avid

Avid, the parent company of music product makers Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius, has decided to assert the brand of its mothership more aggressively. As near as I can tell, that means you won’t see the M-Audio, Digidesign, or Sibelius brand names any more – along with video maker Pinnacle. You’ll see, presumably, Avid Pro Tools? (Right now, you see the Digi site with an Avid banner across the top that says “Digidesign is Avid.” But that was true before, so I don’t really know what this exactly means.)

Avid has also unveiled a new logo made, cleverly, to look like transport buttons on video and audio equipment.

I have to say, I have extremely mixed feelings about this, for a number of reasons. And by mixed, I mean mixed – this could be really positive, or really … not. The good news is, having one brand and one brand strategy probably does make a whole lot of sense. The (potential) downside:

 

  • Avid may be the weaker of the brands here. It’s known among video people, but not necessarily even beloved there. Digidesign and M-Audio, meanwhile, touch wider user bases, and have real resonance with musicians.
  • Will combining video and audio products actually work? Will a single brand really help? Sony has tried to do just this, with less-than-stellar results – perhaps because the video, audio, pro music, and “consumer” music markets (and their many factions within those umbrellas) are so particular. Sony has much bigger brand recognition than Avid (understatement), but even that hasn’t really made products like Acid or Sound Forge or (for video) Vegas substantially more popular. It works for Apple, but that’s because people associate Apple’s products with the computers they buy – and, well, they’re Apple and normal rules don’t seem to apply.
  • You can’t read the new logo. Sure, the triangles are clever, but you can’t actually read the letters. Also, aren’t old-school hardware transport buttons a bit dated in this day and age? I’m going to assume all of that gets sorted out in practice, so I’m not actually worried about this, but I did have to point it out.

On the other hand, Avid’s combination of Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius, plus the Avid/Pinnacle stuff on the video side really is a whole heck of a lot of what the music and video production world is about, and that hasn’t been clear. So despite the caveats and dangers, there is potential here. It’s all in the details.

And more important than branding is how Avid relates to its customers, and how the company operates. If that goes right, the brand will respond.

The press release promises not just a new identity, but a “new strategy” and “a new operating model.” But it isn’t clear, yet, what that actually means in the real world, particularly on the audio end.

http://www.avid.com/us/pressroom/brand-identity.aspx

The press release isn’t terribly encouraging, though, as it immediately shifts to Avid-centric, ultra-high-end / pro video solutions. Those products are extremely important. It’s tough to know just how anyone could find a way to relate that to a person buying a $100 plastic MIDI controller at the other end of the market, so I don’t envy the job of the business folks at Avid. At the same time, I do believe it’s possible to run a business that covers that gamut.

triangletoy

Used by the branding agency?

I’m going to talk to the Avid folks about this next week to get a better understanding. But because I expect many pro audio folks will react similarly on first brush, I decided in the interest of bloggy disclosure to go ahead and publish my initial reaction.

Let us know your questions or thoughts, and I’ll pass them along to Digidesign/M-Audio Avid next week.

  • http://xfader.com regend

    D-Styles is sponsored by AVID/M-Audio? must look into this.

  • http://www.otownmedia.com Richard Lainhart

    I'll be sad to the see the Digidesign name disappear – I've been using their products since Sound Designer. And even though I realize that Digidesign has been a part of Avid for quite a while, the Avid brand has always seemed kind of evil to me.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, let me clarify — it's unclear from what's been announced publicly just what IS happening to the Digidesign name. I'll try to find out next week, post-NAB. Not much point contacting them now as the show is still on.

    "Evil" or not, I don't get the sense that people have warm and fuzzy feelings about Avid as a name; I don't think it's off-base to say that. On the other hand, if there really is a different strategy behind all of this, that could change the way people feel about Avid in the future. So we'll see.

