Black Turtle Neck
November 17, 2011 by Jon Slott
As I write this column, it’s been about two weeks since he died.
Looking for more information, I searched his name on Google News. And among the top hits of my search, on the first page of results, I find the following articles:
‘Can Apple Replace Steve Jobs’ Celebrity?’ ‘Steve Jobs Was Far From Perfect’ ‘A Nobel Prize for Steve Jobs?’ ‘Steve Jobs’ Turtleneck and the Right of Publicity’
No, I’m not kidding about the last one.
It seems the top executives of Knitwear Corp. have created controversy with their claims that Jobs’ trademark black mock turtlenecks are from the company’s St. Croix line of knitwear. Just one small detail though – the turtlenecks worn by Jobs are not from the St. Croix line or any other line manufactured by Knitwear Corp. And without his permission, they used a picture of Jobs wearing a turtleneck alongside the company’s offer to donate $20 to the American Cancer Society for each purchase made. Let the lawsuits begin.
I’ve written about Apple products before in this column. I guess that’s because they’ve been in my life since I was a teenager. I’ve owned some of their earliest stuff. Back then, before my phone became a center of entertainment and information, the only thing that I used Apple products for was my work.
Creative people were the early adopters of the Mac. And it wasn’t only music guys like me – it was the designers of visual media, the art and layout people, the writers – Apple products quickly become the tools of their trade.
Creative people were the first true believers and we’ve been ever loyal. To this day I’ve never seen a single agency person sporting a PC laptop.
For us, starting a music company right out of college would have been a financial impossibility without the existence of Apple products and the music software created for it. The analog based studios of the day, with their large tape machines and mixing consoles were way out of our reach. The lower cost sequencers and semi-pro tape-based systems gave us no chance of achieving the quality needed to realistically compete in the market.
In order to keep up with the increasing pace of advertising in the mid-nineties, it was essential for music guys to start moving in the direction of a digital ‘tapeless studio’. Before digital audio hardware existed for the Mac, one of the popular systems being used was the Synclavier Digital Audio System. However, its $200,000 to $300,000 price tag made the entry cost for young up-and-comers way too high.
But, armed with our Macintosh Quadra 650, we were able to build a system that allowed us to compete on an even playing field. By today’s standards the Quadra 650 is a joke. It had a 500 MB internal hard drive (the top storage capacity of the iPhone 4S is 64,000MB). The 1.44 MB floppy disk wasn’t even large enough to hold a decent quality mp3 of a 3-minute song.
But it was still a game changer for us. Developers of creative based software gravitated quickly towards the Mac and that added to its value. Pro Tools, the hard disk recording system, started out as a Mac-only offering, as did the professional level music sequencing software such as Digital Performer and Studio Vision. The earliest versions of Illustrator and Photoshop, now part of the Adobe Creative Suite, were Mac-only releases at first.
So with the first version of Pro Tools and our Mac, we now had a way to combine MIDI information (which controlled our synthesized and sampled instrumentation) with digitally recoded overdubs of live players, foley and sound design. We were also given the ability to lock the audio playback to an external video deck (Quicktime had yet to be a viable option). We could instantly recall our settings, which gave us the ability to quickly bounce back and forth between jobs.
And with that, we were in business.
The quality of output and the speed of our workflow increased. And it wasn’t just us. With all the other music guys using these systems, the bar of expectation was being raised for the entire industry. The basic workflow created then is pretty much what we still use today. But since computer processor speed is now insanely fast and storage capacity is so immense, it minimizes the need for outboard hardware. With expanded software capability and the large sample banks, more things can be accomplished ‘inside the box’. Our creations come off the press even faster now and the expectations have notched up once again.
Fortunately for us, available technology and the timing of our entry into the market gave our young company the ‘perfect storm’ scenario to break into the business and compete. In a sense, Steve Jobs played a fairly large role in the course of my career and for that he deserves a nod from me.
I don’t know if Apple will be able to replace Steve Jobs’ celebrity.
I’m sure he wasn’t perfect because nobody is.
I’m not qualified to judge whether he deserves a Nobel Prize.
And you should never take credit for someone else’s turtleneck.
Jon Slott is the Executive Producer of Dallas, Texas-based music company, BREED. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.