Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Real World


I think of all the education that I’ve missed
But then my homework was never quite like this…
                                                -Van Halen

Of course, in the context of the song, I know what Van Halen had in mind when writing these lyrics, but I think it has even wider relevance.  In music school, you learn the mechanics, the theory, and some of the application.  Then you step into the real world and are confronted with a whole universe they never taught you about.

Some music schools have solved at least part of this problem by hiring industry professionals as teachers.  These people bring a lot more than just head knowledge to the table.  They bring experience, for which there is no substitute.

If we turn the conversation to music libraries, the same idea applies.  When Omnimusic was started by Doug and Patti Wood, there were only a handful of libraries.  Now, there are hundreds to choose from.  Huge ones, tiny ones, “bleeding edge” ones, Classical ones, every possible flavor of library you can imagine (and some you can’t.)  All of them have music; many even have good music.  But all the great music in the world is useless unless you can get the track you need. 

It’s true that making a library useful is a tricky business.  After all, you’re trying to take a giant mass of subjective, intangible product, describe it in a tangible, universal way, and then organize it so that whatever is needed can be quickly and easily found. Sounds like a recipe for madness.  But maybe that explains why so few do it well.

Lest you think we’ve drifted way off topic here, the point is that this is where experience comes in.  It comes in the form of being able to produce music that is useful to the audio and video professional.  It comes in the form of being able to organize that music in a meaningful way, and to describe it in ways that will enable even non-musicians to find what they need.  It also comes in the form of being realistic enough to know that this is not an infallible process, that a helping hand is often necessary, and making sure that helping hand is readily available.

Of course, if we hadn’t been around for nearly 40 years, we might not realize any of this.

-Dave Hab