Imagine collaborating on a musical project 150 years ago, a symphony perhaps, communicating between London and Berlin. This is a fairly sizeable distance by bullet train standards, let alone the most reliable form of long distance communication we have in our little daydream, courier on horseback. So, after six months of sending letters to simply work out how it would all work and the style of the project it would be, undeterred by the difficulties you decide to give it a go. I reckon about six years later would mark the point where you got so bored that you gave up. Or secretly finished it yourself, washed your hands of further annoyance and trained the dog to attack the postman. Maybe it would have been fantastic, maybe.
Skip to the present
How long does it take to ask someone today if they want to make a track with you / sing on your album / release your EP on their label? Ten seconds? If they live on the other side of the world, maybe eleven. You may want to check time-zones though, waking the A&R Manager in the middle of the night when they’ve forgotten to turn off call forwarding might not get you on their Christmas card list. From this point of opening a line of communication you can start work together practically immediately. I once needed a drummer for a track that needed production completion within one week and a really cool guy in Berlin had a fantastically recorded drum track to me in three days after spending three days finding him. The only trouble in this case was the arranging of the project which included (and is by no means the full list) notation having to be written to show the basic idea of the drums, the rest of the track to be prepared to send to play along to, and Skype chats to determine how I wanted the track to ‘feel’. Also, steps had to be taken to ensure proof of the track’s ownership because, although the guy was awesome, you never know when someone could try and steal your work. So even though the end result was great, and the process was smooth, I was left feeling that it could somehow all be easier and quicker.
What would have made this easier? First off, finding someone, anywhere, who could do what I needed. That in itself needed several websites to try and track someone down (believe it or not he turned up on Facebook!). Secondly, I’d like a simple way of communicating both what I needed in terms of musical arrangement, and in how I wanted it to feel. Thirdly, I would like legal protection and easy administration & financing. If I had these things those six days could have been cut in half and saved me at least ten hours in organisation time.
So, what can we conclude from the comparison between old, new, and what could be improved? We could certainly say that even though the end result of a seven-year symphony might be pretty amazing, having modern communications would have made everyone’s lives much, much easier. We could also say that whilst collaboration over distance is possible and relatively easy, it has the potential to be much better. It’s believed that every generation thinks they live in an age of technological breakthrough, and in ours I believe that we have the resources and the will to effectively use this technology to create more, easier, faster. What we need are the tools to allow us to do this, and now, we have.
Enjoy in 2013!