Are you trying to decide which app to use to run a click and tracks for your worship ministry?
In this article, I'm going to give you a side by side comparison with Prime by Loop Community and Playback by Multitracks.com. I'm going to walk you through the pros and cons of each of these powerful and easy to use iOS apps. Soon you'll have a much clearer understanding of which one is the best fit for your worship ministry.
The two most popular apps that are being used by worship bands to run a click and tracks in worship are Prime by Loop Community and Playback by Multitracks.com. Of course, when I refer to an app, I'm talking about apps that run on mobile devices and iOS devices specifically, like an iPad or an iPhone.
I use Ableton Live to run a click, tracks and automate lighting and lyrics in our worship gatherings at the church plant where I lead, but Prime and Playback, while they might not have the power and capability of Ableton Live, they sure can accomplish a whole lot for your worship band.
It can be hard to know which of these two apps is the best choice for your ministry. So in the rest of this post, I'm going to walk you through all the criteria that you need to be thinking about and all the pros and cons of these two apps that help you understand which one is best for your context.
I believe that both of these apps are powerful, user-friendly and an excellent fit for a lot of worship ministries. It comes down to your personal preferences for user experience and ecosystem.
Let's go ahead and dive into this comparison.
First, let's talk about price. The Prime app is free. It's tough to beat free, right? All you have to do is go to the app store, press the download button and, bam; you have that free app either on your iPad, iPhone or even a Mac laptop. Playback, on the other hand, starts out as free but to unlock all the features that Prime has, which is already free, you have to pay at least a five or six dollars a month subscription.
With the free version of Playback, you get a lot of the essential functions that you need, like being able to build the set list of songs, mixing your songs, and creating smooth transitions. But you have to pay to be able to have the MIDI mapping feature, loop song sections, have dynamic guide cues, and to be able to route audio to different buses for an external audio device.
All of those things, Prime does for free.
Since I want to compare these two apps at their best, I went ahead and subscribed to the six dollars a month premium version of Playback. While it's kind of a pain you have to pay for Playback, I still think it's worth the price.
Next, let's talk about the platforms these apps are available on. Both apps run on iOS devices like an iPad or an iPhone, but Prime can also run on macOS which is great if you rather build and run your tracks on a full Mac laptop rather than doing everything on an iPad or iPhone. Playback, on the other hand, does not have a macOS version of its app.
Next, let's talk about the user experience of each of these apps. This criteria, I believe, is completely up to personal preference, but I'll show you what they look like side by side.
Here we have the Prime app and I'm a big fan of this layout. On the left side of the screen, you see all of our tracks. I don't have to scroll around to see the different tracks and on the right side, I see my set list of songs. When I have a song selected, I see the whole song on the top portion of the app from beginning to end, and I can even zoom in to see if it's just the song sections. A little bit closer up I like being able to just see where the play head is over the course of the whole song. Then on the bottom right you have your controls like play, stop, fade out, go to the next song. You can easily transpose a song or change the tempo as well.
Now we're looking at the Playback app. The user interface is a little different. Starting at the top, that's where you have your transport controls, a play, fade out, the back button. I like having those controls at the top. It's my own personal preference. I feel like it's common in digital audio workstations. Below you have your set lists of songs laid out horizontally. You could see what your transitions are in between each song and then below that, whatever song you have selected, you'll see the audio file of the song laid out horizontally in a timeline. You'll also see a grid that denotes the different bars and beats within a song. Underneath that, you have your mixer for your tracks, and then on the bottom right, you have some buttons for looping and also to control your master volume.
When comparing this user interface to Prime, the thing I don't like about Playback is having to scroll through the song timeline like. I like how in Prime you can view the whole timeline at once, and then I also am not a huge fan of having to scroll through my different tracks to see them. I think in Prime it's easier to quickly get to where you need to go to control things. But when it comes to this user interface, it really depends on your personal preference.
Building Worship Setlists
Now let's talk about the most common task that you're gonna be trying to accomplish within these apps. The first task is building out your set list of songs. In both apps, it only takes seconds to find a song within your Loop Community account or Multitracks.com account, and load them into the playlist. It's also equally just as easy in each of the apps to edit your set list.
In both apps, you can also add songs in that contain just a click track. Maybe you didn't want to buy Multitracks for a particular song. I love having click and pads in between certain songs in my setlist. It allows me to engage the congregation while still having the ambient support. It's also really easy to edit song arrangements in both of these apps. You can easily add song sections. You can delete song sections.
I can drag song sections around. When I double-click on a section, I can delete that section or I can add a new section right after it. Both apps, editing arrangements, basically have the same functionality.
Now let's talk about the transitions feature. This is a very important feature, and both of these apps have come a long way in adding this functionality so that you can have some nice, smooth transitions between songs.
In both apps, you could have it so it'll automatically go to the next song. You can also crossfade songs so it'll fade out song A and it'll fade in song B. Or you can just overlap the end of song A with the beginning of song B, and it's not gonna fade out either of these parts but it's just gonna simply overlap them.
One thing that the Prime app does that the Playback app doesn't do is this feature where it'll just keep playing the click track once you've done a song.
I think this is a really handy feature especially if you want to vamp and have some spontaneous moments. It's really powerful to have that.
Let's talk a little bit more about the click tracks for each of the apps. In Prime, you can go to the gear icon on top right and you can select your click sound. I really like the digital sound. I'm not a big fan of the default sound. You can easily add in subdivisions, so I like having eighth notes in there to subdivide the beat. It really helps our band stay on time.
One advantage Playback has in this area is the click settings are applied globally. In Prime, you need to select your click sound and subdivisions for each song.
