How do musical collaborations work?

I actually have two questions, but I think they’re related.

  1. How do musical collaborations get negotiated? Like, say I’m, I don’t know, Lady Gaga. And I want to do a collaboration with, I don’t know, Justin Timberlake. How would I get him on board? Do I write a song first and ask him if he wants to sing it? Do I ask someone who works for me to get in touch with someone who works for him and negotiate things like how much he’ll get paid for it? Or would I pitch a song to a few different artists, and if Nick Jonas offers me better terms than Justin Timberlake I go with Nick Jonas instead? Or something else?

  2. How is it that sometimes one band writes a song and another band sings it? To give one example, Old Dominion wrote “Save it for a Rainy Day” but Kenny Chesney sings it. Are bands writing songs and marketing them to other bands? I would think if you wrote a good song you’d want to record it yourself.

My understanding is that most collaboration happens when the artists meet at some event or otherwise get a chance to form a mutual appreciation society and say “We should work on this”. Or the bigger artist decides to throw the smaller artist a bone and offer to have them be featured on a song. “Featured” artists are either paid a flat fee or not paid at all except in exposure from having their name attached to a track with a top artist.

Not only do artist form relationships with other artist, but their producers, agents and business managers do as well. The industry itself is rather small once you get in, but getting i n the crutch. An outsider who writes a good song is just a commodity to be bought and sold.

Lots of reasons. Sometimes they do it because their friends with the performer. For instance, Lennon and McCartney wrote “I Want to Be Your Man” for the Rolling Stones after they dropped in on a recording session.

Other times, the songwriters don’t have a recording contract, so they have their agents plug the song to other musicians. They get royalties and it builds their reputation.

Also, once a song is recorded, other artists are free to use it (while paying royalties). Sometimes the cover version is more successful than the original.

That’s my understanding, as well. The writer(s) of a song have the ability to choose who gets to record it for the first time, but after that, it’s pretty much open to anyone else to record it.