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There wasn’t a lot of exciting software at the NAMM music trade show this year and it made me wonder: why are recording software manufacturers being so slow to add Internet collaboration features?

Anyone will tell you that we’re in an Internet indie music golden age but popular recording tools barely recognize the Internet exists for anything more than patch updates. Cloud services have come to the most mainstream services (email, calendar, music, photos, contacts) but recording software has barely made a move in that direction.

There are so many ways the Internet could improve software like Pro Tools, Reaper, Reason, Logic and Ableton Live — easy collaboration, cloud backups, portability (easily access your audio data on your iPad & iPhone), revision tracking, quick in-software purchasing of samples/plugins/devices, preset sharing and hands-on lessons to name a few off the top of my head.

And it makes business sense for the companies. By making the Internet an integrated part of the recording software companies could get their customers into a subscription model instead of this weird yearly upgrade cycle and they’d be free to roll out & market new features any time, distribution and copy protection would be easier, companies could gather metrics on performance to improve the software & stamp out bugs, you could demo and sell features, samples, presets, plugins and lessons to your customers, sell iPad/iPhone/Android apps to work with your cloud data, etc, etc.

I feel Ableton Live and Reason are uniquely positioned for success in this area. They’re largely MIDI, sample and loop based so they’d use less bandwidth to sync. Plus their interfaces are already very modular — selling new devices and features and packs wouldn’t require much redesign.

My suspicion right now is that Ableton (who haven’t released a major new version of Live since January 2009) is working on a full rewrite and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t include a lot more Internet. But whoever it is, someone’s going to make a move and then all the other players will have to play catch up.

Posted on - February 16, 2012 [at] 8:10 pm by Brad
Tagged in - , , ,

8 Comments on this post

fluffy on The state of collaborative recording software
February 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I’ve had a design rattling around in my head for an Internet-based collaborative DAW system for the longest time, but I’m not in a position to start implementing one, as I have what is known as a “day job” and I don’t have the time or energy to launch my own startup. Several years ago I’d tried to get my foot in the door with an interview at Apple for adding collaborative stuff to their media applications (Logic, GarageBand, Final Cut, etc.) but I couldn’t even get past their gatekeepers well enough to get an interview. At one point I had interviewed with a startup that was working on making music software “for the masses,” but it became very clear very quickly that all they wanted to do was make yet another clone of GarageBand, except not even getting the basics that GB does right. At my day job I’ve proposed Internet collaborative music stuff as something we could work on as one of our showcase applications, but the idea has just been ignored. At the startup I briefly left here for, it was one of the many things I proposed as where their technology would be perfect, but it quickly became obvious that they didn’t want to go into that space either.

It’s ridiculous and maddening.

TSR on The state of collaborative recording software
February 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I often get the feeling with this sort of scenario that they are all scared to make the first move. If it doesn’t catch on like they thought, it’s quite a bit of money wasted.

totalcrap on The state of collaborative recording software
February 17, 2012 at 7:46 am

Perhaps one thing that’s holding things back is the question of openness.

Year by year the movement towards greater Internet openness seems to grow, albeit slowly.

Any new cloud-enabled feature could be out-dated very quickly, particularly if it is too proprietary.

An open system is called for, with a web site (and others) that’s not hard-wired to a particular software vendor. Open file format standards from the start. Not tied to any particular client platform.

victor stone on The state of collaborative recording software
February 17, 2012 at 10:21 am

Even in 2012 the Internet is still just a piracy box to most of them. I actual heard the word ‘monetize’ when talking about it, as in: “how would we monetize that?”

Soundcloud has been eager to make inroads for joint ventures but it’s been uphill (I think they are down the street from Ableton and drink in the same pubs lol)

Bram van der Velde on The state of collaborative recording software
February 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Little bit off-topic, but do you think this album will be more instruments, or more computer sounds?

Donovan Kliegg on The state of collaborative recording software
March 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Practically speaking one could add features to LMMS without having to write a whole daw software package. A Git plugin, for example, or a browser for Sound Cloud or freesound.org.

At least the idea could be tried out by investing in just the sharing features.

Mirek2 on The state of collaborative recording software
March 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Novacut’s doing something similar for video editing, and it’s keeping its collaboration bits independent, so any application can use it.

Here’s a link to a more in-depth comment about your “Computers and music” post from the person behind Novacut.

scott wall on The state of collaborative recording software
March 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hey, i just stumbled upon this thread. I think nujii.com is already doing this right now. They are making something called the nujii studio and they say it will do a lot of the stuff you guys are talking about. i heard its getting released this summer but i don’t know when this summer.

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