Since the invention of the wheel, Gutenberg's movable type, the Wright brothers' “flying machine” and helium-filled Mylar balloons with special-occasion greetings, one truth remains self-evident: Change happens.
In an industry dominated by technology, change is inevitable. We are constantly besieged by new equipment, new approaches and new processes. Certainly a move toward software-driven, DAW-based production is evident in recording and post, just as broadcasters gear up for HD signals and 5.1 audio over all-digital pathways (terrestrial or satellite). In the more conservative realm of sound reinforcement, digital consoles and automation are commonplace, and DSP control of loudspeakers is the rule rather than the exception. Even something as fundamental as studio design/acoustics moves with the times. Check out Chris Michie's article on studio makeovers or our ever-popular Class of 2003 feature for some examples.
On the consumer front, DVDs have taken off as the fastest-moving format launch in history, and the audio production for a DVD-Video release is formidable. DVD film releases typically include multiple stereo/surround mixes, director commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, cast/crew interviews, outtakes, screensavers, video games, foreign language dubs and more. (Galaxy Quest even went so far as to include a full mix in an alien dialect!) Add in the growing genre of DVD concert/compilation videos — with all of their bonus materials — and there's a lot of audio business out there for somebody.
Should audio studios suddenly install soundstages and edit bays? No, but simple ideas — such as partnering with local video houses to provide full DVD production services — aren't so far-fetched. You may not tap into a goldmine of feature-film work, but certainly there are local businesses that need promotional or industrial work, or artists you've recorded who might want a DVD single of their hot new album track. Success in any business — audio or otherwise — is a matter of constant reinvention to keep up with the flow of change.
Last month, Mix published its first theme issue, asking the question “What Can Save the Music Industry?” It was like nothing we'd ever done, yet the topic is vital to all of our lives. Concerning the effect of illegal downloads, many interviewees in that issue questioned the shortage of outlets for selling legal MP3s over the Net. One week after our May issue appeared, Apple launched its online iTunes Music Store, with 200,000 songs available for $0.99 downloads. So far, it's a resounding success, with a million song files sold the first week: a most impressive debut.
People are willing to buy music that they want, but the traditional retail model is antiquated and flawed. If I visit a record store to buy Jack Bruce's brilliant Songs for a Tailor CD, I won't find it. The file exists somewhere, so where's the system to download and burn a CD at Tower Records, complete with high-res graphics printed while I wait?
Creative thinking is an essential part of the reinvention process. Log onto www.mixonline.com and check out our forum that continues the dialog on the state of the music industry. Let your voice be heard. Be a part of the solution.