With the COVID-19 pandemic leading cities across the globe to implement strict social distancing measures, remote collaboration is the safest, and maybe, only way artists can continue making music together right now. However, there are benefits to working apart that go beyond current public health crises. Repost by SoundCloud makes it easy for artists to split earnings with collaborators (remote, or not) through the Split Pay feature.. When it comes to making the songs, though, we asked one musician for his advice on remote collaboration.
Jimmy Tamborello has had quite a few musical projects over the years, including the synthpop group Figurine and his long-running solo, electronic project Dntel. He’s best known, though, for The Postal Service, which he formed with Death Cab For Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard. Their 2003 album Give Up, which spawned the hit single “Such Great Heights,” was the result of a remote collaboration, with Tamborello and Gibbard sending songs back and forth through the mail. Tamborello estimates that they spent about a year “working very casually” on the album.
For Tamborello, one of the advantages of remote collaboration is having the time to experiment and iron out the kinks in your own contributions before sharing them with your partner. “If you’re in a room with someone, there’s a lot of pressure to get moving and do something that they like,” he says. That could be an issue when you’re focused on perfecting specific details. “If I want to spend an hour working on a hi-hat or something,” says Tamborello, “nobody wants to sit there for that.” Time management is crucial, especially when musicians are working on multiple projects, and if you don’t want to rush your own contributions, this can be an efficient, and considerate, way to create.
Remote collaborations can change the way musicians interact with each other as well. “When you’re in the room with someone, you’re constantly compromising,” Tamborello explains. Working on your parts separately changes that dynamic. “They’re reacting to the finished thing, instead of shaping it as it goes.”
Tamborello adds, “You do compromise in a collaboration at some point, but you don’t always want to be compromising.” He says that, in this way, the artists can work with “more finished, formed ideas” from each other.
But, a critical part of remote collaboration is the same as when musicians collaborate in the same space. Make sure that you develop and maintain a good relationship with your
creative partner. “It definitely seems important to establish a relationship with someone that you’re working with early on where you can be pretty open and not feel like you’re going to hurt their feelings, when you’re reacting to what they’re contributing,” says Tamborello.
If you do establish a solid creative relationship, don’t take it for granted. “If you’re making stuff with people and it’s coming out good, you have to remember that you’re not going to find that a lot of times in your life,” says Tamborello, “and you should try to fight for it as long as you can.”