I was going through the help section of some software I haven’t used in a while and am having a hard time figuring out (Melodyne DNA)… and there was a link to a site wasn’t immediately familiar with… IMSTA.ORG. This is a trade association for music software developers, apparently.. and it seems to be mainly about stopping piracy.. which… is certainly an issue in terms of the health of the music production software ecosystem…
But here’s the report.. or a graph from the report they did back in 2007.
And Here’s what bugs me:
When the average citizen of the USA (or any country for that matter) buys a computer, 99% of them pay little or no attention to the quality of the sound that is coming from the built-in electronics. Today, the sound of the average computer rivals that of the audiophile CD players from 10 years ago. So the bottom line for most people is that this is more than good enough for games, movies, mp3 and other aspects of normal computer life.
Seriously? Umm.. that’s total bullshit. The average computer has ultra crappy speakers.. there’s nothing “audiophile” about it.. And it’s not clear what the hell “sound card means.” I’d imagine the average hardcore gamer might think about a sound card that would facilitate 5.1 surround sound or.. something like that.. In many cases you might need some kinda sound card just to hook up your computer to decent speakers.. and um… I think we in the biz now use the term “audio interface” now.
What bugs me about this is that I feel like graphs like this muddy the waters.. they’re not really educating me.. and I’m not really getting a sense of the impact of piracy on the industry.
Also… I know a lot of podcasters.. starting in around 2004.. who use audio interfaces with open source stuff.. or they use Garageband.. and for that matter.. you could see someone buying a Mac who might want an audio interface.. to go play with garageband.. but might not actually buy anything of the serious professional sort.
How Much Music Production Software and Interfaces Really cost
How much does music software cost? In the years mentioned.. I would say it probably cost $500 and up.. and today probably.. well you can get Logic for $200 last I checked…. I think fuitloops is around $100.. or whatever they’re calling it these days.. and Reaper is under $70. How much do audio interfaces cost? And how much did audio interfaces cost?
In the 90s.. a professional audio interface was like $1000.. and the software was probably around $800.. so basically you would spend $2000 + the computer to get started… (and you needed the most powerful computers around.. so at least $3k on the computer) and today you can get a basic audio interface.. that’s kinda on a par with that $1K interface of yesteryear.. for like $100…
So the numbers are just miss leading and you don’t really know what the hell is really going on.
And I don’t totally understand.. like if you spend.. $175, based on there ratio.. and then spend a bit under $250 (say each interface + Logic),.. that doesn’t show that piracy is going on?
How I sorta imagine the markets look
The beginners set up
You have someone who “wants to get into music production.” Even if the person in question is relatively serious about it.. when they start out.. they’re going to want to spend as little money as possible.. cause stuff’s expensive…. like.. err beyond the computer you need:
- Audio Interface
- Audio Monitors / Speakers
- Acoustic Treatment
- Probably good headphones
How much do you think that’s going to cost you?
Another words.. the only software you are probably going to buy.. if you are serious enough to understand that the above list is what you need to spend your money on.. and monitors might be the most important thing.. along with acoustic treatment.. is a DAW.
The intermediate Set Up
Ok.. great.. so lets move on.. and lets say you’ve been making music on your computer for like a year.. and now you want to get more serious… now what?
It breaks down different ways, I bet.. like if you are interested in producing rock and roll.. where you put your money is different then if you’re doing electronica.
For Rock.. I don’t know.. DAW + Waves Gold.. on sale for like $400… is probably more then good enough for the average rock dude.. who really wants the microphones, the preamps, might be thinking about amount of i/o… maybe even a/d conversion.
An average conversation with someone on Gear Slutz.. for a Mac user runs something like “oh, yeah, get a Apogee Duet for a little north of $500″ and now we’re already talking about a situation where your audio interface costs twice what Logic costs.. and then it’s onto preamps.. microphones.. maybe compressors?
Electronica / Hip Hop
In electronic music I think it’s totally different.. like number one.. if you’re making it with just software you could possibly skip even getting an interface! I mean just use headphones right?
You probably… a year or so in.. it’s like DAW + Komplete.. and Komplete’s like $500.. so now your up to around $1000 on software.. and I don’t know.. get the damn Duet, right? (So now the interface to software money spent ration is roughly 1:2)
So I guess what i’m trying to get at is that audio interface.. if we are talking about the type for music production.. the ratio… if you’re buying software legitimately… I’d guess that the lion’s share of the market is people who… will get a basic interface and a DAW.. and then what I’m describing above.. obviously it depends on what you want to do.. where the money goes… but still in a large percentage of cases.. that’s still consistent with the ratio above!
