Chances are if you are someone who is involved with music in any way—a musician, producer, songwriter, engineer—that you are not flying solo 100%. Collaborating, communicating and just keeping things straight can get to be a challenge pretty quick. There are a few tools that I have found to be very useful in collaborating with others, whether they are in town or another part of the world. But it’s not just the tools, but it’s how you use them and getting everyone involved to use them too. The fact is that these are just tools used as part of a process. If the people you are collaborating with do not use the tools, then the usefulness of those tools decreases.
For me and the people I work with, I set up Dropbox to share media files such as MP3’s, DAW files and any images or artwork, Evernote to share lyrics, charts, notes, set sheets, documentation, etc. and Facebook Messenger for conversation. There is nothing magical about these tools in particular, just that they are ones that I use and have found to be invaluable in our workflow. Dropbox, in particular, allows us to collaborate on recording projects, which is our primary focus, while we live spread out between here and Nova Scotia. I can drop a mix into Dropbox for our Canadian bassist and get his bass track back in as much time as it takes him to lay the track down—a thousand miles away!
For text-based files I use Evernote. I use this tool extensively in all areas of my life, including collaborating with the guys. This allows us to craft song lyrics and charts and then share them instantly. Evernote is available on just about every desktop and mobile platform out there, and we all have smartphones which we do most of our interaction with, except for working with DAW files. Both Dropbox and Evernote have sharing capabilities that allow me to share a Dropbox folder or Evernote notebook with the guys. Any time a file or document gets updated, we are notified of the change.
We use Facebook Messenger for messaging, mainly because it seems to flow better and has a better group conversation experience than simple text messaging, especially with a mixture of platforms. Again, there is nothing necessarily magical or irreplaceable about any one of these tools—there are plenty of competing apps out there that do the same basic things. The important thing is that there are tools available, and all of the ones I have described are freely available even though I do pay for additional Dropbox storage, and Evernote Premium for features that I don’t necessarily use in music collaboration.
This is truly the greatest time to be alive as a musician as technology has not simply leveled the playing field and torn down barriers to the average musician, but has introduced so many great apps and platforms that allow us to do what even the “big guys” couldn’t do 20 years ago. There are so many other tools out there that can be used to make our musical lives easier and help reduce the amount of time we spend mucking around with things just to be able to make music, instead of actually making music, which is what it is all about.
What tools are you using to make your musical lives easier, better and more productive? Just drop a line below in the comments and share what is in your toolbox!