Updated: Jul 3, 2021
I was asking myself this question recently when the late nights and early mornings, time cut out at weekends and with family were on my mind. At the time of writing, the OP-1 Notebook and The Digitakt Notebook are out and available now. The hard work seems to be getting even harder as I’m 80% through completing The Analog Four Notebook, another Elekron device of which I’m fond. This one looks like being 200 pages plus and has been a much harder project that the others or than i ever expected. Did I answer my own question as I contemplated and challenged my own thoughts? Well I think I did and wanted to share my experience and why I chose to write these producer guides.
Firstly please remember that music production and being an author isn’t my day job nor my profession. I have learnt also that my lifetime earnings of $20 from my music releases won’t pay for the Saturday night take away every week. But making music and sharing my books is not about money, or about spare ribs and chicken curry. I have been lucky though that my ‘real’ job has allowed me to develop my collection of synths, build a studio and over the years I have invested time and effort in getting to know my tech.
Turn the clock back several years and I went on a short break in the Derbyshire forrest in the midlands of England and took my newly acquired Analog Four with me and my trusty (maybe now even rusty) OP-1 which I had been beta testing some firmware. I am naturally a student to everything I do. I always want to know something intimately and to dive deeper than I’m sure many producers prefer to do. Its the Engineer in me. I made my own notes, document how things work and after some wine, beer, a walk in the woods I did some thinking. I learnt my workflows and the devices fully. Turn the clock forward to the Christmas holiday and i turned my scribbles and sketches into written, 'typed up' notes. Desktop publishing..... the best thing since ... word processors (im old school me). I wanted to share them as I felt others would get some value too and i then published them as iBooks.
We are always happy with the output but never satisfied.
Many manufacturers have been very supportive. But I'm not sponsored or funded in any way by any manufactures for the unofficial guides. We do collaborate with Synthstrom Audible, MSXII Sound Design and Modbap Modular but we are selective in who we collaborate with. Best way isn't it?
So now we are here today. I want the Synthdawg notebooks to continiously get better. I figured out 3 things as a mantra:-
We want to make sure the books would evolve and get better but always be positioned from the hands of a synth user. I only write about what i own and use.
We want to reach out to as many synth people, audiophiles, producers as possible and share and and help others too.
We want the books to feel personal to each and every person reading and using them.
We keep the price at the cost of a cup of coffee. This way its not a deal breaker for purchased updates every 12-18 months.
So this is why the eNotebook concept was developed. Still writing from a users perspective I wanted it to be a guide and a reference for rookies and advanced users. I also wanted people to add their own notes and not just to hear that it's personal, but to make it personal. The advent of tablets, smart phones and apps that allow annotation is fantastic. We aint not sponsored by Adobe or Goodnotes either - sigh!
Also to achieve these goals we invested in the right publishing tools, domains, emails, website,
merchants etc and I figured that if I could recover these ongoing costs it would be in a good position to keep the project going, make it easy to distribute and get it out to as many people as possible. Synthdawg was born as a platform to promote and share this and help a community of likeminded music making people. Cost was a consideration but i wanted to set a price thats almost negligible. My risk that people won't buy it or share it without buying. I trusted this community. I set a cup of coffee as my reference price. My research in this area led to a lot of sleepless nights. No, not through stress but i did take a great liking to Coffee !! Worker Bee from manchester is my favourite. At this point ill say I'm not sponsored by Worker Bee Coffee @workerbeeMCR - Sighs even louder. The price was never intended to recover hours spent or become a profit orientated venture but to cover costs and hey if it contributes a bit to getting more gear then thats ok for me. I let my son handle the commercials and manage the costs (its why there is an 'I' and a 'We' in the blog) It's not a business venture and isn't aimed to be.
So I would say I’m proud of achieving the goals i set. Despite the effort, hard work, occasional criticism and many personal priorities and commitments forgone, lack of sponsorship - but hey thats cool for me, i haven't asked for any by the way. I have enjoyed the experience and will keep it going as much as I can.
The big big thing that makes it worthwhile above and beyond any other, above the coffee drinking, gear experimentation and music making (well maybe the first two) is the positive and constructive feedback i get from people who are using the books and fellow collaborators. Hearing how the most advanced users have found something new, hearing people who are disillusioned with their gear to have become re-inspired (is that a word) and motivated again. Hearing how newbies are fast tracked on workflows and from just hearing people take value from this hard work makes it worthwhile. Interestingly many messages have suggested I should charge 2x, 3x, 4x more but I won’t. We could be undervaluing the books in monetary terms maybe but i don't undervalue their use within an experienced and knoweladgable fellow synth and audio community. I thank everyone who has helped keep this project going by buying the books and by using them in their world. Take care, make some music and keep on exploring. Neil & Connor