Are you an individual musician that would love to find musicians online to record your original music and release it on platforms like Spotify? How do you get started? In this beginner friendly post I outline the basic steps needed to meet musicians online, how to record when no one lives in the same city, and where to go to release your music.
This is the formula that I followed with my online collaboration band, Flip That Switch (Spotify). We have released 6 songs with the group including a 5 song EP, “Rain Seven”.
Create a scratch track
Assuming that you have finished writing your song, you should prepare a scratch (or demo) recording of your song.
Start by creating a click track for your song. You’ll need to define the song’s BPM (beats per minute) and time signature. Add markers to your track to define the different sections of your song (e.g. bars 1-8 (intro), bars 9-32 (verse 1), etc.). This click track must be shared with all the musicians you’ll be collaborating with on your song. It will ensure that everyone is recording to the same click track so that all of the recordings will line up time-wise when you put your song together.
It’s up to you to determine how elaborate your scratch track will be. In certain cases I record the rhythm guitar part and the vocal melody (that I would play on guitar) only. In situations where I have particular ideas to inspire the musicians, I add demo drums, bass and keyboards. After you have your click and scratch track ready you can start looking for musicians to record the missing parts!
My favorite place to find musicians to work with is YouTube.
My recommended strategy is to search for musicians doing covers of songs. Specifically songs that are in the style or vibe that you are looking to recreate in your song. For example if in my song I was looking for Phil Collins style drumming, I would search on YouTube for something like “Genesis Drum Cover” or “Land of Confusion Drum Cover”. By seeing someone perform the song I can get a good sense of whether they would be a good fit for my song. Plus if they took the time to learn that particular song I know they have similar musical influences as me and would understand the style I’m going for with my song.
When you find a musician that you’re interested in, navigate to their YouTube channel profile, the About section, and see if they provided their contact information. When you contact them be sure to include your track and how you’d like for them to contribute.
You can also search for musicians on tools such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or even Craigslist.
Working with musicians online
Oftentimes you’ll connect with musicians that do not live in your city or even your country. In the case of Flip That Switch, one of the musicians is based in a different state and the other two are based in a different country!
Once you have connected with someone who is interested in working on your song, you’ll need to discuss several things before the work begins.
Their recording will be a “work for hire”. Meaning that you’ll retain ownership of the recording they create. Agree upon the fee and by what method you’ll be paying (PayPal is most common).
A contract is not needed and I recommend discussing all compensation terms via email so you have a paper trail. You’ll also need to determine if payment will be made upfront, after the recording is delivered, or half now, half upon completion. In the discussion of compensation you should also establish how many revisions will be part of the fee. Something like 3 revisions is typical.
As we discussed earlier you should share the click track and scratch track with the musician. This way they are recording to the same track that you are at home. Also specify the file types you expect to receive for the recording. For example will it be 44.1K, 16 bit WAV files? Or 48K 24bit? I typically request 48K 24bit WAV files.
Establish a process for communicating feedback. This is especially important when working with someone online versus in person. I like to share my feedback by bars. For example I may make a comment like: add a snare hit at bar 24 beat 3. I also suggest communicating such feedback over email in order to have a communication trail you’ll be able to refer back to.
Mixing and mastering
After recordings are complete, you should have a bunch of WAV files for all the instruments. If everyone recorded to the same scratch track, you’ll simply be able to add all the files to your project and everything will line up perfectly. You are now ready to mix and master your track.
If you do not have the ability to mix and master your track, there are plenty of Engineers that you can connect with online who will do this for you! Similar to finding musicians online, you can search for Engineers that offer mixing and mastering services.
When you connect with someone you’d like to work with, determine the fee, method of payment, and what deliverables you’ll receive. I like to request fully mixed tracks in 44.1/16bit and 48/24bit. I also request the stem files for all the instruments.
Releasing your music
Now that you have a mixed and mastered song, you are ready to distribute it to the world! If you’d like to sell your music directly to fans, I recommend using bandcamp.
To distribute your music to the major platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, I recommend using a distribution platform such as CdBaby or TuneCore. These platforms have slightly different business models for how you’ll get paid, so be sure to read up on that to determine what’s best suited for you.
The internet has unlocked many opportunities for musicians to collaborate, record and release their music to the world. I urge you to get out there and start connecting and collaborating with other musicians to record your original music! Good luck!