Online music collaboration during COVID-19
Working from home has become the new standard. According to Forbes “Nearly half the U.S. workforce might now be remote workers” and a recent MIT report suggests that “Once businesses and individuals invest in the fixed costs of remote work, they may decide to stay with the new methods.” Expecting no exceptions for the music industry, online music collaboration is likely here to stay.
Although making music in isolation has been the talk of legend even pre-pandemic – artists like Grimes, Kanye and Radiohead retreating to the great beyond to craft their records – there’s still uncertainty to the method’s efficiency. The music business – as deeply collaborative an effort as one might find – is yet to figure out whether the paradigm shift to long distance music collaboration is a setback or an opportunity.
Advantages of remote collaboration
There are significant benefits to remote music company operations. In times of peril, taking advantage of opportunities is key.
The boom in online music collaboration catalyzed the transition to working with digital as opposed to physical assets, opening opportunities for optimization. Digitizing your assets makes automation much simpler, winning you time and resources. According to an article on ChangeFactory, more than 20% of firms that participated in a survey from Forbes reported annual information and data related problems to produce annual costs in excess of $20M. The issue here is lack of access to information. Asset digitization improves access to information, allows for “electronic workflow processes” and creates “one source of truth for each document/item of data”.
No more commuting!
According to an Airtasker study featured in Business News Daily, “Commuting has led at least 1 in 4 respondents to quit a job”. When remote collaboration eliminates commutes, on average employees report “an extra 17 days’ worth of free time as a result.” Freeing up time to build healthy habits and maintain a better work/life balance can lead to a major productivity boost, especially in the music industry where a healthy, readily creative mind is vital. Additionally, reducing your carbon emissions from daily drives can only be a good thing.
Disadvantages of remote collaboration
However, online collaboration compromises on essential elements of the music business. Communication between executives, management, producers, artists and sound engineers is made significantly more difficult.
“Broken telephones” hinder creativity
Working through cluttered inboxes and vague, disconnected feedback makes respecting deadlines unnecessarily complicated. Everything arrives with a lag and runs through a “broken telephone” system. The additional delay also contributes to the lack of “psychological safety” (the comfort of sharing ideas with co-workers), which is already prominent in online collaboration. This phenomenon leads to self-censorship and production companies end up losing out on quality work and time as musicians second-guess themselves out of the clarity of vision required for the music business.
Self-sabotage via cluttered toolbox
Ineffective instrument choice can harm the entire project and multiply your costs. App-switching takes apart project structure, spawning numerous organizational issues. Managing files and information across platforms costs time and effort. It’s hard to have faith in a time frame when you have no idea when the project lands in the manager’s eyeview, not to mention their to-do-list. There’s always a risk of losing your project’s history or the feedback itself, making collaboration futile. Each new tool takes time to master, not to mention the physical costs of running your project through several services – subscription and telecommunication fees take their toll.
When project management suffers, everything suffers, but luckily you can elevate your workflow with advanced remote music collaboration tools.
The struggle of using non-tailored solutions
The most basic approaches to online collaboration are Zoom, Google Hangouts and Teamviewer. Zoom and Google Hangouts, however, present some latency and quality issues – a significant downside when it comes to working with intricate audio. Teamviewer has the same problem and is generally more suitable for teams under three people when working remotely, unless every team member has a powerful computer to give you a moderately fast ping. Apps that structure and transfer files within the service, on the other hand, can considerably reduce upload and download times, which we mentioned in the case study for Universal Production Music.
Asynchronous collaboration tools
Charles Holbrow of the MIT Media Lab recommends “asynchronous or semi-synchronous approaches” instead of aforementioned real-time conferencing. A combination of a storage platform, like Dropbox, and a responsive, adaptive messenger is one way to go about semi-synchronous collaboration. Communication apps like channel-based Slack and multi-utility organizer Flowdock are good, although generalized, instruments.
Trello and Asana offer more adaptive solutions, combining messengers with project management features and cross-platform integration. Nevertheless, app-switching is still a significant problem since cross-platform integration or advanced features enveloping the entire process are lacking in the majority of the tools available.
Remote collaboration with musicians in mind
A sort of collaboration-oriented Dropbox for music, Pibox provides the necessary unified structure for your project to be easily managed, updated and commented on in real-time. Combining communication and cloud-based file storage, Pibox allows you to place and receive feedback directly on the audiotrack, instantaneously. A handy blend of Dropbox, Trello and Asana for musicians, so to speak.
Pibox takes advantage of the opportunities concealed in online music collaboration and digitizing your assets. Some of the application’s management features include automated content transfer between review channels, bulk collaboration structure creation and auto-saving checklist templates. A project-embedded checklist system breaks apart complex tasks and helps keep the entire team on the same page, while the application preserves mix-version history data. The service is equally suitable for working in large teams with different levels of access to the project, featuring separate chat and file storage options for external and internal collaborators.
Since online music collaboration is here to stay, buckling up for the ride is the only right choice. New remote collaboration methods can be a blessing in disguise if you choose to approach this opportunity with the best remote collaboration tools.