How can you grab the music software you need without braking the bank?

Music software costs peanuts compared to the studio equipment it can replace. But if you can save on this too, well...why not?

This is neither a page about comparison shopping nor something to trick you into buying what you don't need. It's rather a page to save you money.  

I just saw people too often buying software they never used. Some recording studios are spending huge amounts of money for music software, especially plug-ins, just to show it to their clients. They hardly ever use them. It's just bragging. Hype. Name it. It's not what we want.

I am also trying to save money. Therefore it might be a good idea to tell you what I'm doing.

Let's say I don't get a full version for testing from the manufacturer and I'm so greedy to grab that brand new piece of written code (That's what music software is-let's face it) with my sticky fingers.

Do I go to the next shop to buy it?

No sorry, it's too far away and I'm usually too busy to go there.

Do I surf to the biggest online shops like zZounds or Musician's-Friend and place the order?

No boy, I'm not silly. I don't have any idea if this music software is crap or not. Chances are good that it is crap, or simply just not what I want.

So, what do I do?

  • I go to a friend or a studio who already owns the software, to see if it is really doing what it should do. I try to stay cool and really test the music software. You might not see the weak points because you're so enthusiastic about a certain sound or function, that you forget about the rest. 

  • Sometimes (if it's a gooood friend) I can take the software with me to test it at home. That's even better. I can test it in an environment that I am used to and I can compare it to what I have already.

  • If there is a good demo available, I download it. (A good demo has all functions working but a time limit. A silly demo has some important functions disabled. Unfortunately there are a lot of silly demos around)

  • I go to an online shop like zZounds or to the manufacturers homepage to find out what the regular price of the music software is.

  • I decide If I really need that software. That's not the same as wanting a software. Sometimes we want things because they look good or because their marketing department does a good job, not because we need them really.

  • I answer myself a few questions. How often will I use it? Is there a better software for that job? Is it worth the money? Can I do the same tasks with software I already own and know to work with?

  • When I have made my decision, I usually take a look into online auctions like eBay. Chances are good that I find a cheaper offer than the regular price. Sometimes I can get older versions of the music software, that I can upgrade for little money. That's a deal!

    But I have to be careful that I get all the stuff I need, like serial, dongle, additional sounds etc...

    If there's no manual, I take a look if I can download it from the manufacturers homepage before I bid. And since I had serious trouble, I always read the feedback comments about the seller before I bid. I only had problems when I skipped that point.

    Music software is not "used". It is fresh and beautiful like at the first day it was written. That makes it different from other "used" stuff you may get on eBay.

  • When eBay has nothing to offer, I call my favorite music store if he can make me a deal below the regular price. I often buy for some other people too, so sometimes he can.

  • If I don't get a better deal, I see if I can get the software at a big online retailer like Musician's Friend or zZounds. I compare prices and order online. Usually a few days later I get a nice little package with a beautiful picture on it (that still has more style than to just download software) and it feels like Christmas.

  • Sometimes the big "Onliners" don't have what I want. Then I go to the manufacturers home page and look for an offer or a clue about some retailers.

  • If nothing else works, I ask a friend or Google where I can get the software. I always found out somehow how to get it. Even the strangest programs want to be sold by someone.

What I try NOT to do!

  • I never buy outdated software without a chance to update it immediately.

  • I don't buy because of a single or few features in a music software, that seem sooooo great but I have not tested yet.

  • I don't by software to show off. It is nothing to brag with. You are not a better musician or a smarter producer because you own all new software.

  • I never buy new music software off the shelf. I test it first (maybe that's why I have this site here ;-)).

  • I do not hunt for cracked software (see details below)

If the above process is way too boring for you or you are rich and have no considerations about money whatsoever, go to zZounds and buy all you can grab, instantly. Music software developers do a great job and they need to be supported. Even if you do that, you save money, because they use to work with a lowest price guarantee (...and maybe hope nobody will ever use it ;-)).

About Cracks, Hacks, Warez...

Some thoughts on cracked (whuuuuuu...horrible word) software.

For some people, this seems to be the "cheapest" way to get music software, but they will notice sooner or later that they still have to pay one way or the other.

This is a topic that seems to be taboo on "serious" sites. It looks just as nobody would use cracked music software. But that's simply not true. A lot of people use cracked software, but of course very few want to talk about it.

It's a problem for the software industry and on the other hand it can be something like a marketing tool.

Don't believe that? Well, let me give you an example.

The crack of Cubase 2.0 for the Atari was the most most popular recording program of it's time. I used it myself, because it was much more stable than the bought version with this darn Steinberg-dongle, that crashed the computer when you just moved it slightly.

That has made Cubase the "standard" on the Atari and gave an advantage over the "Notator" (now Logic pro). When an update came out you either had to wait a long time for a working crack, or you had to buy the regular version.

That means that cracks can give a program a much wider user base that consists of new potential customers.

Why that, you ask? Why should someone start using regular software when he has used cracks before?

I give you some very good reasons:

  • Updating cracks can be a nasty task. It's not really cool to constantly ask your friends, clients or strangers for the newest music software cracks.

  • It's illegal (didn't you know that?). That puts you at risk, especially when you use the software for professional and commercial purposes. You might have some competition, especially when you are successful, that's just waiting for a chance to put you in trouble.

  • You don't get support by the manufacturer. Well, maybe you don't get support on paid software too, but it's less likely.

  • You support the development of new and hopefully better software.

  • People using cracks sometimes do not sleep so well, dreaming of all the starving programmers of music software dying in their software labs.

My conclusion after nineteen years in the business of music software: You save time, hassle and also money when you buy the software, that you really use. Especially when you're a Pro. Maybe it's fine to use cracks for testing reasons when no real demo is available, but I do not suggest to use it for serious music production for the above reasons.