15 Years of Helping Musicians: The OBEDIA Story
15 years ago, OBEDIA (a contraction of “Obedient Media”) came into being. It was intended to fill the support void that plagued musicians since the advent of computer-based recording. Sure, manufacturers could try to help…maybe. But all too often, the problems were due to operating system and hardware/software compatibility issues that individual companies simply couldn’t handle.
Jayce Murphy, OBEDIA’s CEO, contacted me one day and asked if I knew anyone who could write an article about their 15th anniversary. Well, I’ve been using their PCAudioLabs computer line since the days of Windows Vista, and OBEDIA’s tech support has saved me many times since then. I said I’d be happy to write an article, for free, because what they’re doing is cool—I can attest that studio life is much easier when someone can call you (or even dial into your desktop), and fix some supposedly intractable problem within a few minutes.
What a Difference 15 Years Makes…
For perspective, 15 years ago Windows XP was three years old, and OS X was running “Panther” (OS X 10.3). Justin Timberlake caused Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl. “Friends” aired its final episode, Ronald Reagan died, Hoobastank had a top 10 song of the year, and Napoleon Dynamite was pulling in the bucks at the box office. But one thing hasn’t changed: consumer-oriented computers that are designed for running spreadsheets, word processors, and web browsers can be very vexing to those of us who need high-performance, precision tools that run reliably, day after day.
According to Murphy, “In the early days of OBEDIA, technology had gotten to the point where musicians had to be IT professionals just to make music. We saw a need that wasn’t being filled and felt we could make a difference. I love computers, I love music, so it was natural to be involved in helping musicians make music, instead of having them spend hours with tech support lines that often didn’t have a solution…or get suggestions from well-meaning people on the net that actually made matters worse, not better.
“15 years later, there’s good news—the technology has progressed to where computer-based recording provides virtually unlimited creative possibilities—but also bad news, because of the multiple possible software/hardware conflicts. One of the main issues we solve is incompatibilities among pieces of hardware and software from different manufacturers, especially in light of Microsoft and Apple’s operating system changes. Our job is to keep up with those changes, so musicians don’t have to feel lost in this ever-changing tech world and can stay productive.”
In 2010, OBEDIA relocated to Nashville, TN—a smart move, given that the “music city” reputation isn’t a marketing slogan, but a spec. Then in 2013, after a long partnership, OBEDIA acquired PCAudioLabs. This meant OBEDIA could provide Windows-based computers optimized specifically for high-performance audio. Murphy explains, “It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a ‘PC’ per se—there are a bunch of components, from multiple companies, that when assembled create a PC. For a computer to do high-performance, streaming audio or video, every element of the computer has to be dedicated to that goal. The motherboard, CPU, RAM, drives, ports, slots, power supplies, and even the case are all crucial.
“We also believe that if you choose components intended for upgrading instead of obsolescence, a computer can give reliable, efficient performance for years. Of course, many of our customers turn over their computer every couple years to have the ‘latest and greatest.’ But others have been using our machines for 10 years or more, because we can help them navigate the ongoing hardware, software, and operating system changes.” I can testify to that, having upgraded the same basic PCAudioLabs Windows machine starting when Vista was introduced.
What people need in 2019 isn’t that different compared to 15 years ago: a computer that boots, works, and then becomes invisible. OBEDIA supports Mac and Windows, and now has moved to a subscription model to provide more accessible pricing. Recognizing that most issues are going to crop up shortly after installing or upgrading hardware or software, you can sign up for 1 month with 30 session minutes, or a 3-month subscription with 90 session minutes (this ends up as a little under a dollar per minute). You can also subscribe for as much as six months, or a year. Longer subscriptions give the best value when users need to handle ongoing training and support needs.
OBEDIA has also moved beyond simply providing support. They’ve formed strategic partnerships with many companies—from a free trial subscription bundled with PreSonus AudioBox products and developing a line of certified computers for PreSonus Studio One, to special subscriber pricing for Magix Products, to working closely with Intel to test their Optane line of solid-state storage devices for music applications. Historically, OBEDIA has been tapped for their specialized expertise by AVID for worldwide technical support for the Artist Series product range, Toontrack music for worldwide technical support for the complete product range, the RME/Synthax product line for North American technical support, Sony Pictures Digital Authoring Center for onsite maintenance and optimization of audio/video workstations and networks, AMD’s AMD64 Masters Group for DAW training and support, the Grammy Foundation for DAW training for Pro Sessions participants, and support for Sonar and the V-Studio controller.
OBEDIA is also reaching out to help musicians in other ways, including publishing free white papers, and generating content seen by 25,000 YouTube subscribers and 12,000 social media channel subscribers. Brian Lorelle, OBEDIA’s CTO, states that “One of OBEDIA’s goals is to continue leveraging the power of social media to help our customers tame their technology. From our early adoption of YouTube, to the steady growth of subscribers, to new tutorial videos released every week, to one-on-one customer support via social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, we continue to seek new ways to ensure that we use new technology to help our customers.”
Summer NAMM 2019: More to Come
15 years is a long time in the ever-changing world of technology, so to celebrate, OBEDIA is introducing the MC-XV Anniversary Edition machine at Summer NAMM 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The MC-XV teams Intel’s Optane SSD storage (which outperforms other SSD or mechanical storage options for audio), with Intel’s Core X-Series processor. There will also be an MC-XV giveaway, along with OBEDIA subscriptions and PreSonus Studio One and AudioBox bundles.
Murphy sees OBEDIA as not just a service, but as being the IT tech that musicians no longer need to be. “Audio and video professionals are totally dependent on their hardware and software; even small problems can result in missed deadlines, lost income, and frustration. Running OBEDIA is incredibly satisfying, because we usually start by talking someone in a panic ‘off the ledge,’ and end up by solving their problems—often within 15 minutes—so they can get back to being productive. Of course that means a lot to the customer, but it means a lot to us, too. We end the phone call or remote desktop sessions with tangible, positive results, knowing that we’ve been a part of helping clients achieve their creative goals. It’s a great gig—I’m looking forward to another 15 years.”