  • Cynic

    I for one welcome our Avid overlords… Not! I think the new logo is embarrassing, and possibly the worst piece of design we've seen for quite a while in this industry. How ridiculous that a company in trouble is spending money on rebranding (because, yeah, that always saves a company, right?) rather than fixing the big problem that Digi (and Avid to an extent share): no new high-end, next generation products for people to buy or upgrade. (Well, that and the botched integration of Pinnacle…)

    Anyway, let's all enjoy the days of "one Avid" while they last. It can't be long before the various divisions of the "one Avid" are sold off so that the CEO can enjoy a nice bonus from whatever equity firm surely owns the largest number of Avid shares.

  • Silhouette

    Wow.

    That logo looks like it was ripped right out of the mid-90's.

    How quaint.

  • bliss

    The new logo is horrible. Wouldn't even have noticed it, if it weren't pointed out.

    Avid are not Apple — hope Avid knows that.

  • http://www.keyquestmusic.com aje

    Having invested heavily in Sibelius over the years I have watched with mounting unease since Avid acquired them. It's a relief that the VST hosting was already under development before Avid could stop it, but I just hope Sibelius doesn't become too closed off – or end up using iLok.

    But the different divisions of Avid do not seem so far to play that nicely with each other, so perhaps under one more assertive banner they will have to stop any infighting. For example, why does PT MP not allow users to get the most out of low latency M-Audio gear? Is it rfeally because the Digi products don't offer such low latency, and that there is rivalry going on to make the Digi stuff look better? Who knows.

    The bottom line is that the amalgamation of these brands has so far led to a little confusion imho. Perhaps Avid agree with that and want to get on top of it. A properly integrated product line from these guys would certainly be hugely attractive.

  • http://www.sibeliusblog.com/ Daniel Spreadbury

    It's been interesting to see the responses to Avid's new branding from around the web over the last week since it was launched at NAB.

    Speaking as Sibelius's Senior Product Manager, I can at least reassure folks of my first-hand experience that one of Avid's core strategies is to ensure that Avid products work well with other third party products and solutions. So the notion of, say, Sibelius becoming more closed off is not in the company's plans, and I feel sure that this is true across the company's other product lines, too.

  • grainmachine

    "one of Avid’s core strategies is to ensure that Avid products work well with other third party products and solutions" you are joking right ?

    like Pro Tools works well with industry standard VST / AU plugs and third party audio interfaces I presume.

    come on, AVIDs strategy from day one has been designed precisely to do the opposite …

  • vicz

    Its like Ford buying BMW and Mercedes and then thinking it'd be a good idea to rebrand all the cars as Fords….

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @grainmachine:

    I'll defend Avid on this one. Yes, it's true that Digidesign hasn't embraced the audio interface and plug-in interoperability elsewhere, though those things are a whole other can of worms. I have some questions about the long-term viability of formats like VST, ASIO, and AU, too, because they are really proprietary formats that happen to have wide adoption, more than standards in the sense of having oversight of more than one company, and there are plenty of technical complaints one might have, as well. I mean, as you know, I'm a big fan of that flexibility, which is why I haven't been such a big fan of Pro Tools. At the same time, it doesn't really impact either Sibelius or M-Audio.

    What I believe Digidesign and Avid have meant by this issue, so far has been more in the realm of file format interoperability. Pro Tools has made some steps forward, and I know some of the Avid video products have — Final Cut Pro gets mentioned in the press release. And Daniel can speak to this, because Sibelius has had a long history of making progress on file format interoperability, none of which changed when they were acquired by Avid. (Doing file formats for notation, by the way, is a heck of a lot *harder* than it is for audio projects, so it's worth commending them on that.)

    I think it's all about what happens next. If people aren't in love with the Avid brand right now, then in a way it mirrors what Avid is saying — that it's time for a change. So we'll see what that change looks like.

  • grainmachine

    Well Peter, while I certainly wouldn't disagree with very much that you said there, words _do_ have meanings ! … and _whatever_ AVID intend to do concerning format interoperability with Sibelius, or AVID FCP etc, the fact remains that AVID's business model is, and always has been, tying users of their software into buying their hardware … i'm not saying that this is evil, or even necessarily a bad thing, i'm just saying that it is the case.