Changing the Key or Tempo
One key difference between these two apps is how quickly you can change the key of a song and the tempo of a song within the app. In the Prime app it's actually really quick and easy to do. You can even adjust the tempo and key of the song while it's playing. Whereas in the Playback app, it has to download new files for that song, and it takes a few minutes to do that. If you ever plan on having to change the key on a fly during band rehearsal and you're using Playback, know it's gonna take a minute or two or three for it to do this.
In the Playback app, what I think is happening is it's actually downloading new audio stems into the app and switching them out with the old ones. Maybe there's not as much warping going on so you'll have a better, cleaner sound with the transposed files.
The next feature I want to compare with these two apps is the control that you have while you're playing through the songs during worship. Again, these apps are very similar when it comes to this feature set.
I'm gonna go ahead and play this song here in Prime and a couple cool things you can do, you can hit the loop button. Hit it the first time. It's just gonna loop once and then go through the end, but if you hit it again, it will just keep looping it infinitely. I'm gonna go ahead and turn that off, I don't need it to loop right now. Then another cool feature is that you can easily skip to different song sections, so I'll just click on the chorus. It's gonna jump to the chorus and it also has a dynamic guide that's gonna tell me which section is coming up next. Then finally I can easily fade out the tracks or I can fade them back in.
Playback's controls are very similar, so I'll just select a song here. I'll go ahead and play "Look to the Son." If I want to jump to different song sections, I just double tap it and it's gonna be blinking. It's saying it's queuing up that section. It's gonna wait till it finishes the previous song section and it gives the dynamic guide queue as well, just like the Prime app.
You can also fade out your backing tracks or fade them back in a fly, and then Playback also has the looping functionality as well, so I can have the loop once button triggered here and that's all it's gonna do is loop back to this section and then it will just keep playing through the end of it, or I can turn on the infinite loop button and it'll just keep looping that section until I disable that. When it comes to controlling your tracks, jumping around, looping sections, these apps function basically the same.
When you're getting started with running a click in tracks, the most basic setup is to put your click in guide on audio output one or the left side of the stereo output and then put your backing tracks on audio output two or the right side of your stereo output. But when you want to get fancy and you want to have more control over your mix at your front of house console, you could start using multiple outputs. Both apps can handle sending multiple outs to a compatible audio interface.
The other more advanced feature that both apps have is MIDI functionality, so you can trigger your songs. You can loop songs. All the different control features you have in here, they could be triggered by an external MIDI device. Let's say for example you're using a foot switch, like the Looptimus foot pedal or another MIDI foot controller. You can easily map MIDI notes to the different songs and to the different controls so you can just control everything with your feet.
Finally, I want to talk about the ecosystem for each of the apps. This is one of the big factors that you're gonna have to side on.
For both Multitracks.com and LoopCommunity.com, their main business is distributing and selling the master tracks and backing tracks that we use in our worship bands. What they've done in building both of these apps is not only make it easy to play the backing tracks you buy from them, but they also put some financial incentive in there that's gonna make it more affordable for your worship band to build up a library of songs.
First, let's look at Multitracks.com and the ecosystem they offer. They a rental program where you can rent up to 15, 20, 25 songs per month for a relatively low monthly fee. Let's say you have four worship services a month at your church and you do four songs a month. With their 16 songs a month plan it only costs you 60 bucks to have full backing track stems for all those songs. Now, the downside is that you have to use the Playback app. You don't actually get to download the audio files onto your own computer and use them in software like Ableton. So that's the one big con about the rental program. But if you're just using this app, then the rental program could work great for you.
Let's say at my church we would need at least 20 songs a month that we could rent. That's $75 a month or $900 a year we would pay to rent tracks. If I were to buy the master tracks for 25 songs at $39 apiece, that's $975 just for one month worth of songs. Of course, in a church setting, we're often repeating the same songs over and over, so we are not spending $975 a month on tracks. We probably end up buying $1,000 worth a year in backing tracks, but that's because I've been building up a library over the years, so we're not always having to buy new ones for every song we do, every single week. But if I were just getting started and I wanted to have backing tracks for all my songs and I knew I was just gonna use the Playback app, then that rental program sure is really attractive. It's gonna save you a ton of money.
Now let's talk about the Prime ecosystem. When you go to LoopCommunity.com's website, you can purchase all the master tracks and premium tracks and community tracks that they have available there, and Loop Community has most of the master tracks for most of the songs that we use on a Sunday.
Unfortunately, they don't have the master tracks from Hillsong. Multitracks.com apparently has exclusive rights to distribute those, but LoopCommunity.com creates premium tracks. They have their own professional studio musicians create those tracks and in my opinion, they sound identical to the master tracks. I use a lot of Loop Community's premium tracks and the great thing about that is it's often at quite a reduced price when you compare them to the master tracks from Multitracks.com. Loop Community also has their community tracks which are even cheaper. They usually run about $20 apiece.
Loop Community has also built in financial incentive for you to use the Prime app and buy your tracks that way. Whether you're buying the master tracks, premium tracks or the community tracks, it's usually about $5 cheaper for you to buy the Prime version of those tracks.
The downside is you don't actually get the audio files. If you want to start using them in Ableton, you have to buy the full multitrack stems from their website to have that ownership of them.
In the end, I think it comes down to what is your personal preference when it comes to user experience? Do you like the layout of the Prime app or do you like the layout of the playback app? Then the second big factor is what's your overall plan when it comes to building your backing track library?
The choice is yours, but I hope this side by side comparison just helps you figure out which one is best for your worship ministry. If you're using one of these apps or trying one of them out, let me know below in the comments which one you picked and why.
Finally, I want to invite you to check out Worship Leader School, where you're gonna find all the essential training, advice and support you need to plan and lead worship.