October 31, 2005

An interesting take on things...

by Chris Randall

I was doing my morning Browse, and I took in a quick read of Craig Anderton's final AES Wrap-up, where he opines on the state of the industry. This particular paragraph caught my eye:

Software companies don't have an easy road. It's not just the software theft, which remains a persistent problem that saps the vitality of the industry, but also the need to keep up with the OS and hardware updates being thrust upon them. Add that to people complaining about the cost of upgrades. (So are software buyers some of the whiniest customers in the world, or what? I mean, do you ever get an email from Ford saying "Bring in your 2004 model, and we'll give you a new model for an extra $1,000.") Then add the trials and tribulations of copy protection - users hate it, companies hate it even more - and you have an industry that has to pedal really fast just to stay in place.

That right there is a little piece of truth. Now that I've spent some time on the side of the software business where things are made, rather than used, I have to say that it's an odd state of affairs.

For instance:

1) For some reason I can't fathom, TDM users don't complain about prices, even though a plug that runs native and one that runs in TDM are essentially the same amount of work for a company that does both. So they'll happily pay $899 for a plug that requires a $10,000 dongle, but the native version is $499 and people bitch and moan about that. That's one thing I just don't get.

2) Windows users are way more bitchy than OSX users. If you asked me when we started this, I'd have said the opposite, but now I know better. When one releases a plugin on both platforms, the OSX users will say "hey, that looks like something that is useful" or "I don't think I need that," and leave it at that. Windows users, on the other hand, will generally go on ad nauseum about why this feature or that wasn't included, why the copy protection blows, why there aren't enough presets, why it is too expensive, why it looks cheap, how they would have done it far better, how there are 96 free plugins that do the same thing, etc.

3) However, OSX users aren't getting off the hook that easy. It is _really_ difficult to keep up with Apple's moods vis-a-vis their operating system. It is so much easier to make a Windows VST than even an OSX VST, never you mind the gigantic PITA that is AU. And every time an OS update comes down the pike, we have to re-learn how to make an AU. It is really quite a struggle.

Our philosphy regarding pricing and upgrades is well known, so I won't go in to it at length here, except to say that I think, on the average, native plug-in makers charge too much. If prices were lower on the average, piracy wouldn't be so rampant. Or at least, people would feel worse about it than they do. Perceived value is a tenuous thing, especially when what you're selling is basically a stream of ones and zeros.

One final thought on this, then I'll return to our regularly scheduled programming. One of the main problems on the Windows side is the glut of freeware. One customer wrote our info line not too long ago, basically asking why he should buy DubStation when there were several similar products already available for free. I answered thus: when you purchase a plugin from a company, you're also purchasing a manual, someone to talk to if you have trouble or desires, an upgrade path which will follow the operating system's upgrades, and the relatively certain knowledge that the plug-in will follow the "rules" that are intrinsic to it being a professional plugin.

When you use freeware, or get a cracked plug-in, you rarely get any of those things. With a lot of freeware, you're basically buying in to something that will almost certainly become abandonware at some point, when the teenager that wrote the software grows up and actually starts working. That sentence will certainly earn me some ire, but I call it like I see it.



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Nov.01.2005 @ 6:58 PM

since i don't have anything better to than stalk this site waiting for annoucements on the next set of plugins, i may as well throw in a few more words.

re: PC whiners. calling the geeks seems way too generous. perhaps if they were rocking a gentoo install, but the average KVR poster is far from it.

i think on the PC side, the piracy problem is due in part to the fact of the sheer size of user base (a few crackers can seed a larger problem), but there is also a problem when the platform developer proudly touts 70-80% gross margins on its core products (operating systems and office). this creates the impression that software is outpriced in relation to the cost of development (and hence the comments Adam saw about Steinberg). anyone who has worked in independant software, or pretty much anywhere outside the big boys, knows the reality but the general public is often hit with notion of software (and web services) as being easy, low cost to develop.

over on the mac side, demographics pretty clearly shows a more educated, more affluence user based contributing to the ablity to pay. the notion of small quality developers on the mac side has a long tradition, in part because the platform was largely ignored by many for so long. on the win side, there is just so much noise and crap that it harder to rise above it as an indie developer. it also lowers the expectation of quality (and hence willness to pay). one could propose that the historical "apple on the edge of bankruptcy" factor played into people rallying around the community and acute awareness that profits were not so easy to come by.

i should also point out for figuring out the whiner ratio, one most first figure out the user ratio within the context of the forum and your market. i am sure Adam knows and was using the 9-1 as short hand, but clearly the music software market does not follow the long time (though currently treading different) win-mac split.

one way or another, rock on AD.


Nov.02.2005 @ 8:54 AM
Adam Schabtach
Yes, you're quite right that I pulled the 9-1 figure off the shelf as the usual stat comparing the size of PC and Mac users in general, rather than the more appropriate and more balanced figure that would apply to the music-making subsets of the populations. I don't know what that figure is. Awhile back people used to tell me that it was a pretty even split, but I don't know how accurate that was or whether it still holds.

One could also speculate that the population of people who whine on KvR (or elsewhere) are not a good statistical sampling of music-making computer users. I seriously doubt that most of the armchair critics on KvR are people who are actually making music (or mixing, or editing, or whatever) at a professional or semi-pro level.

Anyway, we shall indeed rock on.



Nov.02.2005 @ 1:11 PM
"I seriously doubt that most of the armchair critics on KvR are people who are actually making music (or mixing, or editing, or whatever) at a professional or semi-pro level."

I seriously doubt they're making music, period. They seem to spend all their time loading up the latest softsynth, banging through the presets once, and, if they're feeling exceptionally energetic, tweaking a filter knob to see how "moogish" it is. Then they log on to post their expert assessment.

Long ago that site had some value because of the kind of people who posted there. Now it's gone the way of all message boards.


Nov.02.2005 @ 2:16 PM
brandon daniel
You're right! Where's the beef? I can't find it! ;0)

When I get a chance to deal with it I'll ping you for mac versions, thanks guys.


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