Contributed by Michelle Yuen
In the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, trends come and go, attention is often borrowed from audiences, and careers can fade in the blink of an eye. Longevity is thus often the ultimate testament of an artist's impact - even more so in the era of TikTok and viral music trends. The concept of cross-pollination - where artists exchange ideas and draw inspiration from one another while their creative ecosystems intermingle - has emerged as a catalyst for fostering enduring artistic legacies. This phenomenon transcends genres and disciplines, creating scenes where innovation, adaptation, and reinvention flourish. In the concluding topic in our series “Collaboration through the Lens of Emerging Music Scenes”, we delve into the opportunities that the cross-pollination of artists and their scenes contribute towards fostering longevity in their creative endeavours.
Previously, we highlighted how collaboration is an excellent lubricant for success but requires building strong ecosystems, an appreciation for localised markets, and placing storytelling at the centre of any artist’s approach to cut through fragmented markets and fandoms. An extension of this collaborative outlook is the employment of cross-pollination - a constant willingness to adapt to and respectfully embrace new perspectives. The ability to build a successful career requires not only talent and dedication but also innovation by tapping into the wellspring of ‘newness’. When new ideas emerge, it is always a great idea for artists to embrace them by incorporating them into their distinct approach. Collaborative efforts, whether with upcoming musicians, producers or other creative professionals, are pivotal in enhancing artists’ creative capacities, broadening their reach and enshrining their legacies. Expanding an artist’s repertoire through fresh styles and sounds can increase commercial opportunities and garner more fans from new and non-traditional markets.
Over recent years, Afrobeats collaborations - often remixes - have sought to capture fans from new markets by creating something unique for them to hold onto. CKay’s “Love Nwantiti”, Rema’s “Calm Down”, and Amaarae’s “Sad Girlz Luv Money” all interpreted this template in their own way, forming partnerships with established artists in specific international regions (ElGrandeToto, Selena Gomez & Kali Uchis) to amplify these songs to new audiences and lengthen the tracks’ life cycles to their benefit.
These breakout hits make for great examples of intentionality when collaborating but aren’t quite the best encapsulation of the five most central elements of cross-pollination: cross-genre, cross-generational, cross-regional and cross-cultural expressions that, ultimately, export localised sounds to global audiences. These are all features of Davido and Musa Keys’ “Unavailable”, so let's examine how this collaboration combined these factors to their overall benefit.