The Changing Face Of Music Collaboration

Collaboration image 2While the landscape of recorded music is littered with countless famous instances of collaboration between artists it seems that, despite the connectivity of the modern world, many of the creative players in the music industry today are choosing to go solo. Here we look at why that might be, and what can be done to rectify the situation.


Guest Post by Stuart Logan on Medium.com

Collaborations have produced some of the best, most innovative music in history, but it seems modern artists aren’t collaborating as much. To determine if this is the case, we did a study and surveyed 400 people who work in the music industry.

By definition, collaboration is simply the act of working with others to produce something, but in music, collaboration has become much more complex and subtle as musicians work remotely. Particularly since music has become digitized and the line between re-mix, cover and collaboration has become increasingly obscured.

Based on our “collaboration” survey responses, a whopping 72 percent of artists said that they work solo. But, that doesn’t mean people don’t want to be collaborating–93 percent of respondents said they want to be working with other artists, indicating a large collaborative space, but a lack of it. So, what’s going on?

 “For me making music is part social, part interaction, part collaboration.” – Norah Jones, Singer-songwriter

  Artist Profiles and Creative Demand

Our survey responses came from all types of musicians. A large number of them (40 percent) came from the world of music production. Musicians comprised roughly 22 percent of our participants, DJs were 10 percent, rap or spoken word artists were 7 percent, and there was a smattering of other participants in small amounts ranging from vocalists to managers.

On the flip side, the respondents were looking for a healthy mix to collaborate with on projects.

While producers topped the charts in terms of the most sought after music creatives (55 percent), they were followed quickly by musicians (54 percent). Vocalists (51 percent) and record labels (50 percent) also churned out a high collaboration demand, but session musicians (16 percent), mixers (27 percent) and DJs (29 percent) were the least sought after creatives to collaborate with.  


“The art of mixing is knowing how to collaborate well” — Joe Scarffe

Why aren’t artists collaborating?

When we drilled down to why people weren’t working together, the two most common responses were: 1) “I can’t find any people to work with” (53 percent) and 2) “I don’t have the money to pay them” (33 percent).

Of those who collaborated on projects, 50 percent said they use SoundCloud to find collaborators. Coming in second at 43 percent was existing connections and friends. The remainder of the responses were spread thin across YouTube, Google, LinkedIn and various other social networks.

The bottom line is that there is a clear lack of a dedicated service that allows musicians to connect and collaborate–whether remotely or in-person.

 “Every collaboration helps you grow.” – Brian Eno, musician

Giving credit where it’s due

One of the glaring issues that came across in this study was the lack of credit for everyone involved. This was yet another deterrent to getting musicians together. When asked if fellow collaborators get the credit they deserve, only 61 percent said “yes.”

One of the most common cases where you can encounter this is when a band releases a music video and the filmmakers get dropped from the credits. This doesn’t happen all the time, but music videos usually only give credit within description boxes, as on services like YouTube.

While recognition is often sought in any industry, musicians in particular have been challenged by it more than others. This stems largely from the changing landscape of the music industry from physical to online.

 Solving the connection dilemma

 “The network is opening up some amazing possibilities for us to reinvent content, reinvent collaboration.” – Tim O’Reilly

This study is proof that there needs to be a more streamlined way to aid connection and collaboration within the the creative industry.

One of the key ways that a service could fix this issue and encourage connections amongst artists is through tagging. Much like Facebook photo tagging, this feature, called “Credits,” would allow musicians to tag all the artists that were involved in a project. When a band uploads their music video, they need to enter their role (which would be Musician/Band), then they can tag anyone else worked on the role. This is an opportunity to give recognition to the filmmaker by tagging them to the video as the Film Director. Much like Facebook, a piece of work would then appear on the uploader’s page as well as anyone who was tagged as a collaborator. This is exactly what Clowdy, the professional network for the creative industry, provides. When someone publishes a project they credit the people that contributed to it. The project is then automatically added to everyone's profile – giving everyone the recognition they deserve. This creates a network that will help all creatives connect, be discovered and simply build a portfolio.

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Artists typically give credit through payment, the prestige of the work itself and offers to collaborate on other projects, but none of these options allow the musician to be remembered for the work they’ve done. With Clowdy, everyone involved in a creative project can easily promote themselves and connect with other artists with material that would otherwise be forgotten.

The changing face of collaboration

Overall, technology has changed the face of collaboration over the last century and, despite the ease of global communication and immense possibilities that now exist, artists are still seemingly finding it difficult to collaborate effectively.

We must remember that it’s bigger than just us and one music artist. We need to collaborate on how to make collaboration more effective and popular across the creative industries. Otherwise, the next generation will miss out on the innovation and quality of music that we have perhaps taken for granted thus far.

“I think it is in collaboration that the nature of art is revealed.” – Steve Lacy, Jazz Composer


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