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The Crossover Effect: Artist Collaborations Thrive on Spotify


The crossover collaboration is one of music's great traditions. When artists from different genres, regions, or simply different career stages bring their talents together on a track, it's sure to capture fan attention. It can even breathe new life into a song or group.

When Run-D.M.C. linked up with Aerosmith in the '80s to reimagine the latter's single Walk This Way, it resulted in an international smash hit. It also helped birth the rap rock subgenre and still stands as Run-D.M.C.'s biggest hit. Decades after its release, the song has racked up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify to date.

More recently, we've seen major crossover collaboration moments from the likes of SZA and Phoebe Bridgers on Ghost in the Machine, PinkPantheress and Ice Spice on Boy's a Liar Pt. 2, and Taylor Swift and The National on The Alcott.

While these collaborations offer new avenues for creative exploration, they also bring together each artist's distinct fan bases, providing an opportunity for everyone involved to expand their audiences.

I think one of the biggest things is how music collaborations can connect genres, explains John Stein, Spotify's North America Head of Editorial. We see a lot more of these collaborations, and I think each artist's core audience seems to be more open to these moments than in the past.

It's easy to see why artists love this approach, but how do fans respond? Are they listening more on Spotify when they discover a new artist on one of these songs?

We took a look at more than 40 of the biggest crossover collaborations from the last 12 years and found that six months after the collab was released, 75% of artists involved saw an increase of at least 10% in overall Spotify streams across their catalogs compared to the six months prior. More than 50% of those same artists saw their number of streams grow by at least 50% in that same time period, while 30% saw their number of streams rise by at least 100%.

And while many of these collaborations are well received, some of them have been very well received.

There are few examples that paint this picture more clearly than Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus uniting on Old Town Road Remix. In the six months following the song's release, the increase in shared listeners between the two artists skyrocketed by nearly 390,000%.

For further proof, you can also look back to 2017, when Latin music icon Luis Fonsi joined forces with reggaeton godfather Daddy Yankee on Despacito. The song quickly caught on with fans around the world, but its popularity went into overdrive and the song became an inescapable tour de force when Justin Bieber hopped on the Despacito (Remix) three months later.

Luis in particular saw his fame reach unforeseen heights, and in the six months following the release of the original version, streams of Luis Fonsi on Spotify jumped by more than 2,600% (compared to the six months prior).

But it was the remix, specifically, that helped to expand the Puerto Rican singer's reach in English-speaking markets. Spotify streams of Luis Fonsi in the U.S., U.K., and Canada combined spiked by more than 4,300% in the six months following the release of Despacito, with most of that increase coming after the remix dropped.

When the Despacito' remix came out, it felt like a huge and rare moment to have artists from such different backgrounds and genre spaces collaborate and experience such success, John says. Now it feels like it happens all the time, and there's almost a level of expectation that artists are going to mix it up and work with artists from different spaces. And I think we see that reflected in the data on the platform and in the reaction on our playlists.

Such is the case with Nigerian afropop star Rema and American pop star Selena Gomez, who created a cross-continental connection on the 2022 hit Calm Down.

When Rema dropped the solo version of Calm Down' last year, it was doing really well in terms of streams, especially in Africa, John explains. Then, at the exact right moment, Rema teamed up with Selena Gomez on a new version of the track.

In the six months following the collaboration's release, daily Spotify streams of Rema in North America increased by more than 230% compared to the six months prior. Meanwhile, daily Spotify streams of Selena Gomez in sub-Saharan Africa increased by more than 120% in that same time period.

With Selena being such a big pop star globally, I think the song reached an audience that checked it out to see what Selena was doing, John says. But they kept coming back because it was such a good song.

And much like Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, the respective fan bases of Rema and Selena Gomez started to merge together. In the six months following the release of Calm Down, the number of fans who listened to both artists increased by over 600%.

A springboard to success For emerging artists, the crossover effect can help them break through in previously untapped markets, or help them define their musical identity on their own terms.

When Khalid had his breakthrough moment with his 2016 hit single Location, he was often labeled as an R&B artist. But after his 2017 collaboration with Alina Baraz-an artist who floats between the lines of pop, R&B, and electronic-on Electric, Khalid flashed his potential to be a pop star in the broadest possible sense.

And, like Luis Fonsi, Khalid is another artist who benefitted from the crossover effect. Following the release of Electric, streams of Khalid on Spotify spiked by more than 3,100% in the six months following its release (compared to the prior six months).

Building on the momentum of Electric, Khalid showcased his versatility as he hopped between genres on a number of high-profile collaborations. At every turn, th
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