Watch in horror as Roland and Yamaha use GarageBand as an excuse to push their products:

GarageBand changing the face of music creation []

Of course, GarageBand has had a legitimate impact on the market, and we’ve seen plenty of consumer-geared products. If it’s glossy white plastic, blame Apple. If it’s a rip-off of GarageBand’s interface (hello, M-Audio Session), then it’s definitely GarageBand-inspired.

But here you get to see surreal moments like Roland crediting the creation of consumer-level Edirol recording studios and stompboxes to GarageBand, despite the fact that stompbox hardware has nothing to do with GarageBand, and Edirol’s UA line predates GarageBand’s release by several years, not to mention that Roland has made consumer products since the 1970s.

Of course, this is the myth of music products that I hit again and again: that this a “high-end” industry. That to me simply isn’t true; the business has tried again and again to get more average consumers because they mean high volume. Now, as for actual ease of use, well, that’s another matter. Let’s skip ahead to my favorite part. From Athan Billias, director of marketing for Tech Products Pro Audio at Yamaha:

“It is trends like these that Billias keeps in mind when Yamaha sits down to create a new product. Incorporating the company’s knowledge from its high-end products into different levels of productsâ€â€?like the MW10 and MW12 mixers â€â€? for all users.

â€Å“Making it simple is really hard,â€Â? Billias said.”

Okay, I grew up using Yamaha products, so don’t take this badly — but that’s hilarious. (Oh, do I have warm memories of hideously counterintuitive Yamaha menus over the years.)

Anyway, if Roland (founded 1972), and Yamaha (founded 1887 making reed organs) want to credit Apple with marketing to consumers, so be it. But I think the credit for popularizing music software and changing how people work goes elsewhere. Here’s who would make my list:

  1. Steinberg: Cubase is far from my favorite DAW, but by popularizing their VST format, Steinberg unleashed the plug-in instrument and effect world we live in today.
  2. ACID: Someone has already pointed out in comments at Macworld that the real revolutionary program was Sound Forge (now Sony) ACID, the software that originally inspired GarageBand. Loop-based music making can be traced to hardware samplers originally, but it was looping software that brought it to the computer and the average consumer. And while plenty of other applications, from Cakewalk to FL Studio, directly targetted beginners, ACID really popularized the idea of “entry-level” music production.
  3. Reason: The one program that got people using instruments and effects on computers, more than any other? Propellerhead Reason (and before it, ReBirth). It wasn’t the first, but by bringing a lot of instruments together and combining them with beatbox-style programming, it was the package that cleared the way for the popularity of the rest.

  4. Ableton: All the above examples out of the way, over the last five years the one product that’s had the biggest influence on competitors’ thinking is Ableton Live. I’ve heard that directly from the system engineers working on software development at a variety of companies. Live’s approach to interface, in terms of putting everything on one screen and radically reducing the eye candy and extra controls that were weighing down other programs (and still do) is truly unique. And while you won’t see direct Live rip-offs, what you do see is people changing how they thing about computer music making and software design. My sincere hope, too, is that Live’s performance approach will have more staying power than the studio-based approach of GarageBand and everything else, because it brings music back to performance. Obviously, you’ll always want to record things (and Live does that, too), but live performance is the area that has been the weakest when it comes to computer tech.

This is not to say that GarageBand is not an important product; it absolutely is. It’s changed the way the Mac community thinks about music production, from perceiving it as a pro production process to being something anyone can use, which is fantastic. And Apple’s marketing is also revolutionary: who else would bundle a music production app with every computer, or make the connections Apple has between their pro Logic line and the consumer product. (GarageBand isn’t just file-compatible with Logic; the underlying engine, effects, instruments, and loop features are all shared with Logic.) But if you’re a music manufacturer and you have to look at GarageBand to see that things should be easy, you’re already a lost cause. And, unfortunately, instead of learning underlying lessons here, too many makers try to copy surface details, like the interface or the Apple’s use of certain plastic colors.

So here’s my plea to the music industry: Yes, beginners are important, as are more advanced users. The truth is, we could all use better design when it comes to UI and function. Don’t look to Apple for that answer; look directly to your customers. We’ll be more than happy to tell you how we work, and how your designs often get in the way of how we work. And while GarageBand is included on every Mac, I’ll bet a lot of us would pay a premium for products that help us express ourselves musically.