Times are tough, and folks are turning out those pockets for free… wear. Photo: Bert Heymans.

There’s a strange debate going on over the free software (as in freeware, not necessarily open source) issue of Computer Music magazine. After seeing the magazine’s top 10 reasons to use free software, commercial developer IK Multimedia got surprisingly defensive, and issued a rebuttal:

Why you shouldn’t use free software – a commercial developer’s view (at Music Radar, the online site for the magazine’s publisher)

Now, there’s probably a much simpler way to put this.

Why to use free software: It’s free.
Why to use free and open source software: It’s got source that’s free and open.
Why to use commercial software: It’s supported, and you probably can’t get exactly the same thing as free and/or open source.
Why to use a combination of all of the above: Because then you get a combination of all of the above.

(For more of the above, stay tuned for “Peter says not very interesting and obvious things Special Issue,” not coming to newsstands soon. The bonus disc includes a 2-oscillator virtual analog synth that has no interface and produces no sound.)

Why is this a Debate?

Obviously, most of us use a combination of different kinds of software. If you’re serious about using commercial software, you pay for it, because you’re serious about support and you’re smart enough to understand that if you don’t send the developer money, they won’t make any more software. If you love plug-ins, you try free plug-ins, because it gives you more tools, and if you believe in the power of communities and sharing for technology, open source software is at least part of your setup, too. I find even people running Linux passionately often use some proprietary software, like the recently-released EnergyXT for Linux or any combination of software they’ve bought inside the Windows compatibility environment WINE.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that, despite the rebuttal from IK’s UK representative, commercial developers were not calling Future Publishing to cancel ad accounts when they heard about the free software. They don’t host ritual burnings of Computer Music’s cover disc, nor spit on newsstands when these issues come out. Presumably, they instead assume the obvious, that these discs generate interest and get more people involved in the computer music market, which is good.Native Instruments, for instance, supported the issue and involved their own free Kore Player instrument.

But forget NI for a moment — how about IK? IK Multimedia have themselves long used free software editions to promote their for-fee tools; I included not one but two free instruments from IK on the cover disc of my book Real World Digital Audio. It was actually IK’s idea.

Now having said the obvious, there are elements of the software development landscape that are anything but obvious. If you work for a proprietary developer, you had better be thinking about some of these issues. When does it make sense for something to be free? How do you get people to pay for software, if that software requires money for development and you require money for rent? As musicians, when do we benefit from software being proprietary versus open source, and when to we benefit from paying for it versus getting it for free?

What really struck me last year when we interviewed Greg Hendershott, founder of Cakewalk, was the way the company started. Greg wanted his own sequencer, so he made his own when his budget and desires didn’t fit what was available. We’re talking the largest US-born sequencer maker, and that’s how it began — one programmer with an idea. Greg talked about how he understood being on a budget, having been there himself; he certainly wasn’t available to invest much money in technology when he got started. Likewise, the transition to a business model was as important to the development of the software as it was for financial reasons. You probably wouldn’t have wanted to use Greg’s first sequencer as your primary software, even in the 80s when it came out. He was just learning to code, and it was the first draft of an idea. When the feedback loop between customers and developers grew, with customers paying for the product and software updates trying to satisfy those customers, that’s when Cakewalk matured into the tool we know today.

With that in mind, here are my own lists of why each of these kinds of software matter.

CDM’s (Alternative) Top 10 Reasons to Use Free Software

CM’s Special Issue, as photographed by neonarcade.

First, it’s worth reiterating some of things CM already said.

1. Because they’re free. Duh.
2. Because they’re different. CM used the term “cutting edge,” but suffice to say there are some bizarre and unusual plug-ins and software out there that would never make it as commercial products.
3. Because they’re labors of love. I absolutely agree with CM on this one.
4. Because sometimes simple is better. CM describes this as “ease of use,” but more to the point, free software is often absurdly simple, because they’re quick projects and not big commercial projects and because they don’t have to add features to justify a purchase price. I love software with lots of features, but sometimes you want something stupidly simple to aid your creative process.
5. Because it’s great for collaboration. This is a practical matter; CM’s dead-on on this one and there’s no room for argument. (See also: free and open source tools.)