Masters of the Universe
Ok.. now lets roll up our sleeves and talk about real producers… and folks whom are profession, aspiring professional.. or amateurs whom are of the serious sort!
Ok.. lets say you get an Apogee Ensemble or a Universal Audio Apollo for your interface.. So now were talking $2000… Your DAW is probably $500. You could probably get the whole waves Mercury deal for.. I don’t know what it is on sale.. but lets say somewhere north of $3000.
Err, that’s a pretty serious set up you got right there.. and you’re still not quite spending twice the amount on software as you are your interface… but lets say you’re doing electronic music so you got your self Komplete Ultimate.. so now it is around twice as much on software…
Obviously.. with the cost of upgrades.. you’re probably spending more on the software, over time, relative to the cost of the interface… then what I’m indicating.
I don’t really know how it breaks down.. I mean it would seem like serious computer music making folks would spend more on the software.. but still.. if you’re doing electronic music.. you might want a real analog synth..
And then there’s the Media Composer Scene
Not yet getting consistent work / trying to break in
If you were interested in becoming a Media Composer.. which is to say you want to professionally score films, TV, adds, and video games… suggestions…
- Komplete Ultimate
- Zebra is it? I mean that that famous films composer dude uses?
I don’t know if it went much further then that.. but lets add Omnisphere… and then focus on Orchestral sounds
I don’t know what Orchestral libraries are going for.. but in general.. you’d prefer to get many small libraries then one big library.. so that you have more ability to blend the sounds.. and so have more sonic flexibility.
Ok.. so Komplete Ultimate 9 now comes with Session Strings Pro.. which is like Motown String.. there’s a selection of stuff from the Vienna Symphony Library.. There’s now “Action Strings” and.. I believe it’s called Session Brass.. To that I would add.. is it called the Garritan Personal Orchestra? That’s probably the cheapest orchestral library going… for I think $250? might be less then that…
And lets say.. you were kinda serious so in addition to that you got.. lets say Quantum Leap.. err.. I don’t really know.. the name of it.. but they have reasonable bundles and I think there basic Orchestral library is in the $500 area..
So that’s maybe $2,500… plus you’re DAW so lets say $3000.. and I bet you’re still getting a nice interface… but I’d say you could get away with a Duet… so ok.. now you’re spending 6 times as much on software as your interface..
Masters of the Universe
Now.. this is a strange zone.. because what I’m describing is here is… well not bare bones.. but not exactly what a total professional would be using..
The total pro dude.. who’s maybe doing hollywood films.. Is probably running a multi computer rig.. and the software they are using is probably a few times the cost of the above mentioned set up.. and.. the interface scheme.. I think you can move audio over ethernet.. or that’s the usual thing for multi-computer set ups.. but it used to be that you’d need multiple interfaces.. and you’d probably want the ability to synchronize clocks.. and mainly you’re light piping stuff around.. so.. you probably only want one really good interface… and the the others are a good deal cheaper.. but.. you’re probably not spending less then a few grand on your interfaces….
So the ratio… strangely.. is maybe not that different.
To sum up… the smallest part of the market is the more hardcore folks.. whom.. might have a little bit more expensive set ups then what I’m describing.. at least on a software level.. so.. my guess… is if you were to do a statistical analysis of folks doing music production… and what there needs are, and what the cost of legitimate systems are… it seems to me that the graph… they’re using.. could be an argument for “no, actually there’s very little piracy going on.”
I’m not saying there’s very little piracy going on.. Perhaps naively, for a number of reasons I won’t go into here.. I tend to believe that there really isn’t that much piracy going on.. and that the effect that piracy has on software sales is probably a good deal less then that even… but I’m probably totally wrong.
Ether way.. however you want to slice it… there numbers don’t really prove anything.. and upon critical scrutiny feels like little more then sophistry to me.
I still believe.. that it’s a good thing for there to be organizations trying to get people to use software legitimately.. and it is someone funny the way they say
“Do the right thing – ‘buy the software you use’”
It almost feels like they’re saying “yeah, sure, use pirated software to demo software, works for us.” I think I’ve actually ‘heard’ of the above quite being found on pirated software download read me files.