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Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Winter NAMM Show Trends

NAMM 2015 Attendee image
NAMM Attendee
The latest Winter NAMM show, the semi-annual exhibition of musical instrument manufacturers occurring each January in Anaheim, has ended, and more so than most, this one reflects what’s happening in the music creation business and even the world we live in. 

NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is unlike any convention anywhere, from the hustle and bustle of a Black Friday at the local mall, to the cacophony of simultaneous sounds from every kind of musical instrument imaginable, to a bevy of both legit and wanna be rockers bumping into you at every turn. The show is grueling, tedious and fun all at the same time.

Every year I post several editions of cool new gear that I spied at NAMM on my music production blog, but this post is particularly about the trends seen at the convention that show the latest from this side of the music industry and how it meshes with the more publicized production and business side. Here’s what I saw:

Avid Pro Tools First, Pro Tools 12 and Cakewalk Sonar - Avid’s Pro Tools is the king of the digital audio workstation (DAW) app in that it’s used by the majority of audio professionals in music and post. Avid is transitioning to the cloud with Pro Tools 12 and the free entry-level Pro Tools First, where you have the choice of buying the app outright, or paying a monthly fee. Of course, being in the cloud has it’s advantages for Avid, in that it can now charge users to store their projects there, and also to rent any plugins needed for the project. Also, being in the cloud also allows for online collaboration, which many see as the future of music creation.

While Pro Tools is primarily a Mac app, Cakewalk’s Sonar is one of the kings of the PC DAW world, and it too has introduced a monthly and yearly membership model to go along with a straight purchase of the software. Of course, this has been a viable business model for the tech world for some time, so it’s surprising that it took so long to be implemented on this end of the music business.

That said, it may not add up to the profits that these companies anticipate. Most professionals won’t indulge in the membership model because cloud recording just isn’t practical in terms of the number of simultaneous tracks that need to be recorded at any one time because of the upload bandwidth required. And while cloud storage of a project might have it’s advantages, most engineers, producers, artists, managers and record labels feel more comfortable with the data on a local hard drive that can be locked up or taken home for safety, at least at the moment. 

As far as cloud collaboration, there are a host of companies betting that this will be the next big thing, but it almost seems like a solution a problem that isn’t there. At least on the pro level, musicians and producers prefer working together in the same room to allow for the best interaction. That’s not always the case when it comes to guest players or vocalists, so I can see the need in that situation, but there still doesn’t seem to be a huge number of users clamoring for the feature, at least as far as I can see. Let’s see how this shakes out in a year. Read more on Forbes.

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