It takes two, baby! Feature artist collaborations and streaming demand for music


Over the last 30 years, there has been an increasing tendency for artists to collaborate with ‘feature’ artists on one-off song projects. Although there might be purely artistic reasons for such collaborations, it is not clear a priori if there are also economic returns in terms of increased demand. Furthermore, if there is evidence of increased demand, the natural question becomes whether the mechanism is through a ‘quality’ or ‘promotion’ channel, or a combination thereof. Using weekly US Spotify streaming data from 2017–2018, we investigate these questions. We exploit the fact that many artists in our sample sometimes work alone and sometimes work with feature artists. Additionally, we also exploit the fact that many artists work with multiple features artists, which allows us to examine how (observed) feature artist characteristics affect demand. We find that songs featuring other artists generally outperform songs without feature artists, although there are a number of caveats with respect to the characteristics of the artists involved. Although we do not entirely rule out a quality effect, we conjecture a promotion effect is the primary channel explaining our main result.

Journal of Cultural Economics, 45(3), 385-408