It's almost an annual ritual, but after every Christmas, I'm suddenly tempted to buy a new TV. I spend time looking at them on websites looking at specs and reviews and visit stores to look at them too, thinking I need to get a better TV. Rarely do I go through with a purchase and the feeling goes away and will probably return next year.
I told Mike about it on a call recently and he asked why I needed a new TV. It was a fair question and not one I had an answer for; I don't need a new TV, the one I own is perfectly good, it's just not the latest version and is missing some features I'm told I need.
It got me thinking about all the other things I've bought over time thinking I need while owning many things I've never fully explored.
Perhaps you are like me; you have hardware, plug-ins, software, unwatched video courses and unread books in your studio?
Producers or Consumers?
I want to clear from the outset; this is not some polemic against consumerism, as you can already see from the opening of this article, I'm as likely to be tempted to buy stuff as the next person.
What I want to do is ask you to join me in considering taking a different approach.
Surely learning to use the stuff we have and exploiting it to its full potential is wiser than continually buying new things which often satisfy a desire in us rather than a need?
If I'm honest with myself, about 70% of the hardware and software in my studio remains unused most of the time and of the remaining stuff I own there are perhaps a handful of things I use to their full potential. I wonder what would happen if I first took time to learn those things? I also wonder what would happen if I used the other items I own rather than buying more things.
Hang on, you might be thinking, there are reviews and banners on this site for gear. Yes, there are, and on many occasions, those who respond to them are making wise purchases that will improve their studios. I'm saying that I don't always do that and get caught up in a moment of buying a plug-in like I'd buy a bar of chocolate, or a burger or some beer, or all three, to scratch an itch.
It is ironic that much of the gear I own is not thoroughly learnt because I'm too busy, the issue is not a lack of work, it's a lack of time. Many of the things I have in my studio that now lie unused have been used at some point, maybe bought for specific projects but now gather dust.
It is the same busy life that means I buy a plug-in, for example to denoise audio but I try and find the fastest way to get the job done and then move on. Am I getting the best from that piece of equipment or software, I'm not sure, it's just a case of when I have a deadline then I take the line of least resistance. Could this be where part of the problem lies? When the next challenge arises, I buy something else even though I probably already have the tool to deal with the problem.
I'm sure many of us do the same thing on some level. I've seen comments on forums where people hop from one DAW to another or one plug-in to the next citing a lack of features being the reason. You will often see someone who knows the product then point out that the thing they want to do is possible. I feel sure that 99% of us have all we need to complete the production challenges that face us, we either don't have the time or inclination to discover this.
That is what makes resources like the Expert sites so valuable, having a community that between us can answer the "can Pro Tools do this" and when someone says yes ask them how. That's what makes videos so valuable to me when I'm often faced with a production challenge I will go to Google and look for a video to show me how to do something with a product.
Would you believe I often try and skim through 2-minute videos just to find the answer? It is a lesson for all of us who make tutorial content to consider how we can get the information over in as concise a manner as possible. I often choose a tutorial based on how short it first, longer ones usually get watched if the short one doesn't have the answer. This time poor attitude to needing to find information has helped the Expert teams to tighten up the videos we make. It's a balancing act between making sure the tutorial is thorough and liking the sound of your own voice!
I'm lucky; I have some of the smartest people around at the end of the phone when I need an answer fast. I often call Mike to ask how to do something in RX, the call usually starts with 'help!' And Julian Rodgers is one of the finest tutors I know. I had to admit to Sound Radix that it wasn't until Julian made the video on Pi that I finally understood how the thing worked!
I have the same approach to user manuals; PDFs are a godsend as I use the search feature to try and get to the answer fast.
The lack of time is the problem for many of us, deadlines are screaming at us, and we often try and fix the problem with sticking plaster solutions.
I'm hoping to use my time more wisely and go deeper into the things I already have in my toolbox, which reminds me that often the issue is not a lack of stuff but an overabundance. I regularly order adaptors, chargers, cables and even tools like special screwdrivers only to find one in a cupboard or drawer a week later... please tell me I'm not the only one!
Deeper, Not Wider
So I've committed this year to try and go deeper rather than wider.
I am going to finish those books I bought before I buy more. It's time I finished watching the video tutorial series I never completed. I seem to find the time to binge a boxed set on Netflix in a week, but never make the time to improve my craft.
I'm going to set aside the plug-ins I haven't used in years that bloat my DAW into an archive and make sure I know the ones I use a lot fully. I'm hoping to stop thinking my credit card is the answer to a problem and make sure I'm prepared for the next challenge that comes my way.
As I've already said, it's hard to resist the easy fix when you have a deadline to meet, but imagine a carpenter who thought that buying more tools was a real alternative to learning more about the craft, we would think that absurd.
There are some of us who don't have an issue with time, we just like buying stuff, a syndrome often jokingly referred to as Gear Acquisition Syndrome or GAS for short. I'm not here to suggest there is anything wrong with that, it's your money, and you can do what you like with it, but perhaps it's time to learn some of that stash a little better and get the best from it?
As 2018 started, I committed to try and do fewer things better rather than take on more.
Perhaps you will join me in going deeper and not just wider?