“Industry Standard” in the Music Recording Industry – Is it Fact or Fiction?

“Industry standard” is defined as: “The optimum criteria for any industry to function and carry out an operation in their respective fields of production.”

Industry standard envisages the regulated, lawful, logical usage in the segment of the economy dealing with industrialization. This may include services or goods. Industry standard contributes to global as well as domestic competitiveness.”

So, how does this term play out in the music recording industry, whereas at least one company’s product  has been held to be the “industry standard” because their program is in use at many if not in almost every professional recording studio in the world? Therefore, this implies that you must use theirs and nothing else if you want to make hit records.

This post was written to draw attention to the fact that throughout the recent history of digital audio in the recording business, one with the necessary skills and talent did not and still does not need the highest priced or highest touted console, amplifier, microphone, speakers and the touted “industry standard” DAW to make a hit record. In addition to recordings made in some of the great or not so great studios, many great recordings have been made in basements, bedrooms, and garages, and with other than the so-called industry standard DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) program.

And those who brag about the industry standard DAW may fail to mention the great vocal performance, the great song, arrangement and players on a recording, which actually made a record great. In some DAW and equipment companies’ eyes, these factors apparently don’t even exist when they are playing their PR game with their multi-thousands of $$$.

How loud does money talk?

Some of the reasons for the public’s comprehension of industry standard may be that money talks too loud in advertising with words that make it all so believable. And this may also apply to articles written that repeat the phrase, “X is the industry standard.” If we read or hear something over and over, don’t we all tend to believe it without even questioning it? Also, word of mouth plays a hand with someone saying, “Did you hear so and so’s great new record that they say was done on X’s DAW program? We’ve got to get that program. It’s got to be the best.”

There is no question that more incentives and higher commissions are probably being paid to sales people at big name music-recording store Y to sell X brand. And Y store has free Saturday classes on the X brand with those eager sales people right there for the sale. And if there is news that a famous person’s recording was made on X brand, therefore X brand must be the best and is sure to get you up there also.

A music magazine amplifies the question

The latest issue of a leading music recording industry magazine, although maybe not meaning to, certainly raises a question about the idea of “industry standard” with its articles and ads, big and small, of companies attempting to attract one and all to their greater than great products. But once again, it is the big money doing all the talking. Call the magazine and ask for the cost of an ad on the back of the front cover, back cover, and first page. Guaranteed it is many thousands.

Who really pays for those full color ads?

From there, go to page two and three where famous Z retail seller lists about 100 companies’ products they sell, but devotes a whole half page to the DAW company that shouts about their being the “industry standard,” and then Z pays great big bucks for another full page ad on the last page. And we wonder what big companies  may be helping Z retail seller pay for those full page color ads, especially when they devote a half page to that one in particular who is called the “industry standard.”

The estimated rate for a full-page, black and white ad in that magazine is $7,490.00. God knows what a color ad might cost, especially in those coveted page positions. It is probably double that amount. And for the readers, a lot of who have free subscriptions like myself who are in that business, may (they hope) just heed to the ads composed by the advertising agencies’ geniuses touting “industry standard.” And when they shout about what’s new, implying that what you have is obsolete, you’re led to believe that you absolutely must buy the latest and greatest.

Has payola raises its ugly head?

Another important question arises: Is it likened to the scandal of payola by big companies to play their records? A good look at the beginnings of digital recording may give a hint toward this with certain companies bending over backwards to get their DAW program used in the studios, with tutorials, coaching and total access to company reps running and flying out to solve their every qualm or problem, and also most probably freely supplying them with their DAW. And if that’s all the engineers had access to, how would they know about any other program?

But there are also the industry standard wannabes, whose programs are just as good and in use throughout the industry but will probably never catch up because the “industry standard” people may continue to pay, and may have paid dearly from the beginning to broadcast that they were the “best.” And a front page feature article from the latest issue of another well respected trade magazine tells of companies who are giving X brand  “a run for it’s money” and tells of an online forum by users of X brand “to air their views (at what has been dubbed a short-sighted decision by X brand) that has turned into one of  the biggest threads I have ever seen on the forum. It is now pushing 84 pages.”

One big message delivered by the other  magazine was about quality music delivery, and the great importance of sample rates, bit depth and bandwidth. Between the lines of that story is that the touted “industry standard” DAW is not the only one around that delivers these specs. The magazine also spotlighted fifteen different interfaces for use with your DAW, and any DAW. And it wasn’t that long ago that X’s DAW required a proprietary interface sold only by them.

The little guy can also deliver the same quality as the big boys

The loudest message of all delivered by the magazine was the not so subtle reminder that those strategic ads and their placement tells you that there is “none other than” these great names which includes company X. But another message you had to strain to hear was that a well equipped professional studio, as well as the home based studio, can deliver the same quality as the big boy studios without the thousand dollar coffee machines in the bedroom or garage, and with other than X’s DAW.

So, is “industry standard” fact or fiction? I’d love to hear some of your comments.

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