We have been reading great articles this month on how to stay competitive as a composer, but can technology or the latest sample library or monitors help you be competitive? It could, but it could also bear no relevance whatsoever.
For me being a recording engineer and having to appeal to a wide variety of people means that I need to stay competitive in my gear selection, my rates, my marketing, and my best practices. I can no longer afford just try to compete on my talent or skill alone.
The market branding of technology has both helped and hurt us in this regard. If I say, “ProTools”, you know exactly what I’m talking about and you probably know that it is the defacto standard in most recording studios, post houses, and professional dubbing stages. While there is always a 2nd competitor lurking in the wings, for the most part ProTools is the king. This is not a debate of whether Digital Performer (my DAW) is better or can do the same thing as ProTools, but it’s simply the expectation that this is what you are required to have.
I had someone recently stop by my studio to chat about music and a future recording project. He looked at all of my vintage gear and mic pre-amps. Then, without even hesitating, he said, “So you have Pro Tools right?”
Now, I don’t have a full blown HD system. I have an LE system that I bought for the purpose of being able to open and import other clients PT sessions, but I do not use it as my main DAW. Trying to remain competitive, for a brief moment, I had to put on my selling hat.
“While I do have Pro Tools, I use DP to record everything you need recorded!”
After spending all my money on my gear, I didn’t like the feeling of having to justify myself, but the potentially of having the client leave and go somewhere else solely based on me not having Pro Tools would have been catastrophic.
But by illustration, this is how a competitor could take business from me. A potential client could go elsewhere simply because I don’t have the right microphone or the right compressor. I have had this happen. Again, not because what I had was junk, but someone told someone, who told someone, who read it on the latest audio blog that you have to use a Neve pre amp and an SSL to mix on.
I still have not fully embraced the ProTools regime. Call me a rebel, but this could affect me, or even my chance to go work at another studio. Even if I have over 20 years of recording experience could I get overlooked if I don’t know ProTools? Maybe…
So… do you need more gear, the latest sound library, monitors, or microphone to remain competitive? The answer is that it depends on what your goal is. Think about what you do and what you have to offer from a talent, skill, or business perspective. Weigh the pros and cons of any financial or potential gear purchase. Could this new technology help you? If 9 out of 10 clients keep asking for a specific drum program, it may be worth investing in. If you need something versus wanting something that may in fact make you more competitive, then by all means, carry on my wayward son!
For me, it’s a struggle of trying to keep a certain standard in my own mind as far as a service that I provide, versus the kid in his basement charging $15 dollars/hour.
What about you? Hit me back in the COMMENTS below and let’s talk this through. Is the assumption that certain technologies are a must important to the issue of strong competition? Is it even worth competing if your set-up does not contain a certain “level” of string library or a particular piece of EQ software?
And now… off to buy the new Neve and an SSL!
RANDY KNAUB is an audio engineer, producer, songwriter, keyboardist, and music technologist. He composes music and sound bites at his studio, Jireh Productions, and works with local artists recording demos and CDs as well as pursuing corporate multimedia clients. Randy also consults for and beta tests for numerous music software and hardware manufacturers. His clients range from Martin Marietta, McDonalds, The United Way, Colorado Lottery, Visual Communications Group, and Jeppesen. You can find his SCOREcast bio (and links to his other sites) here.