Finding the Right Artist to Collaborate With
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. When two creative minds work together they can make some really amazing music! But even some of these iconic duos collapsed due to internal strife. As a producer and engineer at TribeSound Records I see the struggle of artists finding the right people to create with. In this multi-part post, I’d like to share some experiences and advice about music collaborations. We’ll discuss who you should be working with and how to find them as well as who not to work with. We’ll try to figure out who pays who and discuss money. I’ll rant about the importance of professionalism and communication and how to make the most of each other’s strengths.
But first, let’s meet Taylor. She’s an imaginary singer-songwriter with a really nice voice and lots of song ideas. She recorded her first project of voice/piano songs at TribeSound and it did better than she had expected when she released it. But in her head, Taylor hears beats, synths, and cool production touches in her music. She has messed around with her keyboard enough to make some neat sounds and has been recording some demos on her computer but she just knows there’s a producer out there that could take her song ideas and really elevate them for her next release.
Taylor has reached out to a few producers she liked on SoundCloud asking about collaboration but they either didn’t get back to her or they want a ton of money for their work. How is she supposed to find another talented artist closer to her level in the music business who will be reliable enough to show up when she books her next session?
Refining Your Approach
Don’t ask strangers for favors. Think about it, would you spend your own time or money doing a favor for a complete stranger who contacted you on the internet? Your first contact with someone should not be asking them for free beats, production or songs. You need to establish a relationship with someone before forming an artistic duo so take it easy on the hard sell up front. Familiarize yourself with their music and story. Follow them on social media and share their work. This can mean a lot. Go to a show and meet them if they’re local. This means even more to artists!
Tell them you like their music without asking for anything first. Ask them about their plans and music and truly listen to what they have to say. A lot of artists spend so much time focusing on how awesome they are in the conversation that they shut the other person down. They feel that they need to make the case with this little bit of time they have or they’ll miss their chance.
When the conversation does come up about your music it needs to be super easy for someone to check out your past work. If you don’t have a website yet, make one, and make it easy for people to quickly hear your stuff. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it should look professional. When asking someone to collaborate you have to have something to offer. Instead of asking for free beats focus on what you bring to the table and how working together will be beneficial for them.
Where to Look
You can find other artists to work with by asking the engineers at your local studio. At TribeSound we work with many different kinds of artists and session musicians. This can eliminate flakes. If an artist has paid for studio time that means they at least take their craft seriously enough to put money into it. Also, we know people are reliable and will steer you towards people that we’ve enjoyed working with.
Going to live shows is another great way to meet other serious artists. As small as it may seem, paying the $10 dollars, hearing their set, and actually saying “hi” means a lot. You can discover new talent in the opening bands and audience. Just try not to be pushy with your art and listen to what they have to say.
Everyone loves being listened to!
There are a lot of really great places to research artists online but a lot of the specifics depend on what genre you are in. Soundcloud is still a vibrant community and worth engaging with. Youtube is the largest digital music provider ahead of streaming services like Apple and Spotify so it’s definitely worth searching. Social media can be a good a source as well. Facebook is the big player but Instagram is being used more and more by music makers as well as visual artists.
The most important part of connecting with artists on social media is being social. You shouldn’t just search the platform, find an artist and then email or direct-message them, asking to work with them. You need to engage with their content. Follow them for a while and drop meaningful comments on things they share. Share their content. This creates value for them and they will be more likely to work with you when you finally make the ask.
When finding artists to work with online or face-to-face I would encourage you to be picky about quality. If you don’t have a big budget it’s going to be hard to get a big budget artist to work with you but quality and budget are not the same things. Look for artists who give attention to detail and are creative about making high-quality art on a small budget.
Taylor Finds a Producer
Let’s check back in with Taylor, our imaginary singer-songwriter friend. She booked a session at TribeSound and started recording demos for some new songs. She asked about a producer who would match her style and I pointed her to a few previous clients who would like her stuff. She looked into them and saw that one was playing a beat set at a small venue in her town. She shared the show event on Facebook, invited a bunch of her friends and ended up bringing 4 friends with her to the show. Afterwards, she bought a CD and introduced herself. The producer recognized her, remembering that she had shared the show event. He thanked her a bunch for bringing friends out and buying merch and asked her about her music. Since then they’ve been trading demos and have started working together on a single!
It doesn’t always happen that easily but it can if you set yourself up for success. Focus on building relationships with artists and providing value to them before asking for something from them and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Check back for my next post about artistic collaboration. We’ll talk about red flags to watch out for, we’ll discuss money and I’ll get into some of the technical details of sharing files, stems, and backups.