Who is this "feat." and why is he in so many songs?

Okay, I admit I stole the title, but I am actually wondering about this.

Within the last 5-10 years, it seems that a huge number of songs are credited to Artist A “featuring” Artist B. Glancing at the Billboard Hot 100 from 2011, I noticed it looks like for every 10 songs, about 3 of them were “featuring” someone. And it seems to be happening in several different genres.

So, as someone who isn’t really knowledgeable about current music, I’m just curious about this. Is it just a blatant marketing attempt? Maybe the music companies are hoping that Artist B’s fans will all buy the song and then decide to give the rest of Artist A’s stuff a listen.

Or maybe this has always been going on and the artists weren’t always credited? “Money for Nothing” was credited only to the Dire Straits, despite Sting singing on it too, and I think “Somebody’s Watching Me” was only credited to Rockwell. I mean, everyone knew that Michael Jackson was singing on it, but I don’t remember seeing it as “Rockwell featuring Michael Jackson.” So maybe the only difference is that both artists are now listed in the charts/videos/track information.

I think it’s partially at least that collaborations are more common in rap and r’n’b tracks than in other genres and rap/r’n’b are pretty big the last decade and more. There is presumably the marketing element too, cross polination and established artists giving their protegés or lesser known label mates a leg up. I suspect too that more established artists will occasionally collaborate with fresh acts to maintain their own relevance to listening public.

More likely it’s just copycats. One successful group grew their hair long, suddenly everybody grew their hair long.

It’s almost exclusively used in rap and R&B. Rock artists use “with” “w/” “&” “and” and such. Mashup artists use “vs.”

Michael Jackson also played “Michael Jackson” in the Simpsons. It seems he refused a credit. Sometimes big stars who appear in an indie or lower budget film refuse credit so as not to damage the film’s scope or encourage the wrong audience.

Yes, it’s blatant marketing, but it’s also true that hip-hop is by nature more collaborative as a genre and cross-pollination happens routinely.