Why You Should Work with Other People

So this is my most-streamed track on Spotify:

Unimpressive, I know.

And get this: It’s even less impressive than you think, because I didn’t even write it. And I’m not the primary performer on it, either.

My brother, Tom (tall-ish, glasses, writes mostly-weekly newsletters, definitely going to lose our annual kickboxing match â€“ that guy) wrote it and performed 90% of it. I sing the second verse.

But we co-released it to our profiles. And, because a) it got tagged on a Spotify editorial playlist for a week, and b) I got tapped into Tom’s audience, it’s by far my most-streamed song.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s definitely not to brag about my own mediocre artistry. (Seriously, for your own good, don’t look for my profile; there are things on there from angsty-college-Jon days that nobody should have to suffer through.)

I’m telling you this to make a very simple, too-often-overlooked point…

Collaboration is the best way to build an audience.

My own artistry is a perfect (and humbling) example of this. Before I co-released an EP with Tom, I’d released a couple of angsty-college-Jon EPs – and no song from either of them notched even 1,000 streams.

As soon as Tom deigned to add his name to my stuff, I literally 10xed my Spotify monthly listeners.

(Ha, I should release a case study on that… This ONE simple (but little-used!) Spotify strategy helped me 10X ðŸ“ˆ my monthly listeners ðŸ¤¯!!! The reveal would be so lame – “Use your brother’s audience!” – but I guess it would make Tom look cool.)

Now, to be fair to myself and transparent with you, I’m not trying to make it as an artist right now. There are plenty of ways that I could’ve boosted my old solo stuff to at least a few thousand streams if I thought it was worth pushing (despite what my mom thinks, it’s not).

But if I was trying to build my own artistry…

The first thing I would do would be to make a list of artists I wanted to collaborate with.

This is one of the most common recommendations I offer my clients, because it works.

And not just on Spotify (although it works on Spotify). Collaboration works everywhere. It’s how Instagram influencers become bigger Instagram influencers. It’s how email gurus build guru-sized lists. It’s how tours sell more tickets.

So, yeah, that’s my big, mind-blowing tip for today: 

Get out there and collaborate with people.

I’ll end with a few thoughts to make it more practical.

  • Create a Google sheet to track potential collaborators. Include columns for artist name, contact info if you can find it from their website, and stats on the profiles you want to grow on (Spotify followers, YouTube subscribers, Instagram followers, whatever else).
  • Go to your Spotify profile and pull up every artist from the “Fans also like” section. Then, do a little digging – if artists are about as big as you (or bigger) and are in a similar genre, they’re a good match. Mark them down in your spreadsheet.
  • Search for music blogs in your genre. Dig through their most recent coverage and add artists to your sheet who seem like good fits.
  • Intentionally engage with artists on the profiles they’re building. Don’t just spam people – be thoughtful. Like, if they’re most active on Instagram, follow them there and regularly comment on their stuff. Over time, you can build meaningful relationships, and you can reach out to make collaborations happen.
  • Work with your friends. (Or even your family ðŸ¤¯)

Important final note: Collaboration is not just the fastest way to grow an audience.

It’s also fun.

Two of of my core values are joy and connection. Collaboration is a great way to facilitate both, because building relationships with people is an end in itself. (I think it’s probably the ultimate end.)

Anyway, I hope this stupid-simple recommendation encourages you to make music / create art / live life with other people.

And while getting more streams isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, I hope that happens for you, too.

Want to build a meaningful community around your music?

The Bundle

I’ve packaged years of experience running Two Story Melody (a top-ranked music blog) and Two Story Media (a music PR firm) into a book called How to Promote Indie Music.

It lays out a roadmap to better indie music promotion – promotion that doesn’t suck. You can check out the first chapter for free.