All of the tools to do anything and everything – including things you never even thought of – are online, available and waiting for you to put them to use. Dropbox, Hootsuite, and SoundCloud are three services that indie musicians are using to help manage and promote their careers.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows you to share content between your multiple computers – Mac or PC – as well as your mobile devices. In addition, you can access your Dropbox folder through an online account, and you can tag files as “public” and share them with friends, colleagues, or band mates. All you have to do is set up a Dropbox folder that’s hosted in the cloud, and all the computers and devices you connect the folder to can access the files within.
Though not a dedicated music service, this file-sharing utility has understandably become a hit for music makers, independent and otherwise. “I use Dropbox all the time and it’s fantastic,” says bassist/songwriter/producer Justin Goldner. “You can create shared folders and invite people to have access to them, which I’ve found to be great when I’m working on an album with an artist and sending bounces back and forth. Any time I finish a draft of a recording, I’ll put it in Dropbox so everyone involved can see it — and I don’t have to blow up anyone’s email with huge attachments.”
Goldner also loves how Dropbox lets you generate unique URLs for files, and that it allows for the easy transfer of large audio tracks between computers and mobile devices, even if the other users don’t have a Dropbox account – but he cautions that storage space is a key concern. “When you’re moving big files back and forth, especially when it comes to video or uncompressed audio, you can fill up your storage quota quickly,” he says. Dropbox offers ways to purchase or earn additional gigs of cloud-based storage, so be sure to research, and subscribe, accordingly.
Dropbox also makes it easy to share song ideas and rehearsal recordings between band members. “I’ve found it makes it so easy to share ideas and new songs with my band mates,” says Andre Calilhanna of Hijack. “If I’m working on a new tune, I can make a quick MP3 recording with my Zoom, and share it in seconds via Dropbox. And I’ll record rehearsals and post the files in my Dropbox folder as well, and everyone has instant access to them. It has definitely made the process more efficient.”
Dropbox’s features include 2GB of file storage for free, with subscriptions up to 100GB available; compatibility with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry; the ability to see other people’s changes instantly, and the ability to share freely with family and friends. Plus, Dropbox maintains a one-month history of your work and any changes to your files can be undone or undeleted.
For those indie artists who want to make masterful use of Facebook and Twitter, Mike Winger (of the rock duo Super Adventure Club) recommends HootSuite, a “social media management dashboard” utility that increases your flexibility to tweet and make updates to your social media accounts to your heart’s content.
Another service not specifically engineered for musicians, but actively adopted by those fluent in social media, HootSuite’s dashboard can integrate Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, and WordPress. Tumblr, Trendspottr, Constant Contact. Digg, Flickr, and YouTube can also be integrated via HootSuite’s App Directory.
“HootSuite lets you do status updates on Facebook, update Twitter, and update other social media services from the same place,” Winger says. “You can also pre-program messages to go out at a certain time. It’s one of the tools we use most often.”
The preprogramming option has been key to acoustic pop band Andy Suzuki & the Method‘s promotional efforts. “If you’re an independent artist, you probably have both band and personal Twitter and Facebook pages,” Suzuki says. “If you know you want to promote a show for two weeks in advance, you can set up tweets for the next two weeks. And if you want to send a YouTube link, HootSuite will add a thumbnail preview, just like Facebook does on status updates.”
HootSuite’s free service includes five social profiles, free reports, message scheduling, and two RSS/Atom feeds. The upgraded paid service ($9.99/month) offers unlimited social profiles and RSS feeds in addition to other services and enhancements.
SoundCloud is a musician’s favorite. In simple terms, SoundCloud is a streamlined utility that lets you upload audio files, give each a distinct URL, and share them for either streaming listens or downloads. Fans can place timed comments at particularly striking parts of a SoundCloud track, and the player can easily be embedded in a webpage, or posted via Facebook or Twitter.
“SoundCloud lets artists incorporate ‘buy’ links in the players for the tracks that we upload,” says singer/songwriter Sarah Fimm. “You can also control privacy on SoundCloud very well. And when it comes to sharing a track, it’s easy to take a SoundCloud link and post it to something like Pinterest.”
Other cool features include a variety of widgets and apps, including one that automatically sends a tweet every time an artist uploads a new audio file. You can also see stats about who listens to your tracks and from where, though a paid subscription is needed to unlock all of the data SoundCloud has to offer.
“I originally joined SoundCloud in order to have streaming representations of my work as a producer online, and it was certainly helpful for that,” says Goldner. “It’s a great service that lets you make sexy-looking widgets and put them on your site or on Facebook.” And just like CD Baby, Goldner adds, SoundCloud has a robust enough user base that fans often discover new music by exploring through the service.
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