CHALLENGE OF LONG DISTANCE COLLABORATIONS IN MUSIC

by Rok Gulič


Sometimes you have to work on long-distance with people you have never met
. This is our take on project management for overseas collaborations.

1. Make clear what the project is all about and who is responsible for individual parts.

Make sure you make it clear what the collaboration is about.  It is a recording, mixing, arranging, songwriting, or all of this. It's also good to clarify to everyone involved what this collaboration isn't. So it does not drift into too many experiments and creative ideas that are, of course, in time, style, and money. You can achieve that in an initial pre-production meeting when you address the expertise of individuals and give them a container to work in. A nice add-on is a clear KPI for everyone. For example, a drumbeat that sounds or feels similar to XY artist you introduce and is finished due two weeks using original samples or maybe a specific sample library. When you make goals (KPI) clear, it's harder to drift off course — highly recommended. It's also a good thing to know who has a "veto" to a particular part of a collaboration or the overall project deliverables. This means that you might leave creative decisions for the drumbeat to the creator, and you, as the project manager/owner, stay away from it.

2. Create creative and technical guidelines

    • We'll use this or that DAW
    • Sample rate and bit depth will be XY
    • We'll export in stems etc.
    • We'll share files in this or that online storage, and this is the access code
    • We'll write comments in this or that collaboration tool. Email gets a bit time consuming after 20 exchanges emails between 3 or 4 people! We recommend using SoundCloud when you can or at least a shared notepad, for example, One Note or Google docs.
    • Divide the project into parts. For example, Intro, Bridge, Chorus, and outro. Try finding similar sounding parts in other productions as a guide for all. Give links and even screenshots in the notepad for reference.
    • Use visual creative for steering sound design. For example, the chorus should sound/feel like an Irish landscape. Use links to youtube videos or even movie trailers that have the feel you're looking for.

3. Check your communication channels

    • Is everyone on Skype, FB messenger, etc
    • When possible, try migrating all relevant information and conversations into a collaboration app and use Skype just for scheduling meetings.
    • Note your time zones and make sure everyone fully understands what that is!

4. Keep expectations in finance and credits clear as day from the start.

Set the budget and divide it appropriately. Make it public, visible to all team members before you start. Also, make sure the credits and authorships' percentages are set early on — at least the methodology of how you'll distribute it once the project is finished.

5. Set deadlines and get someone outside the project to oversee it

It's challenging to monitor and bring up deadlines to the creative team. It can be a deal-breaker. An outsider (a common friend or a professional is best) will keep things less emotional and down to pure agreement. I'd recommend a record label manager, even if only hired for overseeing the project. He or she'll know all the potential hiccups and act as a mediator if arguments happen. They sometimes do.

A while ago we also had a nice chat with Phalgunn Maharishi. We were quite intrigued by the fact that on his project 'Faith. Hope. Love.' there were 6 musicians from 4 different countries, working closely on the project. We just needed to chat about how he made this kind of collaboration work. Swipe right for some of his experiences:

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