There is growing evidence of a sharp increase in international collaborations between artists, songwriters and producers from different countries as musical talents search for new influences and new inspiration.
On one level, the new wave of co-creation in music is as much down to advances in collaborative software and stable internet connections as it is a search for a fresh approach to any given project. But in the case of Kristen Agee, founder and CEO of LA-based 411 Music, it was a near-death experience while on a passenger flight that triggered her desire to be more involved in co-creation. “Most of the generators shut down on the plane so we had to do an emergency landing at Minneapolis,” Agee remembers. “And obviously in that kind of situation where there is a very real possibility of dying, you tend to re-evaluate what’s important. And for me what I realised that I love more than anything else is co-creating and co-operative artistic projects.”
Agee’s next step was re-connecting with music production for its own sake. “My background is in scoring music and co-creating with teams of like-minded people, so I started working with the artist Keeno and composer Benji Morrisson who are both based in London, alongside two US-based composers, Stephen Edwards and Brian Carr, on a modular synthesiser project provisionally titled The London Project: The Light and Dark.”
“Brian, who’s based in Burbank, scored Family Guy and Steve is in Pacific Pallisades, so there have been a lot of ideas flying back and forth around California and across the Atlantic. Later this month we’re all convening in London at Air Studios with a 15-piece orchestra,” Agee says. “The whole thing has been filmed and will become a documentary because one of the reasons I did this is to show the process of scoring music and its artistic value. Added to that, I asked each composer to create two tracks, one light and one dark, to show the good and bad sides of life.”
Agee also has a highly fruitful co-creative relationship with Brazilian EDM producer FTampa: “When I met him he was a producer for hire. Then I asked him to write an original tune and he came up with two huge tracks, Who We Are and Love Is All We Need, then his career really blew up,” Agee says. “These days we send him top lines from people like Vocal Kitchen based in Amsterdam and Schedler Publishing, alongside all manner of interesting bits and pieces from all over the world, then he does his thing. Co-creating between Brazil, Europe and L.A. has proved to be a very successful relationship.”
Music software is, of course, at the heart of any collaboration. But, according to Roland Leesker, founder and managing director of Berlin-based Get Physical Records, which just released Cocada 2, a compilation of electronic music from all over South America, it all starts with human contact: “Get Physical Music always operated internationally, in one way or another, from its very first release 18 years ago. Only a very few acts within our huge roster are from Germany, but even those are always marketed on a worldwide basis, within the borders of our genre of course. But really, going there in person is still the most important thing for me. Once you know the people, have danced a night away together, chances are very likely you have made friends for life. And that actually is always our approach. Our work is always based on friendship, co-creativity and mutual respect,” he says.
In the last five years, Get Physical has been focusing its energy on developing the emerging electronic scenes in South Africa, Brazil and India. “We usually start with a compilation album of exclusive tracks from relatively unknown talents and then we present them as Africa Gets Physical, India Gets Physical and Brazil Gets Physical. Then our fans and the power of the brand push it in the more established markets and the rest of the world. The Brazil connection especially has developed so well that we are now working to establish Cocada Music as a co-operative and co-creative platform for the electronic music scene from the whole of Latin America. This will be a music label, a publishing unit plus podcasts, as well as many small and large events plus DJ tours throughout the continent.”
Japanese artist Makoto has just finished Tomodachi Sessions (Hospital Records), an album where each track is a co-creation with a different artist, based in places including Brazil, Canada and the UK. He does not, however see technology as particularly important: “Since we can just swap projects or stems, the main challenge to genuine co-operation is time difference, which means that we don’t get to swap opinions straight away. In terms of technology and music tools, I found it’s really easy to just share stems, and that’s because everyone uses a different DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and plug-ins. I use Logic X because it makes it easier to bounce stems, but even then sometimes it takes ages and can be quite complicated. It’s really fun to do and I always learn a lot from other producers in the co-creation process, plus I get a lot of inspiration from this type of collaboration. And it’s really nice to hear results that sound exactly as you would expect and hope for, from the fusion of both of our styles.”