Electronic Music Gear and Piracy

The latest sales figures from NAMM have come out. These figures analyze demographics, instrument sales, American attitudes towards music making, and a bunch of other things that I won’t write here.

As expected, guitar is still king. That doesn’t comment much on how American music is changing. What does tell us that is the amount of electronic and computer music gear being purchased.

Guitars are grouped under a category called “fretted products”, so you can bet that we’re talking about guitars, basses, mandolins…all that jazz. Behind those in sales (by quite a large margin) is sound reinforcement, printed music (which is also said to be facing a piracy problem), percussion, and acoustic pianos. Actually, computer music products rank 10th with $318 million in sales in 2004 (compared to fretted products’ $1,272.52 million).

When it comes to growth, Computer Music products grew 16.48% since 2003 (they don’t specify, so I’m assuming it’s from the previous year). It’s 2nd only to electronic player pianos (my mom wants one of those actually…).

Electronic music hardware sales have been slowing down because of computer based solutions. Sound modules and drum machines are down, being replaced by software. The products that are still growing are electronic drums and stage pianos.

However, NAMM’s figures this year have not accounted for low-cost equipment, which surely has been on the rise since Apple released Garageband. Those will be factored in for next year.

Software developers have long pointed at the sales figures of hardware to point out piracy in their sectors. That may seem odd considering that software takes up more than half of the computer music sales from 2004, 58.2%. The other 41.8% is soundcards and related hardware. What’s also interesting is that since 1996, software has grown steadily, being 131.25% of what it was back then.

Hardware has made a large leap to 786.67% of what it was in 1996.

I’m not sure what this means for software, other than that it’s been a gateway for people to move into buying new equipment. Maybe what this means is that more software should have been sold to correlate with the growth of hardware.

Whatever it means, I’m not sure if developers need to worry so much about piracy. Yes, it reduces revenue and profits, but it also gives users an opportunity to use the software in a comfortable environment.

They shouldn’t think of them as criminals. They should be thinking of them as potential customers.

They should think this way because things aren’t going to change when it comes to their products. We’ve gotten used to the try before you buy mentality of P2P. It gives us the opportunity to do more research on software before we purchase. We can’t download hardware.

Like “real” music fans, “real” producers, studios, and electronic musicians will buy the software to work legitimately. Everyone else is just a hobbyist.

That doesn’t justify piracy and it’s understandable why the software developers are jealous over hardware sales. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if hardware sales slow down while software picks up in the future.

3 thoughts on “Electronic Music Gear and Piracy”

  1. I personally enjoy using a piece of hardware, and physically manipulating the sound, rather than clicking an image on software on my computer. It’s just so much more personal, and I feel like I have much more control over the sound and progression of the music I’m creating.

  2. I’m going to start getting into hardware control with the Tascam unit.<br/><br/>You aren’t the only one that feels that way. However, the convenience of having your sounds as software on your computer is taking hold. If you like a sound that you’ve created you can easily save the settings. You can’t do that with a Korg MS-20. You don’t need to buy a whole bunch of outboard FX gear since there are plugins that can do the job equally as well. Plus, it’s easier to bring a laptop to a gig rather than a whole rack of equipment.<br/><br/>Although I think that the laptop would have more of a tendency to “walk away.”

  3. Why pirate when you can use free software?<br/><br/>Just kidding. Buzz and other free software can’t do everything. No matter how bad I want them to, I still haven’t been able to get them to do dishes.<br/><br/>’Like “real” music fans, “real” producers, studios, and electronic musicians will buy the software to work legitimately. Everyone else is just a hobbyist.'<br/><br/>Speak for yourself. But seriously, I think you’re spot on in the ‘potential customer’ statement. The most of the “real” players have corporate money behind them to pay for overpriced software suites and plugins. The rest of us have rent money, and most landlords wouldn’t be so understanding about being short $100-500 for packaging, “legitimacy”, and a chunk of code when even their kid coulda got you the most important part for free.<br/><br/>’That doesn’t justify piracy and it’s understandable why the software developers are jealous over hardware sales.'<br/><br/>Perhaps. But they’re a bunch of crybabies if they want me to feel sorry for them considering the high price they charge for their products in a market where comparable products and clones are legitimately available for free, and where their commercial competition (hardware) needs to spend a great deal more time on development (can’t bugfix hardware) and money on packaging, physical components, and shipping. These days, in theory, once a piece of software is completed, the only necessary costs to the developer are advertising and bandwidth.<br/><br/>I’m not saying there aren’t solid reasons to price things like AbSynth so high, but complaining loudly about piracy IMO is similar to complaining about a small scratch on your new Ferrari.<br/><br/>That said, it is a lot easier to get a full sound out of hardware synths and whatnot, but that’s all, really. As far as I can tell, the more expensive an electronic instrument is, be it software or hardware, the less work it is to get that full, polished sound out of it. But generally, all 3 categories (free and pro software, and hardware) are similarly capable. Within some margin of error, I could probably recreate over 90% of the presets of any given Triton or Virus with Buzz. It just might take me a couple of sleepless nights of tweaking EQ and DC offset to get it, as opposed to opening a box and plugging something in.<br/><br/>On the other hand, there’s plenty of things software can do that hardware cannot, or not easily do. Experimental effect plugins, combinations of filters and modulators that would require $1000 worth of pedals, randomization of parameters are much more readily available on my computer than at the music store.<br/><br/>And in terms of pattern and sequence editing, software is at least four times faster and less headache-inducing than any hardware I’ve come across.<br/><br/>Parameter editing? OK, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an electronic musician who doesn’t get wood from anything that has more knobs than it does practical use.<br/><br/>But 2 words, Chris: MIDI controller.

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