Music production and recording has come a long way since the days when group of singers huddled in a room around one microphone, trying take after take until they got it just right. The advent of 8-track recorder changed the music landscape of the 60′s, the proliferation of at-home recording software changed the world of music again in the 2000s and now, in the 2010s, Dropbox and other cloud storage technology has ushered us into a new era of long-distance collaboration and a speedier process.
ProTools, Logic, Reason, Garage Band, Reaper…these digital music platforms, platforms used from the highest caliber studios to your average garage band, from big bucks to freebies, have leveled much of the recording/producing playing field and made recording and sequencing available to every level of musician. Today, recording isn’t solely done in lavish studios owned, or contracted, by big record companies. Now, a studio can exist in a basement, a garage, a bedroom; and with the relative ubiquity of these programs among musicians, the advent of cloud storage sites like Dropbox and Mediafire have made it possible for musicians to collaborate easier and faster and from anywhere in the world.
With a software and server setup like Dropbox, a producer can create a beat or song, bounce the file down and then upload the file or tracks to their Dropbox folder. From there a singer or vocalist could download the files, import them into their own DWS (Digital Work Station), record their voice and then send it back through Dropbox. A song could be written and recorded in an afternoon and on two different continents. Of course this doesn’t just apply to producers and singers, bassists could add tracks to a guitarist’s song, samples could be traded back and forth, even mixing and mastering could be swapped back and forth online. Musicians could work side by side to compose songs as Telefon Tel Aviv and the Postal Service have done, the latter naming themselves after the pre-cloud method they used to create their music. Just think, if they’d had Dropbox back then, they could have finished their work in an iota of the time!
Cloud storage has allowed musicians to build a virtual studio in cyberspace where they can open their doors to anyone with an ethernet connection. This development has changed not just the recording game, but much of the workings of the music world. Developing bands can use their software and cloud storage to send practice tracks and ideas back and forth and grow as musicians and composers outside of relying solely on jams and practices. Cloud technology has also allowed musicians to be able to create and access music while on the road, too. A musician on the road can upload tracks or live takes to a producer back in New York or Los Angeles without missing a beat. This also means that musicians can keep working on new material while they’re out working on promoting their current songs. Despite the stigma, musicians love to work and to stay busy; cloud software allows them to do so, to keep contemporary and to not have to worry about the toll traveling can take on their schedule.
The ease of access Dropbox and other similar sites offer also allows musicians to collaborate more with each other. (Of course, some artists are confined by heavy contractual agreements which preclude them from collaborations outside their house.) Without having to record in one specific studio, without the costs of travel and lodging and any other auxiliary charges associated with recording in one physical space, musicians have the opportunity to work with people they might never have been able to before the digital revolution or to explore different options for their songs. For example, instead of a producer having one singer, he or she could send his song out to multiple singers and get different interpretations and versions; or, a producer could get multiple remixes out of one song. And again, this can all be done in a matter of moments: now, the longest task will be the writing of the music itself. As many DJs and EDM producers have been sharing samples and tracks with among their community, we could potentially see whole new genres emerge. The limitless potentials offered by the cloud could potentially change the paradigms of music itself and the levels of “ownership” of a song or piece of music.
The mobility of cloud storage adds a live benefit as well. With computers already a common staple on the stage and with wireless connections getting better every day, musicians can incorporate the freshest material into their live shows. A DJ on the road could incorporate samples from a song released that day, or queue up a new collaboration.
This expansion of opportunities listed in the preceding paragraphs all leads towards this: the growth of the artist. All of these features and amenities provided by cloud storage, while great in their own right, are doubly so for these musicians as every new advantage allows them a faster window of completion. A musician doesn’t have to labor on one song or album for weeks, months or years at a time before being able to move on to the next project. We’ve gone from the need to work in a serial fashion to a more parallel model. The ready availability and ease of new material, new collaborations, new mixes, edits, processing all allow the artist more experimentation to push his or her self to areas they might never have arrived at in the models of the 20thCentury.
Every new piece of technology in the music world, or drafted into the music world, has allowed artists greater opportunities to advance their craft: electro-magnetic recording capabilities, multi-track recording, digital sequencing software, etc. And now, in the midst of the Information Age, we’ve come again at the next installation with Dropbox and cloud storage technology. The opportunities are out there, waiting for you to pluck them from the clouds.