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synkrotron

Why is Cakewalk by Bandlab free?

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those of us who have been using it for years choose it above the competition. I could just never get my head around any other DAW -mainly because my workflow has been steady for many years for which I am thankful. I have enough things to learn including Japanese without having to learn how to use a new DAW. Yes, I learn how to use Omnisphere, Komplete Kontrol, East-West Composer, tweak instruments, new plug-ins for mixing, new tracking techniques, etc, etc. So, I and many others were already sold on it, heard it was going to die and went looking for other options. I was given Studio One and a Studio 192/DP88 to produce music on. Oh, how slow I was and oh how fast I jumped at Cakewalk when it returned.

For new people, they will see that we have the best forum going. I just re-installed Windows and upgraded my hardware DIY which would have not been possible without this forum. I have been a musician all my life. I have never had an IT job and can only scratch the surface of what can be done. But I can keep my computer running now.

The base of new people will grow and grow, and yes, eventually, maybe they will ask for $100 -just like every other major DAW company. Then you/we will have to choose what to do. I do believe giving it away free is/was a smart move. It wasn't free for most of us. I have paid for every upgrade since the beginning of Cakewalk when I first saw it advertised in EM in the 80's I think it was. Let's see what happens. The core team seems to be savvy of how business works these days. I am sure they are more knowledgeable than most of us here. Just riding it out.

 

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5 hours ago, synkrotron said:

But if you are "tired of going over it again and again," why bother? Just stick me on "ignore" and stress not.

Just opinions that's all. We are all entitled to our own as far as im concerned (within reason anyway).

I totally get what Starship Krupa is saying and I agree with him (a little lengthy yes :D)... But I also agree with your concerns. but its one of those things where.. you either take the chance or you don't. Your either willing to enjoy it and have fun or use something else.

See in my case, I didn't buy another DAW when Gibson went under, instead I focused on finishing up the material I had within Sonar and then I would learn a new DAW when finished(I bought Studio one). I loaded it up and have opened it.. But I only intended to do serious work in Studio one if Cakewalk by Bandlab gave me any lip. So far she's been a good girl. How long will it be free ? Im not worrying about that just like im not worrying about what I will do when my free car dies.

Totally see your points though. I felt just like you did a year ago.

 

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I see an advantage of freeware and selling add-ons or luring into the great wide world of Bandlab.

In order for a profit product to remain successful, it must sell itself again and again every year. Feature after feature is added and when there is nothing left for the users to upgrade the next year (to keep the cash flowing) the company has to add things people don't really need, perhaps don't want, and affecting the stability of the program.

Corporations are funny things. They depend on perpetual growth and we know perpetual growth of anything on Earth is impossible. If it doesn't keep growing, the stock prices will decline, and the stockholders will sell their stock and move on, and as the stock becomes worth less and less the company goes into deeper and deeper debt.

Having the app as a loss leader or for selling add-ons might be a good idea in that the product doesn't need to bloat every year to sell the yearly upgrade.

I don't know if this pertains to CbB or not, I'm just musing on the subject.

Insights and incites by Notes

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2 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

In order for a profit product to remain successful, it must sell itself again and again every year. Feature after feature is added and when there is nothing left for the users to upgrade the next year (to keep the cash flowing) the company has to add things people don't really need, perhaps don't want, and affecting the stability of the program.

depends of you're trying to sell it as upgrades to existing users (lazy) or the whole shebang to new users (harder but doesn't require endless new half-baked features)

(fwiw/imo, of course)

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Meng has already stated that Cakewalk will always be free. So there should be no fear that he will suddenly hike the price for us.

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1 minute ago, abacab said:

Meng has already stated that Cakewalk will always be free. So there should be no fear that he will suddenly hike the price for us.

Without wishing to upset anyone here, I was more concerned about continuing quality of the software.

So far, I am happy to see that everything is as I left SONAR "back then." Still early days though.

