Listen Up: Collaborations

Victoria on September 12, 2014 - 8:26 pm in Editorials, Features

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Listen Up is a series of articles focusing on tips and tricks for young artists across all artforms.

Speaking from experience and observations as an artist myself, I’ve found that young Bajan artists have a problem with collaborations.  Some of us seem to think that we cannot get ahead unless we either do everything ourselves, collaborate with an artist who has more acclaim than we currently do, or refuse to interact with other young artists in creating a project.

While this theory of ‘self first, others excluded’ may seem charming at first, if you really want to spread your work around, team up with a young artiste around the same level as you. You both have a different set of fans, a different energy and putting it together will help get the word out to both fan bases and perhaps pique some interest (which is what you really want, aside from doing it because of passion).

Most of the young persons in any art form in Barbados tend to know each other because Barbados is small, we’ve grown up together especially in this generation, let’s say within the 18-25 age range. Why are we so afraid of each other? Do you honestly think that collaborating will take the shine off you since you want to be a ‘star’? Come on, you don’t even have shine yet (5000 YouTube views does not a star make…). You can’t be selfish without a claim. Try and share!

Instead of perpetuating a cycle of pettiness, where good collaborations and working relationships are few, and then complain that we tear each other down, just treat each other fairly. It is imperative that you establish good working relationships. Not many people want to work with someone who is known for always being harsh and overly critical of other artists’ work. Not many people want to work with someone who is constantly tearing down others and has a bad attitude.

Teamwork makes the dream work. For example you don’t generally write, sing, produce, mix and master a song by yourself, someone at some point either did one aspect of the job for you, or taught you how to do it, or suggested changes to make it better (and this is generally the same for literature, dance, theatre, etc.)  No man is an island, and I would like for all the pettiness, especially among our young Bajan artistes to stop. We can all eat! Wa how much times I gotta say so?! Just because you help someone or team up doesn’t mean you will be less important. You’re probably unknowingly collaborating anyways.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t understand some people, because I don’t “break for myself” only. I rather help someone else out or encourage, than constantly be in a race. Collaboration also shows your support for the artist you’re working with, which is crucial. Supporting each other is the only way to get ahead, short of having a fairy godmother, a magic wand or exceptionally good luck. Work hard, support others, work with others, build relationships, and cultivate a good attitude. Don’t be (too) selfish, don’t be overly stubborn, be down to earth, stay true to yourself, support your own and you will get there eventually.

However, I cannot make these statements and share this opinion without recognising that there are exceptions to the views expressed above. There are some individuals, groups, troupes, etc that are into creating with others, that genuinely want to spread ‘good vibes’ among the art community. I’m always glad when I see more people getting together and making art work, making artwork! Yes to collaborations. Yes to sharing ideas and creating projects together. Yes to getting over egos. Yes to being humble and genuinely interested in being an active part of a positive youth culture in the Barbadian arts scene. Yes to teamwork.

TIP: When collaborating, always sort out rights and prices if necessary beforehand. This may be especially pertinent for musicians. This will cut out a lot of stress and discord after the project has been completed, and makes for easy division if submitted to a royalty-collecting agency.

TIP: Try collaborating with an artist who practices a different artform. For example: poetry in a song (see/hear Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ featuring part of an essay by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). Why not? Shake it up a bit. Also, writers/bloggers/vloggers could consider trading blog posts for a day! Team up with another blog and write a post for their site, and have the same be done in return. Well hey, I’m doing it for 246Mixtapes all now! YouTubers and vloggers are always teaming up and creating videos with each other, the same can be done here.

TIP: Make an effort to communicate with other young artistes. See point on working relationships above. You don’t have to become the best of friends, although friends and business is a whole other topic.

TIP: Try not to be salty if your offer for a collaboration is turned down. Just move on, no point in harbouring a grudge or being petty.

TIP: Communication is of utmost importance. Both parties need be sure of what their roles will be and how the execution of the project will be.

That’s it! Until next time,

Victoria is a literary artist, musician, and dancer, among other things. She currently likes to spend her time hanging upside down in aerial class, walking on beaches and analysing everything.

Keep up with Victoria via her blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

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