Now, some reasons CM didn’t mention:

6. Because some freeware is unstable and sounds awful. Nope, I’m not being ironic. Sometimes software is too pristine and sounds too predictable. One excellent reason to go find oddball freeware plug-ins is because they’re organic, unpredictable, and make awful sounds, and the love of those three things is part of why music is fun.
7. Because you’re running Windows. For whatever reason, almost all of this free software is on Windows. Some Mac users complain at the press about covering the Windows-only stuff as if it’s some sort of anti-Mac bias, but they should ask the developers, not the writers. Anyway, let’s flip this around: if you’re running Windows (or Linux with WINE and a PC-compatible VST host), you’ve got access to this stuff, so you’ll probably want to use it. Again, um, duh.
8. Because this isn’t a zero sum game. Can you buy boxes of instruments and effects on top of the instruments and effects you got with your DAW and still check out KVR Audio every day looking for more? Absolutely. These aren’t mutually-exclusive categories; you run what you want. Which brings us to reason #9:
9. Because you’re an addict, and you’d need a six-week recovery program with nothing but a ukulele to recover, and then you’d probably relapse anyway. Some of us have a madness, a madness known as plug-ins. We’re a lost people, beyond any hope of rescue by the civilized world. You’ll know us by the 1000 effects in our VST plug-in folder. It’s not normal. It’s not advisable. It’s a sickness. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make another pot of coffee because I have more synth programming to do.
10. Because top 10 lists are arbitrary lists of things that require you to make up filler so you hit the right number. Cue Letterman-style rimshot here, with laughter/applause.

Rebutting IK’s Rebuttal, and the Real Debate We Need

I don’t think a big debate of free vs. commercial plug-ins is going anywhere. But I do think you’ll be hearing more about open source software and what it means for commercial software for music. One sign: more people running proprietary software (here, NI’s Guitar Rig) on open source systems (here: Linux, Ubuntu, JACK). Photo: sonium.

Curiously, CM did mention support and updates as one reason to use freeware, and that I do disagree with. They also implied that freeware had an edge on commercial software when it comes to innovation, and that also seems unrealistic — the bottom line is, freeware/donationware development, larger-scale commercial development, and open source development produce different results. One isn’t necessarily better or more cutting-edge than the other; they’re simply not the same. I can point to examples of commercial, free, and open source tools that each have no equivalent in the other categories.

I expect what IK meant to say was that commercial software is likely to be better-supported and can produce tools with a sophistication, depth, and polish that’s not available elsewhere. Guitar Rig and the like might compete with AmpliTube, but I haven’t seen an open source or donationware guitar effects package that could. At the same time, you’ve got braniac kids building bizarre guitar effects in a college course in SuperCollider or ChucK, and that’s pretty cool, too.

Instead, IK said this:

Commercial plug-in developers, such as IK, are under huge pressure from several fronts: outright piracy (ie. theft) of our products from cracks, torrent sites or casual swapping between friends; the increasing trend of hardware and DAW manufacturers to bundle many plug-in products in the box with their own packages, thus reducing the motivation to look further afield; and magazines who give away free plug-ins on their cover discs even at the expense of their own advertiser revenues.

And that’s just silly. Comparing legitimate freeware, bundled plug-ins, magazine cover discs, and (by extension) free and open source software to piracy is wrong, IK. It’s your problem, not the writers or readers of a magazine, to figure out how to make your business work. Some of IK’s own products speak for themselves, so this just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’ll leave out the part where IK talks about how they have to buy glossy ads and go to trade shows, as that’s really their concern, not yours. (I get some of my income as a result of those glossy ads and I go talk to these folks at trade shows, but many of you don’t, and trust me, you’re not necessarily missing that much — this is for the industry to sort out, not you.)

Obviously, a lot of you buy IK’s software, and rightfully so — not so that you can support their appearance at NAMM, but because you think the software is worth it, even if some tools out there are free.

