Friday, December 15, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM Sequencer" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1988

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM Sequencer" 1/3-page colour advertisement from the bottom right corner of page 13 in the March 1988 issue of Electronic Musician.

Note: This is Twelve Tone Systems' third advertisement. I've blogged about their first ad and second ad as well. Not essential reading to follow along, but part of the fun ride.

This third Cakewalk ad ended up running in the January, March, April and May 1988 issues of Electronic Musician.

The only colour in this ad is the word "Cakewalk" itself - and even then, the ad only got the colour treatment in the March issue. In all the other issues, the ad is fully black & white. Looking at the rest of the page of that March issue, there are red sub-headings for the "letters to the editor" article that appears there, so I guess Twelve Tone had the option to include some colour in their ad and they took the opportunity when presented.

Considering this is the first time the logo has appeared in advertising material, I found it interesting that they chose the word "Cakewalk" to be red. One thought is that it could have been easier to colourize the word Cakewalk as its just text. Also, from that earlier interview with Twelve Tone Systems' founder that I referenced in the blog post for their first ad, it was clear that people were already referring to the company as Cakewalk  (and why they later changed the name of the company to Cakewalk).

But we do finally get to see the logo in the ad though. That makes me happy.  :)

The ad-copy in this third ad takes a different approach than their previous two. In the first two ads, the company focused on relaying Cakewalk's main features to the reader - 256 tracks, ease of use, editing power and low price. But this time, they quickly got their speaking points out in bold lettering in the first paragraph, and then used the majority of the ad space to promote themselves through quotes from recent product reviews conducted by relatively well-known authors - Matt Isaacson from Music Technology Magazine and the one and only Jim Aikin from Keyboard.

Letting the industry professionals do the talking is always a good strategy, as long as there is no disconnect between the statements made in the ad and those found in those VERY recent reviews. You never want to be called out for taking a someone's words out of context to benefit your product.

Well, you can guess what happened next - time to hunt down those original reviews.

Up first was the Cakewalk review in the November 1987 issue of Music Technology. An awesome issue that also includes great interviews with Kitaro and fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois. But, I resisted the urge to let myself get distracted and start flipping through the magazine. I went straight to page 75 to read the review.

It was clear right from the start that reviewer Matt Isaacson was a fan and that the review was no doubt going to be a positive affair. Right out of the gate the introduction begins with:
"For every problem technology solves, it creates another. The main problem which Cakewalk poses for me is how to do it justice in the limited space allotted for the review." 
It continues to spell out the specs of the software and what is required to run it. Looking back at reviews thrity years later is great because you read it from a totally different perspective. According to the review, it supports colour monitors and Microsoft Mouse, but is quite usable in the absence of both.

What? You could use a mouse with Microsoft DOS? I don't recall this *at all*.

Anyways, the three and half page review continues on, first with a basic "Getting Around" section. This includes among other things explanations on the pull-down menu, keyboard short cuts, and online help. The next section, an extension of the first really is "Looking Around", describing the main window itself.

With those basics out of the way, Matt then digs in deep with a section called the "The Sequence View Window", where he describes the Track, Measures and Event views. Most if not all the work is done on one of these three screens.

The last two sections of the review are "Recording" and, quite easily the largest section "Editing".

Before we get to the conclusion, there is a sticky little section called "Problems". Matt basically came up with four issues. The first was that playback timing of some tracks became "askew" after recording. The second and third issue were basically software bugs - one that could affect event editing and another that affected the MIDI start command under certain conditions. Not too shabby for version 1.1 software of anything. The final problem Matt identified was the software's total disregard for system exclusive messages.

His conclusion more than made up for pointing out these faults in the software, with Matt calling Cakewalk "one hell of a sequencer", who's "editing capabilities are too good to ignore". Nothing taken out of context here.

I next looked up Jim Aiken's review in the December 1987 issue of Keyboard. At only two pages, it might seem that its not as in-depth as the previous review, but Keyboard's small font size and single line spacing probably more than makes up for this difference.

Jim's review starts even more positively than Matt's.
"Standards in sequencer design are pretty high these days, but software newcomer Twelve Tone Systems scores quite well with Cakewalk, a full-functional sequencer program for the IBM PC."
And, just like Matt, he too points out in his introduction that you can use Cakewalk easily with or without a mouse.  Interestingly, unlike the review in MT that leaves the messy list of issues and bugs until the end, Jim likes to point these out within the sections themselves. For example, in the introduction he point out one of Cakewalk's faults right at the get-go - no automated punch-in. Two different review styles - both legit. Although I prefer the first so all the problems are featured in one place.

Like Music Technology's review, after the introduction we get an in-depth overview of the software and its main screens - navigation and the Track, Measure and Events view. While the MT review didn't seem to mind the Measures view, Jim described it as looking "vaguely like the main screen on the Roland MPS/Mesa sequencer, and is probably just about as useless...".

The next section of the review focused on editing, detailing some of the more complicated (in a good way!) aspects of the software. He does point out they found a serious bug in the event filter that would crash Cakewalk, but also offered up a work-around.

The final section before the conclusion is called "Utilities", which points out some of the "miscellaneous goodies in Cakewalk", which included storing of tempo settings, the ability to run a second program without dumping Cakewalk from memory, some of Cakewalk's save features including it's autosave, and the filtering of incoming MIDI data. One feature he called "unusual" and "could be real lifesaver" was that incoming data that was on separate channels could be kept separated on different tracks in Cakewalk.

Dang! The things we take for granted now. 

Jim's conclusion shouldn't surprise you...
"Greg Hendershott appears to have done a thorough and effective job, and we can recommend Cakewalk with complete confidence. There are several good IBM sequencers around, but if you're shopping for one, we'd definitely suggest that you get an in-store demo of Cakewalk so you can make an informed decision". 
So, as you can see, within the space of eight months Twelve Tone Systems' had managed to launch a product in April 1987, advertise effectively and get two very positive reviews in at least two large and influential industry magazines by the Christmas season.

Not too shabby.

Hey, did I mention how happy I am to see a Twelve Tone Systems' logo?   :)

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