When artists decide to collaborate together on a music project, it can be a wonderful thing. When people create music together it can bring out new ideas, new sounds and more importantly new fans for everyone involved. Many of our favorite songs to date are the result of amazing, collaborating musicians. But on the dark side, collaboration projects can involve different personalities, different ideas and different egos. Collaborations can go very wrong if all parties involved aren’t on the same page from the start. It is super important for artists establish a healthy collaboration culture from the very beginning; those who do not probably won’t get the outcome they were hoping for.
1. Make sure you clarify your end goals for the project
In order for all parties to succeed in a collaboration, everyone has to understand what the desired outcome is. Everyone needs to be clear about the long-term objectives and how they will be reached. What type of song are we doing? Who will write the lyrics? When will the project be released? Who’s album will it go on? Who will mix and master? What types of promotion will be used? Will the song be sold or will it be available for free? Will we ever perform the song at venues or will it only live on the web? Asking these questions from the start will avoid headache and help you see if your goals for the project are even achievable.
2. Know your role in the project
Typically in a collaboration you have artists and producers. Depending on the project, other people will need to come into play to assist – managers, agents, publicists and lawyers. Make sure from the beginning you know who will handle what. Who will copyright, who will draft the split sheet, who will be in charge in registering the song, who is in charge of cover art, who will push the track to the media. If you are working with a producer, make sure he or she understands what they have say in and where they need to fall back. Sometimes it helps to put al the roles together on a piece of paper or a copied email so everyone can be on point. Should something change and a role needs to be moved, make sure all parties are aware of the switch.
3. Use a split sheet and/or collaboration agreement
I repeat: Use a split sheet or collaboration agreement. And make sure you complete it prior to releasing the project, not after. The purpose of this is to clarify who gets credit for what, publishing splits, credits and overall terms of the collaboration. This is a legally binding document that will hold everyone accountable, so do not take this portion lightly. Make sure before you begin, everyone has their side of music business paperwork in order. For artists and songwriters, that means, make sure you are registered with a PRO (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, SOCAN) and copyright your lyrics/melodies on the project. For producers, make sure you are with a PRO and copyright your sound recording. For labels and publishers, make sure you are also registered and have an actual publishing agreement established with your artist. A management contract is NOT a publishing contract, they are two completely different agreements. These things should already be in place before you collaborate – especially if you plan to make money from the project. Most creative minds don’t like to deal with the business side of music, so if you are one of those make sure you have someone on your team who knows how to handle this for you. If the project is an your album or a song is going on your album, it is typically you and your team’s responsibility as the artist to cover all of this. This can get complicated and messy, so make sure you prepare yourself ahead of time.
4. Make sure your collaborators are as into the project as you are
There is nothing worse than collaborating with people who won’t push the final product as much as you do. You want all parties involved to be eager and willing to promote the song – that is the main point of the collab after all! Everyone should want everyone to succeed in order to get the most out of the project. Make sure you let your project partners know that you value their talents and try your best to respect personal differences. Don’t be too pushy. And when conflict emerge, treat them as opportunities for your project to attain a better synergy. Bad vibes can kill a project before it begins.
5. Clarify all all credit wishes for all parties involved
For example, if the artist wants to go by another name on the project credits or the producer has specific requests, make sure this is made clear. Also keep in mind that most full credits are NOT listed in blogs or articles – they include what they wish and it rarely goes outside of the artists and producer – depending on how well-known you are. Also full credits should not be expected on posting, on social media or music sharing website. If you are an engineer, musician, songwriter, vocalist or someone looking for full credit and fame on everything all the time then you should highly consider switching to something that is not behind the scenes! There are many well-known engineers, songwriters and producers who are never credited in the general public. That is standard, if you are in the industry you will research for full credits anyway. However, behind the scenes people should expect to see credit in other places – album back covers, inside covers, crediting music websites like AllMusic.com, Gracenote, iTunes and music streaming websites. As long as you are on the song registration and splitsheet, your credit will show where it is needed. Regardless, all parties should do their best to respect each others wishes, but make sure everyone understands some things are simply out of your control.
6. Keep your lines of communication crystal clear
I have found that this is usually the biggest problem when it comes to collaboration.Collaborations are often a learning process for everyone, so don’t feel bad if you don’t fully understand every aspect. It is all about respect, so make sure you listen attentively, admit when you make mistakes and always try out your collaborators ideas before rejecting them. LIMIT YOUR VERBAL EXCHANGES – always use a written form, such as email or even group text. It is extremely important that all parties are on the same page at all times. That means ALL emails should be copied to everyone, all changes should be made clear to everyone and all major decisions should be made by everyone. Should conflict arise, hold a meeting with all parties either in person or on the web – FaceTime, Skype and Google hangouts are all good options. Whatever you do, do not allow one party to speak without the rest of the collaborators present. This only leads to more miscommunication and can cause serious tension within the project. Then nobody wins.
7. Don’t keep collaborating with the same artists over and over again
Once you have a successful collaboration it is only natural that you would want to repeat the same experience again. However, doing too many collaborations with the same artist and producers can get boring and predictable for your fans! Especially if you are sticking to the same genre of music. Diversify your sound by reaching out to new artists and producers. Collaborate with people you can learn from. Work outside of your comfort zone, try different genres and experiment with other sounds. Again, this allows you to reach a new fan base of people you may have never thought about, plus it shows that you are a flexible artist – the key to success these days.
Hopefully these tips will help you to have a successful and peaceful collaboration. It’s not always easy, but in the end it is usually worth it! Good luck indies 🙂