Working together to create music is the thing that draws most of us – if not all – into music in the first place. From jamming with your friends in your parent’s garage, to getting your first paying gig at the local pub, to signing the record label. Working with other musicians is a factor in all of this. With modern technological advances, including fibre optic (and hyper optic) broadband it has become possible, and sometimes commonplace, to collaborate with others across the world.
This post looks at some of the platforms used to do this, and will focus on the free (or really cheap) platforms. For me, the biggest influences on remote collaboration platforms are the price – how much will it cost to work with people; and the accessibility – how easy is it for others to collaborate with me using the same thing. I will look at two platforms that can be accessed for free – Digital Musician and AudioCommon.
Price: Free, or €2.49/month (£2.24/month) for a “professional” account, allowing for multiple collaborations at once, more room for displayable demo tracks, improved data transfer rate, improved upload and download speeds and the chance to appear on the “Featured Artists & Studios” page.
The first thing I noticed about Digital Musician is how user friendly it appears. Immediately upon clicking “Register” you are given a choice of talents (up to three) and genres (up to three) to display on your profile (I chose Sound Engineering – Sound Design, Sound Engineering – Mixing and Sound Engineering – Mastering as my talents and Film Music, Heavy Metal and Funk as my genres). These allow you to find other artists with similar interests or fill gaps in collaboration groups.
Both the free and paid versions offer access to the DAW – Digital Musician Container (DMC for short) and the plug-in version (DMP) which can be used inside your current DAW. DMContainer works as both the DAW and the communication platform between artists and the Digital Musician server.
The projects work by downloading the project, working on it locally and then synchronising to the Digital Musician servers so the other collaborators can see your work. There is a live video, audio and text chat provided by both the stand alone DAW and the plug in to aid communication.
Price: Free, but with optional subscriptions. Subscriptions are dependent on the artist subscribed to – with some offering free subscriptions.
AudioCommon, at first, doesn’t seem nearly as friendly as Digital Musician. It works more like an online library of stems that collaborators can add and take from. Set up a project, choose who to share with, and then users can download parts of the project to work in their choice of DAW. Then these are re-uploaded to the AudioCommon server to join the other parts.
Subscriptions are not necessary to get the full experience of AudioCommon, as all the features are available from sign up.
Both offer upside, especially due to the non-existent price tag. The DMContainer is a very basic DAW, but could work for assembling ideas or demo tracks quickly and easily. The plugin is useful for other DAWs but can limit the amount of other plugins you can have available – especially using live video chat on a video project for example. There isn’t much screen left after that!
AudioCommon is a great tool for working with current collaborators – your bassist moved away? All sign up and get him to add his parts remotely and upload for mixing. But it is let down by its poor ability to aid in finding new people to work with.
My opinion? Digital Musician to find new collaborators, AudioCommon to work with old ones.