More importantly, IK attacks “quality, reliability, stability” and “compatibility” of free tools, while never mentioning open source software. Ironically, part of what IK says here is an argument for free and open source operating systems, drivers, and plug-in formats:

It is a constant battle for commercial developers to stay ahead of the latest changes to operating systems, DAWS or hardware many of which are out of our control. Product maintenance is a serious issue that can take up almost as much time as developing new products.

I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks working with Indamixx and spending more time researching Linux. I’ve also talked to users of the Receptor, a Linux-powered rack module that’s available running IK’s software, among others. Part of what I’m seeing is that commercial software and open source software can benefit one another and be musically powerful. It’s not as simple as everyone switching to Linux by any means — but I wonder why virtually no one is even talking about these issues.

So I think we need to be having an entirely different discussion here. Commercial software has value, as do freeware and donationware and open source software. Most customers aren’t making an either/or choice here, so that’s a fruitless discussion.

But maybe it is time to start talking about just how much development time is spent sorting compatibility problems instead of innovating. Why aren’t operating system vendors (I’m looking at you, Microsoft and Apple) working harder to work with developers instead of against them? Why, about a decade into the plug-in revolution, are the three leading native plug-in formats (VST, AU, RTAS) proprietary specs instead of open standards? Is there a way to harnass some of the potential power of community-based support on an open-source operating system (Linux) to improve the performance and flexibility of computer music?

Here’s a terrible reason to advocate commercial development:
“Because it’s so hard to write software for current computer platforms that you need to subsidize a massive development effort just to constantly iron out new bugs introduced by upgrades from other vendors.”

And here’s a terrific reason:
“Because the results can be so musically compelling that you will save every penny you’ve got to make the investment.”

I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone, least of all commercial developers, when the former becomes the dominant argument instead of the latter. We’ve had long, tired arguments about piracy, and now IK is wasting time talking about free plug-ins and bundled cover discs. But I think there are discussions that would be good uses of time — and it’s time to start that conversation now.

  • http://www.patmuchmore.com p4limpsest

    That's a fantastic article Peter. Thank you.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    Stupidest debate ever!

    The point about support sticks out most to me, as I think it's a load of toss on all fronts. I've seen ridiculously good support by both freeware and commercial developers, and ridiculously poor support from others from both camps. That just comes down to the commitment of the developer, as it apparently has nothing to do with whether or not their software is a commercial concern.

    I agree with you 100% about the wrongness of equating freeware with piracy. Sadly, IK aren't the first developers to do so, either, I've seen the connection made several times in the past over on KVR.

  • Adrian Anders

    Love the article Peter. This is one of the best written pieces on CDM this year.

    IK is F-ing crazy if they think that Freeware is hurting their bottom line. If anything, it's helping because it gets folks who would normally pirate to have ANYTHING to make music with to work within legitimate channels instead. Sure they aren't paying for software, but at least they aren't "stealing" it. In time perhaps when they do decide they need something "pro-grade" that freeware can't provide they will at least consider a legitimate commercial source (like IK) rather than firing up RapidShare or a torrent. If consumers are conditioned to pirate, then piracy will be all they know. However, if they're conditioned to legitimate downloads (and purchases) they will be more inclined to do so in the future.

    IK = Idiots.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, it's worth separating piracy and freeware now once and for all. And I think plenty of other developers, big and small, would take issue with IK's argument here … and, ironically, even IK would take issue with IK's argument with some of their own record. Surreal.

  • Reinisb

    I think the original article was kind of silly although i know it was likely just a space-filler. But for IK to get so hot under the collar about it is even worse. IK did themselves a disservice with their response.

    I think IK may underestimate how much freeware helps in getting more people into the computer music scene in the first place, and therefore how much of their revenue may actually be the result of freeware. I know I certainly would have given up a long time ago if I hadn't had a chance to just try my hand at computer music without forking out a ton of money up front.

    I would understand if they were complaining more about the fact that other major software companies are creating and distributing free software to entice buyers of their pay software – a trend which seems to be increasing. NI's Beatport Sync would leap to mind as a good example. But that's a business model problem for the companies to figure out and doesn't really have anything to do with 99% of freeware out there.

