Collaboration is when more than one artist comes together to produce some extraordinary work. It is a homage to their collaborative spirit that translates into the birth of something awesome, something that just blows their fans

How the most successful artists collaborate

By Polina Bondarenko

01 May, 2024

We often have the image of an artist working alone and producing great work individually. There have been too many depictions of the artist working in solitude in films and novels, leading to the romanticizing and glorification of the solitary artist.

Though such artists do exist, it is equally true that creative teams also exist, where two or more creative artists strike the perfect balance and produce some remarkable stuff. This is known as a collaboration between artists and there have been many artists who have collaborated and produced extraordinary work.

For this, first, we need to understand what collaboration means.

What is a collaboration?

Collaboration is when more than one artist comes together to produce some extraordinary work. It is a homage to their collaborative spirit that translates into the birth of something awesome, something that just blows their fans!

There have been so many cases of artists collaborating and producing magic. Collaboration has happened in many art forms like music, painting, photography, theatre, bands, etc.

When great minds and great talents collaborate in sync, they do not undermine each other's gifts, on the other hand, they complement each other, and motivate and encourage each other to produce some spectacular stuff.  In many cases, when two musicians collaborate, it is not just a case of another guitarist or violin player being brought in. It is many times a case when the entire section of the band has been rearranged and the result was mind-blowing!

Collaboration is a special skill where you bring out the best in the other at the same time work at your peak. It is a wonderful case of give and take where the result is magic. When such artists perform on the same platform, they only add to the other's performance, and never dominate or undermine them. It is then a case of selfless love of art. The collaboration has been found to be mutually beneficial to both parties and both have grown organically over time.

Collaboration is based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s art and creation. Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Max Ernst, and Dorothea Tanning are some examples of such collaborations.

When successful artists collaborate, they inspire each other to be better versions of themselves.

For new artists, collaboration can do wonders since they get to share ideas, and material and get a glimpse of the creative process of others, which can be a learning experience for them.

Besides, as a team, it becomes easy to attract the attention of the people and the press, than if they worked alone. Plus, when an artist works with the other artist, he learns discipline and many behavioural methods that can help him in his creative process and even help him break certain fixed habits that he has got.

Collaboration is very common in films, theatre, and TV.

One example that can be quoted is Bowie and Freddie Mercury, who met each other when they were at the top of their games and encouraged each other to collaborate and produce some great stuff.

There have been numerous cases when artists who spend valuable time with friends, colleagues, or perfect strangers have created a new melody, a new song, or a new storyline for their next novel. The friends, colleagues, or perfect strangers have played the role of a muse, a motivator, an inspiration, a critic, or simply a good listener. Something has clicked and the friends, colleagues, or perfect strangers have created an atmosphere where new ideas, images, or concepts have been born and thrived.

Many artists who have collaborated have shared great friendships between themselves, enriching each other in the process.

Following are some of the most successful artist's collaborations:

1. Jean Basquiat and Andy Warhol: When pop artist Andy and graffiti artist Jean came together they produced many stirring pieces. It was said that Warhol used to paint first and then Basquiat used to work on his graffiti. One of the very famous collaborations that the duo produced was a piece that was titled ‘Olympic Rings’.

2. Pablo Picasso and Gjon Mili: Gjon was a photographer who had come to take pictures of the great painter Pablo in his home. It was then that an extraordinary idea popped up and they decided to try painting with light on-air as a canvas!

3. Bernd and Hilla Becher: Shared a 50-year-long collaboration when they took black-and-white photos of various aspects of the industrial era. They gelled so well that it became very difficult for people to point out who had taken which photo and there were times when they too could not recall. But both shared such a good rapport that they did not seem to mind, for all that mattered to them at the end of the day was their art of photography.

4. Calvin Harris: Is a producer, who makes the music but he is never tied to a single vocalist. So almost all his songs are in collaboration.

Collaboration was a big thing in the music world and it had been found that on average there are 33 collaborations in the top 100 each month. The number of songs that were produced as a result of collaborations increased from 5% to 11% over the past 2 years. David Bowie and Queen-Under Pressure, Nirvana, and The MeatPuppets – Lake of Fire are some examples of successful musical collaborations.

The reason why artists collaborate

1. Hip-hop is usually a collaborative effort and there have been numerous cases of rappers collaborating.

2. At DistroKid: There are hip-hop albums with 3 collaborators in each song and 42% of the songs have a collaborator.

3. DistroKid is known to work with YouTube musicians, thereby increasing their fan base.

4. YouTube has a lesson titled ‘Creator Academy’ where they teach YouTubers how to collaborate.

How artists split royalties

Splitting of money or royalty amongst the collaborators is very important for the collaboration to last long so that none of the collaborators have a grudge against the other. For this, it is very important that every artist knows who is featured on which track and then calculates the % of earnings that each collaborator will earn. DistroKid is said to be the first distributor in the world that automatically splits payments amongst all its collaborators.

A few points on how successful artists collaborate

1. Sharing their ideas and being flexible to change.

2. Setting common goals that are beneficial to both.

3. Co-writing a song or co-working on a melody or music.

4. Having clear ideas and boundaries when working together, eg, in a band.

5. Sharing a tour, remixing a song, or swapping gigs.

6. Performing live on Instagram on Facebook.

7. Collaborating on a Spotify playlist.

8. Planning how to divide royalties beforehand.

9. Not cutting the other’s talent or work or forcing changes or ideas on the other.

10. Cooperating during collaboration and negotiating beforehand.

If you are a newbie and want to make your mark in the industry, it makes sense to collaborate with other artists to learn from them and at the same time, boost your career.

There are several advantages to collaborating with another artist, many of which are listed above.  For the new artist who has just started, it is very important to know how to collaborate and with whom.

Following are some of the tips on how to collaborate with artists

1. Contact bands or artists and collaborate with them and do a show with them.

2. Invite a famous artist to do a guest vocal on your track, this can do wonders for your song.

3. Some apps such as Kwaver are all for musical collaboration and this app can be of great help for any musician who is looking for a collaboration.

4. Approach a filmmaker and collaborate with them by providing your music tack to their film.

5. Go for a joint-release, which means that release your music with some other upcoming band. This kind of promotion is sure to make your music popular.

6. If you have a friend in a band, you can request him to allow you to sing or promote your music piece in their show. This unique way of collaboration will do wonders for your new music.

7. Post your new song or music on Facebook so that it reaches the masses. Instagram is also a great medium if you want to collaborate with someone.

8. Cowrite a song with another artist. This is another way of collaborating on your song.

9. Collaborate on live shows like during festivals, music conferences, tours, etc.

10. Collaborate using videos like an official music video, live band, and live streaming.

11. Collaborate using your website such as on your blog, or make use of photo galleries to highlight your collaboration with other bands, etc.

12. Collaborate using social media like exchanging tweets or organizing a Twitter chat session of both the bands.

Thus, in this article, we have seen that collaboration is a big business for artists and how the most successful artists collaborate with each other and help each other to achieve great success and fame.

Written byPolina Bondarenko

Lina Cooper is a young up and coming pop songwriter, artist, producer, a graduate of Berklee College, a self-proclaimed Yellow Manic Pixie Dream Girl and a Ukrainian native currently residing in LA.