How collaboration makes you more creative: The Calendar Songs story


If sounds like something your primary school art teacher might say while waving her arms around spraying paint everywhere… well it probably is, but there might be something in it. I came across a cute example yesterday of how sharing can make you more creative.

It came up at digital music festival NetAudio London when musician Tamara Barnett-Herrin was talking about her project Calendar Songs. It was a collaborative dance music project she launched because she was frustrated at not being able to find people to work with in dance music . The project dates from a little while ago – 2006-08 but it was pretty avant even for now.

Calendar Songs was a collaborative music project that really fle. She posted a new song on the site once every month for a year – the song had to be composed that month and relate to something that happened that month and then opened it up to remixers.
At the end of the year she created a 12 track album choosing one remix of each of the songs. She got 400 remixes, and invitations to perform all over the place.

And it wasn’t just a way to meet new contributors – Tamara said that the discipline actually made her do better stuff.

She said:
“you throw something into the void and someone would throw it back to you, better. Writing in secret creates an inhibition and a preciousness so being forced to collaborate like that was an intensely liberating experience.”

Of course – there could be downsides too. Someone else just nicking your work for example, without attributing. Someone doing a really bad remix. The fact that you don’t make any money out of what you do.

Music is a natural subject for creative work like this – it would be harder if this were words, or maybe pictures.

Still: interesting.

Listen to all the songs here

Related: The cut to Spotify Free makes the service worse for paying users too

Anna Leach