April 30, 2013

The Room In The Elephant...

by Chris Randall

Audio Damage is a month in to its 9th year of operation, and throughout the history of the company, there are some constants. I regularly receive letters that essentially say "your products look great, but no demo = no purchase. Sorry." These have come about once a week, pretty regularly, since the company's inception. There is no question in my mind that we lose sales because of our No Demo policy. However, mathematically speaking, we'd also lose sales by having demos. (The entire point of a demo to see if you like it; having a demo doesn't automatically mean having a purchase from the person that downloaded the demo.)

There are a lot of forum posts from various points of view about our policy, mostly on KvR but elsewhere as well. I look back with amusement at posts on OSX Audio and KvR from c. 2003 or so where people often would say "there's no way this company will stay in business without demos." Those don't occur any more, of course. There were many discussions about why we do this, with most people deciding it was an anti-piracy tactic, which it is not. Whether or not we have demos has had zero effect on piracy, and we never thought it would.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The following letter, which I quote verbatim, leaving out only the author's name, has become increasingly common in the last couple years; just this weekend I received three letters that were variations on this theme. This one came this morning:

Hey guys,

I'm a huge fan of your plugins and actually got to check em out a pirated version of your software (I am a student so please excuse the lengths I go to to try out what's good before buying). Anyways, I really love your stuff and was wondering if I could maybe make my own bundle with you guys? I know it's sort of a long shot but I'm on a student budget and I'm trying to go by any means to get legitimate software, so I figure it wouldn't hurt to ask. I was wondering if I could get Kombinat Dva, Discord 3, Eos, and Dubstation. I've only tried Dubstation and Kombinat but the others seem amazing as well. Please let me know if there is any way something can be arranged. If not, I very well understand. Thank you so much for your time. Take care.

Now, using cracked software is like masturbation. 90% of the people do it, and the other 10% lie about it. I'm fully aware of this. We've always just accepted it as a fact of nature. I frequently have to do support with people that have been using a cracked older version of a plug (e.g. BigSeq 1, Discord 1.5, the original Kombinat) and then they actually buy a current version and discover their presets don't work, or they're Logic users and the AU cache chokes on the new version. But this sort of letter is a New Thing, and I'm never sure how to respond.

On the one hand, I'll usually give people deals if they're reasonable. And I always want to turn pirate customers in to paying customers. On the other, well, you know. It's a hard pill to swallow.



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Apr.30.2013 @ 10:43 AM
That is a tough nut to crack. On one hand, credit to this guy for being honest, and you want to encourage the behavior of converting people to legitimate users. However, you don't want to create the perverse incentive for people to use cracks in order to get a deal. IIRC, the IRS occasionally has a program where if you've been cheating on your taxes you get a one time only deal to come clean and get legit. Usually it has some sort of time limit and it's a one time only all or nothing sort of thing. Maybe something similar could work here?

Apr.30.2013 @ 10:44 AM
From my perspective, $49 for a high quality plugin is already a deal. A very reasonable deal.

It always blows me away how much effort some people expend on getting things MOAR CHEAPER. It doesn't matter WHAT the price is - they want it lower. I'm starting to wonder if it is a cultural thing. Growing up in the US, I wasn't exposed to haggling in the majority of my commercial transactions. A few items (like cars) are the domain of haggling in the US, and most other things (like groceries) are fixed price. This isn't the way it is in many parts of the world, where haggling is an expected part of most transactions.

As far as mentioning the pirated software, my guess is that for people below a certain age, this isn't seen as any sort of shame whatsoever. I'm reminded of the warnings to young folks that they should leave their risque photos off of Facebook, as they will probably be seen by prospective employers. 20 years from now, those prospective employers will be the people who grew up posting risque selfies. People will include their best pornos on their holographic resumes. THIS IS THE FUTURE.

Apr.30.2013 @ 10:49 AM
these are the kinds of problems i'd hate having to figure out how to solve if i was a dev. i mean.. .i'd probably just give in and make a bundle so long as the person wasn't a dick about asking and was honest about motives and believable etc. just so i wouldn't have to think about it all the time.

or i'd cave and do student discounts or student bundles etc but then you'd have to require some proof and yada yada yada.

there are plenty of students who are on a serious budget.. not all of them are white upper class twits with amex cards and off campus housing. plenty of college kids do buy whoppers in bulk when they go on sale and stick them in the freezer for later.

anyway... having a policy in place would perhaps make your day to day a little easier and you'd not have to consider these situations on a case by case basis.

i think if you get emails that start "dude bro..." then obviously you know what to do.

*AD plugs are very affordable though and prices seem down right compassionate towards just about every market out there.

Apr.30.2013 @ 10:52 AM
"the IRS occasionally" - reads "if you have a lawyer" ;)

Apr.30.2013 @ 11:08 AM
I managed to spend around $50 a month on CDs when I was a "starving student." I also managed to make some music without having every effect unit I could ever want (back when that would have cost 20x as much as it does today.) So I guess I'm with Phoboy here, $49 is crazy cheap for the quality you get now. Your "Everything Bundle" costs less than an Alesis Quadraverb did in 1993.

Apr.30.2013 @ 11:19 AM
Adam Schabtach
I've decided that I can't comment with any objectivity on this matter, other than to say that when we started AD, we deliberately chose to give everything a low price so that our stuff was generally affordable and we wouldn't have to deal with marketing tactics like sales, bundles, etc. Nine years later, our stuff is still generally affordable and we _are_ doing sales, bundles, etc.

What mostly comes to mind is this: if you think being a student is expensive, wait 'til you try being an adult.


Apr.30.2013 @ 11:23 AM
it's weird because when I was a student, I had more money than I do now--my living space was covered, my meals were covered and I could get a job and get a bunch of money that I didn't need to spend on bills.

if you ask me, it makes more sense to have discounts for people in their mid/late 20s. Our debt-to-income ratios are scary!

However, 50 bucks isn't bad, considering what you are getting imo

Apr.30.2013 @ 11:34 AM
"Introducing the Audio Damage Build-Your-Own-Bundle, pick any three, save 20%, pick any four, save 25%"

I'm sure it's not that simple, what with server-side gubbins and installers, etc, but it's a solution that side-steps the whole issue, leaves room for a that's-as-discount-as-we-can-get policy.

I've tried to write a response on the piracy stuff explicitly, deleted it several times. It's an impossible topic. I was reading a blog post about music piracy earlier today, someone in the comments beat his drum in support of taking every music pirate to court. There's a righteous principle there I'm sure, but that doesn't change the fact that the drum-beater came across as an asshole in love with their asshole ways.

Apr.30.2013 @ 11:36 AM
Students won't be students forever. Perhaps just having a 'student discount' program might not be a bad idea (other vendors do it). Turning a pirate into a paying customer can't be a bad thing, and doing a solid favor for someone now may pay dividends later...but I do think having a consistent policy in place for handling this will do you better than going ad-hoc and case by case. Maybe requiring to see a copy of a Student ID wouldn't be a bad idea.

Also, just FYI, I can honestly say I don't pirate software...anymore. I did a lot of it when I was young and broke, but I feel if I can't pay for it I don't use it. It's just not fair considering the hard work and creativity that goes into building software.

Apr.30.2013 @ 11:37 AM
p.s. I would start every reply e-mail with a "Thank you for reporting yourself to me. Ill be forwarding your e-mail to the Intellectual Property Protection Unit at the FBI. They will contact you shortly. JUST KIDDING!"

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