I was nailed – publicly and internationally with a question posed on my Facebook page which asked, “Hi Peter, LASS or EW Hollywood Strings.” No question mark was included.
This question came at a time when I was seriously involved with making the big decision for the July 4th weekend: which Memphis dry rub recipe was I going to use on the ribs? As a native Virginian, I can attest to the seriousness of this question. Pork is as important in the Old Dominion as bull is in Washington, DC and Hollywood.
And now a marketing observation filled with culinary opportunities and sales insight – the juices are stirring.
Or as one British general is reported to have written to his superiors in the 19th century – the natives are restless.
Oh how they are whenever a new orchestral library is introduced with another humming in the wings. Speculation abounds. Posts mount. Arguments ensue. Sides are drawn. A duel is declared. Pistols are selected! March ten paces, turn and fire.
It is the orchestral library version of Hamilton vs. Burr.
But who is the victor?
As ungrammatical as this may be expressed, you is.
That’s because working professionals will avoid the tastes great/less filling duel inspiring chatter and simply buy both.
It’s as boringly simple as that. And here’s why.
A working composer’s first loyalty is to his (or her!) career. If a new library moves you to a higher level to help you get more writing gigs, you buy it. If two new libraries come along that add to your edge, you buy both. Then you work with them and integrate them into your template to create what the late Shirley Walker called, your signature sound.
L.A. Scoring Strings and Hollywood Strings are, for the very first time, the first full string libraries released commercially that were actually recorded in Los Angeles in classic studio and scoring stage settings by people actively involved in various aspects of film/TV scoring.
It doesn’t get any better than that, unless either EastWest or Mr. Keresztes at L.A. Scoring Strings decides to include a $20 Gift Certificate for Domino’s Pizza. Given the late hours composers work away from their families, that kind of promotion could be a real deal closer!
The good news financially for composers is that the release of each library is separated by a few months, giving everyone time to save for the next one.
Now, some top-of-mind benefits from what’s been posted.
L.A. Scoring Strings uses the new Kontakt 3.5 player and operates within Kontakt 3.5. Hollywood Strings uses the PLAY software instrument player.
Having full sectionals and divisi at hand in one package is a time management blessing.
Both libraries are recorded in studio/scoring stage locales, so blendability with other string, brass, woodwind and percussion libraries should be quite high.
Mr. Keresztes has a number of varying sized ensembles to choose from: solo strings that enable the creation of both the string quartet and string quintet, full string sections, and smaller recorded ensembles within each section that allow for both chamber and divisi application.
With EastWest, there are the announced full sectional ensembles, divisi A/B breakdowns within each string section, and five mic position choices to create a custom sound.
If there’s a serious determinator for both companies it’s the economy and price.
Mr. Keresztes announcement that for about two-three weeks, the pre-release price was $999 met with wide appreciation. Not that everyone didn’t feel that the 34GB LASS was worth more, but that most figured they could come up with a $1000 or less. A higher price than that, as a number of working composers expressed to me privately, would have been a hardship in these rough financial times.
We must also consider the marketing sales reality that a large percentage of the buying professional market is in Los Angeles. At one time, Film Music Magazine estimated that there were 8,000 to 10,000 composers in Los Angeles looking to break in.
Now factor in that the state of California is in such bad shape with its $24.3 billion budget deficit that it began issuing on July 2, 2009, IOUs to citizens (including composers) who are due tax refunds. Tax refunds spur library and hardware purchases for composers.
Apple wants your credit card, not your California State IOU. I suspect that both EastWest and Mr. Keresztes will have the same monetary policy.
In California, the sales tax rate has gone up, as has the Tele/Productions tax break. It is not wholly unthinkable that the state of California could go bankrupt.
So price is a real factor.
And then there are the musical factors.
Both have muted string elements.
Both have divisi.
And let’s be compositionally honest, divisi strings are the Holy Grail of MIDI Mockups. Today it takes a lot of time to mock up divisi passages and make them sound right. The advertising says these two new libraries solve that problem, but each in different ways that expand musical voice and vocabulary.
Read for yourself:
In fairness. LASS is completed and is going to duplication. Demos are posted and more coming. The recording for Hollywood Strings has been completed and programming is now in process. There are no demos available at this time. Pricing and release date have not been announced.
Despite taxing issues and other economic woes, it is a good time for composers, even if it’s a bad time, “out there.” One library is off to duplication with demos posted and another on the near horizon with programming having just begun.
What can be better for composers than to have great tools that enable us to create beautiful music to lift the human spirit, even our own, in ways and with vocabulary in this electronic medium that have not been readily available before.