I meet a lot of people online. It’s one of the perks of running a website. I’ve even made…dare I say it?…friends online. (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry. I think they’re all normal, law-abiding citizens.)

Anyway, it’s no secret that the internet can connect you with exponentially more people than you could ever meet “offline.” So what does this mean for us recording engineers?

Well, let’s take a step back. What are your goals for your home studio? Are you looking for new clients? Are you trying to find musicians to play on your material? Or do you live in a small town with very few musicians and you simply want to meet some like-minded folks?

As cheesy as it may sound, the internet is a GREAT place to collaborate with people. I’m not saying we should ignore the normal methods of finding clients, other musicians, etc. Going to concerts, writers nights, local AES meetings, etc. is still a great idea. Keep doing those things.

But don’t write off the internet as a way of expanding your home studio. You could be ignoring one of the best things that could happen to you as an engineer.

Today’s assignment – Think of one way you’re going to utilize the internet to collaborate with someone else this summer. Tell us what you’re going to do by leaving a comment below.

Here are three quick examples of how I’m collaborating online right now:

  • Songwriter Demos – An HSC reader told his friend about me. His friend is a songwriter and wanted to hire someone to do full-band demos of the songs he’s written. He hired me. Ironically, he lives right here in the Nashville area, but we’ve not met in person. He emailed me the song details and a rough recording, and I took it from there.
  • Mail-Order Bass Player – My brother-in-law Joel is a bass player. He played bass on my album. A friend of mine back in Indiana needed a bass player. I virtually introduced them via email. Now, without ever meeting, Joel is playing bass on this guy’s record.
  • Mail-Order Producer – I mentioned Monday how I’m co-producing Kevin‘s new album. I’m also mixing and mastering it. While he DID physically come to Nashville from California to record vocals, the rest of the album will be handled “virtually.” He’ll send me files. I’ll send him files.

With upload/download speeds becoming faster and faster, there’s really no reason you can’t collaborate with ANYONE in the world.

Okay, homework time. Leave your comment. I need at LEAST 10…

[Photo by Kevin Marks]

29 Responses to “Why You Should Collaborate Online”

  1. JR

    Yes I have been collaberating with other musicians on line for over 20 years now!!
    I first meet people in a chatroom enviroment where they were pretty much singing songs in a open room (with PC recording/listening) and I showed them how to back then, hookup your mixer to PC so they had better sound over net use of drum machines or programs like cubase cool edit ect. then I meet a keyboardist in Scottland that till this day we have worked on 7 songs together and we have never meet!!
    I belive it is the future of many bands places like inadaba.com with online studios are becoming the norm…

  2. Cody @ Captive Records

    My friend and I are in a band together. He is in a Vietnam and I am in Saudi Arabia. So this wouldn’t be possible without the internet. It’s great.

    Also,being separated means that there are no live shows. Of course, with just two of us, and relying heavily on virtual instruments, live shows would be tough anyway. So, in addition to relying on the internet for making our songwriting and recording possible, we’ll be relying solely on the net for distribution and building an audience for our album once it’s finished.

    You can check out more info about us, about working online and from home studios, and about our album’s progress and our other projects at CaptiveRecordsMusic.com.

  3. Julian

    One way I plan to utilize the Dropbox this summer to get my closest music friends hear some demo & scratch noodlings, and get feedback on. I also have a piano/bass player lined up out of Salt Lake City, once I get my songs up to snuff. Plug– get his new very cool album over here: http://pukkarecords.blogspot.com/2010/06/finished-and-free.html

    I also know this one guy who runs a cool blog out of Nashville who I can contact for musician & production assistance as well. πŸ˜‰

    • christopher [chrisw92]

      nice album, going straight to my USB drive for my car.

  4. DukeBuzzy

    I had a teacher who’s also half of electronica duo Geek Weekend – one guy in Toronto, the other in Berlin. How do they jam? Skype. Turns out the delay involved is an accidental strength; the music is less about rhythm & more about atmosphere & how they react to each other.

