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Tip Jar: Top 12 Apps for Music Businesses

Mobile technology has evolved from a luxury status symbol to a valuable tool to maximize your time and productivity. With literally hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps available, there are plenty well-suited for business. But which are the most useful for a unique business needs of an artist or recording studio? After trying literally hundreds of apps, these are my top 12 favorites for working at my best.

Money Apps
Every business deals with money. Being smart and efficient with your money can determine whether or not you stay in business. These first few are my favorite.

1. Mileage Log+. Chances are, you will travel for gigs, meetings or even office supplies. Don’t forget, those miles are tax deductible––and at well over 50 cents per mile, they add up quickly. This app saved me $800 on my taxes in one year alone. Mileage Log + is available for iOS only right now for $9.99, but there are similar offerings for Android or Windows Phone. contrast.co/mileage-log

2. Dwolla. My favorite for sending and receiving payments. Unlike PayPal’s 5-10% fees, Dwolla charges a maximum 25 cents for transactions over $10. You’ll need to register and attach a checking account, but once that’s done, payments typically take one day to process. Dwolla is a free app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. dwolla.com  (The next best choice is Square’s Cash app.)

3. PayPal Here. Dwolla is still my favorite for sending and receiving payments. BUT... Dwolla doesn’t take credit cards. Chances are, you already have a PayPal account, and PayPal Here lets you accept credit and debit cards anywhere. Its charge rate is just a smidgen lower than Square. Go to paypalhere.com to register and get your scanner.

4. WeekCal. Being able to manage your schedule can save you lots of time in the long run––and time is money, right? I like WeekCal better than Apple’s calendar, plus it’s easier to view and edit upcoming events. But Apple’s recent updates to its own app make this one less of a must-have. weekcal.com

Media Apps
A well-run business should always have a good handle on its assets; it is no different for artists and studios. But in addition to mundane items like memos, contracts and customer data, music businesses need to manage and share large audio and video files, DAW session files and more.

5. Gobbler. Sharing projects online yet? If you haven’t done it yet, you will soon. Gobbler is cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive, but it is specifically designed for media projects. It supports sessions from most major DAWs like Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Ableton Live. Start with the free 5GB account to begin sharing with your co-writers, publisher or other clients. gobbler.com

6. MediaFire. If you need mass storage––especially if you need access from anywhere––MediaFire (mediafire.com) has the best value in the cloud. Get up to 50GB of space for free, or upgrade to a full terabyte of storage for only $5 a month––that’s easily the best deal going right now. And with a syncing app for your desktop or laptop, there’s no debate if your files are up-to-date. Alternate choice: Google Drive (drive.google.com)

7.  SoundMeter. This decibel meter is the reason I bought my first iPhone. I run this every time I mix live sound. (This is one of my dirty little secrets for touring bands: running this can placate the bar owner that keeps saying “you’re playing too loud.”) Professional settings like A- and C-weighting make this far better than cheap decibel meter apps. At $20, it is currently available for iOS only. faberacoustical.com

8. SignalScope. Faber Acoustical’s RTA partner to SoundMeter. You can use the phone’s mic for basic analysis, or attach a professional preamp and microphone for more accurate readings. Another professional level app, it runs $25, with upgrades available. faberacoustical.com/ios_apps/signalscope

Social Media / Internet Apps
Let’s face it––the Internet has changed everything. It is now possible to launch and sustain a music career from your own bedroom studio, at least in theory. But once you’re on the road, it can be difficult to regularly update your online presence. These apps will help you stay updated and in touch with your clients or fans while on the road.

9. Password Box. With every website account comes yet another login and password. And keeping track of all of them can be rough. (I currently have over 300.) Registering for the free account at passwordbox.com will sync 25 passwords on your phone. I can’t recommend this one wholeheartedly, as it has been buggy lately on iOS. They recently became part of Intel Security, which also concerns me, so try it along with my second choice, agilebits.com/onepassword

10. LinkedIn. The undisputed king for business social networking. The free app is better than the website for some things, the browser page for others. Use it along with LinkedIn’s Connected App (also free) to boost your online social circles. linkedin.com

11. Puffin browser. Many stock smartphone browsers won’t play Flash websites; Puffin will. For many media-driven sites, you’ll need to use it to properly view its content. puffinbrowser.com (You can also try Google’s Chrome app.)

12. HootSuite. If you’re active on multiple social sites, HootSuite allows you to post quickly on one, two or all of them at once. It also lets you “shrink” URLs for easier posting to character-limiting accounts like Twitter. The free account lets you link three sites; the Pro service ($9.99 per month) lets you link 50 to 100. hootsuite.com

By Paul Bordenkircher

PAUL BORDENKIRCHER is a 30-year music industry veteran, blogger and consultant who has focused the last 18 years on the independent scene. In addition to teaching at University of Nevada Las Vegas, he’s also the developer for SongNook, an organizational tool for song- writers releasing Fall 2015. His Music Biz Blog is at mesasand.com.