The Tutorial War

You probably know I make music production tutorials. I’ve been doing it for a long time, longer than many others and i’ve seen some interesting developments in the last year or so. When I started out, the resources provided by the companies that made the software (ie Ableton, Steinberg, Apple etc) were plainly and simply ‘manuals’ They blandly documented the menu items, the plugin parameters etc but never gave context or genuinely practical examples. This created a need for the kind of tutorials I have made; real world application of the software tools using authentic sounding musical examples. The aim was to fill a knowledge gap, a gap that was there due to a shortfall in the documentation provided.

As time moved on, the amount of free tutorials on youtube etc started to grow. The motive for those channel creators? money possibly, certainly if they were youtube partner programme members, Adsense advertising could certainly bring in some revenue. Maybe they were producers with hopes of becoming famous who didn’t make it and realised they could get some ‘attention’ through the tutorials. Maybe they were looking for work with one of the colleges? Maybe they were using the tutorials as a method of promotion for music. Giving people insights into how a track was made can be a means of turning people onto your future releases. Or maybe for some it spoils things? The ‘magic’ of music is gone once you see that it was created using some presets that anybody else can get their hands on. Actually there are plenty of tutorial makers who have their own teaching business and use the youtube videos as a means of catching attention of potential customers. Take a look at the Ableton facebook page and you’ll see the same names rotating amongst the prime positions on the wall. The reason these tutors get eyeballs is because they are ‘certified ableton trainers’ Of course Ableton want people to see tutorials from their trained staff; it’s not easy to get the ‘certified’ status.

Let’s take a look at those software companies; Native Instruments being a solid example of one of those who have moved into the usage of tutorials as a means of promoting products. It makes perfect sense of course, invest some serious money into making a product look good and get someone credible to demonstrate it. It’s almost like you can try before you buy, get a feel for whether or not that product is going to work for you in your compositional environment. I personally like the NI approach to promotion, I think it works. The big budget look makes everything feel ‘aspirational’ and the credible names involved make me feel like I too could be like them if I bought an NI product.

Other companies of course are spotting what is happening and increasing their own production values, bringing in ‘name’ producers to present their products. I see mixed results, some of these people may be names but can they explain things well? Can they demonstrate things and inspire others? It’s across the board but some standout examples of good work might be the Fabfilter guys, demonstrating techniques such as compression in exceedingly nice way thanks to the visual nature of their interfaces and the confident delivery of the instructor.

No doubt you’ve seen that the heavy hitters of the online learning world, companies such as Point Blank, Dubspot, Berklee etc are now increasing their output of free material in an all out war for your eyeballs and wallets. The aim of course is bums on seats. You know this i’m sure. You know also that companies such as NI are after your money too. Or maybe you don’t? Maybe when you sit watching Britain’s Got Talent and that Domino’s ad appears your eyes glaze over and your reach for the phone and order that extra large extravaganza meal deal and wonder why your bank balance is less on monday than it was on the weekend?

Where am I going with all this? I’m wondering when the war has hit it’s peak just how much information that people want to know will be left out there? If you trawl through all of the free promotional tutorials from all the companies out there you may well have the foundation knowledge you need to produce a basic track to a competent level. Should the schools be worried? Maybe some should, if anything they need to take a look at how good their core ‘content’ is and make sure the promotional material is not the superior product. The actual tutors/instructors are also key here; just being a big name just ain’t good enough, they need to know how to inspire, motivate, guide and TEACH their students.

Free promotional tutorials are here to stay and lucky old you, it’s the consumer who will benefit. If I had the power i’d probably call for a truce amongst the competition, establish ‘rules of engagement’ and perhaps draw up a list of subjects none of us will cover.