When Maroon 5 and Cardi B teamed up for the cross-genre hit “Girls Like You” last year, the collaboration got some raised eyebrows — but also more than a fair amount of interest from listeners, who helped the song scoot its way to the top of the charts. These kinds of novelty plays are not only increasingly abundant, but increasingly successful, according to a recently published study titled “The ‘featuring’ phenomenon in music.”
The study found that songs with “featured” artists have grown exponentially on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart over the last two decades, and that songs with those additional performance credits — particularly ones that invited over an artist from another genre — actually had a greater likelihood of making it into the top 10 than songs with one artist. The greater the degree of cultural difference between the artists, the more successful the song appeared to be in terms of chart position.
The study’s authors suggest that that success arises from the adeptness of collaborating artists from different musical styles at combining “the expertise of specialists in each genre” as well as co-mingling their audiences, first and foremost by carefully selecting the musicians that best complement their brand. In short: Collaborations are never as random as they appear.
“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,” Andrea Ordanini, a marketing professor at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy and the lead author of the report, tells Rolling Stone.
Ordanini and co-author Joseph Nunes, a marketing professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, plan to continue their research on how artists from different genres come together to boost a song’s popularity, and also are looking to further examine trends in the music industry by studying the role of authorship in chart success. Research may expand to adjacent fields as well. “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 says.