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Why 2018 will be the year of big music collaborations

By Jimmy Blake
Newsbeat music reporter

image copyrightGetty Images

Nearly a quarter of the current UK top 40 is made up of tracks credited to more than one artist.

There's nothing too new about that, but if the first week of 2018 is anything to go by that could soon be on the rise.

Rita Ora, Bruno Mars and Charlie Puth are part of collaborations already released this year, while the likes of Justin Timberlake and Mark Ronson are also set to unleash projects.

So what's going on?

'Success breeds success'

image copyrightUniversal Music
image captionDespacito became the most-streamed song ever in 2017

2017 saw some of the biggest collaborations in chart history.

Justin Bieber propelled Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's Despacito to streaming records and 11 weeks at UK number one, while Ed Sheeran roped in Beyonce and Andrea Bocelli to dominate the Christmas chart.

"I don't think anyone could have seen Despicito coming," says Gennaro Costaldo from the BPI - the trade body that looks after record labels in the UK.

"But once you see the power of something like that artists and labels learn from it. Success breeds success."

The power of streaming

image copyrightPA
image captionEd Sheeran's solo track and collaborations combined were streamed more than any other act last year

Streaming now makes up over 50% of music consumption in the UK, more than any other platform.

With fans all over the world being more accessible than ever, teaming up with other acts makes a lot of sense.

"Because these are global artists, or artists with the ambition to be global artists, you have to think about it in terms of having the biggest possible reach and streaming lends itself to that," says Gennaro.

"With the right song and artist profile, it can cut through whatever the culture.

"There's a powerful sense that collaborations enhance your prospects of having a successful song."

That means a collaboration can be a fast-track route to becoming a household name, especially if you appear with a more established artist.

Carbi B being on the remix of Bruno Mars' Finesse is a prime example of an act on the brink of mainstream success working with an artist with a gran-knowing-who-they-are level of fame.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCharlie Puth and Boyz II Men is one of the more unlikely pairings of early 2018

Collaborations in the streaming age also lend themselves to artists working across genres to appeal to new fans.

"I'm putting out a song I did with Boys II Men tomorrow" might not be a tweet you'd expect from Charlie Puth.

But Gennaro suggests streaming is why R&B legends working with mainstream pop acts isn't that surprising.

"In the past, fans might have been a bit more tribal and only like a certain genre. But we're far more open to influences now, we have broader tastes.

"The idea of artists from different backgrounds working together doesn't put us off anymore."

Other industries want the attention of music fans

image copyrightLiam Payne/Instagram

Rita Ora and Liam Payne's For You is out on Friday.

The song is part of the soundtrack for Fifty Shades Freed and follows Zayn and Taylor Swift's duet I Don't Want to Live Forever from Fifty Shades Darker.

Big name collaborations on films is something Gennaro suggests we're likely to see more of.

"Marketing teams see music as a huge portal to connect their brand to fans of certain artists.

"So inevitably they're going to reach out to artists who can give them the widest breadth of audience.

"If you see a film with a great cast you might be more likely to watch it so why not do that with the soundtrack, too?"

Song-writing teams or label-mates

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Collaborations are also a chance for labels or producers to combine the fanbases of their biggest acts.

Simon Cowell's Syco label pairing Little Mix and CNCO last year was a clear attempt to expose both acts to South America and the UK respectively.

Keep an eye out for Justin Timberlake teaming up with Alicia Keys as well as long-time co-writers Timbaland and Pharrell on his new album, while producer super group Mark Ronson and Diplo are set to launch their new project Silk City in 2018.

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