The featuring phenomenon in music: how combining artists of different genres increases a song’s popularity

Abstract

The appearance of songs including featured artists on Billboard’s Hot 100 music charts has increased exponentially in the past two decades. This particular type of creative collaboration involves one artist integrating another artist’s contribution, either instrumentally or vocally, into their work and publicizing it with a “featuring” credit. According to broad literature in sociology on categorical boundaries, artists who deviate from existing genres are expected to be penalized for violating collective expectations and norms. We find songs featuring other artists actually have a greater likelihood of making it into the top 10 than songs not featuring other artists. Additionally, consistent with theorizing about congruency in the co-branding literature, we observe that the greater the difference (cultural distance) between the genres of the artists involved, the more likely the song is to reach the top of the charts. We argue that by combining the expertise of specialists in each genre, as well as comingling audiences while still maintaining each collaborator’s original positioning, artists who feature artists from other genres are able to produce more successful songs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    As of February 2017, Lil Wayne had accumulated the most Billboard Hot 100 appearances among solo artists, appearing 86 times as a featured artist, and 47 times alone or featuring another artist. Drake had appeared 50 times as a featured artist and 82 times alone or featuring another artist. Of course, some artists’ appearances are more skewed; Ray Charles appeared on the charts 74 times, but only two times as a featured artist. In contrast, 31 of T-Pain’s 46 appearances on the Hot 100 have been as a featured artist.

  2. 2.

    On iTunes, hip-hop/rap form a single genre as do R&B/soul.

  3. 3.

    We report the linear components for simplicity; note the curvatures are as expected.

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Correspondence to Andrea Ordanini.

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Andrea Ordanini is a BNP Paribas Professor of Marketing and Service Analytics at Bocconi University. Joseph C. Nunes is a holder of the Joseph A. DeBell Endowed Professorship in Business Administration and Professor of Marketing at University of Southern California. Anastasia Nanni is Ph.D. student in Marketing at Bocconi University.

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Ordanini, A., Nunes, J.C. & Nanni, A. The featuring phenomenon in music: how combining artists of different genres increases a song’s popularity. Mark Lett 29, 485–499 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-018-9476-3

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Keywords

  • Music
  • Genre
  • Category boundaries
  • Hot 100
  • Featuring
  • Artist
  • Co-branding