    I think they should have just ignored the space-filler – they caused more trouble than they had initially.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Reinisb: I should add, too, space filler or not, there were some valid points in the "10 reasons" piece. People might not think about the value of collaboration, or recognize that sometimes free plug-ins are regularly updated (which some are, watching on KVR — not more so than commercial software, but worth noting). It was also just a sidebar in another article in the special edition. But then, that makes it even more odd that IK would react so strongly (or at all).

    And yes, certainly IK *can't* complain about other developers using free and bundled apps to build sales for other products, because that's IK's *own model*! So, effectively, they're just complaining about Computer Music magazine, I guess because they perceived some sort of slight or (wrongly) thought CM was saying use *only* free software and don't ever buy anything, which clearly they weren't.

  • http://ardour.org/ Paul Davis

    From my perspective (http://ardour.org/ or http://jackaudio.org/) the main reasons to favor open source software relate to the software development process, not the outcome. There is plenty of awesome proprietary audio software out there, but the process by which it is created has weaknesses that I believe open source (not freeware) addresses. In no particular order:

    * the ability to get contributions from stellar people that you could never hire

    * the ability to get great ideas from people you would not want to hire

    * the fact that the software can be supported by people other than the primary developer

    * the fact that the software can be supported indefinitely

    * the fact that the only real motivating factor in the software's development is "work better" rather than "attract more users" or "make more money" (even though the last two ofte translate into the first, its not always true)

    * the fact that the software can help teach a new generation how to do things (and how not to do things) – no existing audio developer ever learnt anything at a code level from protools until (and if) they worked for digidesign.

    Us FOSS wierdo's are not in it for the money (it would be nice but please … if only!), we're in it for users (even if there is only one of them). The differences between the two development processes should not be exaggerated, but neither should they be forgotten.

  • contakt

    Really a great piece!!!

    I use both. In all honesty, I am not a big spender. I have Live and I have bought a few soundpacks.

    The reality is everyone is right. Freeware sometimes doesn't work so well, doesn't get upgraded and most importantly (frequently) only supports 1 OS (I am looking at you DB Glitch). However, you can't beat the price and the ability to share w/ your buddies "hey, I like ___ check it out, it's free".

    The point IK made about having to pay overhead to motivate them is spot on. They are just as passionate as the freeware folks in a different way. No one side is better, but I think we often think of things in terms of big corporations and totally indie, diy, freeware and forget that the little guys, the small 2-5 person companies are much like us, similar backgrounds, interests, hobbies, etc.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    It bears mentioning here that dblue's Glitch was a commercial product before he chose to set it free.

  • dead_red_eyes

    I think it's safe to assume that IK shot themselves in the foot with a shotgun by replying to that article. I'm disgusted, really.

  • contakt

    Steve: Thanks, I didn't know. I just know it's not available for Mac (and no plans for it).

    Yikes reading more (just read the front page part the first time). Ads, tradeshows, etc – cry me a river.

  • http://www.davidkristian.com D. Kristian

    Gateway:

    Free software represents a risk-free introduction to virtual effects and instruments, facilitating the cross-over from a hardware-based setup.

    Supply and demand:

    A lot of free software does things that are too experimental or specialized for commercial developers to even consider, but if something free and experimental attains popularity, it will help set new trends (for lack of a better word).

    Addiction.

    You'll eventually need something stronger.

  • D. Kristian

    …which is when you'll break out the credit card.

  • gbsr

    d.kristian: addiction.

    "alot of free software does things that are too experimental or specialized for commercial developers to even consider"

    .., then why would you turn to the commercial market looking for your experimental plugins then?

    "…which is when you’ll break out the credit card."

    id like to see how you would apply this same argument about your addiction point on the diy scene. according to that statement, the diy scene would die out pretty damn fast, which we clearly can see that it hasnt.

    ofcourse you could argue that the diy scene is as much about the construction part as it is about the actual use of the product, but then again so are the development of freeware plugins.

  • Mattbot

    @Adrian Anders If I were an software developer, I think I'd rather have people running stolen copies of my software than free copies of someone else's software. Perhaps one day, the would become paying customers. If nothing else, it would expand my user base and market exposure.

