Software for the Atari ST
If you and your studio are in business together, money management can be a big problem. Tim Goodyer checks out a useful accounts program and a host of studio utilities written with the musician in mind.
THE MOST ATTRACTIVE aspect of bringing a computer into your music is the flexibility of software. The idea of having a piece of non-dedicated hardware which - with the appropriate software - can be persuaded to perform a wide variety of functions is appealing both on philosophical and financial grounds. After all, why pay more than once for the hardware if you don't need to?
The obvious question that this situation throws up is "what can I get a computer to do for me?". The obvious answers include sequencing, editing and librarianship. Now Quinsoft have another, fresh option for Atari ST users to consider: studio "management".
If you're running your studio on a commercial basis then your accounts are probably just an unwelcome fact of life. But they're another job that your computer can help you with. And along with a selection of intriguing utilities, it's an accounting program that forms the heart of Trax.
Now, without getting into the finer points of accountancy (I've never been unfortunate enough to work in an accounts office), let's say that Trax is intended to be accounting for the musician - that is, it's not overburdened with the finer points of professional accounts packages (stock control, dual ledgers), but concentrates on making those that you need to run a studio accessible and understandable.
Trax comes on two single-sided disks, and will run on anything from a 520ST upwards (so that you could use a second ST to run Trax independently of your main "music" ST). Oddly it's Disk B that contains the Invox accounts program along with an address book (that comes with a very useful music industry listing). Disk A contains a tracksheet program and a program for indexing your floppies. Within these basic programs are contained a wealth of other useful utilities: Tracksheet contains Cuesheet, a Mixdown page and facilities for printing cassette labels and keeping an expenses list (which can be imported into Invox). To make them more useful both the tracksheet and the address book also come as desk accessories so that you can readily access them at any time during a recording session.
Tracksheet presents you with 24 boxes (representing tape tracks) into which you can enter the instrument name, MIDI channel, EQ and effects details, and a short note about anything you might need for reference. The Tracksheet accessory can share files with the main program, and so can be referred to while you're using, say, your main sequencing program for a session. Cuesheet allows you to run through a piece of music or video and enter "hit" or cue points as you go. These hits are stored and can be named to assist the construction of anything from a song to a TV jingle. Mixdown, meanwhile, displays no less than 48 sound sources so that you can augment your tape listing with details of anything from "live" MIDI instruments to a CD player or record deck. Under the heading Timing you'll find a beat calculator (which translates tempi into milliseconds for use with delays), a Time: Bars: Tempo facility (which readily converts between the three units for jingle or video use), video frame settings (24fps, 25fps, 30fps), a countdown clock (just like those you see before a film or TV ad for cueing) and a cue shift for Cuesheet. The countdown clock conforms to the pro video standard, will count down from up to 60 seconds and can be recorded from ST to VCR with the appropriate leads.
The Disk Index Archiver helps you to keep track of the programs and files you've collected on floppy disk - not only by allowing you to list the disk names against their contents, but with search functions and a remarkable ability to identify and list files with any extension you specify off any disk you throw into the computer's drive. In a tight spot during a session this function alone could justify your investment in Trax.
The Address Book isn't remarkable in itself, but it certainly could streamline your working day. In its "full" form (on Disk B) it allows you all the kinds of storing, searching and sorting you'd expect of such a program. But it also appears in Tracksheet as a fully working utility able to share files with the main program. On top of this, as with the Tracksheet accessory, the desk accessory version means you need never be without it while you're using any GEM program.
Which brings us back to Invox. With this program you can manage all the necessary accounting and invoicing involved in running a small studio business. The program will handle expenses, keep a running record of costs incurred during a session (tape hire, cassettes, disks, tea...) and calculate tax where appropriate. What makes Invox so convenient to use for all these financial contortions is its file sharing. Once you've compiled one aspect of your accounts, those figures are available to the rest of the program where required.
Not only does Invox offer some sort of reassurance for the musician who's found him/herself having to deal with the taxman, cashflows and budgets - just because they wanted to run a studio - but the documentation comes with a host of useful suggestions about how to approach your accounting and how to get the best out of Invox. Just two words on the manual: comprehensive and concise.
On the surface Trax is a brave step for a new software company to take. But they've done their homework well and this package could be good news for many studios. If money isn't such a problem to you, Trax may be worth buying for the address book, cassette labelling and disk indexing alone. If in doubt, check out the demo on our software page.
Price £68 including VAT and p&p
Review by Tim Goodyer
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!