Avid users of the future? From the Vancouver Film School Sound Design for Visual Media program (CC-BY). A big motivation behind the push to unify its brands, says Avid, is that a new generation of independent producers is blurring the lines between video and audio work.

Get used to saying “Avid Pro Tools.”

Avid is retiring the “Digidesign” moniker this month as it works to unify its product lines in music production, music notation, and video production. I spoke on the phone yesterday with Mark Williams and Adam Castillo of Avid’s Communications team to talk about their plans. Today, they released an open letter intended to sooth the nerves of customers. It seems that, judging by forum chatter, some Pro Tools users were concerned that the new branding meant the pro audio segment was being de-emphasized at Avid.

The branding change itself is not all that earth-shaking. Pinnacle, Sibelius, and M-Audio will all remain, because they’re names of product lines as much as brands in themselves. Digidesign will not, because “Pro Tools” is the brand everyone knows anyway. (I’d say the Pro Tools name has higher recognizability in the general public than anything else in the industry – video or audio.)

What I took away from the conversation, though, was that Avid really is endeavoring to pull together their different products and make some changes. Key points:

Agility” was a word that came up a lot. Translation: Avid wants to be more responsive to change, and release, literally “more products.”

The unification of the brands is an attempt to get out of Avid’s silos. Avid today is a confluence of different acquired companies, all of them supposed to work together. But with the acquisition of Sibelius, of M-Audio, and of Pinnacle, we haven’t always seen those components function as a whole. Branding is the public face, but behind the scenes, there is an effort to change that by getting teams working with one another and developing products that complement and interoperate.

Going after the Preditor is another goal. The … wha? “Producer plus editor” — audio plus video. To that, I asked, what makes that important now? Hasn’t Avid been in the business for some time, and haven’t the enabling technologies been available for ages? Yes, responds Avid, but there is an uptick in customer demand, as old barriers break down. People are now doing audio post and music instead of just one or the other. Video people are doing more audio. Audio people are doing more video. And it’s clear that economic pressures and the rise of independent production are accelerating the trend.

“Open” was another word that came up. Now, obviously, Avid wants its own products to interoperate more effectively – but what about competitors products, I asked? Would Avid really deliver on this “open” promise? Avid says yes, and points to, for instance, recent media asset management that works with video rival Final Cut Pro. “It’s a cultural thing that we’re an open company,” says Castillo. “We recognize that, to win, you can’t just build bigger walls.”

Most importantly, says Avid, they want to start thinking about the future, ten years down the road instead of only the immediate future.

That means, rather than turning their back on audio or pro audio, they’re going to need more out of it than ever. It seems to me Avid will also need to make both its consumer and “pro” sides work, too, in order to survive and flourish. So I’m not surprised they want to be running on all cylinders.

Of course, branding is one thing: most of you, I suspect, who compose in Sibelius or edit in Pro Tools, care most about the actual material proof. I know one particular concern has been support options going forward. Avid did confirm that the support tiers they introduced in 2009, with different levels of support tailored to different interests and products, and more dedicated options for an additional fee, are the plan going forward. If you have specific questions, I can pass them along.

But don’t think I’m just taking Avid at their word – I know you won’t. We’ll keep the communication lines open and continue to keep you posted with what they’re doing.

In the meantime, here’s their letter:

The future of Digidesign: An open letter to customers

As you might know, one year ago we decided to combine all the Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—into a new, unified Avid. Since then, we’ve taken steps toward transitioning Digidesign to the Avid name. We understand that you might have questions about the future of Digidesign and the product lines you’ve invested in. With that in mind, we’d like to share some information, answer some questions, and explain how these changes will affect you.

New website launching April 12th

Many of you told us that we needed to improve the navigation, organization, and the overall user experience of digidesign.com. In order to make these improvements, a major overhaul was necessary. On April 12th, we’re going to launch a brand new avid.com website that will include all of the digidesign.com pages—plus a number of enhancements to make navigation faster and easier. At first, the website will be US-only, but over the next few months, we’ll work on moving the international Digidesign websites as well. To help you get acclimated, we’ll be posting an interim page at digidesign.com offering links straight to the pages that are most important to you.

Why move the website to Avid.com?

Not surprisingly, many of you own products from multiple Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—so we thought it would be more convenient to offer one centralized, unified website for all Avid products. We’re working toward providing you benefits like a simplified product registration process, single login ID, and a one-stop source for all product information, support, downloads, and news.

What will the new site be like?

The people behind the look and feel of Digidesign and M-Audio are now creating a new look and feel for all Avid—so don’t expect the new site to look like we sell IT products! It will feature completely new navigation and organization, making it easier and faster to find what you want. Overall, it’s a big improvement over the current Digidesign website. Our web team incorporated feedback from customers into the new site—we think you’re really going to like it.

Is the Digidesign name going away?

Yes, we are in the process of retiring the Digidesign name—but the products will live on. After talking with many of you, we discovered that most people identify more with the product names—such as Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON—instead of the company name (actually, there are some people who thought the name of the company was Pro Tools, so go figure…).

What is happening to the Digidesign team?

Rest assured, the same core Digidesign team of audio fanatics is still here, with offices in Daly City, CA. We just have a different logo on our letterhead. And since the transition, we’ve been playing key roles in creating the new Avid. Over the coming months, you’ll start to see our influence on packaging, videos, customer communications (like this one), and the overall look and feel of Avid.
Why is the Digidesign name being retired?

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it no longer makes sense to maintain many separate brands. It’s also impractical to have multiple marketing teams, websites, newsletters, and separate methods for communicating with customers. Our new brand strategy is to combine everything under the Avid name. This will help us streamline operations and become a healthier company—which frees up more resources for product development. We figured that you’d rather see us put more money towards designing innovative new gear than maintaining five separate brands.

What does this mean for the Digidesign product lines?

You’ve seen a taste of what can be accomplished when we work together—products like Pro Tools M-Powered, Video Satellite between Media Composer and Pro Tools, the DSM monitors, and Sibelius integration into Pro Tools. Moving forward, audio and video are going to be equally important for Avid. We’re totally committed to Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON, and all the other product lines that used to be branded under Digidesign. Combining forces with the other Avid companies means more resources for our R&D department to work with, enabling us to release more great products than ever. We’re also committed to expanding our product lines further—in fact, we have some incredible new audio products in store for 2010 and beyond…
What about the M-Audio brand name?

We’ve begun the process of transitioning the M-Audio name to a product brand instead of a company name. You’ll continue seeing product names like the M-Audio Oxygen 25, and the M-Audio BX5a Deluxe.

What does this mean for the M-Audio and Sibelius websites?

Eventually, the M-Audio and Sibelius websites will be moved to the new Avid.com as well. But for now, those sites will continue to operate independently just as usual.

We truly appreciate your loyalty and continued support, and hope you take some time to explore the new website on April 12th. If you have any questions or comments, please join the conversation here.


The Digidesign (aka Avid) team

It’ll be interesting to see what they’re cooking up in the audio department, and I intend to hold them to this “open” idea, as well. Stay tuned.

I expect readers have passionate feelings both ways, so let it out – and have a great weekend.