The Upgrade Syndrome

2010 Nov 18, 2010

There is always something new to buy. That’s just a fact of life. But never has this been more apparent as in the software world. Just when you’ve got the best and latest version of a plugin or DAW software, the manufacturer goes out and releases a newer update with all sorts of features that you simply can’t live without.

So you pull out your credit card, take the plunge and upgrade. This my friends is becoming an epidemic. One that we must tackle, today! Here are some thoughts you should process before you drop cash on that shiny new update…


Via GotCredit Flickr

Return On Your Investment

Whether you run your studio as a full time job or a side business for fun and some extra cash, you always need to think of purchases and upgrades in light of their future investment return. It’s simple really…will this amount of money you’re about to spend actually help you bring in that same amount and more? Will it help you make money that you couldn’t actually make before? Will it speed up your workflow in a way that allows you to take on more projects and finish them in the same amount of time (i.e. making you more money)?

One specific example for me was a Pro Tools update a couple of years ago. I was running version 7.1 just fine. However 7.4 was just released featuring the addition of Elastic Time, which is the now standard time stretching feature in Pro Tools. It was a $99 upgrade to the new version, but that feature alone has sped up my editing workflow dramatically allowing me to get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Totally worth it for me and the type of work I do.

Hidden Costs

Before you ever upgrade your DAW or plugins, you need to consider other potential “hidden costs.” For example, your latest version of a DAW may require a certain operating system version that you don’t have and isn’t free. Or in the mac world, some DAW updates stop being compatible with older macs running Power PC processers instead of the Intel chips. What a bummer that would be if you upgraded only to find out you now need a whole new computer as well!

Extracting Enough Value

No matter what you want to upgrade, I firmly believe you will be a happier more content person if you learn to extract enough value from your current gear before you move on to something new. I wrote about this value concept before, and it’s so true. If you purchase a piece of gear and use it for a few years on many projects, you will not only potentially make more money in your studio from that gear, but more importantly you will have memories with that piece. You will know that it helped you to create great music for a long time and that your initial purchase was worth it.

Have you fallen victim to the upgrade syndrome? I know I have, and it ain’t pretty people….

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