10 tips for music collaboration


1. Opposites attract

Much like romantic relationships, a musical partnership also requires many elements to align in order for it to be successful. Opposites can work well in the studio, but too many differences can create tension and skewed results.

Let me give an example. A classically trained musician, paired up with a DJ, might result in some well executed melodic dance music; if that was the goal. Whereas two vocalists working together might completely clash – having difficulty in finding common ground or developing musical ideas due to sharing identical skill-sets.

Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses when searching for someone to collaborate with is extremely important. Think of it like a rock band, having two drummers and no guitarist most likely wouldn’t work. Being able to tap into skills that you don’t already possess should be front and foremost when searching for the perfect music partner.

2. Clear vision and realistic goals

Reaching the top of the charts and touring the world is a dream for many aspiring musicians. But let’s come back down to earth for a second, this only happens to a tiny percentage of artists. It’s important to have goals, but also to be realistic. Often smaller steps with an effective strategy, will return more success. This can then be built upon.

Sharing the same goals and vision, as well as the route to achieve these, with your music collaborators will help to prevent potential roadblocks from occurring further down the line.

It’s often the case that partnerships, even if successful, split due to conflicting musical directions. Having the confidence that you and your music partner(s) are committed to the same goals and vision will create a more robust and lasting partnership.

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3. Build trust

It’s no secret that the music business can be an unforgiving and ruthless environment, especially as the stakes increase with success and money then becomes a factor.


Being open and transparent from the outset is a must for ensuring that the likelihood of disagreement is low. Having discussions about money, royalty shares, commitment, outsourcing tasks and other potentially awkward topics, and ensuring these are documented, will help to ensure mutual respect and trust.

4. Roles based on skill

Once you’ve identified and agreed upon the direction and vision of the collaboration. It’s a good idea to dissect the music and production process and assign certain elements and tasks to individuals based on their abilities.

Most music projects can be broken down into areas such as song-writing, arrangement, sound design, performance, recording, mixing and more. How many people you are collaborating with and the extent of their abilities will determine who does what and if any further outsourcing is required.

In some cases, it might be beneficial to have two main producers/musicians who are directing the project while outsourcing some of the work, such as mixing and mastering, that may fall out-with their own skill-sets.

5. Set realistic expectations and don’t overcommit

Having agreement on the amount of time each collaborator will invest in the project will help to set expectations and ensure no one feels they are more committed, or having to work harder, than the rest.


At the same time, it’s important to not overcommit in order to appease the other person. Think carefully about the time you are able to invest and any potential barriers, such as family commitments. Your music partner will appreciate these being highlighted in advance rather than making a promise you may not be able to deliver.

6. Plan, then execute

A well structured plan is essential to achieving goals and will help to highlight any potential issues.

Having said that, it is possible to overplan, and as such planning should not be dragged on for longer than absolutely essential. Many artists will become tired of constant talk with no action or results, artists are creatives with constantly flowing ideas. Once a plan is in place, the sooner making music becomes the focus, the better.

7. Original and identifiable

Making music which sounds like others’ work isn’t going to win you many fans or respect from peers.

Collaborating is a great way to ensure an original sound and one which is uniquely identifiable. Drawing influence from two or more people can be a great way to unlock originality and become trend setters rather than followers.

8. Start with the positives

No one likes to hear their output isn’t awesome, especially musicians. Writing music is such a personal process that any criticism can easily be taken badly and disrupt the overall project.

Here are two powerful techniques to try:

1. Start a discussion or critique of your collaborators’ work with what you liked about it. Even if there isn’t much you like, try to go in with positives and focus on these for a while before discussing what you feel could be improved.

2. Asking your collaborator to self-assess their work is also a clever way of broaching a touchy subject while avoiding being the instigator. Asking questions such as ‘What do you like about it and do you feel could be better?’ is a great way to start a critiquing session.

9. Align your tools

Since the advent of computers in music production there has been a rapidly growing list of music production software. This means the likelihood of two collaborators using the same tools is less.

An important consideration when finding a studio partner is what equipment and software do they use? Do they own a Mac or PC? Which DAW and plugins do they have?

Plugins for Ableton

If you already use a DAW, which you are comfortable using, would you be happy to work with a producer who uses something different and completely alien to you?

The same can be said for plugins.

If you are planning to work together remotely then sharing the same tools is advisable, if possible. This will make sharing DAW project files remotely much more streamlined.

10. The world in your studio

Up until the age of the internet any collaboration almost certainly required band members being in the same studio. As that is no longer a requirement, we can collaborate with people from all across the world in real time; we should use this ability to ensure we find the best possible match of collaborators.

There’s still no substitute for going to music venues and interacting with people in your music scene face to face, often this is the basis for striking up great partnerships. Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus pandemic this is not currently a viable option, so we must look for other ways to connect and collaborate with fellow musicians.

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