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Digital Collaboration: Virtual Music Auditions in Music Xray

Image representing Music Xray as depicted in C...
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The Digital Age has literally exploded the amount of talent that is available to the emerging artist. With a little bit of electronic savvy, you can collaborate with musicians, filmmakers, composers, actors, and visual artists from all over the globe. But screening talent virtually can get complicated. For Libertaria: The Virtual Opera, an animated opera produced entirely online, I used Music Xray to find talented opera and pop singers. 

What is Music Xray?

Music Xray is an online platform that is meant to connect artists to music companies and producers. Typically artists pay a small fee to get their work heard by a professional, although the music pro can waive the fee which leaves the artist only paying the Music Xray handling fee (about $4). The site itself has had some controversy for not properly vetting music producers and for taking advantage of musicians through music pros that aren't properly vetted. On the other hand many musicians have had some insightful advice and good music opportunities without having to pay pricing like you would find for services like TAXI, the independent A&R site. (Full disclosure, I give music critiques at Music Xray, mostly because I enjoy helping young artists improve their sound, definitely not for the $1.99.  :) 

The good thing about a site like Music Xray is that it is 
relatively easy to set up online virtual auditions for a music project. 

The site will index your work based on type, it costs nothing for you to post it, and you will have immediate access to thousands of talented musicians that will see your project. Another upside? Most musicians on the site have been rated by other industry professionals, which means you can quickly look up a musician's creds, music, and ratings. The only downside is that MusicXray will charge artists a small processing fee to audition.



All you need to do is apply as a Music Xray industry pro. Now if you are in high school or
Rango the dog
Indie Rocker Matt Meadows auditioned for Libertaria using Music Xray.
don't have good credentials, then you will have some difficulty getting in as an industry pro, but most individuals will fit the criteria with some musical experience or a few albums under their belt. I suggest waiving your fee. I don't think it's fair to charge money for an audition. The benefit of this is that it will be listed under the popular "Free Opportunities" moniker which means you will reach a broader group of musicians. After you apply, simply set up an opportunity. Be honest in your post. If this is a free project with limited artist exposure, then let the musicians know this.If it is paid, you want to specify this. 

Always give something back to your artist: free PR, social media marketing, merch, fame. Just something to show that you appreciate their hard work.

I don't know how many times I have seen a music opportunity on this site and other sites that insults the artists within the first few sentences or has a tone that makes me think that the person posting is an absolute jerk. 
BAD EXAMPLE
Wordl famous musc producer needs ONLY amazingly talented pop singerss that sing and look liek Lady GAGa. Don't bother applying if you can't sing a note. For SERIOUS MUSICIANS only!!! I will listn to your music and if I like your tunes, then you will sign an exclusive contract with me. I KEEP ALL RIGHTS.

GOOD EXAMPLE 
Upcoming opportunity to sing in a our American music documentary on local blues legend Mama Blues. Volunteer project. Lots of press and PR, with a screenings in NYC, Nashville, and St. Louis. Good exposure opportunity for emerging singers or pros that want to collaborate with talented blues musicians. Limited travel involved. 
Please submit a raw 2 min vocal blues sample.  Serious musicians only. 

And yes, I have seen way too many examples like the bad example above (BTW, this is the guy who has a profile image that looks like he took it with his iPhone in his bathroom). Just something to keep in mind. While both opportunities are unpaid with limited artist exposure, the second example is professional, to the point, and is clear about what the project will involve. You can answer more detailed information like rights if you choose the artist. I suggest adding "serious musicians only" because some musicians on Music Xray don't read the opportunities and they just send ANYTHING to ANYONE. I guess they have the cash to waste! Depending on your response you might have to add a small fee to get rid of the trash, especially if your opportunity offers high levels of exposure or is well-paid. Libertaria was a pretty specific project (an opera) that required musicians to read music, so I didn't have to worry about that.

You have the option to upload an original sample of what you are looking for. Music Xray will scan the audio and match it to artists in their database. 

The system is fallible, but it does allow your opportunity to show up in the e-mail accounts of any musicians that sing similar types of music and it helps the system suggest artists that will fit your requirements. 
sheet music
Audition Excerpt from Libertaria: The Virtual Opera

The musician submits a track to you as well as a note with additional links. You will receive the audio in your inbox and have the option to offer  a critique. I suggest opening up a Two-Way conversation with artists that you select or are considering. This allows a short discussion about the project on Music Xray. If you want to select the musician, then you can give them your contact info, chat with them about details, etc. While you cannot add e-mail info in the original opportunity, once the musician has submitted the track Music Xray doesn't limit your interactions with the musician and it pretty much is hands-off from there. 

I also suggest having musicians submit raw vocal or instrumental audio and not a processed musical track (unless you are looking for a producer). You don't want to end up with a musician that needs you to autotune them or relies on MIDI to fix their wrong notes to sound good, especially for a live project. With raw files you will end up with more mistakes but at least you will hear what you are getting. You might want to include a second step of the audition process after the musician sends the audio. I had a short snippet of the virtual opera that I required musicians to sing acapella. I also required that all musicians had access to recording equipment since they would be responsible for their own recordings, which I would then mix into the animated opera soundtrack. 

Besides Music Xray, I also posted the opportunity through Twitter, Facebook, online artist job boards, Wreckamovie, and music publications. In those cases, musicians submitted their audio to me directly through e-mail. Because Libertaria is a rock opera, musical requirements were high for the project and required experience in opera or musical theater, the ability to read music, and access to recording equipment. Musix Xray is mostly for commercial music like pop, rock, and hip hop, and music projects in those styles will benefit the most from using this type of site. 

WRAP-UP
You can use Music Xray to set up a virtual audition for your project. Access thousands of talented musicians through this site. Be sure that you are honest about your opportunity and are a music professional when setting up a posting. Use the platform's tools to audition your musicians, contact them, and check musician's credentials.  

How do you reach other musicians online? Share your success stories and projects in the comments below! 
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