If I were a gambling woman, I’d bet that a few of you who read this blog are musicians – whether your audience is a packed floor of Mercy Lounge or never any bigger than your pet cat (I count myself in the latter category). But quite a few of you, I am sure, spend a good deal of time on the road, dragging your instruments and selves across our fine country, waking up in beds with scratchy yellow hotel blankets and making meals out of things that come in wrappers just to play live in a different zip code each day. One such person is Levi Weaver, a fine Nashville-based singer-songwriter who’s spent the bulk of his adult life traveling for his music, including dates with Kid Beyond and Imogen Heap and blogging along the way. You can listen to his record The Letters of Dr. Kurt Gödel here, as well as his recent EP, I Am Only a Tiny Noise here. My current favorite is the simple but striking love song “Dark Clay,” with the lyric “I’m the kind of scene no one should ever want to paint/but you find a way to love me anyway.”
Because of the mileage he’s logged playing music on the road, we asked Levi to list his Top 5 Apps for Musicians on Tour as his Nashville Five. Bookmark and download :::
I’ve spent more time out of Nashville than in it in the last year, driving over 50,000 miles (and flying about that many more) so I don’t feel overly qualified to write a “Nashville Five”, per se. But I also know that many people that live here also spend a lot of time on the road, going from show to show. So my Nashville Five is going to be travel-oriented. As a musician living in the year of our Lord Twenty and Twelve, smart phones are a big part of being on the road. I’m going to give you the five apps that I’ve used the most over the last few years.
1. Square – This shouldn’t be news to you if you’re a musician. The ability to take credit cards for merch sales is indispensable. Remember when we used to have to bring those big gross swipers and save the carbon copies, only to mail them in, hope all the cards went through, and then give up 9% of our sale for the “convenience”? Well, now you just need a smart phone. The dongle is free, you swipe the card right into your phone, and you can even send a receipt (to text or e-mail) with your photo on it. The percentage they take is less than 2%, and the funds go straight into your account the next day.
2. HeyTell – I’ve described myself as a “Voicemail agnostic” in the past. I saw you called. Maybe your voicemail exists, maybe it doesn’t. But it doesn’t effect me, either way; I’ll call you back. If it’s a short message, don’t call in the first place; just text me. But when you drive 50,000 miles a year, you’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk by texting if you can avoid it. HeyTell is a great compromise. It works like a Walkie-Talkie: you can send short voice messages that you would otherwise text if your hands weren’t already busy with a steering wheel, a cup of coffee, the radio, and scribbling lyric notes.
3. Lemon – I haven’t used this as much as I should; we musicians are not often noted for our bookkeeping skills, and I’m no exception. But if you’re serious about making music your full-time occupation, Lemon is a great app. You can take photos of your receipts and file them with ease in different categories. Anything that makes bookkeeping easier is a huge help.
4. iExit – If you find yourself wondering when the next exit with gas, food, or hotels will come along (and you will), you no longer have to wait until you’re right up on the exit, straining to see the little squares on those green “Food” “Gas” and “Accomodation” signs. iExit tells you what’s coming up at the next exit, the one after that, and the next twenty or so. So if you’re not in the mood for Subway, you don’t have to wonder if it’ll be 45 miles to the next food. Keep going, there’s a Burger King in 6 miles! Road Ninja is another, more well-known app that does basically the same thing, but I prefer the layout and usability of iExit.
5. Waze - I once paid $40 for a turn-by-turn satellite navigation app for my phone. It took up an ungodly amount of space on my phone. It also cost me exactly $40 more than I paid for Waze. Not only does Waze have all the functions of a SatNav system (traffic avoidance, automatic re-routing if you miss a turn), it’s also free. And it’s crowd-sourced, so users can report hazards and they immediately go into the system. Weather hazards, animals in the road, and “describe-it-yourself” hazards are all available options. The more you drive (and the more hazards you report) the more points you get. I dare you to try to catch my point total (username: leviweaver)
(Side note: if you get bored, it’s fun to report that there is a ghost, a Grand Canyon, or a Justin Bieber in the road. Noooooo!!!!)
Bonus: This isn’t an app, but https://www.skaflash.com is another pretty cool idea: They will assign you a phone number, and you can announce it from stage, put up a banner, etc. Concert attendees can text their e-mail address, name, and city to the number, and they will be added to your mailing list. Awesome. There you go. Happy travels.