What does the term 'Industry Standard' really mean?

This should be interesting. For years I have been using various DAW’s (both Mac & Windows formats) as an individual, part of a production team or as a co-worker at a Music Technology Lab at UNI. I’ve seen and heard the term many times but in reality what does ‘industry standard’ really mean?

Here are my views:

  1. That is a tem only used by professionals, producers and marketers to convince you to use their product.

  2. From my experience any DAW that gets the job done with a UI that does not inhibit my workflow (intuitive, least amount of steps) and outputs the quality I’m looking for is good enough for me. After using various DAW’s for years I found one that works with me and I’m a big fan of it - completing a lot of projects with it as well.

  3. Once you learn the basics of one DAW you’ve basically learnt them all. It’s just a matter of where things are located. That also means that all the top-tier DAW’s are just a matter of taste for the end user - not really a distinctive factor for the ‘industry standard’ term.

  4. Saying that you’ve used an ‘Industry Standard’ DAW as part of the production process to an average listener would mean nothing to them. In fact they may not care at all about the production process! All that matters to the average listener is that if they can bob their heads up and down then the music is good.

So … for DAW’s what do you think the term ‘Industry Standard’ means to you?


I basically agree with all that, and I’d also like to add that if someone absolutely need a specific set of tools to get anything done at all, I’d kind of wonder if they actually know what they’re doing, or if they’ve just learned everything mechanically, by trial-and-error…

As for “Industry Standard,” I suppose it might be relevant when it comes to passing project files back and forth for collaborations and the like. But even then, it’s more or less a moot point, unless everyone involved also own all the same plugins, expansions, sample libraries etc. Otherwise, there can’t be much more than stems with basic mixer automation in those projects anyway - so why not just pass WAV stems around, and people can use whatever tools they want?

I don’t think there will ever be a true collaboration solution that erases all borders, because there are just so many unique tools (DAWS, effects, synths, sample libraries, analog gear etc) that we all want to use in different ways, for different reasons, and most of us can only ever afford a tiny fraction of it anyway. One size will never fit all.


I totally agree.
Even more when I see the price of protools and the ridiculous specs you get for that.
I use Sonar, cakewalk now. It’s free, super efficient and did I mention free?
Reason is great too.
Nobody would know which DAW was used and nobody should care.
It’s a bit like the result is better because an apple computer was used. Makes no difference at all. Only for tech snobs and marketing departments.
Only the result matters.


So I’d agree totally with you in regards to just producing music for yourself, remotely. What you said in that sense makes total sense and I think the sales teams of various companies have started using this term to sell to a wider audience… purely because understanding in the realm of music tech is getting ever more common.

Your thought process doesn’t quite match up though when you get to bigger commercial and high end studios. This is obviously where the term originated, and has come around because these big studios use a lot of the same gear, simply because it’s either robust, works well or sounds great. So I’m terms of fear those three points would generally outline wether something is a standard or not. So keep that in mind when you are reading a gear pitch.

In terms of DAW’s it’s different again. Most big studios use either one of the big three. Protools, Logic, Cubase. The reason these are called industry standard is because it’s often a good idea to familiarise yourself with what the majority of studios are using if you are sending off files to be mastered. This purely determines wether you send stems or the whole file. The pros to sending stems are that your song won’t change a huge deal, the cons are that there’s sometimes not as much hands on control the engineer will have straight off the bat… plus, they’ll spend longer getting the basics right before actually mixing. The biggest pro to sending the whole file is simply that they will be able to do more in the space of time they have allocated giving you a better product (in theory). So I’m this sense it can be a benefit to get multiple DAW’s to learn and use to send your music off. It’s simply a formatting thing for the engineer.

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If you produce good music it does6 really matter which daw you use. I use Ableton live to create orchestral score and I feel totally comfortable, because I depend on my soundly libraries more than on the daw itself… but in case I want to create my own sounds Ableton is really good plus I use serum plugin… I wish I could buy Logic Pro but then I will have to buy Mac and I just can’t afford it

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I think most people see it to mean : “this DAW as been used to make music that has been used on actual professional projects” - especially those trying to convince you to use their product, like you say.

So that’s pretty much every DAW ever!!!

As others have said though, once you get beyond a certain level, there are things that do become “standard” across many / most studios - and if at the pro level you’re told something is “industry standard” it basically means that you’ll be able to walk into the studio and use all of the equipment without any fuss, because it’s all stuff that’s familiar to you.

Usually ProTools, often Logic, and sometimes Cubase are the DAWs you’d expect to see at that level.

And then other equipment is a whole other discussion!

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Hi @NavidLancaster,

for me personally “Industry-Standard” means first of all something related to a technical overall common thing. Let’s take a master-file for example: The mastering engineer is supposed to deliver different LUFS for different platforms. Why, because the industry once said: Youtube -14LUFS, iTunes I guess is -12 etc. If he doesn’t do it, he doesn’t follow the standards. The artist can say: “Hey, please master our mix for different platforms, so our music is as loud as the reference…”.

Music-wise I would take the example of “Trailer Music”. If you want to land a gig in the biggest trailer on earth, you need to know how many of the trailer music tracks are made. You need to know, what parts it has…like Intro…Build-Up…Climax…Break…Climax 2…Outro…common tempo used, common sounds and instruments, common motives, chord-progressions and melodies…all that stuff. Then how to arrange, mix and master all that stuff, to be at the top of the game. When you land your first placement for a big movie trailer or a big corporate brand, I think you can say for sure, that you “delivered the needed industry standard” – a superb quality. On the other hand when you take a reality show, they often use really bad sounding music tracks. The quality of the mixes, instruments etc. is low, but the music itself just fits “right” in the background, at least for them haha. So here the “Industry Standard” is only music-related, not sound-quality-related.

DAW-wise the times are definitely over, where only “one” DAW rules. They followed themselves all the time. If one comes with a super new feature, which others don’t have, they will copy that, because all the users will say “this is the new thing, the new standard”. At the end of the day, the industry has to have common denominator, otherwise there will be chaos I guess :slight_smile:

Best regards,
Alexey (JLX)


Excellent examples Alexey, that makes it super clear. And as you say you don’t have to follow the standard in anything, but the more you deviate from it the harder it will become “selling it” :smile: