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What we learned about creative collaboration from artists at SXSW


Published on March 20, 2017

Last week, we had the pleasure of talking with an inspiring group of musicians, designers, podcasters, and comedians at the 2017 South by Southwest Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas. Our goal was to find out how some of the most brilliant minds in the world collaborate on their creative work. 

One recurring theme was the importance of taking risks and finding ways to step out of your comfort zone. In almost every interview, we heard about creative breakthroughs that happened when they were most willing to let themselves be vulnerable.

Each artist had their own unique story to tell about the ways their work improved when they invited others into their process. Many mentioned the importance of the trust and chemistry in their relationships with their collaborators. Those were factors that made it feel less like work and more like—as Bridgit Mendler put it—a “labor of love.”

For some creative pros, taking risks meant reaching out to people they admired and asking if they wanted to work together. For others, it meant getting past the fear of criticism when they ask for feedback. In other cases, risk taking meant being willing to let go of control, go with the flow, and follow an idea wherever it took them—even when it meant keeping the happy accidents. In this clip, Cindy Wilson of the B-52s tells us how a famous moment in Love Shack” came from an improvisation. 

Another common theme was the way social media served as a connecting point for artists who wanted to work together, even if they’d never met in person. ROZES gave us the inside story of how one collaboration began on Twitter.

In our interview with Sasheer Zamata, we learned that sometimes the funniest sketches came from collaborations with the most serious actors—and other surprisingly multi-talented hosts.

The major takeaway? Technology might be the tool that brings these creative leaders together, but the relationship between the collaborators is the true engine of creation. And the spark that’s created when two or more people bring ideas to the table consistently produces strong, sometimes unexpected, results.

Stay tuned for more creative insights from the SXSW Dropbox Studio. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to catch more behind-the-scenes looks from our interviews at SXSW.