    There are many DAW's & Video Editing software suites out there of which one could honestly claim that the maker's "core strategy" is opening them to "third party products and solutions" … but, with all due respect to both you and Mr. Spreadbury, AVID clearly isn't one of them when it comes to audio & video interfaces / soundcards / plug-in formats etc etc.

    Furthermore, with respect to plug-in formats, VST & AU are indeed the "property" of Steinberg & Apple, and I for one would certainly welcome some sort of cross-platform, open-source plug-in format, but for the time being (while we're waiting for such a thing to evolve) when plug-in developers develop for those formats, they are nevertheless developing for a wide range of "software solutions" … wheras if these same developers want to have the possibility of selling their products to the comparatively wealthy ( and Pro Tools dominated) post-prod and pro studio market, AVID forces them to develop for the (Pro Tools-only) RTAS format. One can argue about the reasons for AVID's strategy here (and once again i'm not saying that it's evil … they can obviously do whatever they want with their products ! ) … but ensuring support of third party solutions it most certainly ain't …

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yes, the model for the Avid video stuff and Digidesign has absolutely been proprietary hardware platforms, and you know that's why they've been less appealing to me — and, honestly, to a lot of the kind of audience who reads this site. I might also point out that for a lot of us, that's not some sort of philosophical stand — there's a community of musicians that relies on the audio interface flexibility and plug-in compatibility the competing hosts provide because it just suits the way we work. That's nothing against the people for whom the Pro Tools model works, but there is a difference.

    Of course, that's the real question here — how the "Avid" umbrella applies to these very disparate products and what, exactly, Avid is planning for the future. Maybe they're moving away from this largely-proprietary model on their flagship, high-end audio/video products.

    They're talking about the future, here, so I'm just not sure what they mean. ;)

    And the fact is that people associate "Avid" with the part of the company that is most interested in proprietary, hardware-based platforms, and the least with stuff like M-Audio and Sibelius. So, yes, it's in their court to prove what they mean.

  • Downpressor

    Ugly design, but no matter. I dont buy any of those products myself.

  • http://www.janklug.com Jan Klug

    @silhouette: it *is* from the mid-90's ;)

    to be more precise, from german music-tv station VIVA:
    http://www.viva.tv/

  • Ken Burk

    First, my impressions of the brands today:

    Sibelius – niche tool for scoring. Certainly worthy in doing its thing.

    Pinnacle – shovelware for webcams

    M-Audio – "meh" audio. Cheap stuff for entry level/hobbyist.

    Digidesign – the hidden company behind ProTools

    ProTools – high cache. Big dog on the block that everything else is compared to.

    Avid – In every movie credits. Not personally familiar with the products – but I see the name.

    So as I see it – there are 3 things worth holding onto. Sibelius and ProTools as product names, Avid as a company name. If Sibelius as a standalone product is going away, then that is fine too. If I were management, I'd be looking to make a product lineup of

    ProTools Lite Audio (current M lineup)

    ProTools Lite Video (Pinnacle crap)

    ProTools LE Audio (digidesign host M-Box and 003)

    ProTools LE Video (new lineup)

    ProTools HD Audio

    ProTools HD Video

    ProTools HD A/V

    Now you have a company that is recognized (Avid) with a brand that is recognized (ProTools) that are both class leaders.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Ken:

    Interesting. Well, on the video side, Avid is a very, very well-known name as both the vendor and the product. So I don't expect them to start calling their video products Pro Tools.

    The other thing I'd say is that Sibelius isn't as much of a "niche" tool as you may think – certainly no more than any other music product. Notation is a big deal to a whole lot of musicians and educators. It's a big market, which is why Avid acquired the company, and why you now see Sibelius-powered notation facilities in Pro Tools. (I'm actually a little surprise that the latter hasn't gotten more attention, but I think it's because many people do notation as a separate workflow. For those who want both, that's still big news, though; I'd pick that over the notation features in any of the other DAWs.)

  • SM

    I think this is good for AVID. A total Brand which will be bigger! Too many names sometimes confuse people