Musicians often do whatever it takes to get music out into the world. I started working as a touring guitarist and keyboard player in 2013, and have seen many ups and downs on the road.
We once got a flat tyre on the way back from a show in Iowa. Nothing seemed to go right after that, and by the end of the whole mess, we had lug nuts spearing our brake drum and impaling our axle. Still, we made it to our scheduled gigs in Atlanta two days later.
Another memory involves my first-ever homecoming show in Denver, Colorado. I was playing for Lucie Silvas and had the opportunity to open for Brandi Carlile. She was so gracious to give us the spot, understanding the significance of what a homecoming show would mean for me. It was one of the best shows I've played.
I've been to all 50 states and played in front of thousands of awesome people, but these days I'm based in Nashville, Tennessee, where I work as a musician, producer and music director. I built a home studio in 2018, and that allowed me to transition to session and production work.
Being in the studio is a completely different way of thinking about music. The gradient of what you're trying to perfect is so much smaller. You’re zoomed in on every single millisecond of sound, whereas playing live, your goal is to have a great performance. Working on studio projects offers me more creative freedom, and I can treat my shows like they're just shows.
With that creative freedom comes administrative work. Maybe 40% of my time is spent in a creative capacity, working on records or producing sessions. The other 60% is file management, and that’s where I need Dropbox.
Dropbox becomes a differentiator
Whether working with one artist on 10–12 songs in an hour-long session or three artists on dozens of songs in a multiple-day session, you need to know where everything is at all times.
I’ve used Dropbox forever, but I started leaning on it professionally when I was a music director. If an artist had a CD release show, for example, I would put that together for them in various ways leveraging Dropbox. Everyone in Nashville uses number charts, which operate as sheet music. Say an artist is hiring musicians for the performance, but is on a budget and can't pay them quite as much as they’d like. I could make the job easier by offering the musicians a Dropbox link, where they’d find an MP3, the necessary charts, maybe a PDF with further notes or instructions. All the musicians would have to do is show up with an iPad, open up the link and they’d be ready to go.
Keeping everything straight for musicians has set me apart as a producer. If I'm working with a single client, I'll create a Dropbox folder for that specific project within the client's folder. I might add subfolders for individual records inside of that. Within that, I'll have a folder with voice memos talking about songs the clients like or don't like. The best part is, the organisation goes as deep as I need. I might create another subfolder with copies of all the session files, which are stored locally on my computer in case of catastrophe. I could even add another subfolder with rough mixes, or a big archive of all past work.
I use Dropbox all the time for what we call 'car testing'. You never know if work is good until you play it outside of the studio, and Dropbox makes it easy to take music from studio into the world. Whether in a car, on a walk, you can listen to work outside of the studio bubble. I can continue adding to files right up until the project closes, and then all I have to do is make folders, archive data and send links. This ease of sharing offers total transparency to my clients – and sometimes to their fans – as some musicians share audio with audiences directly through Dropbox.
A few of my favourite (Dropbox) things
My daily driver is Dropbox Transfer, which I use to share files directly with clients while on the go. I can send files as needed while workshopping tracks, and I never have to worry about clutter floating around my desktop. There's a storage element to this, too. I record all sessions at 96 kHz so that clients can get the highest quality audio possible. Storing and sharing those files would’ve been relatively prohibitive in the past, but thanks to Dropbox, I can quickly offload those files at lightning speed.
Compared to other platforms, Dropbox is natural. It looks and feels like an extension of my physical computer – which lets me do my thing totally uninterrupted. It's pretty much the opposite of Google Drive, which always feels messy. I never know where anything is, and I don't understand how it chooses to organise files. I know I can find files through a search, but I don’t like not being able to quickly find what I need. I want a tree of nested folders, and a neat little display of all my files. And that's exactly what Dropbox provides.
The right backup saves the day
As organised as I am now, I have lost session files before. It’s a huge pain and a real blow to the creative process, and proper backup would have been a lifesaver. In one instance, I was able to recreate the session from individual audio files, but it was extremely time-consuming. In this case, it was a personal project, but I can’t imagine having this happen with client work!
Anybody who's lost work on a valuable project understands that having multiple backup locations isn’t being overly cautious. It’s necessary. You can’t assign a cash value to creative work, especially when that creative work is for somebody else. If you lose it, an entire team of people has to spend time recreating the material. Dropbox Backup runs in the background and automatically creates copies of my pre-selected folders in the cloud. I don’t have to think about it, I just know it’s been done.
Finding musical stability in a time of technology
Dropbox continues to evolve intuitively. The support for better, stronger features is unparalleled, and even though I’m an entrepreneur, I've never felt as though I was alone. Is Dropbox the only file management system around? Nope. But is it my favourite? Count on it.
Dropbox follows you as you grow, and will always be a good resource. There's a lot of ground ahead, and a long road behind. No matter where I end up on this musical road, there will always be a place for Dropbox.