DAWs or Digital Audio Workstations forms the backbone of most independent artists. The market is receptive to both record labels and independent labels as well. It frankly does not matter as long as the music is good. Both free and paid DAWs helps whether you are a hobbyist or want to go pro.
If you’re using a free DAW, this blog will explore the main differences between a free and a paid DAW. I will share my experience, perspectives and why you should consider a possible migration soon.
Indie Music Producers usually start from the free DAWs. I began with LMMS in 2019. Before that, I was already familiar with FL Studio. Back in the day, it was known as Fruity Loops and was specifically into beat making. It had not yet blown into the popular DAW it is today. I was not interested in music-making then.
My idea of using a free DAW was to use it as a launchpad. When I earn enough revenue, I can buy a paid DAW. At least, that was my plan.
It is necessary to get acquainted with the tricks of the trade. If you ever had any inclination towards music creation, you are aware of some DAWs in the market.
LMMS is a great free DAW. The learning curve isn’t too much of a problem if you have a desire to learn. But, it is complicated, nonetheless. Since I was exposed to LMMS quite early, I stuck to it. I don’t use most of the stock plugins, and most of whatever I used was third party free VSTs and Plugins. However, if you’re still in a pickle, I would strongly recommend using Cakewalk instead.
Despite the complications, I had to make do with it. Why? Because I had no choice since I had also invested a considerable amount of time creating some decent music. It worked well even with the 64-bit version.
I had already created around 7-8 nearly finished music. It lacked some finishing touches to publish them online.
My greatest challenge was mastering my soundtracks. It was not easy. Let’s face some hard facts. If you lack the skills of a sound engineer, a mastering engineer – mastering will pose some challenges.
These are the struggles you will have and fall. But, falling is not important, what’s important is you must get up after a fall and keep going.– Phil Phoenyx
FL Studio was one DAW where I had set my eyes on after I had upgraded my PC.
What drew me towards FL Studio was that LMMS is a clone of FL Studio. So, the learning curve would not be that time-consuming. It is also affordable. One primary reason that sold me was the free upgrade for life feature. FL Studio is also the most preferred DAW for most professional artists.
It has something to do with my PC. Some DLL files went mysteriously missing compromising the functioning of the software. The key-stock plugin – Declipper wouldn’t work. Besides, the software was also a resource hog.
It consumed too much PC resources for my 4 gigs RAM, Intel Dual-Core system. I couldn’t run the Youlean Loudness meter properly to monitor the LUFS of my finished song.
A DAW is designed to work on the lowest specs. Though, the better the specs better the performance. Check the system requirements of that software on the parent website to get an idea.
So, if you’re reading this, my suggestion is, make sure you have at least a minimum of 8 gigs of RAM and a 4-cores processor to start with. If you are into YouTubing, these specs should suffice for basic audio and video editing. Minimal specs of video cards should suffice as well.
I chose Cakewalk from Bandlab. Cakewalk is free and runs on the level of a paid DAW. How true is this, only time will tell. I’ve just started running the software. Surprisingly, Youlean Loudness Meter worked beautifully side-by-side of a running song. So did all the plugins from Melda Audio.
A DAW should have all the requisites. The stock plugins and VSTs should suffice without developing the need for 3rd party software. It should also be flexible to use. It must also have the option of installing a 3rd party VSTs.
Different artists have different requirements. Some may be ok with the stock plugins while others want to make better use of free or paid VSTs and plugins. That’s the reason why a paid DAW should have the option of accommodating 3rd part plugins and VSTs – free and paid.
My first choice was always – FL Studio, then came Studio One 5. Both are great DAWs IMO. The difference is the price. Studio One, the professional version is a little over 5K more than FL Studio’s Signature bundle.
At the end of the day, a paid DAW should enable me to make music, compose, record vocals and master. I should not worry about outsourcing my project to a third party. I intend people to outsource their mastering work to me. That’s why I like to stay in control of things.
It is similar to driving a car. When you are the driver, you know how to best reach the destination you are going to.
I have compiled a list of questions below. Please go through them to better understand your requirements:
1) Why do you want to become a music producer in the first place?
A: Answering this question with a simple excuse of ‘I love music’ will not help. There are many things I love in this world, music, biking, driving my car, cooking, blogging…the list goes on. However, just because you love music does not make you a musician and a music producer. Just because I love driving does not qualify me as a Formula 1 race car driver!
Another excuse is money. Seriously? Not good enough. Money is the end goal of success. My answer is not perfect. I have repeated it in some of my blog posts and will not hesitate to repeat it.
I indeed love music. I don’t play any musical instruments as of now. Whether you need one is subjective. Enigma inspired me to take up music. It is the song – Sadness that prompted me to follow in the footsteps of Michael Cretu. That song was the culmination of everything that I ever wanted to be. But, due to the lack of guidance, time and resources, I could not step in the shoes of a music producer.
If you love something, it must show. It is similar to loving your wife, girlfriend, parents sports or anything in this world. When you love something, you care for it. You do your best not to hurt it.
2) What is/are your goals for getting into music?
A. Let’s face some hard facts here: even if you love music – things won’t be easy. You will only love to do what you do. It’s that simple. I want to create an impact like many other music producers out there. Become an inspiration like Chester Bennington. Be known for something. Contribute something to the world. Most importantly – just live my dream.
If you answered in the affirmative, here’s another question that needs an answer:
3) How do you measure your success?
A: Success means different to different people. If a YouTuber, probably you would want to reach 1M subs. If a music producer, you would want the world to listen to your music. What else? Fame? Money? Are these factors for success?
Fame is the ‘side-effects’. Money is the result of becoming an established music producer. Self-sufficiency financially is what I mean by success.
Ultimately, I want to get into scoring for commercials, movies and video games besides launching EPs regularly. On this front, I would like to be in the footsteps of Junkie XL, Hans Zimmer and Howard Shore
At the moment, I am switching between LMMS and Cakewalk. Although LMMS does not work as per my satisfaction, I won’t create any new projects in it. This permits me to transition to Cakewalk slowly and steadily.