5 Low-Cost Apps to Make Any Artist’s Life Easier

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Cassie Phillips. Cassie learned over time that she could use her passion for music to help others – she writes on Culture Coverage for music lovers and artists alike to help them get the most of their experience.]

Let’s face it, life as a musician is not always so kind to the bank balance. Without even taking into consideration the pay rate, the costly expenses, equipment and tools come with hefty price tags.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way around having some of the most important tools of the trade. However, the advent of mobile phone apps means that some of a musician’s best-kept secrets are now available for a fraction of the cost. These five apps are essentials for any artist and are a relatively low-cost way to make the most out of your career. 

Guitar Tuner App

The Guitar Tuner

 Physical guitar tuners are fast becoming a thing of the past. They’re so easy to misplace and often get lost in the depth of equipment vans, and being stuck in the noisy back stage area pre-show with only your ear to rely on to tune can be a bit of a nightmare.

There are countless guitar tuner apps available for free on almost all platforms. Most of them come with pretty much identical features, so both Android and iOS users can benefit from this truly handy download.

Metronome App

The Metronome

Like all things in life, sometimes the simplest is the most important. Whether you’re warming up for a set, collaborating with a new friend or just jamming out in your bedroom, the metronome is the time-honored best friend of all musicians.

However, physical metronomes can be cumbersome and a general nuisance to carry around everywhere with you, so being able to compact it into a handy phone app can be unarguably useful.

There are plenty of metronome apps available for free; however, Tempo claims to be the most accurate in the app store. For just $2.99 you get 35 different time signatures, 9 rhythm patterns and tempo ranges from 10 to 800.


The Virtual Private Network

If you’re already worried about your money, the last thing you need is a hacker infiltrating your devices, corrupting your work or even accessing your bank account. Particularly for artists who tour regularly, and therefore rely on public WiFi, having a good Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data and protect yourself is essential.

There are many free VPN’s available to those who don’t have the funds to buy one, but these are often faulty and provide very little customer service. Because of this, it’s advisable to make an investment now to protect your finances in the future. There are several great paid options available, for a range of prices, so it’s easy to find something that fits your budget. Check out this review by Secure Thoughts for some examples of what’s out there!

Sheet Music App

The Sheet Music

If you’re a musician who works from sheet music, chances are you’re sick of lugging around battered music books that are moments away from loosing all of their pages. This is where downloading an app like forScore can be incalculably helpful.

Available for iPad, it allows you to store all of your music in one handy place. You can annotate each page, create set lists for your shows and even play along with a demo version of the music. It really is the perfect accompaniment for all sheet musicians, and for only $9.99, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Digital Studio App

The Digital Studio

When it comes to digital studios, the benefits are undeniable. With multi-track recording options and a loop-based music creation system, they allow you to work wherever you are. However, this advantage does come with a sizeable price tag.

The forerunner in digital studio technology is by far Acid Pro. This Sony release is loved and cherished by artists everywhere, but it will set you back a rather staggering $149.95. However, for those who can’t afford those kind of prices, Reaper is a fantastic alternative that can be purchased for only $60. While this might still seem like a lot, it’s definitely worth the investment in order to have the freedom to work from wherever.

Having a few carefully selected apps in your arsenal can be a life-saver for any artist, saving space, time and money! These are just a few examples of useful downloads that you can pick up for a reasonable cost, but there is so much more out there. Be sure to leave a comment below if you know of any other apps that belong on this list!

Interview: Josh Simons on Vampr – the New Collaboration App for Artists

Whether you’re looking for a date or a fun new way to connect with your friends, there’s no shortage of mobile apps being developed and released to the world every month that’ll capture our collective attention and hopefully make our lives easier in some manner. The more we progress in a technical sense, the more fine-tuned and solution-oriented these apps become.

But where do artists stand to benefit from this tech explosion? Of course there are apps that’ll make a musician’s life easier in the practice room, the studio, and the social sphere, but as we all know, there are still problems that are lined up and waiting to be solved by resourceful and music-minded developers.

Enter Vampr: a new iOS app with the mission to “connect musicians of all genres with like-minded collaborators in any city around the world.” As an indie artist, no matter which city, town or country you reside in, it’s likely you’ve stumbled into the clunky and at times awkward process of trying to connect with a stranger to collaborate on some musical venture. From Craigslist flakes to finding out your new guitarist friend hates the genre of music you play, it’s about time independent artists had pocket-based access to a new world of potential musical matches.

For artists moving to a new city to those looking to take their hobby out of the bedroom and into the studio, Melbourne-based co-founder Josh Simons describes Vampr as a “demo tape, show-reel and database rolled into one.” Create your profile, link to your recordings, share your ‘liked’ artists, and start swiping!

And of all people, Simons should know a thing or two about the struggle: a six-year TuneCore Artist himself, his indie-pop band Buchanan has reached over one million streams on Spotify, and 400,000 on YouTube. When it came to reaching fellow artists outside his own circle, however, the frustration sank in.

