Whenever you see two artists working together unexpectedly—like Cardi B and Maroon 5 or Skrillex and A$AP Rocky—and the song becomes a hit, you should know it’s not an accident. Instead it’s science, according to a recently published study titled “The ‘Featuring Phenomenon In Music.”
Over the past two decades, songs that songs featuring another artist have risen exponentially on the Billboard Hot 100, the study found. Songs featuring other artists also have a greater likelihood of breaking into top 10 than songs by a standalone artist. What’s more—the starker the contrast between two artists collaborating, the higher chance their song has in breaking into the top of the charts.
According to the researchers, this stands in opposition of expectations, as “artists who deviate from existing genres are expected to be penalized for violating collective expectations and norms.” But collaboration inherently has a different approach. Instead by combining the “expertise of specialists in each genre”—as well as targeting those specialists’ musical audiences—artists “are able to produce more successful songs.
“I expected ‘featuring’ represented a route for chart success, and indeed it was, [but] I was surprised by how fast such phenomenon spread outside the hip-hop genre where it originated,” the study’s lead author Andrea Ordanini told Rolling Stone.
Ordanini, who is also a marketing professor at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, plans to continue her research with the study’s co-author Joseph Nunes, a marketing professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. They plan on determining what role authorship of songs has in chart success, and whether if combining different genres could lead to similar success in movies and TV.
“While we do not have evidence in other contexts outside of music, if our explanation is correct, we should be able to see more appreciation by fans of genre-blending collaborations in other cultural industries such as movies or entertainment,” Ordanini said.