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  • Summer NAMM / Music Industry Thoughts

    A few random thoughts...

    It seems like the race to the bottom may be winding down. I'm seeing more substantial products at a somewhat higher cost...but I'd say something that costs 10% more these days is probably 20% better.

    I'm seeing lower prices on items I would have expected to be more. Not bottom-feeder things but something like a controller that looks like it would be $899 going for $599. I think perhaps there are a wider range of manufacturing options that allow for this.

    People will think I hate Apple for my saying this, but they really have devalued software. I'm hardly seeing anyone selling stand-alone apps. Most of the iPad usage seems to be add-ons to existing products that extend control or improve the user interface. I've talked to a few companies that have had significant success in terms of numbers for an iPad app, but they say it's just not worth it. And Logic Pro X has really skewed the price of software. Now, it's GREAT for the consumer that you can get a program as sophisticated and useful as Logic, and it certainly helps Apple sell hardware, but there's no a way pureplay MI companies can compete with a cell phone company that happens to make music software.

    People are paying much more attention to cool industrial design...rounded edges, nice illumination, better LCDs, and so on. And as a counterbalance to what I said above, that's one place where Apple has really helped raise the bar and create awareness of the importance of the "look" and user interface.

    Musicians seem to be getting more fluid in their choices about software. I think it used to be that if you used a particular DAW, you stuck with that DAW. I'm seeing more people who use different DAWs for different types of projects, or have switched from one DAW to another. Part of that may be biased because I'm seeing Sonar pick up new users who have switched from other programs, but even then I get the impression they don't abandon the previous DAW, they just use it less. And although it doesn't seem that huge numbers of people are using ReWire, at least with Sonar I hear of people rewiring Reason or Live into it so they're effectively creating one super-program.

    Guitars just never die, and neither does rock and roll - it's not solely an aging demographic, although the demographic certainly is aging in general. After all these years, there's still something cool about picking up a guitar and creating noise. I mentioned the band Goldmouth in the other thread. Someone told them "Wow, you guys have the same kind of energy as Led Zeppelin" and the reply was "who's Led Zeppelin?"

    More thoughts as they come to me...your turn.
    Last edited by Anderton; 07-20-2014, 10:57 AM.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

  • #2
    I don't have any perspective on apps. Or at least, not DAW and audio apps for tablets and iPhones.

    I can tell you that one of the reasons I got an iPhone after using a $10 dumbphone for eight years was because of the amazing apps for night photography, including Triggertrap for controlling cameras, night sky apps for finding constellations and information about positioning and timing, and much more. These apps, along with GPS, voice-to-text recognition, and much more make the phone far more than a phone. It becomes an extremely multi-tool device. I don't have any perspective on whether they devalued software in the audio sense, certainly, but that thing just works without hiccups. It's stable. And when you're 2 miles from the car in the middle of the desert at night, you want stable.

    And a lot of people I know seem to be quite fluid with software. One DAW does one thing well, another DAW for something else. Photographers frequently do the same thing here as well.

    And finally, if you are playing in a rock band and you play guitar, how have you NOT heard of Led Zeppelin? The guy's probably blowin' smoke up someone's skirt. Seriously. I work with a bunch of high school kids, and they wear Led Zeppelin shirts and know who they are. And if you go into any guitar store and ask the guitar instructor what kids want to learn, it ain't Mastodon or Isis or Avenged Sevenfold....it's Led Zeppelin.
    Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, he's from Germany and the dominant life form there is still electronic stuff to a large degree, However, I should have been clearer that they were asked that question when they were first getting together. They know who Led Zeppelin is now.

      However, I find it very believeable. Their music doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin, nor is it blues-based. It's from a different generation that was raised with different music. Even if they had heard Led Zeppelin, unless there was some special reason to take notice, I can see where someone would kind of pass it by. There have been so many bands influenced by Led Zeppelin that their music is now in the DNA of rock and roll, so it's not going to have the same impact as it did when it first hit the world almost half a century ago and made people go "hey! What was that?!?"
      Last edited by Anderton; 07-20-2014, 06:00 PM.
      _____________________________________________
      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

      Comment


      • #4
        I`ve been waiting a good decade for something to actually grab my attention. I know no one in the industry who depends on selling gear is going to admit this but in my opinion we peaked several years ago. The only worthwhile developments in my opinion will be in the software department… getting digital to sound more analog, improved latency, etc…

        How many guitars, mics, amps, keyboards, etc… do we really need? What improvements in these instruments is worth me plucking down some hard earned $$$? None of it.

        Again, I know this is not something anyone in the industry would admit. With that said, manufacturers need to keep selling dreams so someone will spend $2000 on a Gibson or a Fender, thinking their band is the next big thing but we already know its not.

        In the last 6 years, all of my gear acquisitions have been in software: Native Instruments Komplete 9 Ultimate, Reason upgrades, Digital Performer upgrades, Waves plug ins…. I own 1 mic, 1 convertor, 1 channel strip, 1 iMac, 1 keyboard, 1 electric guitar, 1 acoustic. I don`t see myself expanding anymore than this in the future except in sounds… always looking for something interesting, something useful.

