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Collaboration (Still) Counts


Covid notwithstanding, networking and collaboration is as important as ever to the business of making music. CAT’s Audio Engineering and Production Department Head Chris Holmes gives us the scoop!

One of the more positive things that has come out of this pandemic is the increasing popularity and adoption of more remote work options. From entire offices moving to zoom meetings and at home work schedules, to more creative work being delivered from distance, the options available for how and where people work have changed drastically.

For people in the music industry and other creative avenues, this gave rise to incredible remote collaboration tools which allowed musicians and artists from all over the world to continue to make music while borders were closed. While these new remote options have made things easier, there is one critical component of working creatively that these systems cannot replace, and that is networking.

I cannot speak to other creative industries, but in my near 20 years of working in music, I have noticed a dramatic shift in the way that people create music.

When I first started, music was very much a team effort industry. You had engineers and producers helping groups of musicians record their songs, and in every step of the process there were more and more people involved. Any project you worked on, you would gain a few lifelong friends, bonded together by a common memory of a magical time of creating something tangible.

By collaborating with like-minded people, you will learn a little bit every session and you will slowly grow your musical palette.”

Chris Holmes

As the industry shifted, more of these positions were occupied by fewer people, and eventually we ended up at a place where you basically have your producer, and your artist. Your producer would assume the role of engineer, producer, mixer, and mastering engineer, and the artist would often tandem these same jobs. As less people became involved in the process, it became harder to meet new people in the industry, and in turn, increase your network.

Fast forward to 2021, and most music makers are single entities who write, produce, and record their own music from the comfort of a laptop. This pursuit of singular musical creation has been further reinforced by the pandemic, as more introverted of music makers have driven themselves further into isolation. With this increased isolation, combined with a generation of music makers who have been taught that they can do it all themselves with a laptop and a set of headphones, the idea of working with other people seems awkward, and dare I say it, unnecessary.

Here is the uncomfortable reality that most music makers need to understand: most of the music you love was not created by any one person. While there are outliers who can create great music in a bubble, most need support, an unbiased ear, or a creative muse to help extract great ideas out of them.

With all the technologies available today that were born out of this pandemic world, artists and musicians should be trying to work with other people. The most efficient way to get better at your craft is to witness firsthand how someone else does it. By collaborating with like-minded people, you will learn a little bit every session and you will slowly grow your musical palette.

Collaborate with other students in your program. Flip the same sample and see where each of you end up. Analyze and try again. Join music production discord groups, reddit groups, or other social media based gathering places. There are literally thousands of producers out in the world that just want to work with other people. Ninety-nine out of a hundred collabs might seems pointless and yield bad music, but even if you strike gold on one collaboration it will all be worth it.

Success in music is directly linked to how many people know who you are. You will never be top of mind for someone if they do not know you exist.

We are at a pivotal time in music whereas the world reopens, music will be valuable once again, and there is opportunity for success, but only if you can get out there and make yourself known.

Remember this simple acronym:
T ogether.
E veryone.
A chieves.
M ore.

Words: Chris Holmes