Final Tech Thoughts on the Cranky Year of 2009

By • January 14, 2010

You wouldn’t know from the amazing development that took place in the music technology sector that the world was literally teetering on the brink of financial ruin, and that in early 2009, the Chinese government vocalized publicly their observation for the need of a one-world currency. I’m writing this column 36 hours and 17 minutes before the beginning of 2010. We’re not out of the woods yet, and won’t be for some time. California unemployment is at 12.5%. Nationally, we’re still seeing foreclosure rates at 300,000 homes per month. And there was snow in Dallas.

Consequently, we shouldn’t get too giddy. We still need to keep our eye on the ball. But before we step up to the plate and start swinging for the fences, we need to scan the field and see where things are at.

Thus, the year-end prognostication column. Where do I see things going?

For professional composers, to whom this column is directed, 2010 will become even more the year for the Mac. With the Mac Pro Nehalem, we are seeing more problems solved than created. Digital Performer and Logic, unless something drastic happens, will remain with the 3.65GB limitation of RAM. But by learning more effectively how to run VSTi’s in stand alone, composers can get around that issue. I have one composer in Los Angeles who reduced a 7-computer studio down to one system – a Mac Pro Nehalem.

The potential bottom line – the end of black spaghetti in our studios. Simplicity. (Sigh a breath of relief here). Lower electric bills reflecting a different kind of green – money that stays in our wallets.

2010 could become the year of Kontakt. What’s in Kontakt’s favor is, “learn once.” Master Kontakt at the basic operational level, and it’s theme and variations thereafter for each licensor, making it quicker for end users to learn each library. What’s also in Kontakt’s favor are the sheer number of independent developers creating new product for it. As such, Kontakt can easily become The Standard for virtual instruments. However, K4 will not be backwards compatible to Power PCs. So G5 users are locked out of K4 and it remains to be seen if the programming will be broken on older Kontakt libraries you try to load into K4.

2010 could become the year of the Vienna Ensemble Pro Virtual Mixing Board which hosts Vienna, Kontakt and other VSTi’s. Why? Same reason as Kontakt, “learn once.” Today, it’s not yet working with PLAY, however the word-on-the-street is that this issue is now in beta. So if the Vienna wizards get this resolved, and we hope they do, that will be one more step towards the simpler recording studio.

2010 can also become the year for Canada’s Plogue Bidule. The kind of system integration and routing possibilities are truly exciting. To see Plogue Bidule in action, go to the Cinesamples web site and scroll down to the last video titled, Orchestral Film Scoring Template With Bidule and DP.

Then there is the quagmire. It’s GigaStudio. No need to rehash the past, because it’s the present that has to be dealt with, especially for those with thousands of dollars of investment with the Vienna First and Pro Editions, and its Performance Tool. The situation is as follows:

1. Machines are getting older.
2. There’s no legal mechanism in place to re-register the Giga software on a new machine.
3. There’s no formal ongoing testing to determine which older Giga versions, specifically 2.x, will work on Vista and Windows 7, assuming they can be re-registered.
4. And if a perfect world emerges, what audio cards and drivers will work with an older Giga 2.x on Windows 7?

This isn’t just about moving on. Thousands of dollars was spent on the software and hardware, but few take into account the thousands of dollars that went into learning, not just the software, but the sounds, and how they work and what they work best with.

I see two potential marketplace solutions.

The first marketplace solution is the new G-Player from Soundlib. It’s a new Mac plug-in from the folks who brought us CDXtract. It’s showing real promise and can be purchased as a digital download. It’s now available for Mac and PC.

The second marketplace solution can come from Vienna by re-opening cross grades from older Vienna product to the newer. Every First and Pro Edition owner’s name is registered in the VSL computer. Send an email. It’s an easy thing to do.

There are also marketing considerations for European developers. 2010 could be the year their sales begin to explode even more in the U.S. then in the past. But to do so, they need to seriously consider imitating Toyota and other Japanese automakers by establishing a manufacturing presence in the United States, since for now, and for the foreseeable future, the dollar will continue to remain weak against the Euro and British Pound Sterling. Exchange rates overprice European libraries by default, and sales are limited as the consequence.

The place to locate isn’t Los Angeles, it’s Nashville, or Memphis. They’re both practically in the U.S. center, and UPS shipping in any direction of the compass averages 3-4 days. Real Estate and health costs are much lower than either California or New York, there’s an active music scene, and quality DVD dupers and printers are all available in the central U.S.

It’s just a thought. The Old World has its charm, but so do the Great Smokey Mountains, and the Grand Tetons, and the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon.

We must also take into account the trend of independent sample library developers selling direct, especially with their own direct downloads. This is a firm trend for 2010 and it will continue to be so. But here’s the thing. Getting the product to buy will be faster. But my observation is that the decision making time to purchase will be slower, especially with fewer and fewer quality composers available to create great demos. The convenience will be balanced with concern. “Am I really getting what I’m being asked to pay for?” will be the not so unspoken question. It’s the challenge of a not-so-new business model.

And now, a final thought.

With 2010, we’ll have yet another opportunity to start a new year afresh to forge our way. But the better news is that we have the same opportunity before us each day we awaken with our eyes open and with limbs that move.


By joe rice on January 14th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

What’s the best we can hope for in 2010 with respect to using Kontakt in Pro Tools?

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