Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Updated on 9/11/2020
There are a number of sites that provide tools and information that make my work so much easier and save me a ton of time. Saving that time often is the difference in being in the red or the black on a project. Finding many of these sites TOOK a lot of time. Often I didn't know who to ask or where to look exactly. Sifting through search engine results, trying any keywords I could think of, I have definitely found some gems. Here are just a few that I use quite often, many of them every day. If you find these useful, I recommend bookmarking this page and signing up for my email list so you'll know when I update this post with more useful web resources.
URL Opener – Paste a list of URLs and open them all at once in separate tabs
This is a simple enough tool but with as many downloads as I perform each day, it saves me so much time. When there is a list of download URLs you need to open that aren't hyperlinks you usually have to highlight one, open in a new tab, go back to the tab with the list, open the second in another tab, and so on. That irritates the hell out of me. Well, this lets you copy and paste all the URLs into a field and opens each one in its own tab all at once.
VirusTotal – Scan files for malware using 50+ commercial AV engines, see what calls and changes they may make
If you download files frequently then security might be a concern for you. VirusTotal is a solid go-to for me when I'm not sure about the safety of the file I've downloaded or if I simply want to verify for others that something I've uploaded is safe. There's a file size limit of 300MB but it's free to let VT scan a file using around 50 virtualized commercial anti-virus engines which give you a consensus on its security. It features Avast, Malwarebytes, McAfee, and many other trusted AV engines. There is some skepticism and even mistrust out there from internet users about how VirusTotal uses the data it's given. For me, it's come in handy. It is not a replacement for natively installed anti-virus programs. I still use my premium Malwarebytes software. However, it is a great supplement. One of the coolest features for users that sign up for free is the ability to see a graphical representation of the file's relationship to other files, sites, and the countries of origin of the IP addresses, to and from which it sends and receives data.
Alternativeto – Find community-recommended alternatives to popular software
I spend hours on this site because I always find something useful and exciting. Type in the name of any software or web application and you'll get a list of alternatives along with links, community recommendations, and feedback. You can filter by license and platform as well. Want to make an Android app without coding or paying for a premium service Appypie? Boom! You just found MIT's App Inventor 2 with a link to the source code. I can't tell you how valuable this site has been. Crowdsourcing free knowledge is the bees, baby.
Graphic and Web Design
Pixabay – Free stock images
I do graphic design for a lot of different kinds of projects like ads, album art, website design, and GUI design. I use stock images for countless things and many projects just simply don't justify using an expensive premium service like Shutterstock. Pixabay is free AND royalty-free AND attribution free. It's my go-to for stock pictures, videos, and illustrations. But here's a marketing hack for you: you can use it for SEO and backlink building. For instance, I do digital marketing for a property management company. I take pictures of the hotel I'm marketing and upload them to Pixabay and any other free stock images site. Then, I describe the picture including my preferred keywords and tags. Finally, I include a link on each one that backlinks to the hotel's booking website. This does wonders for Google Search and Google Image results which ultimately helps drive that hotel's revenue. Some of the other sites I use are Pexels, Unsplash, and pxhere.
Optimizilla – Compress images for use on websites to decrease page load time
Doing website design, I usually have to upload image after image after image. Well, images can really slow down a website's page load time which in turn makes sites like Google and Facebook adversely affect that site's reach because users don't like long page load times. Well, Optimizilla optimizes photos by reducing image size while still maintaining high image quality. I used to use compressor.io, which is great but only allows one image upload at a time and restricts each upload's size to 10MB. Then, I found Optimizilla which allows for double the image size and batch processing. Huge time saver.
Clipping Magic – Remove backgrounds and isolate objects in images
Doing graphic design professionally, I mostly use the industry-standard Photoshop by Adobe. However, when I need to isolate an object in an image or remove a background, which I often do, there is absolutely no other choice for me but ClippingMagic. It's the best and in my estimation, it's not even close. The precision with which it's able to isolate objects is unparalleled. I mean, seriously, it's freaking awesome. I pay about $9 a month and have for years now but it's paid for itself several times over. I've looked for comparable alternatives but I cannot find anything that does exactly what ClippingMagic can do.
