By Michael Grandinetti
Nobody makes a hit record on their own. Behind every top-selling artist—from Elton John to Billie Eilish—there’s a Bernie Taupin, FINNEAS, and team of collaborators in the creative process. Whether it’s building a beat, crafting a hook, laying the horns, or featuring an artist, collaboration has facilitated the songs we know and love.
Today, music collaboration is alive and well, but technology is impacting how and where artists work together. Online platforms that foster collaboration have emerged, and companies such as as AKG, JBL, Soundcraft, and others offer professional-grade home-recording equipment that is affordable, dependable, and widely available.
Back in the day, artists had to spend big money on recording gear or studio time to produce radio-ready tracks. But now they can outfit their bedroom with premium studio equipment — microphone, mixer, and monitors — and make great-sounding music for a fraction of the cost. With high-quality gear at home, mixed with digital production networks, artists are co-creating without ever sharing time in the studio.
“Digital collaboration is where the music industry is headed,” said Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Krysta Youngs. “I can work with artists from Korea, work with artists from Spain, work with artists from anywhere at any time and not leave my house.”
Unlike when Dr. Dre springboarded the career of a relatively unknown rapper named Snoop Dogg by featuring him on The Chronic — another example of how collaboration paid dividends — musicians, producers, and engineers can now create chart-topping hits remotely. Through websites like SoundBetter, musicians have access to hire, communicate, and work with premier talent from around the globe.
Recently acquired by Spotify, SoundBetter is an online marketplace of vetted music professionals. Known as “providers,” the talent pool ranges from singers, songwriters, and producers to session musicians and mixing and mastering engineers, including dozens of Grammy Award winners. Through the platform, artists browse SoundBetter’s database to hire the right professional for their project.
“Global music collaboration and SoundBetter are a perfect fit,” said Dan Konopka, drummer of the Grammy Award winning band OK Go. “What they have set up has made a very easy highway between people in different countries and different cultures to get their musical work done.”
In addition to singing, songwriting, and other production services, digital music collaboration has also allowed professionals to help in other ways. It looks different than the Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg story, but the veterans help advance clients’ musical journeys by offering words of wisdom. London-based mixing and mastering engineer Sefi Carmel said he tells artists that successful musicians see making music as their only career path and don’t consider any alternatives, while Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, Julia Ross, emphasizes the importance of being flexible and embracing collaboration.
“Constantly be ready and willing to create space in your mind with new opportunities, new ways of writing, working with new people and stepping out of your comfort zone,” Ross said. “In terms of online collaboration, keep your mind open with new clients and understand that everybody has a different view of what they want, and you can make it happen with great communication.”
Most musical collaborations begin with an artist submitting a demo. But sometimes those demos feature poor sound quality. In those situations, to help the artist create a polished and sellable product, Konopka and Charlotte-based producer Chris Adams recommend purchasing affordable, home-studio equipment to capture pristine recordings.
“I tell anybody who is just starting out and doesn’t know what to get or have a huge budget, get the AKG P120 condenser microphone. You cannot go wrong,” Adams said. “I’ve completed at least 20 or 30 projects with that microphone alone, and I’ll probably never let it go because the sound is so pristine and clear.”
The digital world keeps evolving, which means technology and the music-making process will become increasingly intertwined. By bridging the gap between the aspiring and the successful, digital music collaboration could be fostering the next crop of top-selling artists.
“If I had any advice for creative people, it’s to be true to yourself no matter what project you’re working on,” Youngs said. “The energy you put into anything that you create will expand to your listeners. As long as you’re coming from a place of honesty and truth, then everyone will be receptive.”