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ChoralTech: Storing and Sharing

Are you still handing out practice CD's? Are you not handing out anything at all? The ease of sharing audio with our singers has blown up the idea of the practice tape, and offers myriad ways to customize a practice resource depending on what you want to accomplish. Chris Russell wrote a post this week called "Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity" at Technology in Music Education (a must-follow for teachers). His post comes from the desire to allow students to record their own singing to use as an assessment, and he talks about the limitations of an iPad in that regard. What if you just need a way to share files with your singers? Let's look at some options available.
 
The Legal
First, the debate about sharing recorded practice materials is extensive both from a conducting/pedagogy perspective and a legal/copyright one. I am not a legal scholar, and I am skipping this debate lest it dominate the larger idea here: distributing audio (whatever practice resources you'd like) to your musicians. In an educational setting, fair use includes distributing material to students who are considered enrolled in a course or institution-- the intent being that if you could share it with x people within a class setting, you can share it with that same population x through an online portal. In general, whether in education or not, it's now accepted that you best have any copyrighted material behind a password/login option whereby you can ensure that the scope is limited to your population, rather than the whole world. Again, please consider whatever limitations and implications of sharing copyrighted material online.
 
Not copyrighted? Go nuts.
 
The Webpage
The first iteration of distributing practice files online was posting to a webpage. This is certainly an option, and there are easy ways to create blogs and websites for your organization. Unless you're going to add some additional components, though, it's hard to restrict webpages and blogs to only members of an organization unless you create accounts for each person directly. There are cleaner ways to address this.
 
Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, etc.)
Creating a folder in Google Drive or any cloud storage option is easy, and folders can be directly shared with individuals. This is closer to our intent-- to share our files with a defined group of individuals. These programs all have ways to access files on a mobile device, meaning that our singers can load the files directly on their phones or tablets. They all require individual accounts, though, which again introduces a layer of complexity to our equation. An advantage of Google Drive is that Google Accounts are so ubiquitous (and apply to so many products) that many people already have them. If your singers use GMail, Google Calendar, or any other Google products, the same account will apply to the Google Drive. 
 
SoundCloud
We've talked about SoundCloud in the past as a way to reflect upon and analyze a rehearsal, but Chris' post describes it as a way to share audio with his group. SoundCloud offers a variety of options for communicating around music files, and is a great way to extend the rehearsal process. SoundCloud uses a content identification system (similar to YouTube) which scans files and attempts to identify if the audio matches anything requested for takedown by a copyright holder. If you are attempting to share an original recording of a pop song, for example, you may run afoul of the upload system. In addition, it's yet to be seen how far-reaching these software ID systems will be as they develop. Arrangements of songs, for example, usually don't get caught in the filters (especially if they're general MIDI/keyboard sounds), but melodic analysis software may in the future be able to identify melody fragments more effectively, identifying arrangements as well as full songs.
 
What About You?
How do you share your files with your singers? Do you have advice about how to set this up with the members of your groups to share? Post below!