Yesterday I wrote about why you should collaborate online. Today I want to share with you a few tools that will help you get started.

Obviously, you need to find people to collaborate with. Maybe you’ve got some musician friends who live in another town or another country. If you don’t know anyone who’s willing to collaborate, get involved in an online forum or two, or post an ad on Craigslist.

The Tools

There are a bajillion ways to collaborate online, the simplest being emailing files back and forth. However, this can bog down your email server, and most email services set a limit on file sizes you can attach to a single email.

I like to avoid email attachments as much as possible.

There are plenty of ways to send files. Here are two:

Dropbox

If you haven’t checked out Dropbox.com, you need to. It’s an awesome service. (Check out my Dropbox review here.)

Here are a few reasons I like Dropbox:

  • You can upload and share files publicly or privately.
  • Dropbox creates folders on your computer that sync with the Dropbox server. That means if you drop a file in a shared folder, it is automatically uploaded to Dropbox.com. AND if you’re sharing a folder with someone else, any new files are automatically downloaded their computer as well. Pretty cool.
  • 2 GB of space for free.
  • 50 GB for $9.99/month <—that’s what I have
  • 100 GB for $19.99/month

Some of you may not like the idea of paying for more space, but as long as I’ve used it, it’s been worth it. I create a new shared folder for each person I’m collaborating with. Whenever either of us add something new, we simply email each other and say, “Hey, check dropbox for the new bass line.”

YouSendIt

Another popular file-sharing site is YouSendIt.com. This is a great way to quickly and easily send large files. The recipient receives a download email and downloads the files from the YouSendIt server.

Real-Time Sharing

You can get away with sending files back and forth, but what if you want to work on something at the same time? If you’ve got a decently fast internet connection, then you can utilize a bunch of different streaming services.

Ustream

UStream.tv is my streaming service of choice. The audio quality is actually quite astonishing, AND it’s completely free. Download their new UStream Producer software, which lets you share both your audio AND your computer screen.

This is a great way to share ideas with someone. For example, if I’m trying out a few different things in a mix for someone, I can either bounce several copies of and send each mp3 to him, or I can have him join me for a live Ustream session. Create a show, set it to be password protected (so only the two of us can view it), then play the different mixes for him in realtime, get his opinion, and get back to work!

It’s a pretty sweet setup. If any of you joined me for the live mix session I did last month, you heard how good it sounds. Pretty sweet stuff.

Skype

A number of you mentioned in the comments yesterday that Skype is a fairly easy way to collaborate/practice music with somebody else. Apparently if you do an audio-only Skype call, the lag isn’t too bad!

Online Collaboration Sites

In addition to these other solutions, there are several all-online collaboration sites out there. They’re basically an online-DAW where you can record straight to the website interface. I’ve never messed around with them, but from what I’ve heard they seem pretty cool and would be worth a look. A few examples:

Share your ideas!

Hopefully this articles gives you some practical places to start. Do you have other suggestions? Questions? Share them in the comments section now. You know the drill, 10 comments, please.

By the way…THANK YOU for being an HSC reader. I think you’re really cool. 🙂

[Photo by janelleorsi]

  • Alejandro Navia

    I recommend riffpad.biz.

    Riffpad fosters information flow within the secure environment of an enterprise space. It allows dispersed teams to work together seamlessly and productively.

    Unlike bloated “full featured” software that is difficult to comprehend, it is designed to be simple to learn and use with a vastly reduced learning curve. This makes Riffpad the ideal collaborative platform for small companies.

  • Michael clark

    Nice list of tools. One more option is deploying on premise RHUB online collaboration appliances for conducting webinars, web conferences, online meetings, online presentations etc.

  • Pmsoftwareonline

    There are many benefits to using an Online Collaboration Software
    when you are working on projects with a team that is spread out across
    the world. Even if your entire team is in the same country it can be
    hard to meet up in person to discuss important details of any project.
    Here we will tell you a few of the benefits that an online collaboration
    software can offer you when you are working on medium or large projects
    with a large team. There are many more benefits than this but you will
    understand from these few things how greatly valuable this tool can be
    for your business.

  • It took me years to realize I am not Todd Rundgren; I CAN’T do it all. Even though I live in Austin, I discovered great players in other cities. For this reason I use and highly recommend esession.com

    The site allows for storage, but provides for direct file transfers back and forth and even transferring entire Pro Tools sessions without having to export individual wave files. You can also shop for talent, negotiate the price for an engineer, production or a musician using the esession tools and they are set up for secured payment between me and whoever I hire. It even keeps track of what I have spent and it is easy to copy and transfer that information into an Excel spreadsheet for Sch C music business deductions. I had been stuck trying to finish a CD started in 2004, but through esession I found a great utility musician in Branson, MO and a mix engineer in Nashville. It is well worth the $19.95 a month that I pay for it and I recommend it highly. You can here examples of the end result here:

    http://www.billcolbert.biz/free_mp3_downloads_-_cd_preview

    the first 2 tracks include Jeff Hale (a great drummer!) and the Bruce Hoffman (the awesome multi instrumentalist utility player) I hired via esession.

    I don’t work for esession, just a really satisfied customer who finally finished his CD!!

    Bill

    • Very impressive — I’m also VERY impressed with the concept of their “Talkback/ Virtual Glass” RTAS plug-in. I suppose on a Mac iChat is just as good, but I love the “pick your talkback mic / go over session notes with the remote musician” feature.
      I’ll check out your CD, thx for sharing

    • Hey Bill,
      Just reading your response regarding the esession site. I must say, their site looks great, but I have to wonder how much is really happening on their site. I logged on to it today, and there is zero job postings. Not to mention their last blog post was in 2009. Just saying – am I missing something?

      • Travis, I know, it is pretty bleak there. I don’t know how big their actual customer base is. The traffic was really light when I joined and has gone down even more. The application sure works well though and I found musicians and engineers through their database that I never would have connected with any other way. Bill

  • Al

    There is also another way. If you have another computer, you can use it for sending or recieving files with Torrent sharing system.
    Yes, it perfectly works for me. I only need to make a torrent file with my BitTorrent and send it to my friend’s email, which is a few kilobytes in size.
    aside from that, I use YouSendIt and it’s really perfect.

  • Joseph Lyons

    I have had dropbox for maybe 1/2 a year now, but I never knew it had sharing capabilities. I used it for some storage. I also used it as a makeshift server for my website I created for my band. So today I went and created a few folders for collaborations and tested them out. This is really great. Thanks Joe for the nice tip.

  • TCM

    After being on indaba, I don’t like it so much, as IMHO it is a bit confusing with an unclear GUI. I am just checking soundcloud, but don’t have enough personal experience.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    Dropbox and skype are great applications, more people should really use them.

  • GlenK

    The age of the big recording studio may come to an end as technology advances and allows virtual on line studios to flourish; with some exceptions of course. The possibilities are endless as to who you can collaborate with. With the right connections, you can have some of the top Nashville players along with L.A. players do your project and never leave your home. Amazing.

  • ThomasN

    How does one put a sync region in a track when sending tracts to your collaborator? And can I send these tracks as wave files? Are there any way to send MIDI information? So many questions, so little computing power.
    And thanks in advance for all your help, all of you are awesome.

    • You really just need to talk with the person you’re collaborating with. I usually just make sure all of my audio/MIDI files start from the very beginning of the session, so that when I receive or send files, I can just drag them all the way to the left, and they’ll be in line.

  • Ox

    Wetransfer.com is also a great tool like yousendit!

    I think on-line collaboration will be the future of audio workflow. I use it to work with my keyboard player down in Cinnci, as I’m in Cleveland