Carrd – Website builder
I am always looking to save time and when it comes to web design Carrd is a huge shortcut. It's very affordable and is ideal for making one-page websites quickly that are still customizable enough to avoid being some templatey piece of crap. It's got all the important features and makes it easy to create a site that looks great.
SEO and Marketing
The HOTH – Full suite of SEO tools and keyword research tools
There is no shortage of free SEO tools but I really like The HOTH best. You can perform SEO audits of your website, your competitors, keyword research, and a whole lot more. One way we use it at BeatWav is by doing keyword research for "VST presets" and then looking at what people are searching for and comparing that to the volume of results they are able to find. When we find a high ranking keyword that doesn't have many products out there then we know we can fill that gap in the market. For example, we found that there were a lot of searches for Serum presets, which was no surprise to us considering how popular of a virtual instrument Serum is and has been over the last several years. There is also no shortage of 3rd party presets and wavetables out there for Serum. What we were surprised to learn was that a large number of searches are performed by beatmakers looking for presets for Tone2's Gladiator plugin. It's far from new, yet ranked in the top 5 for a couple of months of 2019 for our keyword. This let us know what the market was looking to buy. The HOTH is instrumental for me in making these kinds of determinations.
UberSuggest – Full suite of SEO tools and keyword research tools
While it has pretty much the same tools as The HOTH, Neil Patel's UberSuggest is good for cross-referencing the data I get from other SEO sites. I also compare the data with results from Google's free Search Console.
Music and Audio
Voclr – Collection of acapellas
I do remixes of commercial songs, mostly as a sort of musical production workout. Remixes are a great way of deconstructing songs and it's always a fun challenge to take one kind of song and produce a version of it that is a completely different genre. Voclr is my go-to for finding acapellas. I pay for the premium subscription which is only $5.99 per month and that gives me access to a lot of high quality and even studio-quality isolated vocals. It includes info like song key and tempo but I've found that that info is often incorrect. I also wish Voclr had more search filter features. However, the volume of available acapellas makes it my first choice. My second choice is Acapellas4U, which has much better search filters. There is a premium version but you get 20 free downloads a month, I believe. For those interested, I'll be writing a blog in the future that will be a complete guide to finding and even making acapellas.
RemixPacks.ru – Collection of multitracks
Unlike Voclr and Acapellas4U, RemixPacks.ru has a lot of multi-tracks. This is where you get access to individual tracks, or stems, of songs. So instead of one summed wav file of the vocals, you can find each individual vocal take as well as individual tracks of the drums and instruments of the song. This makes for much cleaner remixes. Many of the multis on RP were extracted from the popular Rock Band and Guitar Hero games, which required isolated stems in order for players to play individual parts. There are other stems that were intentional releases, some that were leaks, and others obtained through DIY means like Spleeter. There are even a few gems that are super rare, like an entire Britney Spears Pro Tools session.
KVRAudio – A comprehensive listing of music production software, plugins, news, reviews, and forum
KVR is a great source of information for music producers and sound designers. They have active forums, links to almost every free audio plugin, reviews of plugins and audio software, and, most importantly for me, several RSS feeds, one of which lets you know whenever a new plugin or application is released or whenever updates and patches are released for existing audio software. I've got so many plugins that it's hard to keep track of updates and while I have plenty, I still want to know about the new releases. It's also useful for market research for us at BeatWav. I have the RSS feeds come to my free Chrome extension feed reader so I know what that market looks like at all times.
Music Map – Type in a music artist name and get similar artists names and an idea of how closely they are related musically
I use this site for one reason: Facebook audience building when marketing music artists. If I have an artist I'm marketing for then it helps Facebook know who to target by building audiences based on interests in similar artists. Facebook doesn't always have the exact artist listed that I'm looking to add and it's always better to use slightly more obscure or lesser-known artists. I don't want to use Jay-Z because he's popular with a broad audience. I want a targeted audience. Well Music Map shows me artists similar to other artists based on a variety of factors. I use that info to build a targeted audience that increases my Facebook ad campaign reach and overall ROI.
MP3Toolbox – Convert to and from numerous media formats
This site has a variety of media conversion tools. What I use it for is quickly making an MP4 video file whenever I'm ready to post a remix I've done to Youtube. I upload the song, then the artwork, and after a few minutes, it gives me a video file. For artists looking to upload their music projects to video sites, this is a quick and free solution that's faster than the available offline video conversion applications.