  • Darren Landrum

    <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn (in the article)">4. Because sometimes simple is better. CM describes this as “ease of use,” but more to the point, free software is often absurdly simple, because they’re quick projects and not big commercial projects and because they don’t have to add features to justify a purchase price. I love software with lots of features, but sometimes you want something stupidly simple to aid your creative process.

    This is something that has been on my mind as I stumble down the "coding my own open-source plug-ins" path. As much as I love lots of neat features to play with to help me make new sounds, perhaps it is better to make lots of smaller tools instead. It's also easier to make progress with that mindset, as I don't get bogged down by a Herculean task set before me.

    So, instead of making a huge sampler or a "synth-maker" app, I'm going to focus on smaller instruments with interesting features. I'm really into studying and analyzing distortion and saturation characteristics, so I'll likely put a lot of effort into that front.

  • JavaJ

    I am shocked- imagine Microsoft issuing a response like that- they would be shot down- blamed for pushing their monopolistic ways around. It almost sounds like IK is hurting bad and this was just a knee-jerk reaction to having a magazine freely pulicise freeware. What IK should have done was support it and look like heroe's. What did they honestly think when they issued that statement- we would all jump on their bandwagon- Down with all freeware- I want to spend/waste my money on commercial packages because that is what the big companies want me to do.

    Wake up IK- we are not morons and you can't bully us to buying your product – just because!!!

  • Adrian Anders

    @Steve

    Good looking out. I was one of the folks who bought Glitch when it was payware. One of the best $40 I ever spent :)

  • Adrian Anders

    @Mattbot

    I think that would be an interesting developer poll:

    Would you rather have users pirate your software or use a competitor's lower-cost or free product?

    Developers who read CDM, your thoughts?

  • tobamai

    @gbsr:

    "ofcourse you could argue that the diy scene is as much about the construction part as it is about the actual use of the product, but then again so are the development of freeware plugins."

    (I apologize if that bit of xhtml doesn't work out, I've never used it before and I don't see a preview button)

    That is both a downfall and a benefit of the DIY and free software communities. Freeware software is often about getting everything to work the way you want it to (both for the people who made it and the people who use it). Commercial software is generally designed as a complete package deal (which is why they typically have more complicated interfaces and more features).

    I don't know many dj's who would pay for a piece of software that only loaded tracks, timestretched them, and offered midi control for every feature of playback possible. They want to pay for a complete package deal with a browser to pick tracks, a virtual mixer to mix several decks, and some kind of FX section.

    I feel this is representative of commercial audio products: people want it to be full featured and do everything right out of the box if they're going to pay for it. Beyond that, their expectation of what the product should do gets bigger every year. The resulting reality is that commercial products have convoluted interfaces that are packed with features you may or may not use and the scope of the program is unlimited. Companies making these products put lots of development into including and fixing arcane features to try to gain market share. Because of the effort that goes into a product, they don't typically take risks with new products that may or may not have a market.

    Free software isn't concerned with all of that. Free software is made because someone saw a hole and wanted to fill it or had an idea for something no one had made yet. It shows where musicians are going and isn't concerned with offering all of the features under the sun. Because of this, freesoftware doesn't have the same burden in development, but instead has flexibility.

    If you're running a company that makes commercial audio products, it's silly to be mad at free software. Free software is like free market research and brain storming, it will show you what kind of plugins you can make that are polished and perfect — provided the free version isn't already very good.

    If you're running a company that makes commercial audio products and you embrace free software by using compatible standards (or, god forbid, creating open standards) then you are investing in the future of digital audio and your own market.

    Maybe a more minimal approach to software would work out in a company's favor. If a company did make a program that loaded a single track, timestretched it, had midi transport controls, and was designed to work with jack so the audio could be piped into another program to be mixed, I would undoubtedly pay for it. The question is if anyone else would too. The benefit for the company is clear: a simpler program to maintain that has limited scope and functionality that requires less development and as such can be offered at a lower price.

    If jack was a more widespread thing, like some kind of standard, I would say a company should try it.

