[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
For many, many years, people tended to stick to what they knew in the music world. They identified as fans of a certain genre, they loved the bands who operated in that sphere, and the masses largely didn’t explore sounds and acts who didn’t fit under the labels they’d carefully chosen for themselves. This was also true of the Billboard charts and the playlists compiled by the biggest radio stations in most Western nations, which only selected new tunes in one language and perhaps one style.
A number of factors, from social media to streaming platforms to general globalization, have helped all that change, and now millions of people don’t care about anything other than how good a song sounds. Descriptors that once could rule a tune out for countless listeners—genre, artist, and even language—aren’t as important as they used to be.
One of the longest-running No. 1 hits of all-time in the U.S., Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito,” was performed in Spanish and English, and it ruled for months. BTS, who sing and rap and speak primarily in Korean, are perhaps the most successful band in America of the past several years, and they can’t stop accruing No. 1 albums!
Now that music lovers have changed their minds about what matters, this is the time for every act to explore recording with musicians from other countries and to consider making their catalog multilingual—here’s why.
1. Great Art Is Great Art!
Before we dive into what benefits can be gained in terms of streams, sales, followers and such, first thing’s first: the art! You should explore working with other artists and writing and recording in a language other than your own simply for the artistic merit of it all! You never know what can happen when you broaden your artistic horizons and try new things, and even by finding inspiration in just one culture, country or language other than your own, you could immediately become excited to create like never before.
Once you start, you may find that while there are certainly challenges associated with working with acts on the other side of the world or trying to translate what managers and producers are saying, the music that comes from all that hard work will surely be worth the effort.
I encourage you to start with one figure whose music you enjoy (this may mean stepping outside of what you normally listen to and discovering any number of new acts) and just one language and see how it goes. You don’t need to include every tongue in your discography, but mixing things up in almost any sense is always worth trying as an artist.
2. New Fans
Whenever you work with another solo musician or band and you collaboratively release something together, you are automatically introduced to those who follow that act. Some of them may already know you if you make similar music and you exist in the same world, or everyone who listens to what you two cooked up may hear your name and art for the first time. Either way, new listeners and potential fans is always a good thing, and once you’ve got them hooked with one tune, do everything you can to entice them to hear more, follow you, and become die-hard followers of yours as well.
3. A New Part Of The World
When it comes to partnering with a musician who performs in another language, who crafts tunes that might sound completely different from what you record and who lives in another country, the chances that you’re reaching new people who have never even heard of you is great. If your goal (one of your goals) is to go completely global with your music, collaborating with someone who already has a foothold in another market is one of the best ways to make that dream a reality.
If you don’t go this route, you may wind up spending years trying to get on festival bills, wasting money on advertising in other territories, or attempting to reach streaming playlists, radio DJs and the media who haven’t heard of you. It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s much, much tougher if those are your only options for global domination.
4. The Potential To Tour
If you spend time and write, produce, record and release a song that ends up becoming a fan favorite among your new friend’s fans, not only have you introduced yourself to them successfully, but you have opened a lot of doors. You can now consider how you can expand on your new win, possibly with more collaborations, partnerships with other acts in the same part of the world or who speak the same language, or even to tour somewhere you’ve never been before.
Selling tickets to any concert can be hard as an underground act just getting started, and it’s even more difficult in a market that is largely unknown to you. If you open for your new collaborator and perform your new single together, it makes the show a special event and it gives you a chance to further impress listeners who may otherwise only know you for one track.
And, once you’ve played even just one concert in another nation, now you may have a better shot at working with bookers and promoters to play shows, festivals or even full tours, as you’ve already got one win to your credit.