  5. Greg Speier

    These are all great ideas. I think for my next tune I will try to find musicians on-line that can create the tracks that I’m not as good at myself (drums, bass, piano/keys…my forte is guitar/vocals). It’s worth experimenting with at the least. I have also found that I enjoy creating guitar tracks on other folks’ songs (be happy to help out any of you guys/gals if you are in need).

    On another note…Joe, when you mentioned the “local AES meeting,” what is that? Audio Engineering Society? Association of Edgy Songwriters? Anybody Else Serious (about making music)? Help a brother out here.

  6. Vosa

    Its really fun collab online..but unlike you professionals,its easier for amateur up-coming producers like me… I’m an African producer and all i do is make nice fruity loops instrumentals and get Rap cats to do bars on it in their home studio and send the wav’ file and i’ll just finish it up with an hook and Voila! we have an African/American Collab…
    I cant have enuff of it…

  7. Todd Cumpston

    I just did some of my first collaboration on line… I needed a guitar part for a song, and sent a mix to a guitar buddy of mine. He sent me his take, I listened, cut it up, made a new mix with the parts I liked, and sent it back with my comments. We just got through our 3rd go ’round, and we now have a really good guitar part. It was a good way to work for both of us, as we are too busy to get together in person, and can work this out on our free time. I get a great guitarist on my track, he gets to play and will get properly (and copiously) credited when the track comes out. As they say, it’s a WIN/WIN situation. I wanna try some songwriting this way to see if that could work.

  8. christopher [chrisw92]

    once again great tips. I never before thought of the internet as a way to “Mail-Order” people. It seems so simple! how did I not think of it before.

    • christopher [chrisw92]

      File transfer protocol.

      basically its a way to send files from your computer to a server (or web page) and visa-versa. its perfect for loads of files although it can be slow at times.

  9. Bobby Musselman

    I was talking to gtr player friend of mine in Virginia that uses SKYPE to practice songs in REALTIME with a bass player in North Carolina and a sax player in TN!!!! He told me the trick was to turn off video send and there’s hardly any latency!!! Wow! Real-time Online music making!!

  10. Aldo

    a forum for collabs would be a great! i have trouble finding musicians in my area and doing collabs over the net would be really cool!

  11. Jed Wunderli

    Joe – I have always loved the idea of this. I’m just wondering about how it would work if I use Cubase and I wanted your brother-in-law to play bass on my album, as an example, what are the steps that it would take to make it happen? How do I ultimately get a single bass track back into Cubase if he is using ProTools? I think I have an idea but I’m sure you know so please enlighten. Thanks.

    • Dave Chick

      Internet collaboration is definitely a fun thing to do, however, one of the downfalls (not all the time) I’ve come across is the speed at which things progress. It sometimes is a benefit though: you don’t get the instant gratification of bouncing ideas off someone in the same room, but you do get some well-thought-out parts back.

      If you’ve ever been over at the mixerman forums, you’ll be familiar with the “CAPE” sessions – I think they’re up to #9 now – online collaboration. Not so much writing collaboration, but rather recording.

      Regardless, they’ve got a pretty good system in terms of trading tracks back and forth – typically, there’s one point-person who wrangles the mixes, so he/she sets down the tempo map and the rough guide track to the group. There’s usually a two or three bar click-in on the scratch track that everyone keeps at the head of their tracks to sync things up.

      Trading MP3’s back and forth is done to hash out the ideas, but then when it comes to final tracks, the group decides on a format and bit/sample rate.

      Some folks have FTP sites or other kinds of forum-based tools, but Dropbox or YouSendIt are always good fall-backs to trade files.

    • Joel

      Joel (the bass player) here…

      With other people I’ve collaborated with, we’ve shared WAVs on Dropbox – you Drop a Wav of your song (mixed fairly well, but doesn’t need to be perfect or final) and a chord chart in Dropbox, then I record bass and Drop a WAV of JUST the bass back – then you can mix the Bass WAV into Cubase how you want to.

      The longest/hardest part is the uploading/downloading – but well worth it to get quality parts on your songs.

