With an internet connection the world becomes a very small place and working remotely as an audio engineer has never been easier.
Back in December, while I was still living in the UK, I recorded some tracks for Barry Jones knowing full well that I would have to produce and mix them on the other side of the world. Simply because of the way things worked out, I knew there wouldn’t be enough time to get everything done before I moved to Australia in January. We made the decision to put all of our effort into recording and would worry about the rest later on. In hindsight, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Since then I’ve relocated and had my eyes opened as to how easy it is to collaborate across continents. Despite the distances and time zones involved, me and Barry have been able to send mixes back and forth, find session musicians for all those parts we missed and go over all the finer details without any problems. While I was initially unsure about how feasible the whole thing would be, I’ve now realised that it’s quite possible to work for anybody from anywhere.
No more hanging around damp rehearsal rooms or chaotic gigs in a sense of perpetual hope and optimism, endlessly making introductions and handing out business cards like flyers in the street. With a few handy (and more importantly, free) websites the whole world opens up and, when you consider how big the world is, that’s a lot of potential work to be found!
With that in mind, below are a few websites that I would consider to be the absolute basics for working remotely as an audio engineer.
First and foremost, what’s the point of all this if you don’t have any work to do? Relying on your own personal network of contacts can sometimes be risky and doesn’t always guarantee a steady stream of work, especially when moving areas. To fill the gaps, I use Upwork to globally get in contact with people who need a freelancer. There’s a whole range of work available and once you set your profile up and customise your preferences then you pretty much get a list of projects to apply for. Sure, some of them might be tediously boring, editing hours upon hours of meetings, but when you’re not in a position to pick and choose would you rather not get paid?
I absolutely love SoundCloud for a number of reasons. It’s easy to use, it’s free, it works across a whole range of devices and it lets you share tracks on a secret-link only basis. This means that whoever you’re working with can listen from pretty much anywhere and no one else need be involved. Your client doesn’t have to download any software or files which also makes things nice and easy. Sure, with a free account you only get three hours worth of uploads but if you’re only sending across ‘work in progress’ for preview purposes then what more do you need? Plus, if you like the sound of having an online audio portfolio without the hassle of keeping a website up to date then look no further.
Sending large files is always a pain and there’s no escaping the fact that uncompressed audio results in large files. Email is great for the occasional mp3 but when you need to send an entire session over to somebody then you’re going to need something with a bit more clout. While many people would suggest Dropbox, I recommend using WeTransfer instead. Why? Well, you can send as much as you like for free (provided the files are less than 2GB) and you don’t need an account. Your client receives a nice download link in an email and you don’t have to worry about clogging up your online storage allowance.
Collaborating is easier when everyone is on the same page but what happens when you can’t meet your client face to face? Of course, you can arrange a Skype session but where are all those notes going to go and how do you know you’re both reading the same thing? Google Documents is completely free and lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations that can be shared with a specific set of people who can then also edit and comment. All these changes are instantly saved and made visible to everyone with access so you don’t have to worry about missing a thing again. When there are a few people working on the same mix it’s easy to forget about some legitimately awesome suggestions every now and, personally, I find shared documents extremely useful for ‘to-do’ lists.
When working remotely as an audio engineer, or in any profession for that matter, with people in another part of the world it’s easy to get confused by time differences. Some larger countries will have multiple time zones depending on the state, not to mention having to contend with places where daylight saving may or may not be in effect. I can’t deny that there’s been moments when I’ve arranged to meet someone online at a specific time only to later be left waiting and realise that I’d worked it out wrong. Time.is is a super-simple yet super-handy website which compares multiple time zones, not only for the current time right now, but for all times throughout the day so you can plan ahead. Save yourself the potential embarrassment.
Of course this is by no means an extensive list so I’d be interested to know if you use anything else that you consider to be essential! These are the websites that I personally use to make my life significantly easier but everyone has their own flow that is comfortable to them. When it comes down to it, there will always be ways in which we could be more efficient. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.