The subscription model is becoming more and more prevalent in the music production software market. Many of the deals offered give you access to a vast amount of software for a relatively low price, particularly when it comes to plug-ins.
Although I haven’t completely shied away from software subscriptions, I do have some concerns with the concept. First and foremost is the potential of losing access to plug-ins if your subscription lapses for whatever reason, or if the software company goes belly-up. All of a sudden, the spigot would be turned off, and if you had mixes you needed to recall, you’d have a lot of “plug-in missing” messages. Without those plug-ins, you wouldn’t have total recall.
I wrote about this issue in a previous blog post and pointed out the “rent to own” software subscriptions offered by Splice—which distributes third-party plug-ins—as a good model. As far as I’ve seen, they’re still the only company offering such a plan.
In this post, I want to discuss another issue with subscriptions: when a company offers a plan that includes third-party software, and later their agreement with the third-party developer ends, causing subscribers to lose access to that plug-in. I had that exact experience when I signed up for a particular company’s bundle. When I subscribed, it included an excellent guitar amp modeling plug-in that I used on tons of projects.
When they informed me that that plug-in would be disappearing from the bundle, I was not a happy camper. Once it was gone, if I needed to recall any of those mixes, I’d have to spend additional time and effort trying to get a similar sound from another modeling plug-in. I would never be able to match it exactly.
Rather than facing that possibility or taking on the tedious task of finding all the projects I’d used it in and printing those tracks while I still had access, I bit the bullet and bought the amp modeler directly from its developer at full price.
So you can imagine I was pleased to discover that one of the major companies offering software subscriptions, Plugin Alliance—which is a distributor, rather than a developer—has recognized the potential problem of software dropping out of their bundles. As a result, they’ve included terms into their subscription agreement that help protect their customers from such a scenario.
Here’s what they promise:
“We have agreements in place with ALL our Alliance partners that will prevent plugins from dropping out of the MEGA bundle!
Once you start paying for your MEGA Bundle you will be able to use ALL of the plugins you pay for, for as long as you are an active member.
Should any plugin be discontinued for any reason while you have an active plan, you’ll get a lifelong license for that plugin, free of charge, and we’ll provide the legacy installers for you for years (even if a PA partner company went out of business).
This also goes for ALL plugins that we will be adding to MEGA while you have an active plan.”
By offering perpetual support for any of the plug-ins in their bundle—as long as you continue to subscribe—Plugin Alliance is showing that they’re serious about building long-term loyalty with their customers. For me, that makes the idea of signing up for one of their plans a lot more appealing. I hope other companies offering subscriptions that include third-party software will consider similar protections.