The modern way of buying software
Whether we like it or not, subscriptions have become a hot property for content providers and developers. The guarantee of a steady revenue stream is something we can all understand, which you can localise and liken to being self-employed or having a full time job with a guaranteed wage.
So we can hardly blame these guys for offering a ‘pay as you go’ business model. For some – it’ll work really well, and we have used it ourselves on occasion.
But one of the questions that we see often in the Pro Tools Users Forum is “Which licence type is better for me?”
This refers to whether a user should buy Pro Tools outright, or pay monthly for it’s use.
Largely – and this could be partly Avid’s messaging here (although the construction of the wording on the sales site is pretty clear) – there’s confusion about which route offers, especially where the support is concerned.
So this blog, hopfully, will simplify.
The easiest way to understand this licence route is ‘buying it outright’. When you buy a perpetual licence – you own the licence to use the software, and it never expire.
The perpetual licence purchase comes with two things:
- The Pro Tools Licence for the current version. (As of 11th April 2021, this is Pro Tools 2021.3)
- 1 Year’s worth of product support directly with Avid AND 1 Year of Software Updates.
My feeling is that Product Support and updates is where confusion lies, because Avid encourage renewal each year to keep users’ access to support and software updates.
Is paying for updates worthwhile?
So here’s the thing – it’s not always worthwhile updating to the latest version of an app. If you have a stable recording platform and a ‘latest version’ doesn’t offer any tangible benefit, there isn’t any point in updating.
So when is it worth updating:
• When you’re updating to an OS that your version of Pro Tools owon’t run on.
• When the updated Pro Tools version contains a feature that you want or need.
If you’re within your support plan, updates will be delivered to you automatically and you can make the choice whether you need/want to update or not.
If your support plan has expired, you’ll need to renew your support plan to receive the updates.
Buying Pro Tools outight costs £598 (adjust for local currency!)
Renewing your support plan after one year would be £249. This payment provides 2 years of support and software upgrades.
However, you’re not tied into this renewal system every 2 years – you really only need to renew if/when you want to upgrade your Pro Tools version after your support plan subscription has expired.
The Subscription Route
So how does the subscription route compare?
You have two options here: either subscribe on a monthly basis, and pay monthly, or subscribe on a yearly basis and pay once per year.
If you use anything like Netflix or Disney+, you’ll be familiar with how subscriptions work: your software will boot while your subscription is active.
But if you let the subscription lapse – or the payment is rejected – your software will not boot until you bring the subscription back up to date.
Benefits of the subscription
When we examine the benefits of the subscription model, it’ll be clear which route Avid wants you to take!!
The benefits of giving them recurring revenue are vast.
• Pro Tools – always kept up to date with the latest versions.
• Complete plugin bundle
• UVI Falcon Synth
• + all of the standard instruments and stock plugins.
For a producer chasing professional experience – the attraction ( in my opinion) is in the Complete Plugin Bundle and HEAT.
The Complete bundle provides a huge amount of pro grade plugins – plugs that you’ll likely find used in commercial sessions by concious choice.
There are also lots of classic plugins that Digidesign and Avid used to charge a pretty penny for back in the day (similar to Waves in fact!) so you’re getting quite a significant package.
So what of the costs.
Monthly – the subscription is £25 per month. Over 12 months, that’s £300 per year. Over 2 years – £600, which equals the perpetual purchase.
Pro Tools major version releases usually drop every couple of years, and users have been quite used to paying for upgrades and cross grades to bring their older versions up to date, if they need to.
With a perpetual licence – we’ve seen that the cost for this is upgrade £249. So we’re actually in quite familar territory for a user who upgraded with every major version update.
With the monthly subscription – the costs will be similar until you hit year 3, when continuing into the 4th year would put you £300 odd down compared to a perpetual + 2 year support plan renewal.
So, as with every subscription model, it will inevitably more expensive in the very long term. As this is what developers want – we can see why it’s so valuable to them.
But the, if that’s the case for you, buying the licence outright (perpetual) might be the better option.
So which is best?
Only you can answer that question because there are factors to consider.
If you’re in on Pro Tools for the long haul – perpetual will cost you less long term, even after paying for upgrades every 2 years.
But you also have the option of skipping an update – especially when new versions or features offer you no intrinsic value or benefit.
There are plenty of engineers out there working successfully with ‘old’ versions. You’ll even find engineers running professional installations powered by Pro Tools HD v7 running on OSX Tiger! Why…? – because it’s stable as a rock and the studio owner has no desire to change!
However – if you dip in and out of Pro Tools, or you’re not sure if you’ll stick with it, or you need it for a specific commission or brief – the subcription model will cost you only when you need it. If you’re using it as part of a business, it would likely be an allowable expense that you can build into your costs. ( Note: Pro Tools Answers is not a financial advisor!)
What ever your views – it’s nice to have a choice.
For someone who needs Pro Tools for a single commission – it might cost them £25! If they need to use it 5 times in their professional life time – it’ll cost them £125!.
But, for professional users, or hobbyists, who want to build their personal product around Pro Tools – buying outright will no doubt be the way to go.