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Thursday, December 29, 2011

7 Music Production Predictions For 2012

It's time for some predictions for the new year. Here's what I see happening in 2012. The good part is that we'll see just how accurate I am on some of them by the end of January after the CES and NAMM shows. For a few others, we'll have to wait awhile. Here we go.

1. Tablets take off for music production. For such a relatively new class of products, tablets like the iPad have quickly become a must-have device. While we've had some great music software available for it in 2011 (Garageband is insanely good for only $5), 2012 brings us the serious I/O and accessories needed to take advantage of it's portability.

2. Plugins hit the wall. When DAWs and plugins were fairly new, pro engineers complained that they didn't sound like or as good as their hardware counterparts. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but it seemed like someone flipped a switch and the pro world not only accepted, but suddenly loved the latest batch of plugins with no reservations. Yes, plugins sound great these days but that's the problem. Where do you go from here? When all the great analog hardware is successfully digitally duplicated by multiple companies (and even surpassed in some cases), it's harder and harder to come up with something new. Add to that the fact that the market is saturated, and you'll see some software companies falling on hard times in 2012.

3. Pro Tools weathers the storm. Computers are really fast these days and Pro Tools can now operate natively and talk to hardware other than Avid's, which is why a chorus of "Why do we need Pro Tools anymore?' began to rise from DAW users everywhere in 2011. I have to admit that my new i7 iMac runs circles around my old HD1 rig for way less money. So while it may seem like this is the time when the Pro Tools hold on the audio industry is finally broken, let's not get too hasty. It's still the standard of the music and post business, and the pros (especially the big facilities) can't afford to make any changes now even if they wanted to (and they don't). If the pros use Pro Tools, than those aspiring to be pros must use it as well. We very well may see a new contender to the throne in 2012, but don't expect any big industry changes.

4. Studios make a comeback. In all the major cities, the number of major studios has dwindled in recent years to just a handful. Even these were just barely hanging on in 2010 and the beginning of 2011. That all changed during the summer, as major studios have been booked solid (and some even ahead a few months) ever since. There are a number of factors as to why this happened (some looser label budgets for one), but a big one is the re-found appreciation of what a real facility brings to the sound of project. There's just nothing like tracking and mixing in a real studio with tuned acoustics, and great mics and signal path. Finally gear owners everywhere are beginning to realize that just owning the gear isn't the key to great sounding music (although it can be if you know how to use it, so keep buying those books, please) and the benefits of recording in a real studio. Look for the trend to continue in 2012 with even some new facilities coming online.

5. SSD's are everywhere. I predicted this last year, but it was a bit premature. In 2012 you'll see the beginning of the end of the spinning mechanical hard drive and the inclusion of solid state memory in just about every newly designed piece of music gear. Add to that the fact that hard drives have actually gone up in price thanks to the recent floods in Thailand while SSDs (solid state drives) have continued to fall, and you'll find that you might have bought your last ever mechanical hard drive.

6. Apple gets into the television business. This isn't directly about music production, but it does apply in a round about way. It's been rumored for a while that Apple will be introducing their own branded television soon, and that seems inevitable at this point. The bigger rumor is the fact that the user interface is every bit as groundbreaking as just about every other Apple hardware or software product. As a result, the digital living room will finally come pass in 2012. Virtually every other product that the company has released has affected music production, from their desktops to the Macbook Pro to the iPod to the iPhone (have you heard some of the music recorded on it?) and iPad. I predict that elements of the user interface of the iTelevision (or whatever it's called) will find it's way into the gear that we use to produce music, making things simpler and easier in the process. And this will happen in 2012.

7. EDM breaks out in a big way. Electronic Dance Music is the biggest trend that the mainstream music world still doesn't know about, but not for long. 2012 will be the year that it finally breaks out, although the process started already in 2011 with the big time success of LMFAO.

Let's see how these predictions turn out. I'll have a review at the end of January to see just where we're at. In the meantime, have a happy, artistic, and musical New Year!

