Building Music Communities: Collaboration vs Competition

by Ross Barber

The subject of music community is something that I’ve always been really interested in, and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I’m a firm believer that there is more strength in collaboration than competition. Yet online you can see bands fighting with one another in an attempt to belittle them, and make themselves seem bigger or more successful. In fact, it does the opposite.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that I see discussed both on a local, national, and even international level. My question is: why do artists and bands feel that they are in direct competition with one another?

A while ago, I posted the following Tweet, which got me thinking more about the subject. Feel free to RT it if you agree, and help to spread the message with your fellow musicians:

What’s better than competition? Collaboration. Encouragement. Supporting your fellow musicians.

Rather than “competing” or trying to make yourself look “bigger” than your peers, why not join forces and create something good? The music scene (whether local, national or international) is, and should be, a community. It brings people together. If you’re busy fighting with another band, it just makes you look bad. And very quickly, you’ll find that people don’t want to be associated with you. Conversely if you’re promoting others and spreading positivity, you’ll find that people (generally) will be more curious about what you’re doing and will be more attracted to you.

There’s definitely far more strength in collaboration and community than there is in competition. This applies to more than just bands — designers, promoters, social media marketers… we can ALL benefit from having friends who work in a similar space to us. Yes, you should always be striving for improvement but that doesn’t mean that you need to see Band X or Company X as direct competition. Find a way to co-exist, support each other and if you can, work together. There are hundreds, thousands of artists and creatives out there — you’re not competing directly with them.

Collaboration also allows you to grow and learn. Like Pharrell says:

Collaborate with People You Can Learn From (Pharrell quote)


Sure, I know in some ways you’re “competing” for the attention of an audience, but there are no winners or losers here. Help each other out and make things better. Stop complaining, stop competing and start collaborating. Make a positive difference to the independent music scene. Otherwise, you may find you get left behind. Quickly.

So, what can you do?

In response to the email I sent out, I received a great reply from Kelly Baker who co-runs an organisation in Canada called Music Lives. They collaborate with bands, promoters, venue owners, and music fans to help make their town a great place for musicians to work, live and play. This community spirit is exactly what I feel is missing in some ways, especially at the moment. What she mentioned is a prime example of how collaboration can have a positive effect, not just for individual artists, but the music community as a whole.

What do you think?

Do you think there’s room for everyone? Have you seen any bands’ attempts at tearing others down backfire? How are you collaborating with fellow musicians or industry professionals to make the music industry a better place? I’d love to hear from you.

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