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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