If you liked these predictions, you might want to check out my 12 music business predictions on my Music 3.0 blog as well.
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Gian Nicola Beraldo said...

Nice predictions Bobby (except the last one, about Electronic Dance...).
I hope SSD will be really everywhere: it would be everything faster. But, with Pro Tools I am not agree: I think that DSP have very little energy to add to nowadays DAW. But, despite my last thought: do you think there are DSP that worth to be bought?
And, last but not least, you forgot to say that in 2012 the world will finish.

Thank you for your books and blogs Bobby, have a wonderful new Year bbb

Bobby Owsinski said...

I think you misunderstand, Gian. I agree that the native DSP available in most computers is more than enough for most applications. My point is that Pro Tools will remain the standard for awhile simply because of the massive investment in it by major facilities.

sculley said...

Hey Bobby, Happy New Year. I read your blog every single day. My thoughts on your predictions:

1. Yes. I'd like to see tablets become more integral to tracking and mixing. I'd love to see something like a long iPad with enough room to mix in the box on the fly with multi-touch. I still think that touch screen computers are going to take off at some point, even though continuous touch screen use is unrealistic from an ergonomic point of view.

3. Yes. I've been a Logic guy since I started getting more serious about recording a few years ago. I'm looking forward to the rumoured Logic X this year, but I do realize that Pro Tools is by far the industry standard. Opening up their DAW was a good idea.

5. Yes. SSD's have dropped to less than $1.50/GB and Apple's new MacBook Pro's are expected to ditch the optical drive and go with SSD's. I agree, even though in the beginning offerings may be more expensive than current models.

6. Maybe. This has been talked about forever. Apple's going need to work some content deal magic to make this happen, and Jobs is no longer around to convince people in a way that only he could.

7. I think we are close to another rock/punk resurgence, and not just because I like that stuff. I realize that this isn't going to be a mainstream thing.

Have a great 2012 everyone.

Perry A-Jones said...

Sculley - I am right with you on the rock/punk resurgence. Of the 5 projects I am working on or will be working on soon, 4 are heavily punk influenced.


I agree that plugins are going to slow, but I don't see them hitting a wall. I think psychoacoustic development models are going to play a larger role in their development than the more common modeling of real analog devices that has been the norm. I hope that opens some new doors. ValhallaDSP has done some cool things in this direction and I assume more developers will start looking for new ways to get interesting sounds, rather than from trying to model analog hardware. That market seems the best poised for growth.

Protools will be the norm no doubt, but watch out for lots of Reaper growth. Their product is amazing, workflow amazing, and pricing is unbelievable. For the novice to mid level pro studio, it's almost a no-brainer. The DRM model Cockos is using(or lack of) should be supported if nothing else. Perhaps not ready for feature films or large scale production, but it's growing at an amazing rate and I can easily see it becoming one of the big boys soon if they keep updating at the pace they have been for the last few years.

And I sure hope studios are making a comeback. We are opening a new project studio in our area this Spring and are going to be targeting the growing hobby/college/youtube/singer-songwriter market in our area, in addition to the fast growing punk/rockabilly and cali-ska scene coming back to life in Sacramento. We want to grab those people looking to take the leap from home 2 channel interfaces to an actual studio, but without the full console operation or anxiety. Our plan: a great analog signal chain with in the box mixing and summing. I see more and more people heading in this direction and thing the professional project studio is going to grow to be a major contributor to the next generation's music. At least that is what I am betting on. Literally.

The Tablet thing... I don't know. I see them getting used as control surfaces and for concept work on-the-go, but I am not quite on the same page. Then again, if they can make an I/O attachment at a reasonable price that has 2-4 inputs and a couple balanced outputs with good software, I could see taking it over my laptop and RME UFX for scratch tracks or quick room or crowd-mic demos. Hmm, might be convincing me here...

Anyway, interesting predictions, hope they all come true (well, I could live without protools, but the rest seem decent). Hopefully get a chance to meet you at NAMM in a couple weeks.

-Perry A-Jones


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