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Collaboration in music: Nobody does it better

Through the decades, the world has become more and more open to sharing and collaborating. Whether it be coalitions in politics, or fashion designers and brands coming together under the same stable, there’s no doubt we have left the age where people, especially artists, are protective of their ideas and have entered a new era where individuals understand that they must collaborate to take their gift one step further.

With my time at some of the goliaths of the music press, including Kerrang!, Mojo and Q magazines, I have witnessed this lucrative industry evolve from artists and industry professionals competing heavily with one another to them promoting each other and working together more than ever.

The art of collaboration is as important as the art of producing a song in the music industry. It is a natural way of working – part of what makes us humans – and the music industry does it best. To create a tune, you must collaborate with producers, mixers, techies and other artists so that it can reach its full potential. Musicians aren’t keen on keeping their gifts to themselves – they share them with their audience, and this is where all the joy and satisfaction comes from.

There are some singers and songwriters who have blossomed in the industry by their own accord, writing, recording and filming a single which they then upload to a social media channel such as YouTube and, if they’re lucky, get millions of hits. (Just look at the likes of Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendez.) However, this ‘magic formula’ doesn’t work for everyone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of artists who are still aiming to develop and reach their full potential and who should, perhaps, give collaboration a go.

The art of collaboration is the natural way of working – part of what makes us humans – and the music industry does it best

Expanding your audience
One of the most important collaborations is with other artists. This adds to one’s experience and sources of inspiration, and gives a musician the chance to expand his/her work to a different kind of genre.

Working with other peers from the industry can also give your music a different type of sound; we regularly see rappers collaborating with singers or rock artists, featuring pop stars on their songs. This is firstly because their music will be heard by new ears, but mainly to have a different sound compared to what they usually put out.

Jay-Z, one of the most popular rappers in the world, collaborated with Linkin Park, a rock band, to make one of his greatest singles, ‘Encore’. This ensured fans of the rock band would listen to the song, rather than only his usual audience – a great marketing ploy. Other than this, Jay-Z has released several hit songs with his wife, Beyoncé, who is not only one of the most sought-after female artists in the world but half of arguably the biggest power couple in music. Their duetting always holds emotional value – no wonder most of the songs they make together are number ones.

Going live
Every artist, aspiring or established, must embrace the big stage one day and perform in a concert, whether as a feature act or headliner. To perform as an opening act, an artist must already collaborate with the main act to gain this spot. Even established artists must collaborate with promoters, sound engineers, back-up dancers and DJs to get the tickets to their show sold.

The late Prince was one of the only artists I witnessed who had complete control of his work from start to finish, in both live and recorded forms – which makes me wonder: could this have meant that he didn’t reach his full potential? Could he have been better if he did collaborate? I certainly think so.

Collaboration is needed in all aspects of life, and it is the oxygen the music industry needs to breathe

Down to a fine art
During my time at various design studios in and around London, I’ve been lucky enough to design several record sleeves for a few independent labels. Traditionally bands are filled with art-school kids who want to do it themselves, but when musicians work with designers and art directors to create a visual identity for their music it requires many ideas being swapped and discussed. I always had to listen to the musician to make sure I could deliver what they imagined, while adding my own creativity to the mix.

With the musical landscape arguably the most competitive it’s ever been, artists are still helping each other to build the foundations of their career. Big musicians are working with smaller musicians, rock stars are working with pop stars and the music world is thriving. There is no hierarchy when it comes to collaboration; the sun must cooperate with the soil to let beautiful orchids blossom. Collaboration is needed in all aspects of life, and it is the oxygen the music industry needs to breathe.

To every artist around the world: keep collaborating and you’ll keep growing!


Andy Bolter is the creative partner at collaborative ideas agency Yes&Pepper.

Working together pays off

Today we use technology to channel almost every form of communication and interaction. This might lead you to think that associations are anachronistic, belonging firmly to the past. But you would be wrong. In our world of ever more complex politics and regulations, trade associations are increasingly proving their worth as platforms where like-minded people can congregate.

At meeting places like the ILMC, professionals have the opportunities they need to discuss common issues, learn from experts, share ideas for new projects, create business partnerships and much more.

Peers will often agree on the causes of problems that hamper business operations, and usually find consensus on a to-do list of what should change, and how. Any solution that can be found quickly may naturally be used at once. But if discussion reveals that only a change at European level would contribute a satisfactory solution – and this is not an unusual occurrence – then the European association is best placed to wave a magic wand to raise such matters to be discussed amongst peers at a higher level in a more important arena.

This prompts major companies and national associations to join European and international associations and federations, with a view to achieving progress by influencing high-level policy makers in order to determine strategies for the right way to do business.

Pearle*-Live Performance Europe is one such European federation. It represents the interests of its members in international institutional discussions, steadfastly upholding its mission to create a sustainable environment for the live performance industry in Europe.

In an increasingly complex institutional environment where it is lawyers and policy advisers who draft the frameworks and regulations in which our society and economies operate, it is essential to have a Brussels-based office to monitor the situation and be present at meetings where decisions are taken that will be felt right down to the grassroots level.

Pearle has so far identified around 150 regulations that impact the live performance sector in 20 different policy areas. Some are of general nature, applicable to any part of economy, such as the directives for SEPA and late payments; the huge volume of EU legislation governing the employment, health and safety of workers; and the goal of zero emissions for buildings.

Brexit or not, we are still working to create a sustainable environment across Europe in which the live performance sector may thrive and prosper

Other areas particularly affect the live performance sector, and here Pearle has successfully intervened to achieve (or is still working towards) specific exemptions and special rules for our sector. These areas include: a general block exemption regulation permitting governments to provide state aid for cultural activities (eg the UK’s tax relief system) and direct subsidies to the cultural sector; copyright; VAT (reduced rates for culture in member states may continue); taxation (towards the reduction of double taxation); social security; posting of workers; logistics of cross-border travel with musical instruments; visas for artists visiting Europe or for European artists touring the USA; online ticketing; wireless microphones and radio spectrum, etc.

All these activities represent an important part of Pearle’s work in Brussels. As a European federation it also examines transnational domains of common interest such as: education and skills, cultural policy, experience economy, digital agenda, (alternative) sources of financing, cross-sectorial cooperation, external relations and internationalisation, to name a few. At their meetings, Pearle members can report on current developments in their respective countries, attend technical seminars and workshops, and also discuss services and activities delivered by the associations that they represent.

Among the advantages of belonging to an association like Pearle is the access it gives to high-quality information, and a true picture of the interests of the live performance sector, plus participation in its actions targeting new achievements. If you represent a national or European association, you are most welcome to join us at one of our forthcoming conferences.

It feels rather strange to be writing this article for the next IQ issue in the new post-Brexit era, almost like arguing the devil’s point of view. We have become so accustomed to life in the international context being smoothed out, thanks to a certain degree of European harmonisation. But we have learned to tread with caution, having so often seen member states reverse this process by introducing additional layers of red tape.

Yet we are still here, 25 years after the creation of Pearle by the CEOs of live performance sector associations in five EU countries: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Brexit or not, we are still working to create a sustainable environment across Europe in which the live performance sector may thrive and prosper.


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