  • tobamai

    Woah, way longer post than I thought it was going to be. Also, that xhtml didn't work at all. Sorry guys!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Steve: yes, one of the sad trends of late has been software that didn't make it as payware going freeware; I'd rather see developers do this of their own accord than have their business not fly, but it happens. On the other hand, in any market, there's going to be some attrition, and I don't argue with IK that the market is tough — just that there's no need to get defensive as a commercial developer. There's plenty of page space (rightfully) dedicated to why some software is worth your hard-earned dollars.

    @tobamai: just cleaned that up for you. So you need open tags and closed tags; that's why that didn't work.

  • Damon

    Free Software – YES! Stolen Software – NO!

    Software that you pay $250 for and if you install it more than 3 times it expires – NO! NO! NO!

    What does this fact have to do with using free software? IK Multimedia treats the customer like he is renting or leasing the software. "You pay us money, and we pretty much get to keep what you have purchased. Don't demand we conform to the needs of the customer, we demand you conform to the needs of our greedy accountants."

    I don't want to be treated like I am most surely dealing in stolen software. The legitimate users should not be punished for the ignorance of others. I am not sure the very best way to manage the pirate crowd, but the IK Multimedia approach is surely not it.

    Just be sure never to have a legitimate need to tear down your computer and rebuild it from the ground up. People who make music on their computers rely on their computers for their very passion. Running powerful software on a computer puts a lot of strain on it. Sometimes you have to tear down and reinstall just to keep your computer at best performance.

    IK Multimedia does not seem to respect this, and this is why I feel IK Multimedia is not the company to spearhead this debate, much less make this a debate at all.

    Their activation policy only makes sense in a ferry tail vacuum where computer technology is infallible. And in all honesty, any debate over the use of free software is, again, absurd, for it devalues those who are willing to produce free software, reducing what should be regarded as a charitable and genuinely communal spirit to a moral violation.

    "Don't give. Don't share. Don't empower. Don't encourage. Don't facilitate the creative growth in others. "

    That is a very weak message. And it should be noted that the artistic community is typically very liberal, and the don't use free software debate flies right in the face of that. Now, I am not arguing politics here, just consistency. You do not boast your willingness to empower the creative spirit, then cut it off at the knees. Just common sense.

    Blessings,

    Damon

    Ps.

    Please ignore my fractured grammar. Kind of late for that, though.

  • http://www.yellowwoodmusic.com Adam YW

    this is why I read this blog every day. An excellent article about an important issue. I doubt you'd read something this to-the-point in on the newsstand. Well done Peter.

    adam

  • poopoo

    The fact is commercial software developers are under no obligation to provide support either.

    How often do we see companies charging for what amounts to a bug fix?

    How often do we see companies abandoning completely their support of older products (eg.logic on windows)?

    Most of the support for a product comes from the user community not the manufacturer. For example all the forums and reaktor stuff on the NI website is basically user driven. The same thing applies to free software. Look at the level of support built around Ubuntu in it's community forum.

    IK's assertion that freeware developers rely on the good will of users to provide testing and bug reports applies equally to commercial software.

    If they keep this condescending tone, IK will end up in the same bucket as Waves.

  • gbsr

    @Damon, well put mate. this is by far not limited to IK though, hell even the software i love and use the most (Ableton Live) has this, although you can whine some and get a new license. But then you have to pay for each update heh.

    in short: couldnt agree more.

  • tobamai

    Thanks Peter :)

    Also, great article.

  • http://adsr.hu Zsolt

    I would like to point to a different motivation behind IK's stupid behaviour. I was/am working pretty closely with some manufacturers both on the SW/HW side and marketing/PR too.

    So, as I see, as much as everybody is acknowledging/happy that free/open source products bring more people /customers to the table, (with the exception of a few) nobody on the commercial development side likes to remaind the crowd, that here are other ways besides theirs. Really. Everybody wants domination, their plugins to get installed on every imaginable system, to be the most discussed, so on…

    So it might be the case, IK only replied on the subject to represent themselves, to let people talk about IK, to compare their plugins to the other available ones. Now I don't know if they thought about that, but as they say, negative press is better than no press at all, so I can imagine this was a purely marketing/PR decision.

    I too think they replied pretty silly. Probably no one developer was involved in writing the response – I'm sure then it would have different wording.