I know that peeps are saying that perhaps we should keep our hand in with more than one DAW, but I have always hated that. More down to me and the "old dog, new tricks" thing. As I enter my dotage I am finding it increasingly difficult to learn new stuff.

Studio One has let me down with regards to poor GUI support on high resolution monitors and also with the fact that, now that I am heading back into hardware territory I really do need an event list.

And REAPER is proving to be rather poor at getting my setup in sync. Or it could just be me not knowing how to set it up properly.

 

And so, here I am, re-learning SONAR/CbB again...

cheers

andy

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Here are the improvements made to CbB since BandLab took over.

All I see is a focused effort on improving the quality of the software, without needing to focus on releasing the "new feature of the month".  That is what many users were asking for even back in the Gibson days, after the fast release monthly Platinum update cycle began.

Current release notes:

https://www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk/whats-new

See previous release notes here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aFOe_zJrd3x2EnaZ_Jc3iSbZPG2WANiCD4_RP83OjlA/edit?usp=sharing

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17 hours ago, synkrotron said:

Thanks for your large post there, @Starship Krupa, you make some good points.

But if you are "tired of going over it again and again," why bother? Just stick me on "ignore" and stress not.

I guess I found a second wind 😂. It's all in good fun.

Perhaps I twigged that you were an okay bloke who could take in new information. 😊

So. Since you mention concerns about the quality of the product going forward, there's an odd thing about software quality, and it's one of the reasons I've been so stalwart about defending BandLab's licensing Cakewalk as freeware.

20 years ago I was an in-demand software QA engineer, worked at some of the biggies (Adobe/Macromedia, Berkeley Systems, Informix). One of the biggest reasons that I left the field is that I came to the insight that there is an inherent disincentive to quality in shrinkwrap software (which means the kind Sonar was, stuff bought by regular consumers).

Back in my day it was sort of an "elephant in the room." Nowadays books and articles have been written about it, and I hope at least that companies know that they need to be aware of it and try to safeguard against it.

The big problem is that what sells licenses, and this includes new licenses and upgrades, is new features. Protest all you want otherwise, but that is the truth, we all, and rightly so, in my opinion, consider bug fixes something that we shouldn't have to pay for, at least not the cost of what the usual shrinkwrap upgrade goes for.

It's part of why companies are trying to go to a subscription licensing model: once a product gets to a certain point of maturity, having to grub for licenses by coming up with a dozen attractive whiz-bang features every 6 months can become unsustainable. It may be that the market becomes saturated, it may be that there are only so many features that can be added, whatever.

But that's getting ahead of things. For the sake of our model, let's look at "coding" as a black box that we pour money into and get software out of. And coding bug fixes costs the same as programming new features.

Now if we switch our Coding black box over to bug fixes, it's the same as turning it off, because bug fixes don't make us money. However, even turned off, we're still pouring money into it. We're still paying the programmers and all of the other infrastructure that supports them. So bug fixes cost money!

From the point of view of short sighted managers, and short sighted managers are unfortunately everywhere, they're even bad! If you fix the software that people already have, they won't want to buy the new version! And in defense of management choices, how many of us can say, if presented with a choice between the company surviving (and supporting the user base and the families of the employees, shareholders, etc.) and squashing a few bugs, what the "high road" would be?

I observed the effects of this directly, in my teams. My "producers," that is, the managers in charge of each title, got bonuses for shipping the title on time. "On time" was more critical in those days when software was sold via physical media. It would be introduced at an important trade show and have to be on the shelves at the big stores the next day.

What that meant, effectively, was that if I found a heinous crash bug 24 hours before we were supposed to go to manufacturing, sure, I'd be a studmuffin hero among the QA team, but up the chain the thanks would get less and less hearty. So I'd be the pariah for being good at my job. The better I was at my job, the more money I cost the company, because I switched the Coding Black Box over to fixing bugs. Who wants to cost a boss you like and are trying to please a $5000 bonus?