        So… NAMM or not… I didn`t pay attention, they lost my attention years ago….
        Last edited by Ernest Buckley; 07-22-2014, 07:40 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          I suppose there are new things coming up all the time, especially building on tablets and whatnot. I don't care about them so much, but they're good tools for somebody. So I don't jump and down and get excited as well. But I'd like to!

          But let's ask Craig. Craig, What instruments, gizmos, oddities, software, or whatever was just plain cool? Interesting? Fun? Exciting?

          Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by UstadKhanAli View Post
            I suppose there are new things coming up all the time, especially building on tablets and whatnot. I don't care about them so much, but they're good tools for somebody. So I don't jump and down and get excited as well. But I'd like to!

            But let's ask Craig. Craig, What instruments, gizmos, oddities, software, or whatever was just plain cool? Interesting? Fun? Exciting?
            ​Thats the thing, I`m not interested in what guys in the industry think is cool or relevant. For the sake of their jobs, heck, even their sanity, they have to believe that what their company is offering is relevant. I`m interested in the customers, the ones who buy the gear! Thats who I`m interested in hearing from. What is the average Joe spending his $$$ on? What is the average musician excited about? Another guitar? Another mic? Are they really interested in the guitar or mic because its something actually new or because they think thats the missing link between them and stardom?

            Anyone on this forum actually using some new piece of gear because it changes the game for them? Inquiring minds….

            Comment


            • #7
              But Craig uses this stuff. And he's there. He's not gonna make up crap about what he's truly interested in.

              For me, it was this during 2014 Winter NAMM:

              Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Ernest Buckley View Post

                In the last 6 years, all of my gear acquisitions have been in software: Native Instruments Komplete 9 Ultimate, Reason upgrades, Digital Performer upgrades, Waves plug ins…. I own 1 mic, 1 convertor, 1 channel strip, 1 iMac, 1 keyboard, 1 electric guitar, 1 acoustic. I don`t see myself expanding anymore than this in the future except in sounds… always looking for something interesting, something useful.

                So… NAMM or not… I didn`t pay attention, they lost my attention years ago….
                You're obviously interested in different sounds, but your focus on getting them is purely electronic and software based. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but with only 1 mic, 1 converter, 1 channel strip, 1 electric guitar and 1 acoustic, you've got a whole world of sonic possibilities from physical sources that you're overlooking, whether they be from adding another mic or two, a 12 string guitar or another electric with different sounds, some new effects pedals, etc.
                **********

                "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                - George Carlin

                "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                Comment


                • #9
                  One thing that was very exciting to me was I saw two low-cost compact keyboard controllers, one from CME and one from Keith McMillen, with polyphonic aftertouch. Poly aftertouch was a big feature of the Ensoniq boards; they had a patent for a really elegant way to do it. But, that was back in the day when MIDI was limited by serial port speeds, not USB, and that much aftertouch data choked many a Mac Plus.

                  Poly aftertouch never recovered from Ensoniq going out of business. I talked to Casio and said that I assume the IP is up for grabs, but a representative said it would require a complete re-dseign of the keybed, which is not feasible economically.

                  So I was pleased to see the option being offered again in inexpensive controllers. No, they're not 88-key weighted keyboards, but they're affordable and they work. I'm getting the CME to evaulate. Poly aftertouch opens up so many expressive possibilities for synthesis, and I'm in favor of anything that allows for more expressiveness.

                  _____________________________________________
                  There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    As to something new in microphones, you'll find out next year there's more to life than gray cylinders made in China for the lowest possible price. Stay tuned.
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Now. about guitars. I can speak only of Gibson, for two reasons: I know Gibson's products better than anyone else's at this point, and I don't feel it's my place to say anything about any other company.

                      Gibson is constantly looking for ways to improve the guitars. To me, the cryogenically treated frets, which basically mean you'll never need to get a fret job, are a huge deal. Also, the coil tap concept of tuning a coil split is simple but extremely effective. For example with the EB (no relation to Ernest Buckley) bass, you can get eight distinct voices with 100% passive electronics. With the Les Paul Standard, there are 13 distinct voices, again all with passive electronics. There are lots of other small changes, but they add up.

                      Also people diss the Min-ETune "robot" tuning, but once you get used to it you never want to go back. It's just so damn convenient to push a button in the middle of a session and bam, you're back in tune or in an alternate tuning. It currently adds about $100 to the cost of a guitar, which means it pays for itself in time saved over a very short period of time.

                      Now, the question is are these changes so significant that they would cause you to buy a new guitar because you saw it as soooo much better than what you have now? Maybe, maybe not. In the case of the EB, I ended up getting the 5-string version because a) I don't have a 5-string, only a 4 and b) having all those different sounds is incredibly useful in the studio. But the Standard? No, I don't really need that. I have an FBX and can get whatever sound I want out of the switchable pickup configurations.

