Are Subcriptions the Enemy?

The Dilemma

What if you could access all the software you need for a monthly or yearly fee instead of paying upfront? What if you could always have the latest updates and features without worrying about compatibility issues or bugs? What if you could try out new software without committing to buying it?

That’s the idea behind music software subscriptions, a trend becoming increasingly popular in the music industry. Some of the biggest names in music software, such as Waves, Plugin Alliance, Slate Digital, and others, have launched their subscription plans, offering unlimited product access for a fraction of the cost.

But is this a good deal for musicians? Or is it a trap that will make them pay more in the long run? And what are the pros and cons of owning vs. renting music software? Let’s take a closer look.

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Why Music Software Subscriptions Are Great

One of the main advantages of music software subscriptions is that they lower the entry barrier for musicians who want to access high-quality software. Instead of spending thousands of dollars upfront, you can pay a small monthly or yearly fee and get access to hundreds of products. This can be especially helpful for beginners who want to learn and experiment with different tools or for professionals who need to work on various projects and genres.  

Some examples of music software subscriptions are: 

  • Splice Sounds: A subscription service that provides over 4 million royalty-free samples, loops, presets, and MIDI files for $7.99 per month.
  • Soundtrap: A subscription service that gives you access to an online DAW that lets you create, collaborate, and share music with others for $7.99 monthly.
  • Slate Digital All Access Pass: A subscription service that gives you access to over 60 plugins and ten virtual instruments from Slate Digital and other brands for $14.99 per month.
  • EastWest ComposerCloud: A subscription service that gives you access to over 40,000 virtual instruments and sounds from EastWest and other brands for $19.99 per month.
  • Plugin Alliance: A subscription model that offers a multitude of plugins from Brainworx, spL, Lindell Audio, etc.. Plans start as low as $14.99 per month.

Another benefit of music software subscriptions is that they keep your software current. You don’t have to worry about installing updates, patches, or new versions. You always have the latest features and improvements at your fingertips. And you don’t have to deal with compatibility issues or bugs that might affect your workflow or performance.

A third benefit of music software subscriptions is that they give you flexibility and variety. You can try out new software without committing to buying it. You can switch between different products and find the ones that suit your needs and preferences. And you can cancel your subscription anytime if you are unsatisfied or don’t need it anymore.

The Drawbacks of Music Software Subscriptions

Music software subscriptions could be better. They also have some drawbacks that you should consider before signing up.

One of the main drawbacks of music software subscriptions is that they can be expensive in the long run. If you subscribe to multiple plans or use the same software for years, you might pay more than if you bought it outright. And if you stop paying your subscription fee, you lose access to all the software you use. You don’t own anything.

Some examples of music software with perpetual licenses are: 

  • Ableton Live: A DAW that lets you create, perform, and produce music with a unique workflow and interface. It costs $449 for the Standard version and $749 for the Suite version. 
  • Native Instruments Komplete: A bundle of over 50 virtual instruments and effects from Native Instruments and other brands. It costs $599 for the Select version and $1199 for the Ultimate version.
  • FabFilter Total Bundle: A bundle of 15 high-quality plugins for mixing and mastering from FabFilter. It costs $899.
  • Spitfire Audio Albion One: A sample library that features orchestral sounds for cinematic music from Spitfire Audio. It costs $449.

Another drawback of music software subscriptions is that they can be unreliable or unstable. Depending on your internet connection, your subscription service may not work correctly or at all. You might experience delays, glitches, or crashes that affect your workflow or performance. You might need help to use your software offline or on different devices.

A third drawback of music software subscriptions is that they can limit your choices and creativity. You may become dependent on the software available on your subscription plan and miss out on other better products that suit your needs. You might also lose interest in learning new skills or techniques because you rely too much on presets or templates. You may not be able to customize or tweak your software as much as you would like.

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As you can see, music software subscriptions have both pros and cons. There is no definitive answer to whether they are good or bad for musicians. It depends on your situation, goals, budget, and preferences.

Some musicians find music software subscriptions convenient, affordable, and flexible. They might enjoy having access to a wide range of products and features without breaking the bank. They might also appreciate having their software continually updated and ready to use.

Other musicians might find music software subscriptions expensive, unreliable, and limiting. They might prefer owning their software and having complete control over it. They might also value learning new skills and exploring new possibilities with their tools.

The best way to decide whether music software subscriptions are right for you is to research and compare different options. Look at other subscription plans’ features, prices, terms, and reviews to see which match your needs and expectations. And remember to read the terms and conditions.

Bob Brozowski

I am the founder of  I love music and music gear/production. I've been playing guitar for quite a while and am still learning. I use several DAWs, too many to be honest. If I had to choose one, it would be Logic Pro; It just suits my style and workflow best.  I want to thank you for participating in the discussion.

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