Microsoft isn't a company known for addressing the needs of creative individuals interested in making music. It's arguable that this is a hard niche to effectively market to because it's fragmented, made up of people who can either afford the moon thanks to backing from a major label or are likely to track down cracked versions of software because they can't afford to buy legit stuff. Yes, plenty of people also fall between those two groups of people, but there's considerably more money in pursuing corporate clients and the consumers who want to send email, manage their finances and play music and movies. There's also a silly perception that you need to be a Mac user to do anything creative. Despite all this, Microsoft recently made a smart decision to start engaging creative types in the electronic music space through Crossfader.
I toy around with making electronic music using rudimentary tools like Cakewalk Kinetic, synth plugins for multitrack editor and have built some very basic beats from the sample libraries shipping on the CD labeled Content paired with apps like Sonar and Adobe Audition. I'm probably not even at the hobbyist level in terms of creating electronic music, but I read many of the sites and magazines aimed at the more serious members of that audience because I'm curious. While Crossfader is still in beta, only recently launching quietly, they're already headed down the right path, in my opinion. An interesting collection of reviews from artists who use Windows to make music provides information that seems to be off the message usually associated with traditional interviews arranged by PR types. I get the sense that whoever did the interviewing is more musician than journalist because the interviewees give something more than the sterilized responses that make it to print elsewhere.
One thing Crossfader already got me to do is spend money. There's a brief walkthrough with Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid about a project he was working on for his next CD release. The project is a collaboration between he and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. I'm not a fan of Slayer's music; the whole how dark can we make our lyrics thing is lost on me. On the other hand, I played drums for about twelve years and Dave Lombardo happens to be a really amazing drummer. The DJ Spooky project, Drums of Death, involved using some drum tracks created by Dave Lombardo and building songs around them. After listening to the interview on Crossfader and doing some additional digging around for information about Drums of Death online, I bought the album at Easy Street Records here in Seattle following its release.
I own quite a few percussion-heavy albums of various genres, and this album fits right in with that collection. The tracks would be suitably comfortable next to offerings from Propellerheads and The Crystal Method, which should make it appealing to anyone who like the soundtracks from The Matrix trilogy. It's probably not something I'll find myself listening to all the time, but hearing what Paul Miller composed by sampling some raw drum tracks and layering on additional music components is fueling my own interest in digging further into making some electronic music compositions. As long as Crossfader continues to deliver more great information like the Paul Miller demo video, I'll be a regular visitor.
If you want more background on the site and how it got started, we got a great interview with Eric Schmidt of Microsoft and Darek Mazzone of Planet Beat posted on the radio show site.