  12. Ed

    I work with people from Alaska to Australia over the internet, and still have room for more.
    There is a very sweet and funny young lady in Los Angeles named Pheobe Carter (http://www.phoebecarter.com/)who helped sing chorus’ for me on a tune via transferring files over the internet and a friend named Jim also in L.A. worked some percussion on another tune again via files sent.
    I have written music for lyricists in New Hampshire, Alaska, New Jersey, and Minnesota all while I sit at my current home in Okinawa, Japan.

    I am available for guitar, bass, and other instrumentation either actual or by midi.

    I am a Sonar 8.5 Pro user, but still appreciate the comments Joe brings via his website and podcasts.

  13. TakeAwayTracks.Com

    Ciao Joe,

    last year I played on a song that a D.J. was producing: I went to his studio to record my guitar, then, after a couple of week, he asked me to play on another song: he recorded the singer in Rome and he put the takes on his hard disk, to work in his studio.

    I proposed him to record guitars in my homestudio (I have a lot of stuff that is impossible to put all together in my car!) and I also proposed to comp/edit the singer’s voice.
    After a couple of hours of work he had to go home, but I had to finish it… so he said “Send me all the tracks by internet, so I have a preview this evening… Tomorrow I’ll come with my hard disk!”

    The same night I started to think… and the morning after I start to “build” TakeAwayTracks.Com!

    Now, after 1 year, I have a great team of musician/friends, clients, and some songs out where I worked on as musician/arranger or as engineer: the last one is a soundtrack for an iPhone/iPad game: “1112, Episode 02”, where I tracked “our” singer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXzDjdKopa4

    In this song I just tracked her voice in my homestudio for the final version: she was composing/arranging via mail with the sound designer in France! That’s cool… everyone can do it, but 10 years ago it would be unbelievable!

    Internet is an HUGE opportunity!

  14. Dave

    I’ve collaborated with some folks on Kompoz and met some really nice people. I haven’t checked out Soundcloud yet, but Indaba looks promising.

    As for a side note, this may or may not be true, but Transatlantic (the prog band made up of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Pete Trewavas, and Roine Stolt) reportedly made their first album (SMPTe) together virtually collaborating over the internet instead of meeting each other in a live recording studio. Of course, I don’t know how true that is but I do know of other bands who have done such a thing.

    • Dan

      I’ve heard that The Postal Service records like that. I also heard that half of Pelican’s members had moved from Chicago to LA before they wrote/recorded “What We All Come To Need”, but I don’t know whether they congregated to record it.

  15. Charlie

    Good idea Joe.
    I recently collaborated with a guy who does movie soundtracks. He uses iDisk http://www.apple.com/mobileme/features/idisk.html
    It worked out well be cause they were large wav files.
    I also use a web hosting service (FTP) for $4.99 per month and free FTP software (Filezilla). It is usually faster than http to upload and download.

  16. Jason

    Online collaboration is a must now days. I even do it with members of my own band. Sending riffs and beats back and forth between jam sessions. It makes the time spent together that much more productive.

  17. Fathomless Regression

    If you guys haven’t checked out Indaba yet, you should. Great place to find collaborators. Also, Soundcloud is very cool.

    So far, of everyone who has contributed musically to my latest album, not one of them has set foot in my studio.

  18. Dan

    I’m trying to put together an online collaboration with a guy I used to play with, who now lives a day’s drive away. I’ve heard some great collaborations from people who have met over at the RPM Challenge (rpmchallenge.com ; site is kind of dead right now though due to some HW problems).

    Maybe I should just take the plunge and post about collaborations. I keep thinking about posting on my local Craigslist for a recording-only project, because I know I don’t have time to be in a “real”, performing band, and I’m afraid I won’t even have time to devote to collaborating with people on recording. The other thing I wonder about is if you then decide to put together something and sell it, how to make sure everybody feels they’re getting fair dealings.

    I’ll look forward to your post on how to go about the collaboration – I keep thinking of trying out Indaba’s online DAW, but I’m sure you have some better ideas too πŸ™‚

  19. Dipendra

    Cool post. I love the idea of collaborating online but I still would like to see better tools for collaborating emerge. Dropbox is great but still a bit limiting in terms of storage space for bigger projects. RiffWorks and RiffWorld is a great concept too for collaborative and interactive songwriting.


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