It feels like every second day a tech-savvy music leader shares a new program for making music online - so how do you choose the right program or mix of programs for your group? This choice is easier if you first identify your group’s aims for gathering online. If you haven’t done so already, it is worth writing these down and even discussing them with your group, as they may be different from your group’s regular aims, especially in a time of physical isolation.
What are your group’s aims, now you are going online:
- Meeting up and social connection?
- Making music and performing?
- Teaching and learning?
Taking time to collectively make this choice is important because each program takes time and energy for both you and your participants to adapt to and learn. As leaders we all want to reduce the time and effort our participants spend on getting the tech to work, in order to make room for what we came together to do: social music-making, learning, nurturing, fun!
Virtual rooms that emphasise social engagement - synchronous
If maintaining social engagement between participants and providing a nurturing environment is high on your list then you will want to bring people together into the one “virtual room”. Zoom is the most popular platform for this.
Programs that bring people together to be virtually in the one place at the one time are called synchronous platforms. Examples include Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Facebook live and Youtube Live, etc. Each of these programs provides an event that we attend, at a specific time.
Project-based apps that emphasise musical development and performance - asynchronous
If your group loves performing and learning new material then you will want to give participants the opportunity to practice in their own time and share what they are learning. Popular platforms for this include: Bandlab, Soundtrap and Flipgrid, but can be as simple as an email newsletter, or messaging service such as SMS, Facebook messenger or Whatsapp.
Programs that enable many participants to work on a shared project in their own time are called asynchronous platforms. There is no event that people attend, rather participants receive a prompt from the leader to do something, which they do in their own time and then send back to the leader. The leader may provide feedback on their participants' response, or may, for example, use it to put together a “virtual choir/band” video performance.
Choosing your mix of platforms: are you a gardener or a builder (or both)?
Virtual rooms (i.e. Synchronous platforms) like Zoom, are good for fostering a shared community - think of it like gardening where you are feeding the soil, weeding and nurturing the plants, so that the whole social ecosystem of your group can keep thriving.
Asynchronous platforms like Bandlab, Acapella or Flipgrid, are good for making things - the leader's role is like an architect/builder who designs the project, sends the parts out and assembles them at the end into a finished product.
Choosing a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous platforms will help glue your group together over time and give a sense of both learning/developing musically and staying socially connected. Beware that being too focussed on building a product could leave some of your participants feeling exposed and isolated, just as having no clear learning goals or opportunity to perform could lessen some of your participants' motivation to attend.
TIP: Keep an eye on your own energy and motivation: online leading can feel like a flood of giving with only a trickle in return. It is more sustainable for you to lead one or two things well and let your keen members collaborate with each other in small groups if they want to do more. This can be as simple as offering the opportunity for participants to “perform” at your group’s Zoom meeting, or encouraging them to teach themselves how to collaborate with others in “mini-bands” using Bandlab to share with your group.