Collaboration among musicians is nothing new to the business. The Beatles, for one, were formed as a result of several individuals deciding to work together as a group, all the way back in the late 1950s.
Then there is the fact that quite a number of songs are the products of collaborations between individual artists (not in the same group or band), or between artists and producers.
Many collaborations have turned out to be huge hits over the years; songs such as “Endless Love” with Lionel Richie featuring Diana Ross, “The Girl is Mine,” with Michael Jackson featuring Paul McCartney, and “Set the Night to Music” with Roberta Flack featuring Maxi Priest, being just a few examples from back in the day.
In recent times there have been tons of joint efforts with people like Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Mark Ronson, et al, and this trend is continuing to grow.
Technology and Collaboration
One of the driving forces behind more musicians working together is the rapid growth in technology. In 2017, the practice of collaborating online to make music is well advanced and evolving further. Anyone can now reach out to other creative-minded individuals, whether they are a mile down the road, or half-a-world away, and work together on putting a song or piece of music together in quick time.
Collaboration helps to remove the barriers of distance and the cost of using traditional music studios, as well as making it easier to acquire the services of busy professionals, anywhere they are in the world.
However, online song collaboration isn’t all a bed of roses.
In fact, without proper planning or using suitable platforms to accomplish what you are after, your collaborative effort could turn out to be a grand waste of time.
Whether you have tried it before or are contemplating a partnership for your next musical project, there are a few best practices to follow to make sure you get the right sound and feel from your completed project:
1. Accurate Communication is Key
Online song collaboration makes working together quicker and more convenient but it doesn’t necessarily mean messages are transferred as succinctly as they should. It is easy for misunderstandings to happen or for assumptions to take place, which could cause a project’s expected results to veer away from what you had in mind.
To prevent this, you need to define what your song is about and the message you want to send.
You also want to be clear on the genre you want the song to be in – be aware that the collaborators you choose to work with are often influenced by genre. If necessary, you could provide a reference song, in addition to a rough mix, so that there is a starting point for everyone.
2. Choose a Suitable Platform
There are a number of options to choose from when collaborating with other music professionals:
These are primarily cloud storage platforms, including Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive.
These allow anyone with email access and the corresponding permissions to access the various music files required for putting the song together. Collaborators can add raw WAV files of tracks, as well as lyric sheets that all parties can view and/or edit depending on the assigned roles.
These file-sharing services allow each person to see edits as they are being made, as well as a history of the changes, and some even offer live chat capabilities and email integration to facilitate ongoing communication.
To get the best of any of these services, it is important that all parties agree on which one to use, and that each collaborator knows how to make use of its features. Each comes with different benefits, so you may want to discuss beforehand which cloud storage service will work best for all.
This is the latest option for online music collaboration. Tunedly is essentially a professional online music recording studio that combines file-sharing with a number of collaboration tools such as live chat and video.
More importantly, it makes it easier for anyone who might be looking for collaborators to find professional musicians from anywhere in the world.
Tunedly curates a variety of vetted session musicians – including Grammy-winning standouts and recognized names who have worked with the best in the music business.
Using Tunedly is easy; you are required to create a free account to get on board and access its services. Once you’re in, you can browse through the extensive list of musicians and choose the ones you would like to collaborate with. You can then upload your files, including stems and lyric sheets and connect with your musician through the live chat or video service, to provide instructions and discuss ideas.
All this is guided by a dedicated online project manager to ensure the collaboration process is seamless.
Another feature of Tunedly is being able to set up a free, professional EPK (Electronic Press Kit), which you can use to share your completed projects with anyone you think might be interested.
3. Be Clear on Who Owns What
One of the most important points to discuss when doing online song collaboration (or any professional music partnership) is declaring who will own what. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for numerous lyricists, composers, and producers to receive credit for one song – Rihanna and Drake’s “Work,” for example, had all of nine people credited.
The importance of defining roles is really for the purposes of identifying who should receive royalty payouts, and how much, if and when the finished project is released commercially.
Obviously, the more people who collaborate on a song, the less each will receive for their input. However, each party will need to come to an agreement as to what percentages they are willing to settle for from the get go.
Prior discussions in a bid to come to an agreement will help to prevent claims and lawsuits later on, especially if the song becomes a major success.
Referring back to Tunedly, the platform helps to remove ambiguity where this is concerned while protecting music creators. To begin with, it allows music creators to keep all rights to their music, as all services are conducted as “work for hire” agreements. This is particularly attractive, especially when people rely on collaborations to bring their songs to life, but are not comfortable giving up huge chunks of ownership to what they are bringing to the table in the first place.
4. Ensure You are Working With Professionals
In any successful joint partnership, all parties have the required expertise and equipment in order to properly fulfill their role. The last thing you want to do is entrust your project to someone who might not have the necessary skill level to bring out the best in your song, especially if you are paying for their services or giving up some of the ownership to your work.
Music listeners on a whole like to hear high-quality audio that allows them to enjoy the vocals, the instruments and the lyrics. Moreover, if you plan to pitch your songs to record labels, artists, or music supervisors, a clean, professional sound is the first thing they will be listening for. Anything less will most likely result in your song being passed over for something else. With the competition that currently exists in the business, the quality of your demo or full song is one thing that you want to be working in your favor.
To ensure you are collaborating with people who are skilled in their field, check out their online bios, past works, and any reviews that might exist from others who have utilized their services in the past.
5. Express Your Creativity
Whereas recording in a traditional music studio setting is likely to rob you of creative control, online song collaborations might make it easier for you to express your creativity. For one, the partnership setting might help to facilitate the sharing of ideas more easily, even if everyone is in different geographic locations.
However, some people have pretty strong personalities, which often crowd out others and diminish the whole point of collaboration. This is something you have to be conscious about in order to ensure the finished project is in keeping with your distinctive brand and sound.
Your Next Online Collaboration?
A physical gathering place is no longer necessary to make meaningful music. All that is needed is a working computer and high-speed internet connection to make online song collaboration a reality for you.
But to make it really work for you, communicate accurately (and expect accurate communication from others), choose the best platform for all parties, begin with clear agreements regarding ownership (or use work for hire services and retain all ownership), make sure your collaborators meet professional standards, and maintain your creative control. The technology is there: with these best practices, your online collaboration will bring you the most success and personal satisfaction.
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