Read our exclusive interview with Josh below, who dives into the ins and outs of Vampr and how it stands to further encourage the collaborative spirit of indie artists worldwide:

As a musician, how have you watched the way artists and songwriters connect with each other as strangers change over the past few years?

Josh Simons: Connecting with other musicians can be difficult, especially when moving beyond our immediate group of friends and locale. And it’s even more difficult for those just starting out and worried about hooking up with the relevant skill levels and of course their appropriate tribe.

Finding the LinkedIn equivalent for musos that wasn’t as boring as all hell while also providing me with relevant connections and skill showcasing was what I needed. We are all pretty tech savvy these days and used to making friends from strangers, all over the globe using our social networks, so there is no reason that music couldn’t be apart of this connection revolution. Vampr would have made my life so much easier when I was starting out with my band Buchanan.

What kind of personal experiences specifically led you to seek the solution that Vampr offers?

I had a few contacts to get me started in my career, but ultimately I still had to build my own network from scratch. At no point is that easy.

It’s intimidating; you have to communicate a hell of a lot (your look, your tribal affiliation, not to mention your skill) to someone whose attention span is probably as short as your own; and even if you manage to make a few contacts, most won’t materialize into anything that can sustain a career in music. So I wanted to speed up that vetting and trialing process for myself – Vampr solves that.

What kind of direct research and collaboration among the artist community went into designing some of the features of Vampr?

The app is made by musicians for musicians. That extends far beyond just Baz (Hunters + Collectors) and myself as the co-founders – even our lead developer is a musician – and a baroque trumpeter at that!

We consulted all our contacts in the industry over the course of development, from A&R [people] to managers, graphic designers to music press and most importantly our fellow artists and musicians in the community – rather substantial research to say the least.

Vampr storyboard update

What can those in the fields of music engineering and production look forward to when using Vampr?

Whilst we anticipate the creatives in these fields to make up a fairly niche percentage of our overall user-base, we believe the value proposition for these users versus say a gigging guitarist to be equal, if not greater.

We have created the ‘venue’, if you will, to deliver to even a relatively busy engineer (be it front of house, monitor or studio mixers) the chance to bring in more paid work from musicians who need their services, anywhere in the world. This has never been done before.

How about those on the music business side of things i.e. labels, publicists, etc.?

One of the things we’ve been doing whilst marketing the app in these early days is speaking with the labels and publishers about on-boarding their signees, to increase collaboration across the industry. This generates more exploitable works, which ultimately increases revenue for the entire industry.

We were in MIDEM recently and saw all these apps and companies trying to solve revenue issues in music from the top, with data analysis software or new streaming services – we’re coming at it from the other end, which is to help musicians create more.

Some might joke that this has a ‘Tinder’-like user experience. What are some commonalities you’ve noticed about how people use apps of any kind and how have you implemented them in Vampr?

The best apps are ones which help the user complete their task as efficiently as possible whilst simplifying their task, and where possible employ an element of gamification or fun. Through months of testing and UI design tweaks Vampr managed to incorporate all the necessary pieces of assessable content needed for a useful finding tool for musicians (ie. bio, photo, video, song, list of interests, etc.) whilst keeping things uncluttered and classy – it looks simple and it’s easy on the eyes, which was no mistake.

Tinder proved that people are willing to make meaningful connections with a single swipe. The Tinder UX, or ‘swipe for like’ approach, was employed for the simple reasons that it’s quicker, it moves a directory service like Vampr away from form-based hell, and it employs a level of discretion and protectionism from spam, which musicians or industry folk actually need.

This isn’t a popularity contest or a new open social network – it’s a place to make real connections.

Comparatively, what makes Vampr so musician-friendly compared to other collaboration platforms?

The other platforms for indie musicians to showcase and get themselves out there are mostly web-based. Their feature sets are extensive and as such any focus on bespoke discovery of other individuals is completely lost. We’re about connecting people, be it publicists with a banjo player, and we’re not sure anyone else is actually out there in that space.

This is LinkedIn for musicians presented in a simple easy-to-use platform that anyone can setup in seconds and start using.

In a few words, tell the indie artist community how they can make the most of their Vampr use!

In these incredibly formative days, I would encourage the indie community to simply use the app however they see fit – we’ll be watching how people use it and feeding that back into our future development.

Beyond that, we’d just encourage the community to help us spread word of Vampr’s existence – the more people on the platform, the higher the chance of discovering and making a real meaningful connection.

Vampr is available as a FREE download in the iTunes Store. Download it here!

Josh Simons has invited you to provide him feedback or inquiries on Vampr directly- email him here.

Gadgets We Like: GarageBand for iPad

We’ve been playing with GarageBand on our computers around the office, and have recently discovered Apple’s coolest version of it yet: GarageBand for iPad. The program comes with several different instruments in 2 versions: regular and smart. The “smart” instruments are made for those who aren’t as musically inclined. If you choose the smart keyboard for example, you play preselected chords so you don’t have to worry about hitting a bad one.

Continue reading “Gadgets We Like: GarageBand for iPad”