Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete

Continuing with the series of Techno-Literacy, today’s lesson is:

• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete. 


This is, I believe, a change that has taken place in the recording studio in the past 10 to 15 years or so.


Whereas, yes, recording technology has always progressed – 2-track to 4-track to 8-, 16-, & 24-track analog recording, for example. However, this progression from 2 tracks to 24 tracks took from the mid-1950s to what, the mid-1970’s? And all that work got us was an apex of 24 tracks for recording. In 20 years?


We know each new technology proliferates at a quicker rate as time goes on – from telegraph to telephone to fax machines to e-mail to internet to cell phone usage (and all the steps I missed in there). We’re now at a point in time where the software used to create new studio technology is literally given away (in the form of development kits and the like), and it’s up to the creators (see the previous post) to use their imagination and create. That makes for a situation where anyone whom wants (again see my previous post) to can become a studio technology creator and publish it for free (or pay) on the Internet for anyone to download and use.


Today’s lesson is part godsend and part curse for those of us (like me) whom are very cost-conscious. I’m the kind of guy that hates to buy new technology. I AM the kind of person to wait until the very last minute to buy a new piece of technology, because I know that something better is always around the corner. I remember buying my first computer in the late 1990’s. When I tell younger people about this time period, I think that they have a hard time believing me (or just think that I’m an idiot). The late 1990’s was almost a wild west show in the computer hardware world. I would pick up the Best Buy sales flyer every Sunday and sweep through the computer hardware section to see what new processor speed and memory storage their computers had. There was a time period of several years’ where, literally, almost every other week, I’d see faster speeds & more memory on their computers. Why would anyone want to purchase a computer one week at 733 megahertz and two weeks later see a computer for the same price at 867 megahertz? Or buy a computer with a 10 GB hard drive then see the same computer two weeks later with a 16 GB hard drive?


The technology you buy today is already outdated. You may not be able to buy the newest technology tomorrow, but it won’t be long.


You have two choices: you can either continually chase the technology and buy a new computer every six months, in which case a LOT of your overhead is being taken up with computer hardware and software. I’d say that’s a mistake. 


One thing I ALWAYS tell people I consult with is this: When you start attracting clients to your studio business, do NOT advertise based on your equipment. If you start that trend, you’ll ALWAYS be behind. Someone else will ALWAYS have better equipment, more equipment, more updated software, etc. If you win the equipment chase game, the only ones who really win are the equipment manufacturers. DO NOT PLAY THE EQUIPMENT CHASE GAME.


A better idea is this: Get comfortable with the hardware and software you already have, and learn to use every single feature of that software effectively. Squeeze the blood form that turnip, son! There’s still some juice left in it!


Probably, you have equipment in your studio that has functions you don’t even know about. You learned how the basic functions work for that piece of software, but when you have a need for some other function, you turn to buying another piece of software.


Pro Tools has an entire notation feature built into the software. Did you know that? That fact may mean there’s no real need to buy Finale, Sibelius, or some stand-alone music notation software program. 


When you buy a Pro Tools LE system, you get Melodyne for free. Free! No, it’s not the full-featured Melodyne Studio, but you know what, the vast majority of projects I’m working on don’t necessarily need all of those features. If i can correct some pitches, I’m good!


Learn your software. Learn your hardware. Squeeze every last feature out of your equipment you can. It will save you money in the future. If what I say here saves you some money, let’s go out for coffee later.

What are you doing to stay afloat in the studio business?

There are a lot if indicators that point to the fact that the studio business is a tough place to stay alive.

If you read Billboard, Mix, or some of the other professional trades that deal with the studio business, they’ll tell you that studios are closing up shop left and right and those spaces are being turned into condos. Yeowch! Priorities, eh?

Anyway, the recording studio business has never been easy, and it’s being made a lot tougher on studio owners that aren’t very business savvy and those that try to cling on to the way they did business ten or fifteen years ago.

My research shows that at least SOME studio owners are charging less for their services as a way to stay competitive in the marketplace. How bad of an idea is that? With the increased cost of doing business (employee salary/wages, rent) there’s no way you’re going to stay in business if you continually charge LESS money over time. May work in the short term, but that’s not an effective long-term strategy for success. And, once you DO start to charge less money, when you try to increase your rates, all your clients are gonna grumble and complain about how much it costs to record at your facility.

So, my challenge to you is this:

What can we do as an industry to keep ourselves alive (a la Queen)? I think it’s going to take some pretty innovative thinking. It looks like the people that are out there making a real go of it are doing something creative and unique. I’m not sure of the right answer(s), but I have my thoughts… How about you?

J

NARAS Producers & Enigneers Wing – DAW Guidelines for Music Production

As some of you may know, the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) created their Producers & Engineers Wing several years ago and charged them with the task of establishing a set of guidelines that would offer solutions to some of the traditional problems we face in the recording studio.

To that end, they have developed a set of guidelines to follow when using DAWs. The guidelines are meant to simplify the file management process and keep your sessions orgainized for future use.

There are two versions of the guidelines, a short version and a longer, more complete version.

The short version of the guidelines can be found here.

The longer version can be found here. Wow, 40 pages worth of guidelines.

2008 Recording Studio Survey Quick Facts

Highlights from the 2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey
Most studios are commercial and for-profit. Most studio owners and managers stated that their studio was commercially available to the public (89%) rather than a private facility or one that was closed to the general public.
Studios are used primarily for tracking. Almost half of the studio owners and managers surveyed said that their studio was primarily used for tracking (46%), with mixing being the most popular secondary purpose of the facility owned/managed (40%). Editing (21%) was also a popular secondary function of the studios owned and managed by respondents.
Out of those studios that owned at least one tracking room, most owned more than one (average of 1.92 per facility that owned at least one). Less frequently, respondents owned rooms for editing (average of 1.69 editing rooms for studios that owned at least one), and mixing (average of 1.63 mixing rooms per facility that owned at least one).
The average age of the facilities owned or managed by the respondents is 17.33 years. Additionally, the reported average gross revenue for the previous tax year was $161,772.73.
Country music is still the primary style of music produced at Nashville facilities. Contemporary Christian, Rock, and Gospel music were also popular styles produced at the respondents’ facilities.
Most respondents operate their business as Sole Proprietorships (36%). Respondents also reported operating their businesses as Corporations (25%), Limited Liability Companies (18%), and General Partnerships (14%) as well.
Studios that use interns on a full-time basis use more interns (an average of 2 interns per studio that used full-time interns) than studios that use full-time engineers (average of 1.5 engineers per studio that hired full-time engineers at all).
The primary use of studios in the Nashville area is for music production. Mastering and Sound for Picture work followed in popularity.
Most studio owners and managers (89%) say they offer DAW mutitrack formats at their facility. 57% of studio owners and managers that responded say they offer digital muitltracking, while only a little more than one-third (36%) say they offer 24-track analog multitracking at their facilities.
Overall, most studio owners/managers say that worldwide, conditions for being successful in the recording studio business are getting worse (67%) and not better (11%) this year compared to last year. 18% of owners and managers feel conditions for being successful in Nashville getting better.
The PDF with all of these results can also be found here. More information regarding the Nashville Recording Studio Survey can be found here.