Posted Feb 7th, 2015
In the wake of this year's NAMM trade-show in sunny southern California, it's important to once again reset the importance of seeing beyond marketing tactics and focusing squarely on reality.
Although the offerings of this over-the-top annual event are dynamic and exciting, they also represent a real challenge to those of us trying to filter out the noise and get down to the truth.
And the truth is simply this:
Some products to be unveiled in 2015 will be truly extraordinary, some will be simply repackaged versions of the product you already own, but most will be just more of the same with some snappy souped up specifications slapped on the box.
Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars each year in an attempt to convince us that we need their products to live normal, healthy, and happy lives, and consumer music companies are no different.
However, unlike drug companies that try to lure you into a false sense of security with colorful cartoons and playful music all while describing pills with potentially crippling side-effects, the music industry likes to play the game of misdirection instead.
“Hey! Look over here at this shiny new product! If you don’t upgrade to this most current device your music will sound worse than a car alarm going off for hours in an empty parking lot with no one there to shut it off!”
You don’t want that do you?
WELL DO YOU?!?
Nobody knows your needs better than you, but how can you determine on your own what is really useful and what is just purely hype.
After all, some improvements really do enhance a product’s utility, so how can you be sure which is which?
Understanding the difference can either help you be content with what you already have, or gain the confidence to pull the trigger on buying something new.
To combat this marketing blitz it is essential to rely on your overall music-making goals to guide you.
All these gadgets and gizmos are meant to make your music-making life easier, but if the tools you have are already allowing you to make the music you want today, then you're already on the right path.
Don't forget the effort already invested in learning to use your gear.
The initial excitement that comes from getting the “latest and greatest” is soon replaced with the realization that you have to figure out how to get it to do what you want all over again.
An improved or expanded feature set, included software that you’re interested in using, or compatibility with another device (such as your tablet or smartphone) are all legitimate reasons to consider an upgrade.
Colorful (often meaningless) language describing the product, higher specifications alone without a clear need, or cosmetic design updates are not really going to make a meaningful difference… so why bother?
This is especially true of software updates where even the slightest change to your graphical interface may completely derail your productivity.
My advice is to not upgrade until you are certain you have to.
Maybe your operating system is starting to become less and less supported, or is obsolete already.
Maybe you are outgrowing your current setup because your band is expanding, you're getting more comfortable, or your needs are simply changing in general.
Or maybe you’ve decided that you are in this for the long haul and want to make the jump from the entry-level price point to some more professional (and much more expensive) equipment.
I’m not saying “never ever EVER upgrade”, but what I AM saying is make sure you have a clear understanding to help guide your search and prevent you from getting swallowed up in a swirling sea of marketing hyperbole.
With a little self reflection and knowledge at your command, you can confidently trust in yourself and create the music you have imagined all along.
Remember that music companies are in the business of selling you stuff… but we, my friends, have a higher calling: to share the music we have inside with each other.
That is what it's all about.
And chances are you can do that just fine with what you have already today.