This week I stumbled across a question on a forum from a potential Studio One user asking "Does any mainstream studios or engineers use studio one? , I want to make sound engineering/producing my career but don't want to dedicate my time to s1 only to find out I won't fit in with the real pros ..if that makes any sense" (sic)
What then ensued was a long defence of Studio One, and quite quickly Pro Tools was brought into the discussion, some positive and quite a lot negative, depending on their point of view. I tried to answer; I'll give you that in a second, but what the discussion did highlight is the continued misunderstanding about Pro Tools being the industry standard.
First, here's the gist of what my answer was...
"Your question has two answers.
- If you plan to work on your own and make a career working solo, then use what you like. You may need to collaborate, but you can send people stems.
- If you want to get a job in any top studio in the world, then you need to know Pro Tools, simple as that. That's why it's called the industry standard because it's in 99% of top music and post facilities on the planet. It has nothing to do with what features either DAW has or which one people like using.
Hope that helps. I use both BTW so no axe to grind. I've already answered your questions about artists by posting a link to the artist page from PreSonus."
What the thread illustrated, with the 75+ comments made in response to the question was how much people still misunderstand what we mean by Pro Tools being the industry standard. Some thought it was because Pro Tools was (and I quote) "old!" Others said it didn't have the best features and so didn't deserve to have the name industry standard. There were other responses, some too silly for me to even bother quoting - it seems that when you ask a room full of DAW users what to use, their passion often overshadows their reason. (no pun intended.)
What Do We Mean By Industry Standard?
Every walk of life has standards, be that measurements, policies, or procedures that an industry or sector generally adheres. Many industries also have technology and software that is so widely used that it becomes ubiquitous and adopted as the standard software to use.
For example, if you work in graphic design, it is Photoshop, or if you want to share a document, then you are most likely to use the PDF format. Some pieces of software are so widely adopted that when people send files, they assume you have that software, for example often people will send a Word or Excel document expecting you can open it on a Mac or PC. In fact, some formats are so widely adopted that even third-party applications open them, again, Word and Excel make for two good examples of this.
Go into any of the top recording studios or any post-production facility, and it's likely that they are using Pro Tools, in fact, I'd bet 9 out of 10 are using Pro Tools. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, there always will be, but that doesn't change the fact that in most cases most professional studios use Pro Tools.
Does This Mean It's The Best DAW?
This situation has nothing to do with what features Pro Tools has, or even if it's the best DAW on the market. So trying to make arguments, often seen in debates, such as "it's not the best" or "it doesn't have this feature" does not change the fact it is considered to be the industry standard.
I don't use Word or Excel anymore; I use Pages or Numbers, for various reasons. But you can bet that most of the documents I get sent are in Word or Excel file formats. It also means that when I send documents created in Pages or Numbers, I have to use the export to Word or Excel feature - which is indispensable. Take note Avid, PreSonus and other DAW developers who continue to make it hard to share file formats across DAW platforms. If Apple and Microsoft can figure out how to do both the technical and licencing bits of data format conversion, then you should be able to as well.
So even if not written down, an industry standard is the one most widely adopted by users in that sector, and in recording and post-production that is Pro Tools.
I was having a bit of fun with the team about the title of this article, and one of them suggested a poll on whether people still thought Pro Tools is the industry standard. But a poll like that is pointless; this is not an about opinion, it's about numbers. It's not a qualitative measurement but a quantitive one. It's simply the amount of Pro facilities in music and post that are likely to use Pro Tools, and that number is high and in post-production, it's nearly 100%!
What if my son came to me and said he wanted to be a doctor and was seeking advice on what degree course to take at university. If I said economics, I would not only be a moron, I would expect someone to tell me so. In the same way, if he came to me (and he did) and said he wanted to work in music production in a large studio and asked me what to learn, irrespective of my own opinion, I would have to tell him to learn Pro Tools. He changed his mind and studied Psychology (which must have been easy having me as his father) and graduated with honours.
Now I don't want you to get confused about how many of your mates use Pro Tools, that's irrelevant. It is also not the case about how many people are starting to use a certain DAW, I was with some of the PreSonus team this week, and they told me the amount of Studio One registrations that are happening daily, I'm not allowed to tell you, but it's a huge number... and growing.
Pro Tools Forever...
And this is where I want to end and return to some advice I gave in last week's article "Why No One Should Choose Pro Tools As The Single Solution For Their Music Studio." In it, I explained about the changing shape of the industry and the need to be flexible and to make sure you have a plan B DAW, should the worst happen.
Right now, like the political leadership of the country you live in, the status quo may not be what you would like. You may not think the governing party is doing a good job, or have the skills to do it and frankly don't even deserve to be in power. I know how you feel. But that doesn't change the fact they are in power. History teaches us that however great the landslide, or however great the grip, at some point things change and so it's only smart to keep your options open and have a second string to your bow.
As I have made clear on many occasions, for me, that is Studio One. But when I need to walk into a top studio to work, or send a session to a post-production professional I still need to have Pro Tools and know how to use it.
And that is why it's called the industry standard.
Will that always be that case? Well that's a debate worth having... over to you.