You've Got The Power
Brothers, sisters — you've got the power. No, this editorial is not part of an expensive ad campaign to persuade you to buy a public utility that you already own — it's about how you can help design the hi-tech music products that you might be buying in a couple of years' time.
The Frankfurt Musik Messe has come and gone for another year, and as usual there were more than enough new and updated products to satisfy the apetites of the eager show-goers. But what guarantee do we have that new products will be what we want or need? Once the novelty has worn off, it often becomes clear that a product is really not that special — but it could have been made so much better with one or two simple changes. I'm not saying that equipment designers don't do a wonderful job — they do — but it sometimes seems that they are given poor briefs by a company, or that they are designing a gadget for the sake of designing it. In short, companies sometimes fail to identify what equipment musicians and home recordists really want.
The reason, I suspect, is a lack of communication between producers and customers. Maybe the MI industry is too small for all but one or two companies to engage in any serious market research (unlikely), but in any case it's up to us, the end-users, to take up the challenge that this poses. Have you ever written to a company to say why you think the product you've just bought is totally brilliant/useless, and how it could be improved, or even suggested what other products you'd like to see in the future? This kind of feedback can have a surprisingly powerful influence on companies: if they ignore it, they are ignoring the views of their potential customers, which is bordering on commercial suicide.
As an example, the reaction of musicians to Roland's covering their JD800 with knobs and sliders has been very positive. The control hardware does not actually add significantly to the price of the instrument (contrary to what many people have claimed in the past), which raises the question of why Roland didn't do this sooner, and indeed why no-one else beat them to it. Probably, no-one thought it was worth it. But if enough keyboard players really wanted analogue-style controls, and had all written to, say, Korg, to tell them about it, it's a fair bet that Korg would have produced such an instrument before Roland.
On the other hand this kind of feedback — public opinion, if you like — should never lead a company's product planning. Would a market survey or a 'suggestions box' from musicians have asked for an 8-part multi-timbral 32-note polyphonic PCM sound module with drums, an 8-track sequencer and a collection of backing patterns, all in a sub-video cassette sized box? No way. But one of the more certifiable members of Yamaha's R&D staff came up with the highly desirable QY10. I don't know what these people are on, but I want some.
Maybe I'm being a little naive. Maybe the MI industry is far better than most at giving the customer what he or she wants, but in any case, there's always room for improvement. Manufacturers will — no, have to — listen to what you tell them about their products and what you'd like to see in future, so don't be shy about letting them know.
Editorial by Paul Ireson
Next article in this issue:
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!