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Just days before Christmas 2008, AVID’s Digidesign division has released a significant upgrade to its Pro Tools product. We are now at v8. Not the vegetable cocktail, but perhaps an engine. That’s because with this significant update Digidesign has added 71 plug-ins, improved MIDI editing, created a more streamlined Logic-like interface (at least that’s how it looks to me), and added notation from its purchase of Sibelius. It’s the addition of Sibelius notation that could give Pro Tools a new competitive edge in an area people outside of Los Angeles and New York call America, because in America (like West Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, North Dakota, Maine, and so on) more people know the Pro Tools name than any other comparable music program. If the new features take advantage of the name recognition Pro Tools enjoys outside major production cities, the sleeping giant could, with the right political will, awaken and finally begin bringing the MIDI revolution to an area screwed over by Congress and Wall Street – Main Street.
The alleged good news is that in v8, you just export the notation in an .sib file and move it into Sibelius for finessing. That’s a good start, but what the ad copy didn’t say, and this is key, is this: dare we assume that v8 can also import a Sibelius file, and if yes, which version of Sibelius can be imported into Pro Tools 8?
This is a serious sales question because if v8 imports .sib files, there are now tens of thousands of Sibelius users in Europe, the UK, Australia, and the U.S., available for upgrading into a Pro Tools package and a hefty percentage of those users are educators, needing to be trained in order to train a new generation of music producers.
What educators learn on, they teach. Just like in a music store, a salesman sells best what he knows best.
And those users, teachers and composers, have a particular work style. They do the notation first in Sibelius and then export a MIDI file to Logic or some other program.
Obviously, v8 has a MIDI import. So in light of what you now know about Sibelius user habits, how well does v8 import a MIDI file from Sibelius?
Another question. How much of a closed system will this be?
Back in August 2008, many of us in the industry received a letter from the new president of Avid, Gary Greenfield. In that letter he wrote: Over the last six months I have had the pleasure of visiting and talking with hundreds of customers and business partners around the world. I have learned a great deal in that short time, and heard one very clear theme: Avid needs to do a better job of listening to our customers and developing solutions that truly meet their needs.
So now the listening question, especially for teachers: How easily will Pro Tools 8 implement VSTi’s like the Vienna Instruments?
That’s also a big sales question for Avid because there are templates in place for Sibelius 5 and the Vienna Instruments Special Edition. Presumably, that’s a few more thousand units of sales potential right there (no one knows how many Special Edition users there are so I made a hopeful guess).
The other question is whose audio cards will work with Pro Tools 8? If a school has a computer lab, it’s unfortunate but true that little fingers walk off with audio cards that can’t be attached or built into the computer. For the PC, this is where the Creative Labs Fatal1ty Card was the winning ticket. Originally the Fatal1ty Card was the E-MU APS Card and its potential for music lab sales in mass quantities was unreal. Unfortunately, the APS Card was at 48K instead of 44.1. So every time a student (or composer) wanted to burn a CD of their music, it got transposed down a minor 3rd.
So the APS Card died and out came the Fatal1ty Card (bizarre kind of pun, isn’t it?) and music ed was displaced by a gamer.
Avid needs their own version of the APS/Fatal1ty card. “Oh M-Audio!”
And that’s what they should do. Go to M-Audio and get them to make something similar. Then bundle the software, an audio card and a keyboard. Make it a total solution package and get with system integrators to create DAWs for it.
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