Fruity Loops, now renamed FL Studio, seems to be the software of choice for beginning producers.
Last night, I started a professional audio production program at the University of Washington Extension. There are about 40 students in the class. A half dozen or so are like me--in our 30s or older, with full-time careers outside the music industry, but with a longtime interest in recording and a lot of experience writing and playing music.
But most are full-time students, or between college and graduate school, and are expecting to make a career in the music industry. Some of these kids are frighteningly single-minded--there's an 18-year-old who's been messing around with recording software since he was 9 and claims to be competent on drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. Nearly all of them have created and recorded many hours of their own music, usually playing all the instruments. Several of them expect to start their own record labels, on which they'll release music by friends and artists they like. Their level of excitement is remarkable to me, given all the doom and gloom about collapsing record sales and the death of the big label system.
But most interesting to me: what software do they use? One guy recorded everything in Garage Band, but the program that kept coming up again and again was Fruity Loops (recently renamed FL Studio).
Nearly everybody who used it prefaced it with some sort of apology--"I know it's not considered a real recording program"--and our instructor didn't mention it among his recommendations of low-cost entry-level software (he's a huge fan of Cubase3 SE for multitrack mixing, even as he acknowledges that Pro Tools is the industry standard for recording). Nonetheless, Fruity Loops seems to be the standard for budding musicians--just like kids used to buy a Strat and a cheap Peavey amp, and maybe a Tascam 4-track tape recorder, now they buy a laptop, MIDI keyboard, and cheap sequencing software.