out to musicians you admire about potential collaborations. Of course, it goes without saying that you should always be respectful and never harass an artist – rather, build up a rapport over time with like-minded creatives. It might help to approach them with an idea so that you have something to tempt them, as well as a starting point for your collaboration.
Using the Same Software
You can either collaborate within the same DAW, using different DAWs or in collaborative software. In the former instance, you simply export and swap zipped folders containing the project files. If you’re using different DAWs, you export and swap your stems (AKA audio files).
The biggest benefit of this approach is that it doesn’t matter which plugins you use as every sound is rendered to audio. Finally, there are now some great options for online music collaboration software, including Satellite Plugins 2.0 and Splice Studio.
Sharing is Caring
In conclusion, there are no downsides to collaboration. From building your knowledge base and skillset to splitting costs and creating a community that empowers you, working with other musicians is a win-win.
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