Whether writing a song, producing a record, or jamming as a band, the most successful music usually relies on collaboration at some point; no artist is an island. But if you don't live in a densely populated area with a sprawling music scene, or you're not yet ingrained in your local music community or you don't have a record deal, it can be hard to know where to look to find the right people to bring your projects to fruition.
SoundBetter is making it easier every day to make those connections. A groundbreaking marketplace for musicians, SoundBetter—recently acquired by Spotify—helps music pros find each other. If your project needs a top-level producer or session musician or vocalist in order to realize your vision, SoundBetter will help you discover and hire the perfect person. And conversely, if you're one of those individuals—an instrumentalist or mastering engineer or any other specialist who makes the magic happen in music—SoundBetter gives the creators that need you a way to find you.
Making the music happen
New York City producer ShiShi created a SoundBetter profile with the goal of making music his full-time gig. “I signed up with a twofold intention,” ShiShi said: to find artists to contribute to his own projects, and to offer his services to other people. He had records that were ready for vocals, and was searching the site for someone to provide them—and he had a specific sound in mind.
Enter Miami-based musician Daramola, who heard about SoundBetter from a friend in 2016. “I just needed a way to make money doing what I loved,” he said, explaining that though he had gone to school for business, he always felt that music was his path. So he created a SoundBetter profile, casting a wide net. “At first, it was just me going on there to say, ‘Hey, I’m a producer/singer/songwriter. If you have hooks and all that, just reach out to me.’” And people did.
ShiShi found Daramola on SoundBetter and messaged him. “I sent him this beat and he just did an incredible job,” ShiShi says. “He got back to me super-fast and was super professional. That was a refreshing change from what I’d experienced before.”
The two became quick collaborators, finding in each other what they had been missing in their individual projects. ShiShi lights up at the mere mention of Daramola’s name. “He’s like my brother now,” he says.
“ShiShi was trying to create a sound,” Daramola recounts. “ShiShi’s Indian, but he wanted to mix his roots with my Afrobeat, because [the style] was just starting to pop then. We linked up through SoundBetter, and I was like, ‘Dude, I can definitely get this done for you.’” For ShiShi, it was a perfect fit as well. “[Daramola's] Nigerian roots really come through in his voice and style. It’s been really cool to mash that up with my Indian roots,” he commented.
The two have completed a number of tracks together, including “Give Me Love,” which became a successful track and eventually landed on five official Spotify playlists. Last year, after meeting up in Miami to record a music video, the two performed at Terminal 5 in New York City for a crowd of 2,000 people. Having come all this way in such a short period of time, ShiShi and Daramola have made an incredible success story together. “We realized how alike we were as human beings,” ShiShi says of their meeting on SoundBetter. “Now, we’re such good friends. He’s the person I have the best musical chemistry with.”
Be clear about your vision
To become a fully realized artist, it’s imperative to know what your style and goals are, but it’s equally important to be open to new things. Both ShiShi and Daramola have succeeded on SoundBetter, in part, by toeing the line between their strengths and weaknesses. “The more clear you can be [with collaborators] about your vision as an artist, what you’re trying to accomplish by being on the platform, the more easily you’ll be able to stick to that vision,” ShiShi advises.
Knowing that his artistic goals involve combining elements of Indian dance music with aspects of different traditions, ShiShi has made it a point to seek out musicians that can offer things that his own culture can’t. For example, at one point, he was producing an upbeat track, and realized that it called for a new language. “The song was a Major Lazer-style Indian dancebeat, but I got a Latina singer to sing in Spanish on it," he says. "I found her by searching [on SoundBetter] for Spanish singers. There’s no way I would have been able to find a Spanish singer on my own.”
As a singer who fields requests in every style from country to R&B, and with producers wanting verses in the style of Tame Impala or The Weeknd, Daramola also makes it a point to remain flexible. Once, a producer in Ukraine contacted him while working on a rap-style track. She sent him a demo and requested some bars. “I don’t consider myself a rapper,” Daramola mused, “but on SoundBetter, I’m able to actually use that piece of my artistry.”
Opportunity and growth in step
As both ShiShi and Daramola can confirm, SoundBetter can open up the doors to a large volume of work, which means that quick turnarounds can be vital. After joining the platform, Daramola had to change his approach to writing music. “It actually made me a better songwriter,” he said, explaining that having lots of deadlines means having many opportunities to grow. “You can develop the capacity to write songs quickly. That has translated for me when I’m in sessions with artists. SoundBetter gave me an opportunity to work my songwriting muscles.” And with requests coming in from all over the world, the work continues to keep Daramola on his toes.
ShiShi has found that SoundBetter is an expanding spiral: The more work he does, the more samples he has to show clients, and the more often clients are interested in working with him. “A lot of those songs [from clients] are on my profile,” he said. Often, people will message him and refer to one of his own track samples as something they want their music to sound like. “And the person featured on the sample is [often] someone I met on SoundBetter,” ShiShi says.