With much of the world forced to cease socialising as normal, many musicians have been desperately searching for ways to keep the music going from home. Indeed, with so many people feeling isolated, it’s never been more important to connect with each other. Yet, the technology hasn’t always allowed for satisfying remote music collaboration.
Thankfully, all that is changing. As in so many other sectors, humankind has stepped up to the challenge of Covid and refused to be beaten. Necessity really is the mother of invention.
Let’s take a look at some exceptional options for remote music collaboration.
Firstly, we need to understand the different needs of different musicians. Choirs have almost entirely different requirements to mastering engineers, for example, and so the platform that works for one may not work for another.
Most musicians seeking remote collaboration tools fall into one of three categories:
In practice, jammers and songwriters/producers/engineers have broadly similar needs, while ensembles tend to have the more unique requirements. This is largely because ensembles usually need to perform with acoustic instruments or voices, and may have significantly differing levels of audio production/IT knowledge within the same group.
Those wishing to ‘jam’ with electronic or ‘plugged in’ instruments have more in common with those seeking remote music production or recording collaborations. As a result there is some crossover between these groups, depending on the platform and what it offers.
I’ve divided the categories in ways that can overlap between the 2nd and 3rd categories of users.
It’s a conundrum that many have tried to resolve, with varying degrees of success. For live performance collaborations, such as choirs, bands and ensembles, Zoom has become the medium of choice for many. However, other platforms may be less familiar, but offer superior performance and sound quality. The standouts are Bandjam, Jamkazam and Soundjack, which offer musician-focused design and commitment to latency reduction.
Each of these have a musician-focused user interface and low latency.
Jamkazam also has a tailor-made platform for providing online music tuition, which may make it invaluable to instrument teachers.
There’s a caveat, even with the superior sound quality of Bandjam, Jamkazam and Soundjack. While low-latency, the further the distance between performers, and the greater the number of participants, the greater the latency will be. They may not be perfect, but are still a highly useful tool for those missing the buzz of playing together.
Electronic musicians with iOS devices are neatly covered by a new product that emerged from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Endless Studio/Mobile is a platform for creating music collaboratively in real-time on the Endlesss app or desktop module. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNc9wqCa7BM
In fact, along with Soundtrap (by Spotify), Splice Studio, Soundstorming and Trackd, Endlesss is an example of a hybrid between remote ‘live’ performance collab and music production collab platform. These hybrids can serve as both jam-station and full production platform for remote collaborators. However, all participants need to migrate to the products’ cloud-based platforms. This can be daunting if you’re more comfortable and efficient working in your own DAW.
Furthermore, Soundstorming and Trackd require you to use your phone or iOS device, which may not be a convenient platform.
The process of collaborating live is fraught with difficulties, from latency to low-res audio, sync and platform-compatibility issues. It’s the same with studio collaboration.
And, like live collaboration, studio collaboration has seen remarkable advances in recent times, sped up by additional new demand.
Some focus on file-sharing: Uploading home-recorded stems as audio files via a cloud-platform. There are several great products such as TrackdPibox and TrackdAudio Movers which are designed with musicians and music producers in mind. You can quite quickly share high-quality audio even if your collaborator is on a different DAW and/or platform. However, this convenience is mitigated by the need for considerable rendering time: Each stem must be bounced from DAW to collaborators and back.
Some DAWs have created platforms to allow their users to collaborate together. Ableton Link, Avid Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration and Reaper’s Ninjam have solid platforms for collaborating with others using the same DAW.
Although, since Ableton Link requires collaborators to be on the same internet network, it’s not the most universally useful platform.
Furthermore, while Reaper’s Ninjam is fast and fun, it uses compressed audio, maing it unsuitable for most professional uses.
Avid Cloud is most definitely a professional option, with the only downside being its cost – it isn’t free – and the requirement that all participants are Pro Tools users.
Now we get to the sticky part. Sticky, because what I say next could be considered mere sales puff.
And I can prove it.
While other collaboration platforms have different values and will suit some more than others, we believe Satellite Sessions to be the superior choice for most remote music collaborations.
You read that right – whatever DAW you use, simply load Satellite Sessions as a plugin instrument and you can instantly work with collaborators on any other DAW. Without ever leaving your own DAW.
*We haven’t tested every DAW yet, but it works beautifully on those we have.
Not only can you work with users on any DAW, it doesn’t matter what platform they use, either.
Capture audio pre-FX or post-FX. Or capture the Send/Return output only. Want to capture and share a bus or submix? Go for it! It’s up to you.
Satellite Sessions shares audio in record-breaking speed. It’s almost real-time.
A collaborator thousands of miles away or right around the corner can upload audio to Satellite Sessions and within seconds, you can download it directly to an audio channel in your own DAW.
From Satellite Sessions 2.0 onwards, you can share your MIDI clips as well as audio. Collaborators can download your MIDI, edit it and send it back in seconds – without anyone leaving their DAW!
Or, just one. The functionality never changes no matter who’s in the session.
You won´t ever again need to send thousands of MB of stems to your collaboration partners. All you need to do is invite your friends to your Session and they can download the audio right there from your session.
Once sessions are recorded you can download the audio to your DAW. You can even crop sections so you only download the parts you want to use. Then, make edits in your DAW and upload it again. Everyone in the session can hear the changes.
Whether you want to work solo on more than one device, or with a whole team, your files will be safely stored in the cloud. An extra layer of security for your music.