Long distance collaboration has become something of an industry standard for the past several months (thanks pandemic), but thanks to a number of excellent music apps, doing so has become easier and more fun than ever! Here, we look at nine standouts.
Guest post by Efa Etoroma of Soundfly’s Flypaper
These days, it’s not uncommon to work on music with collaborators and not be in the same room at the same time. As a result, being able to both record yourself and communicate effectively from a remote location is a necessary skill.
In the past, remote collaboration was considered a last resort when time zones and schedules got in the way of deadlines, but today, it’s becoming a more prominent working methodology for bands, let alone producers. Artists Alina Baraz and Galimatias started their project, after meeting on the internet, by sending each other songs and vocals back and forth over social media; they never even meet in person until their album, Urban Flora, was complete.
But remote collaboration can be difficult for many reasons. It’s not always easy to find common ground between DAWs (or versions), send files back and forth, or keep an organized inflow of notes among collaborators. And then finding session musicians to hire without meeting them in person is a whole other issue. To navigate these obstacles, creators need access to digital applications that can help with managing files, cloud storage, video conferencing, seamless session crossover from user to user, and social networks to connect them with other creators.
Here’s a list of nine apps (plus a bonus) that can help meet those needs. Plus, whether you’re working in Logic Pro or Ableton Live, or producing hip-hop or modern pop, Soundfly’s got an online course that’ll help you grow and expand your skills!
1. Avid Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools
This new feature in ProTools allows multiple users to share audio, MIDI, and track edits to mixes remotely within the same ProTools session via the cloud. ProTools also includes a real-time text feature, so you can communicate with your collaborators as you’re editing on a session. Your projects are available anywhere as long as you have a computer with ProTools on it and an internet connection. Pro Tools provides a backup cloud storage location for projects from 100GB to 2TB through its annual subscription plans.
Price: This collaboration feature is available with Pro Tools First (free, but limited), Pro Tools ($29 per month), and Pro Tools Ultimate ($79 per month).
2. Audiomovers ListenTo
ListenTo is a plugin that allows users to stream audio in real-time in high-quality uncompressed audio with minimal latency (0.1-1 second) using a web browser or the receiver plugin. This plugin can be used by mixing engineers who want to listen through mixes with their clients in real-time, as well as engineers who want to record session musicians remotely. An example of both of these applications can be seen in Universal Audio’s Tales from the Switch live stream sessions, where Fab Dupont is recording Louis Cato playing drums, bass, guitar, and singing from a separate space. Fab and Louis’ workflow is very fluid, almost as if they were in the same room.
Price: The ListenTo plugin has a 7-day free trial and then after that, you pay $4 a week or $100 for a year subscription.
3. Bounce Boss
Bounce Boss is a cloud-based service that helps artists, management, and producers keep their music project organized. Bounce Boss eliminates the lag in receiving feedback about projects via email from different collaborators. All of the feedback about each song in your project exists in one place, notifications are sent when an update is made, and it’s very easy to keep track of all versions of projects. Bounce Boss has specific folders to separate different versions, mixes, stems, and reference tracks for your projects, so everything stays organized. This application allows for unlimited users to collaborate with, and provides security by only allowing access to email addresses that you invite.
Price: This application provides 100GB of storage for $36 a month.
Bandlab is a free online DAW that can be used with either your computer or your phone. It features over 200 instruments, guitar, and bass amp simulations and the ability to import and record live audio. The Bandlab app allows you to connect with and collaborate with a global network of creators. This service also provides an algorithmic mastering engine to help you make your recordings sound as good as possible. Bandlab is unique because it has unlimited storage and unlimited undo history, so you can go back to initial versions of songs with ease.
Pibox is a creative music-making tool that functions holistically like a home base for all your collaboration and production needs. If you’re working remotely on a track with a musician or producer, you can leave feedback directly on the waveform for them to see it, you can turn your comments into “to-do” items, and there’s even a chat function to keep the conversation going outside of the track. With Pibox’s file-sharing platform integrated with chat functionality, it’s more an app you’d use between artist and A&R rep, producer, manager, and label contacts, than bandmates. But you can use it however you want!
Price: Pibox comes in a few different editions at different monthly price points for different storage and collaborator plans, from Basic ($4.50), to Standard ($9), to Premium ($18).
Soundtrap is an online DAW that features auto-tune, automation, amplifier simulations, loops, and a variety of instruments. Soundtrap also allows you to share and collaborate in real-time with other artists. With Soundtrap, you can create with your computer, phone, or tablet, and also invite other users to collaborate with you.
Price: Soundtrap has a range of pricing options starting from free up to $14 per month, which comes with over 5,000 loops and over 600 instruments.
7. Ableton Link
Ableton’s Link feature enables users to run two devices in time with each other over a local network or internet connection. This means it’s the only app we’re talking about today that can’t be used across distance. With this feature, you can start and stop the Link-running applications without any cables or special routing. Several iOs and desktop apps work with Link including Audiobus, iMaschine 2, Korg Gadget, and Moog Model 15.
Price: Ableton Link comes in versions of Ableton Live 9.6 and up. Ableton Live 10 comes in Intro ($99), Standard ($449), and Suite ($749) versions.
8. LANDR Musicians Network
LANDR is a multi-faceted company that is largely known for its online algorithmic mastering engine and music distribution service. But last month, they launched the LANDR Network for creators to connect with potential collaborators or clients for paid work. This web network is great for the current pandemic situation because it offers a tailored platform for service-providers in the music industry to connect with one another if they need work done. You can chat with session musicians, producers and engineers for hire, or even just get someone’s feedback on your work-in-progress track. Here you’ll find pros who have worked with luminary artists such as Billie Eilish, Kanye West, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to name just a few.
Price: Free to join, you pay to hire engineers and musicians within the Network.
Sessionwire is a high-quality audio and video interface that allows users to interact with each other while working on different DAWs. This application allows you to share your screen and send audio to your collaborator’s DAW in high fidelity with minimal latency, as well as gives you “talkback” ability, to communicate with musicians in the other studio.
Price: Sessionwire has a free 30-day trial and then after that, you can either pay $15 per month or purchase a yearly plan for $150.
And here’s a bonus.
Although we haven’t tried it, we’ve heard good things about JamKazam; a user-friendly live music platform that enables musicians to play music from different locations in real-time with minimal latency. This free application also has a social network built into it, so you can connect with other musicians and find new bandmates, or join in open jam sessions. JamKazam sessions can be recorded and live broadcast online to YouTube or Facebook. Try it out!
Efa Etoroma, Jr. is a Los Angeles-based professional drummer, composer, and educator who is known for his stylistic versatility, expressive creativity, and his deep musical instincts. He performs and/or records with a variety artists including Moonchild, Sneakout, Ellen Doty, Bennie Maupin, A La Mer, BRNSTRM, The Writers’ Guild, and Sensae. In addition, Efa Jr. serves on the drum set faculty at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California and teaches songwriting and music production at Citystage LA. Efa Jr. uses Yamaha Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Promark Sticks, Humes and Berg Cases, and Remo Drumheads, exclusively.