    One more thing: regarding the Microsoft/Apple involvment in making life easier for audio software developers I think both Apple and Microsoft tried to do their part. Apple is crucial about multimedia, as it was from the beginning. And Microsoft worked closely with Cakewalk on their WDM driver model when transition from VXD happened.

    I see the CM article as a catalyst to start a debate, more comments, more threads, forum messages and just plain silly talk to increase traffic – I would say, a filler with a clear intent. No musician or developer would otherways argue about using free/commercial products is OK or not.

    And as paraniod as I am, I might even imagine IK involved in the article right from the first draft. :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/noou (noou)

    I completely agree with you, Peter.

    That's the essence of our days: almost everybody can develop hi-quality software since, for example, they can find a lot of resources on the net about DSP. Should they be blamed for that? Or shouldn't commercial software houses cope with this new challenge and offer more bang for the buck, more peculiar features, more quality? As IK said, they have a whole bunch of professional developers!

    IMO, that's just a new virtuous circle!

    Even by using just commercial software, aren't we amateur musicians able to make music whose incredibly hi-q sound was impossible to get just a few years ago? Should hardware manufacturers complain they can't sell their 100.000$ SSL consoles to us? Should "real" acts complain about us? If it's the case I'm able to make better music than theirs and I give it away for free, they have just to consider if they are worthless musicians.

  • Hungry Antelope

    I agree with IK, IN THEORY… In reality, I have gotten crappy support from most of the music software I have purchased, it has been crippled by copy protection and dongles, and much of it has turned into completely unstable "the marketing department says to add 10 more bulletpoint features for the next version – throw in 10 crappy features real quick".

    Compare with something like CSound or PD which have been in development for years, are rock solid stable, and very well supported.

  • http://someaudioguy.blogspot.com SomeAudioGuy

    IK's response was retarded, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word (as in to retard progress). To get rankled about freeware is a stupid way to burn bridges with potential customers. See, we all gotta start somewhere. People tend to have this idea that more expensive = more better. Free software is like a gateway drug, enticing us to start spending cash on "the good stuff".

    My only problem with the freeware issue, I just couldn't spend $17 on a magazine full of software I could get for free, LOL.

  • naus3a

    being a developer myself i'm inside thins kind of dispute on a daily basis. in my opinion the true point is that people should start understanding is that software licenses are simply dumb. you pay for the time the coder spent for you. period. i can ask money for my time before people download my software, every month, or simply give it for free, but that is my sole business, no great debates needed.

    and of course the OS model is the one to be followed :)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Paul Davis: No argument here on those points. I think free and open source software deserves its own list, and it's a different list than the freeware list from CM here. (And, I think, a more interesting set of reasons…)

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  • TJ

    If you make conventional kinds of music, propietary software might help you get a job done best.

    On the other hand, if you're heavily experimental, you might find most proprietary software terribly restricting … at least until it comes to mix and burn time.

    The coolest, most powerful software tends to come without lots of support and beautiful interfaces. Some of the funnest and most motivating sounds I've made have come from experimental / academic software.

    Propietary software tends to limit options to keep things simpler, and to serve the majority of users that are more likely to be doing more conventional work.

  • Dan Marois

    I just want to offer an answer to the question "Why is this s debate?": because, in reality, most humans have little else to do with their time than to flap their gums (or click their keyboards) for no good reason. Arguing is the foundation to all human relationships. Don't believe it? Check out marriage. It creates a sense of community.

  • Dan Marois

    "10. Because top 10 lists are arbitrary lists of things that require you to make up filler so you hit the right number."

    Amen! I believe this is the first time I actually see this written anywhere. Maybe it's because it's so true and most people hate to be embarrassed by the truth. :)

  • Patrick_K

    googled my way into this one while doing some research on freeware vs. open vs. commercial in the VST vs. AU vs. RTAS world. Excellent work Peter (as always), thank you.

  • crankyoldyank

    I started out using a Commodore 64 using Master Tracks. Later bought a Mac Plus running Master Tracks. Now use Ardour and my friend uses ‘Cakewalk (Sonic? HATE the new version…) Use what you can (afford to) get your hands on and make music! I also am a plug-in addict, but if I want to sound better, practicing is a better investment.