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Computer Musician


The saga of MIDI software over-pricing, and what should be done about it.

Once again, it seems I'm going to have to give some reasons for an editorial re-organisation within CM. All part of being involved with such a fast-moving industry, I suppose. Anyway, this month sees an expansion for the Computer Musician supplement, so that it now encompasses all articles relating to software reviewing and writing, as well as educational features like Jim Grant's Fairlight Explained.

'But what about new computer music hardware?' I hear you cry.

Well, the rule now is that if they incorporate conventional 'stand-alone' synths as part of their design, they'll appear in the Hardware section at the front of E&MM, while if they're based exclusively around computers (eg. the Yamaha CX5M system, which we hope to be publishing a full appraisal of next month) you'll find them here in Computer Musician.

Sooner or later, someone will produce a really cheap MIDI keyboard. And by cheap, I'm talking about less than £100. Indeed, the RS232 interface on the Casio MT200 makes it but a gnat's whisker away from this goal. As they say, 'we have the technology...'

But what's missing at the moment is the right sort of attitude to the pricing of music software. To see why, let's take the case of someone who's just acquired one of these new, imaginary MIDI keyboards. Let's also suppose that he's the proud a sub-£200 micro. Well, how do you suppose he'll feel if he's asked to pay £150 or more for a handful of chips in the form of a MIDI interface and some rather lacklustre software to run everything?

A bit miffed, I'd have thought.

The side of the MIDI standard that needs to be nurtured is that which takes it away from the hot-bed of rock commercialism into the home and school, but that'll only happen if a sensible pricing policy is adopted. The problem, of course, is that everyone looks at the big boys of the computer music field for guidelines, where more often than not prices represent the cost of lengthy software development programs aimed at pushing five-year-old technology to the limit.

It seems to me that as technology leaps ahead, more should be available for less. That's certainly well illustrated by the development of Yamaha's FM synths from the £30,000 GS1 to the £1300 DX7. And on the same tack, there's the prospect of E-mu bringing out the Emulator II for roughly the same price as its predecessor, but with all the software and hardware enhancements made feasible by a few more years of technological advancement.

So, returning to MIDI software, let's see a pricing policy that honestly reflects the months rather than years of software development, and, above all. one that attempts to attract, rather than ostracise, the casual micro user interested in music.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Sep 1984

Computer Musician



Editorial by David Ellis

Previous article in this issue:

> Patchwork

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> Rumblings...

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