Here we go:
Waze GPS – If you have a smartphone or a tablet with GPS, get the Free Waze GPS app and you’ll most likely never be late to a gig again. Waze is a unique GPS that connects with the other users of the app (about 30 million so far), detects traffic and reroutes you to a more optimal path. Users can also report traffic, accidents, police and more. If you live in or travel to populated areas, this app is a must have! It has guided me around traffic numerous times and it’s even allowed me to navigate through the worst Los Angeles traffic during rush hour. I probably would’ve missed about 10 flights if it hadn’t been for “Waze.”
Google Voice + Talkatone – UPDATE: GOOGLE VOICE HAS TERMINATED 3RD PARTY ACCESS AS OF 5/15/14 AND TALKATONE NO LONGER WORKS WITH THIS SERVICE.
I’ve listed Google Voice and Talkatone together because it’s the combination of the two apps that is so special. As some of you already know, Google Voice (GV) is a free service that allows users to place free calls over wifi or a cellular Internet connection. Once registered, GV will assign you a phone number from which you can make and receive calls to/from any cellular phone or landline.
Now what makes this so cool is that you can use your GV number on your current smartphone and you’ll have two separate phone numbers routing to your phone. You can use the second number as a business line or possibly just when you are out of the country or without coverage. I have texted people from planes regarding arrival times and travel info. I’ve been able to call people from areas with no cell phone reception because I was able to connect to the local wifi. I’ve also made many free calls from hotels in the US, Europe, Africa and more. It’s a great and useful tool.
Soundhound – Many of you are probably aware of this one already, but here ya go: Soundhound can recognize songs being played (on the radio, at restaurants, gigs, etc.) and display the info. It can also recognize certain tunes if you sing or hum directly into the device. It’s a pretty amazing app and it’s extremely useful when you need to identify a song title and/or artist quickly.
Genius Scan – This is an app that you won’t use that often, but it’s amazingly useful when you need it! On a recent tour, I was sent a license for my music to appear in a TV show. It needed to be signed and emailed back quickly and the hotel didn’t have a working scanner. So, I was able to print out the license at the hotel’s business center, sign it and take a picture of the document with the Genius Scan app. The app optimized the image and created a PDF which was then ready to be emailed. It looked good enough for the music supervisor’s purposes and all was well. Even at home, where I have a nice scanner, I find myself using Genius Scan occasionally because it’s so easy and convenient.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – I don’t think I have to say much about the importance of having social media available on your smartphone; nonetheless, it’s important to be active as a musician on social media. That means updating your status daily (at least) and giving people a window into your music career/life. This could include taking pictures of a gig, promoting an event, linking to a story, whatever. It’s just important to stay busy and your smartphone can make this simple for you.
Yelp – If you are on the road, Yelp is an indispensible tool. Do you want to find some cheap and awesome food in your area? How about a hotel with a decent star rating or a nearby thrift shop you’d like to check out? Yelp encompasses almost any type of business and it’s one of my go-to apps on the road. Since Yelp is solely based on user reviews, you usually get an accurate portrayal of what a business is really like. That being said, if you like bed bugs or hair in your food, you should avoid Yelp.
Square – If you’re selling your own CDs or merchandise at gigs/events, Square is a must have. Just attach their free card reader to your device and start taking credit cards. Woo hoo!
Metronome – If you have an iPhone or iPad, I recommend getting Pro Metronome. This is a great free metronome that has a ton of options. You can change the tone, the time signature, the subdivisions, the accents and more. Also, it has a tap tempo function, which is really useful! If you are an Android user, you should check out Mobile Metronome which also has great features.
Downloader app – This one is iPhone and iPad specific (Androids don’t have this problem). Have you ever needed to download an mp3, movie or file directly to your iPhone or iPad? Unfortunately Apple won’t let you do this without synching to iTunes, but there are many downloader apps that can help you. So, get a free (or paid) Download Manager App from the App Store and download the file directly to your iPad or iPhone. Just copy this link with your iPad (hold and click to copy). Then you will open the download manager app on the device and paste the link in the browser (of the download manager.) It will then be downloaded directly to your iPhone or iPad and will be available through that app at any time. There are a bunch of good free download managers available (MyMedia Download Manager, Downloads Lite, etc.). Pretty cool, huh?
Analytics – If you have your own website and you want to check your analytics (number of hits, traffic sources, landing pages, etc.), you should get an analytics app. Are you interested in seeing how many people viewed your blog article or how many hits you received from your Facebook post? Of course you are! Note: you need to set up Google Analytics (free) for this to work. There are many free analytic apps and I’m sure there are other good candidates out there. The two that I have experience with and like the most are Fishead Analytics (iPhone) and gAnalytics (Android). That being said, other apps may suit your needs just as well.
Cloud Access – Creating backups and having access to important files while on the go is extremely important for me, which is why I recommend getting some kind of cloud system in place. You can share audio and video files with your band, upload your music library for quick access, collaborate with other musicians, store documents, etc. More importantly, you can access all of these files from your mobile device, which is incredibly useful. There are many options in this field, but I’m going to recommend Google Drive because it offers 15GB of storage for free! As of the writing of this post, the other options don’t offer as much in their free tier (Dropbox gives you 2GB, Apple iCould gives you 5GB, Amazon Cloud Storage gives you 5GB, SugarSync gives you 5GB, Microsoft SkyDrive gives you 7GB). There are a few free Google Drive apps that work well, but I prefer Gdrive for iPhone/iPad because it supports multiple accounts. Since I have 2 separate Gmail accounts associated with their respective Google Drive accounts, I have 30GB available in total. For Android, there are a few options, too. So get to it; start using the cloud!
Voice Recorder – Having a decent voice recorder is essential when inspiration hits. You need to be able to quickly open a recorder app and jot down your ideas. There are so many free recorders available that I’m hesitant to name a winner in this category. That being said, I have been using Voice Record Pro on my iPhone because I like the fact that it has so many export options including my favorite, Google Drive.
Tuner – There are so many free tuner apps out there that I couldn’t even pick one for this blog post, but you should definitely have one on your smartphone or tablet. Some of them are better for certain situations; so depending on what your instrument is, you might prefer one over another. Anyway, get a tuner!
So, this is obviously just a partial list of free apps that can help you with your professional music career. Also, you’ll notice that some of my recommendations are a little more vague. This is because certain app categories are loaded with good options and there isn’t really a standout in my eyes. In these cases, I’m recommending a function or a service over a specific app. If you have any additions, please comment and let me know. I’m always interested in “geeking out” to make my workflow a little bit easier and more efficient. Hope this helps!