                      However, another question is what happens to the person buying their first or second guitar. These improvements mean that the person buying their first Gibson in 2014 is going to have a considerably better instrument than the one they would have bought only a few years ago. So while these changes may not be all the exciting to veteran players (although geek/player that I am, I do find these exciting), they raise the bar in general and improve the experience of making music for those who do adopt instruments with these changes.
                      _____________________________________________
                      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Another thing I find exciting is that the race to the bottom seems to have peaked. Again speaking of products with which I'm intimately familiar, TASCAM's new UH-7000 is a pricey ($600) 4 x 4 interface (2 x 2 analog) but I've taken it apart and all the components are totally top of the line...real instrumentation amps, separate power supplies for the two analog channels (forget crosstalk), etc. I've looked at the reviews online; several people have compared to other interfaces and found the TASCAM not just better in terms of specs but also having superior audio quality they could actually hear. The main complaint is that given the price, people expected more than just a really good interface with stand-alone mic pre capability.

                        TASCAM is not the only company that said screw the price, make it good (Universal Audio comes to mind) yet by not being a "boutique" manufacturer they can still keep costs reasonable due to economies of scale. Like the guitars, would the improvement from a UH-7000 be so overwhelming people would ditch their exising interface? Again, maybe...maybe not. Personally, it's audibly superior to what I'm using now so I have a relatively easy answer. And also again, for the person getting into music they can buy something with lots of inputs and more than decent quailty, or they have the option to spend more but get a lot more in terms of audio quality.

                        I'm seeing better industrial design, more attention paid to user interfaces, and other indications that companies want to raise the bar. I think this is a great trend. As long as devices keep improving incrementally, the changes might not be significant enough to matter to some people. However, over a period of time, those changes add up to the point where if you listen to an interface from five years ago, you realize you can do a lot better now.
                        _____________________________________________
                        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                          As to something new in microphones, you'll find out next year there's more to life than gray cylinders made in China for the lowest possible price. Stay tuned.
                          **********

                          "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                          - George Carlin

                          "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                          - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                          "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                          - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                            One thing that was very exciting to me was I saw two low-cost compact keyboard controllers, one from CME and one from Keith McMillen, with polyphonic aftertouch. Poly aftertouch was a big feature of the Ensoniq boards; they had a patent for a really elegant way to do it. But, that was back in the day when MIDI was limited by serial port speeds, not USB, and that much aftertouch data choked many a Mac Plus.

                            Poly aftertouch never recovered from Ensoniq going out of business. I talked to Casio and said that I assume the IP is up for grabs, but a representative said it would require a complete re-dseign of the keybed, which is not feasible economically.

                            So I was pleased to see the option being offered again in inexpensive controllers. No, they're not 88-key weighted keyboards, but they're affordable and they work. I'm getting the CME to evaulate. Poly aftertouch opens up so many expressive possibilities for synthesis, and I'm in favor of anything that allows for more expressiveness.
                            I'd love to see polyphonic aftertouch make a comeback. It never really caught on, and like you said, the demise of Ensoniq pretty much killed it, but it can definitely be useful. Today, we have the bandwidth and computer horsepower to handle it, where it was really too much for the systems back in the late 80s / early 90s. Still, you have to be impressed with the forethought that went into the original MIDI spec...
                            **********

                            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                            - George Carlin

                            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                            Comment


                            • #15

                              Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                              A few random thoughts...

                              It seems like the race to the bottom may be winding down. I'm seeing more substantial products at a somewhat higher cost...but I'd say something that costs 10% more these days is probably 20% better.

                              I'm seeing lower prices on items I would have expected to be more. Not bottom-feeder things but something like a controller that looks like it would be $899 going for $599. I think perhaps there are a wider range of manufacturing options that allow for this.
                              I can see that. Beginners start with low end stuff and those that are serious about upgrading do allot more research before buying.

                              They say the best selling items are going to be what a working man can buy with a weeks paycheck. Many beginners haven't even had a full time job yet and their future's not bright enough to wear shades. People sell off their luxury items to pay bills. Others find great deals in that sell off process and buy the good stuff at discount prices.

                              It would make sense for manufacturers to target working people with their products at this paycheck point. Hardware that has good functionality and wont wind up on EBay at half the cost within 6 months may sell well. The counterfeits and copy cats are always in hot pursuit and seem to underbid every good piece of gear being made.

                              I do allot of digging and research on gear. I'm probably not as optimistic as others. I'm not seeing anything new and the innovations are all add-ons and after thoughts and when you actually do try stuff out and get past the Newness thrill, its at best mediocre. There are some great ideas out there but no ones investing in new technology. Most of it is rehash of the old over and over again. When they do add in an extremely simple and inexpensive feature that may cost $1 in parts they jack the price up $100.

                              I myself wont buy it. I know what's needed to get the job done and I know most of the work arounds I can use. The convenience of having the feature has to pay for itself in either time, production, or pleasure.

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