I can understand why professional audio engineers, producers, and musicians stick with hardware or software that doesn't always work correctly; I think when push comes to shove there are two reasons. The first is that when you are working with endless deadlines, then the last thing you have time for is troubleshooting, to rip out the patch bay, download a new update or whatever it is going to take. The second is you just don't have the time to learn new products that might make your life and your creations better; it really is a case of better the devil you know.
If you had experienced the month I just had, then you would know that in busy months with not one, two or three but four deadlines to hit, even food and sleep become a luxury.
Don't get me wrong; I'd rather die of hard work than boredom and poverty, no one who is self-employed should ever complain about having lots of work - I don't. Even better I have great clients and get to work on fascinating projects.
There's nothing more fulfilling than being asked to use your creative talents to convey a message and delighting your client with your ideas. Getting paid to do that is a bonus.
However, being busy can mean that there are parts of your studio that can feel like a bad knee or an aching tooth. You know those ailments that need attending to, but they can wait until tomorrow or an emergency. For many of us (especially men) that's the way we deal with our medical issues - perhaps it's the same in our studios too?
My Stupid Studio Woes
I'd had a few things that were starting to get on my nerves every time I came to work on a project, they all seemed so insignificant, but they all nagged like the proverbial aching tooth. They were...
- An external drive that periodically dropped off the system
- Plug-in nag screens that appeared every time I started up my DAW. Some plug-ins were acting weird but I just ignored them and found workarounds.
- If I shut down my Mac when I came to start it up, it would hang for some reason so it meant pulling all the cables out and waiting for it to boot before I could plug them all back in again.
- I didn't know some of the applications as well as I should but didn't have time to learn them.
Perhaps you could list a similar set of things that although not huge issues all have the potential to slow you down and in a couple of cases (missing drives and Macs that don't boot) may be more severe.
I think a perfect storm happened where the fact that I've given up alcohol and sugar meant my tolerance to shit had dropped. Add to this it I was mid-project with a looming deadline and these annoying things were kicking in that I threw up my hands and shouted "F**k it! I can't take this anymore." It was time to take action.
I decided to have some down time and get to the bottom of all these issues. Thre first was the external drive that periodically dropped off the system. I traced it to a USB cable not fully inserted into the hub and so not always making a full connection. I'm glad I got to the bottom of that, they are all backed up, but I don't need any of them dying on me.
The Plug-in nag screens that appeared every time I started up my DAW was next on the list. It took me an hour to go through all my plug-in folders to do two things. The first was to make sure the software was up to date, I'm ashamed to say that some of my most used plug-ins had versions dating back three years - and I wondered why they were crashing! So I spent time checking for new updates and installing them.
Then I decided to cull my plug-ins folder; I made the decision that if I couldn't remember the last time I used it that it was going into an 'unused plug-ins' folder. My live plug-in collection has gone down from 350 to 40, with VIs it's at about 55. It was like performing colonic irrigation for my DAW, without the hosepipe!
Next, I was onto the temperamental Mac, why would it not boot every time unless I pulled cables out of it. This problem had been going on for a long time, I tried resetting PRAM, and every other solution offered online.
This kind of event is often the trigger when I should have taken to social media to tell everyone how awful said brand was, how their OS was not up to scratch, thankfully I didn't have the time. Good job!
I finally traced this issue to a faulty 24 way USB hub that was pulling too much current from the Mac, it simply needed replacing with one that had enough juice and also accommodates the USB equipment I need rather than all the unnecessary stuff I had plugged in for 'a rainy day.'
Finally, I took some time to watch a few tutorial videos from the millions on the web. So rather than sitting cursing about an application not working properly when it does, I now understand how it works and can get my work done quicker. This kind of issue is again the kind of stuff that fills forums and the inboxes of companies, people complaining things don't work when they do, had they read the manual. They often demand their money back, but in reality, the only ones who should get a refund are the parents for the moron's education. Don't get me wrong, you are not a fool for not knowing how something works, but you are when you take to blaming others rather than learning how it does work.
I Wasn't Saving Time I Was Wasting It!
In closing, as you can see all the things that were making my workflow slow down were simple housekeeping tasks or a commitment to learning how something works. It seems my studio woes were mainly down to me not staying on top of things - it's easy to do when we get busy and have deadlines to meet, but putting it off forever is a fool's economy and may lead to more serious issues further down the track.
Finally, the time it took to put all these things right was tiny compared to the time I spend on social media or watching mindless TV shows, so perhaps this story is about my priorities and keeping them in check.
I urge you to tackle that list of thing in your studio that has been niggling you for days, weeks, months or even years.
Calm has been restored.