There was a huge kerfuffle around a couple of announcements at NAMM 2015 and the introduction of subscriptions models for software. Members of the site Gearslutz were positively apoplectic although it doesn’t take much for that to happen.
For those who don’t know there is a growing move to subscription software – in other words you rent it on a monthly basis. Adobe moved most of their products to the model in 2013 and, whilst expensive, has proved to the very successful for them. Adobe have a very basic approach to subscriptions – stop paying and you lose access to the software. Avid, the owners of Digidesign, appear to be taking same same approach with their ProTools subscription offer. It does appear as though they are going to still offer an outright purchase option though the details are vague. The selling points are good – automatic, regular updates as part of the subscription so you are always running the latest version. For the developers it offers a steady income stream instead of relying on users to pay for upgrades.
Whilst I am a user of the Adobe subscription service I don’t like the fact that if I stop paying then my software ceases to function and I can’t reactivate it without taking out a new subscription.
So what are the alternatives?
Sonar have also introduced a subscription model but there is also the option to purchase outright. If you don’t want to upgrade then fine but if you do then you can join the subscription service as and when you need to but it is for a minimum of twelve months. At the end of the twelve month period you can cancel the payment but keep the software. A much better solution than Adobe and Avid.
Slate Digital have gone one better. Pay $19.99 a month and you get access to all of their plugins and any new releases whilst you are subscribing. Sounds the same as the others? Not quite – you can subscribe on a monthly basis. So if you need a Slate plugin for a mixing session just pay $19.99 and you can use them. The subscription can recommence at any time as and when you need. Slate still offer the option of outright purchase and if you subscribe for 12 months they will give you a $200 voucher to spend on their products.
Software subscription models are going to become more and more prevalent and I fear that in a couple of years time it will be the only way to use much of the software we rely on today. On one hand it offers a lower initial outlay in order to be able to use the tools we need but all of these small subscriptions can add up. For optional subscriptions a user may be forced to pay because an operating system update forces an upgrade of their applications – Apple updates are famous for this. The next twelve months are going to prove interesting.