Is the DAW dead?
That’s the question raised by a post at Digital Music Doctor.
The Doctor argues that innovation has slowed in the world of digital audio workstations:
We recently updated our Digital Audio Workstation Shootout to incorporate the changes in Avid Pro Tools 9 and Cakewalk Sonar X1. These new versions mark the first time in almost a year that any major DAW has been upgraded. All of the DAW producers seem to have hunkered down, waiting for the economy to improve.
You might think that both Cakewalk and Avid would have packed their releases full of new tech toys to entice buyers back into the market. But that didn’t happen.
The most striking thing about both of these releases is that, although they incorporate major software changes, neither of them introduce any significant new user functionality.
The Doctor suggests that the slowdown in DAW development is because the DAW has plateaued as a technology:
Every technology, whether it’s telephones, computers, the internet, or whatever, has a life cycle. The most exciting time for a technology is in the introduction and growth phases. During that time new features create excitement and generate new sales. However, as a technology matures, the value of new features becomes marginal and interest wanes.
It is pretty clear that most DAW’s have reached to maturity phase in the Technology Life Cycle. There will always be the Sonar and Pro Tools and other DAW fan boys who lobby fervently for minor enhancements and go “whoo hoo” when the next release arrives. But DAW’s no longer drive significant advances in digital music, and there is a real question as to how far can current DAW technology be extended.
While we’re not ready to call the DAW “dead”, it’s been a long time since a vendor “wowed” us with an update to their digital audio workstation.
We raised this issue in our 10 Predictions For Electronic Music Making In The Next Decade – and tried to image what a future DAW might do:
But, by and large, DAW manufacturers are still making virtual versions of traditional hardware studios. Most soft synths still look and act like their hardware predecessors, and that’s what buyers are demanding.
At this point, imitating traditional studios is horseless carriage thinking – letting what we can imagine be defined by the past.
In the next decade, music software is going to get smarter and interfaces will make bolder leaps. You’ll tell your computer that you want to make an drum and bass track and your DAW will anticipate the way you’ll want your virtual studio configured. Ready get started? Say “gimme a beat!” You’ll interact with your DAW to “evolve” new sounds. You’ll hum the bassline and your DAW will notate it. You’ll build the track by saying that you want a 32 measure intro and a drop down to the bass and then bring the kick back in after 16 measures. You’ll draw a curve on a timeline to define the shape of your track, do a run through and improvise over the rhythm track. Then you’ll tell your DAW to add a middle eight and double the bassline and to master it with more “zazz” and it will be saved in the cloud for your fans to listen to.
The DAW isn’t dead – but it does seem like a lot of them are on life support.
What do you think vendors need to do to get you excited about upgrading again?