Now here we are, with our case of Sonar. A venerable shrinkwrap program's company was dissolved and the program itself sold off. Some of the former staff were hired back to continue work on the code, and the program reissued under a different name and licensing scheme. The parent company has a diversified portfolio in the music field, including instruments and an online DAW/musical social media site.

Cakewalk is positioned to continue as an updated version of Sonar, as well as function as an offline front end to the musical social media site. The company also has freeware DAW's for iOS and Android that function as front ends to the site. (everyone knows this, right? BandLab already had two freeware DAW's in the marketplace before they put out Cakewalk)

What does this mean for the quality of the software going forward?

For a single copy of Sonar, Cakewalk was paid hundreds of dollars, which went to pay programmers, QA engineers like I used to be, people to administer the beta program, artist relations, endorsements, power lunches with Microsoft insiders, etc. That was an incentive to put out a quality product. Nobody would buy it if it wasn't any good, right?

Now anyone can download the whole thing, and BandLab gets diddly squat. Revenue is zero whether anyone downloads it or not. Where is the incentive to improve it or fix bugs or add features or do anything at all to it? There's no threat of failure if it stinks, no reward for success if it's great. There's neither carrot nor stick, so what makes the donkey do anything?

Okay, remember our black box, "Coding?" It's smaller now, but more efficient. The new owners only hired back a small percentage of the old company's staff, and I suspect programming is done in home office(s). They don't have to throw as much money into the box because the infrastructure is shared, smaller, etc. Support is web only, no phones. There is no sales staff, etc. Fewer licensing fees to bundling partners. On and on, the costs that were once involved in making the old program are much reduced.

The new company is diversified and has deeper pockets than the former owners. As freeware, the program no longer has to sit up and beg for new license fees. There are no license fees to beg for. That means we can do whatever we want with the black box!

In my experience, programmers love being given the chance to go through their code and fix bugs. They tend to be picky and focused about their work in the first place, and who likes having something they made out there in the world with obvious flaws in it? It would be like a mix engineer shipping a track with a big plosive pop in the vocal and not being allowed to fix it and having to listen to it over and over. Noel and the other programmers may be exceptions to this, but probably not.

This goes for optimizing as well. Just like us, they look at it and think "I could do that so much better if I could take another pass at it." Well, who's got the keys to the black box?

And a loyal user base would usually rather have the smaller features they've been begging for for the the past 3 years than some new thing that only 5% of the people who use the software are going to touch. Case in point: those note values in the Piano Roll would not sell a new license or upgrade to anyone, but they are really nice to have, and it would be a pain not to have them. The interleave indicators are another. Rename Clip. Ripple Edit button. Export Module. Plug-in Manager. Fast VST scan. All these "little" things that when added up, make Cakewalk feel like a "deluxe" version of the program I downloaded in April 2018. But added up, could you even call it Cakewalk 2.0?

So there you are, Andy, that is my essay on why I think you have nothing to worry about, only things to look forward to, with a freeware licensing model. It's not something that reduces resources, which therefore reduces quality, it's something that gives the people who produce the software more freedom to make the program better, with "better" meaning what most of us would like it to mean. Faster bug fixes, features added that tend toward the useful rather than the flashy, and integration with a forward-thinking online collaboration platform.

Oh, also we don't have to pay any money for it.

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Although there is some truth in it, very blue-eyed and optimistic, Starship Krupa!

I like freeware, too. There is some freeware on the net that is quite better than paid "shrinkwrap" (and CbB is one of the pearls), but on the other hand there is also a lot of crap out there! But that is also true for paid software. Sometimes I feel that software companies invest more in advertising and promises than in proper development!

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Hi @Starship Krupa :)

Thanks for taking the time to write that post... Excellent reading, and no sarcasm intended here, I truly did enjoy the read.

I can now see that we are at different ends of the spectrum, in a way, in that I am a user and you are a provider. Or where... And of course, you are also a user too, so you see things from both sides of the fence.

