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Mix Blog Studio: What’s With Avid Updates?

Updating a DAW's software, and hardware, is a big deal, and Mike Levine is not a fan of the perceived push to move users to a subscription model.

For my work, I use a variety of DAWs, including Pro Tools. There are a lot of things I really like about it, including its ease of editing, excellent mixing features and much more. That said, the actions of Avid, Pro Tools’ developer, often strike me as user-unfriendly, in a way that’s unusual in the DAW world.

Of course, all companies are trying to make profits, but Avid’s pursuit of them appears to me to be based on an attitude of: “We have the ‘industry standard’ product, so you’re going to pay a premium for it.” It’s a classic example of “supply and demand,” but it feels out of place in our industry.

Case in point: If you need to talk to a support person more than seven days after you purchase Pro Tools, you pay for the privilege. At least in my experience, the quality of that support is not impressive.

More significantly, Avid was among the first companies to introduce the subscription model into the music software market. Those of us who already owned the software, and didn’t want to switch to a subscription, have been faced with either paying a relatively hefty annual “update” fee or losing the ability to download new versions.

This “update plan” model, which requires you to pay upfront for the ability to download updated versions of Pro Tools, is atypical for music production software. Most DAW developers offer a roughly annual major update, for a fee, while releasing small free maintenance updates, sometimes with a few new features, in the interim.

Doing it that way allows the customer to see what the new features are and decide whether it’s worth upgrading or not. Generally, people like to know what they’re paying for. With Avid’s update plan, you have to go on faith.

What’s more, if you accidentally let your update plan expire, you have to pay an additional 30 percent or so for a “reinstatement.”

But even that’s changing, and not for the better. Just this weekend, I saw an ad for a Black Friday sale from RSPE Audio Solutions, a Los Angeles retailer/dealer, which stated that Avid was discontinuing its Reinstatement program:

Pro Tools renewals will still be available. As long as you keep your Updates + Support plan from expiring, you’ll be able to keep renewing. If your plan expires, there is no longer a reinstatement plan, you’ll be forced to crossgrade to a subscription. (Don’t yell at us we’re just the messenger.)

It seems apparent that Avid is trying to push everyone that it can into a subscription. If you read this column regularly, you know that I’m not a fan of that business model, and feel that it has a lot of potential pitfalls for the customer.

It’s my supposition that Avid is simply operating as a publicly held company whose top priority is its shareholders, rather than its customers. Pro Tools is a great product, and it’s firmly embedded in the higher echelons of the music production world. But Avid’s apparent desire to wring every last penny from its customers leaves a sour taste with me.