As more and more artists try to go it alone in this do-it-yourself music era, they are taking advantage of web apps that let them create and share their tracks in ways they never could before.
The app gallery at SoundCloud—the popular outlet for musicians to share their work directly with fans, other artists and industry folks—is filled with hundreds of apps for artists on multiple platforms: mobile phones, tablets, desktops and browsers.
For Henrick Lenberg, vice president of partner integrations at SoundCloud, there is an egalitarianism to all of this. The apps on SoundCloud are geared toward both professional musicians, and what he calls “casual music makers”—those who, say, just make music with their iPhones.
“This area is definitely going to be huge,” he said. “The social elements of the web will play a key role for both serious artists and casual music makers, and we will help both groups.”
Regardless of what group you fall into, we’ve sifted through the riff raff and compiled a list of the five most useful apps available in the gallery. Lenberg declined to give exact numbers regarding the most downloaded apps, but here are some favorites.
Music X-Ray began an integration last week with the launch of a new SoundCloud app. The app is a “brand new ecosystem for A and R” that seeks to connect artists with industry professionals, said Mike McCready, the company’s CEO. When users link their SoundCloud accounts to the app, software analyzes the music and matches it with an industry contact—a producer, music supervisor, publisher, etc.—who might be interested in using it.
If the contact decides not to use your music, the site promises written feedback from the professional within a month and a half. Membership is free, but Music X-Ray charges a $4 transaction fee, and some professionals charge submission fees on top of that, which brings the total to $10 to $20 on average.
Another way artists can use the app is to begin a mentoring, back and forth relationship with some of the more well-known, Grammy-winning industry professionals—who are not seeking song selections. In those cases, artists are paying for the feedback and the submission fee is much higher.
This iPad app, available for $32, is a recreation of an actual Korg synth that allows users to produce tracks on the tablet. It works with SoundCloud in a particularly innovative way, said Lenberg. Users can share their music and browse other artists’ tracks on SoundCloud, but this app’s real gem is a feature that lets users share entire project files. That means users can collaborate on tracks, all from within the app.
“More and more apps are moving in the direction of deeper social integration where creation, sharing and collaboration happen within them,” said Lenberg. “I think it’s super exciting to see how music making is developing into a large-scale social process, beyond producing tracks with your friends.”
Short for SoundCloud Uploader, Scup allows users to import several songs onto their SoundCloud pages all at once. The idea came from the SoundCloud staff itself, after artists had been complaining about the difficulty of uploading entire albums at once.
That batch uploading function is the only purpose for the app, said developer Dorian Roy, who wanted to keep it as simple as possible. But there is a useful “copy to tracks” button on the right of the window that allows users to apply the same text to every track, saving some time.
We all know we could always practice our scales a little more. With the BerkleeMusic app, musicians can work on those fundamentals as well as get instruction in sound engineering or music business management from the respected music school.
The free video samples—exclusive to SoundCloud members—are worth checking out, and users can connect their SoundCloud accounts to their Berklee accounts, making class music projects instantly available to your followers.
But slackers be warned: this web app is an actual 12-week curriculum—complete with instruction and feedback from professors and, of course, homework.
Musicians are supposed to make noise, right? This app allows you direct correspondence with fans. But instead of reading a question then writing back with a reply, TakesQuestions lets fans record their query, then lets you answer with your own voice—letting you practice interview skills for when MTV comes knocking.
Users set up their own page and are given a URL. The interface is clean and inviting. A fan records a question for you, and within moments, it’s on your SoundCloud page, awaiting your reply.
There is even an option of synching it with your Twitter account, so an automatic tweet is sent whenever you are asked or respond to a question. The process of responding to a question is not as intuitive as it could be. You need to make sure the subject lines of both the question and answer match, and it would be nice if that step was automatic. Still, it’s a good way to interact with fans, and the voice-to-voice contact is a nice personal touch.