A little bit about me, then, as a user, and my jaundiced perspective as a "User."

I've been into computers since around 1982 (guessing) and I was 22 (I'm a 1960's kid). The Commodore 64 was my entry point. I had a passing interest in writing "Basic" programs, just for laughs. I wasn't very good. Best thing I wrote was a program that allowed you to work out flange thickness for vessels using formula within a particular British Standard. It was a little bit more than simply putting the formula into the Basic code in that you dabbled with the number of bolts, bolt size and a few other factors and it would spew out a flange thickness. Where I was working at the time I used the output from that program to literally "paste" into a larger vessel design document, so I guessed I though, "result!"

So, yeah, I was/am a mechanical designer by trade. Eventually we ditched the "drawing board" and went into the world of CAD. The software which seemed to dominate in both my geographic area and discipline was, and still is AutoCAD, by Autodesk.

It is a great piece of software, even back then. Intuitive and simple to use, and lots of third party documentation around helping the users to pick it up. That really helped with the popularity of the software as the user base, compared to other software was getting bigger every year.

We slagged it off, of course. We're users, and we "all know how it should be done."

And then came the updates... Which, in my early days (I stepped in at V11) were quite infrequent and we were on V11 for a couple of years. Then, as the years went by, that changed and each year Autodesk would announce a new release for that year. And then they dropped the V11, V12, V13 version numbering and it became AutoCAD 2000, and so on. Now you can now longer buy and own the software and you have to rent it, and if you stop paying, the software no longer functions.

I used to be dead against the "subscription model," and still am for some things, but I realise and understand that, in the software industry in particular, creating something as a "one off" piece of software just doesn't work.

Simply put, it's not like "real world" stuff, stuff you can touch and feel. Stuff that breaks and needs replacing, like a cup that you drop on the floor, or a car that eventually stops working because it has rusted/worn away. And then there's the "latest colour scheme" thing, that makes people want to get rid of last years stuff and replace it with something new.

I think that for most of us, if a piece of software does what we need it to, at a particular point in its life cycle then why upgrade/replace? And that doesn't help the software developers because eventually all the people in the world that want that tool now have it. So, yes, they have to sometimes have to add great new capabilities that convince us to want to upgrade.

I think I am a very bad customer when it comes to software. I do spend, probably too much, on new toys but for my DAW I tend to stick with what I have got. When the "lifetime" deal came out for SONAR, it was perfect for me... I knew I would never spend another penny on my DAW, for as long as SONAR was a thing. I was only interested in "core updates" and I never needed any of the new "bells and whistles." So, yeah, for Gibson/Cakewalk/SONAR I was a bad customer...

Anyway, Erik, you have already said that in your post above, and I'm just waffling haha! 

 

Got to go! Got non-musical chores to get done before I get back to studio stuff :)

 

cheers, and thanks,

andy

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Andy, you and I have more in common than we knew. I've done some mechanical design and drafting in my career, mostly sheet metal, and I was/am a pretty good printed circuit board designer. I'm old enough to have learned with pencils and tape and then switched to CAD in '83.

So you've already been exposed to the changes resulting from what I'm talking about: AutoCAD (I interviewed there a couple of times) was one of the first houses that I know of to switch to the subscription model. And you were there, the clients howled at first. I still have a gut-level dislike for that model, first because I like to own things, and second, I do a lot of different things and I might not even use Photoshop or whatever for a couple of months, and my middle name is Scott, if you get me (it actually is). I don't want to be paying a monthly subscription fee and then not using the program that month.

But in a market where we can have brothers and sisters still happily running Sonar 8.5, how can people make money from selling shrinkwrapped software?

My buddy Geoff whom I've mentioned around here, the Pro Tools man, he was one of these Pro Tools users who was Krazy Glued to Pro Tools 10. I guess PT 10 was where they made some architectural changes and dropped support for the PowerPC architecture on MacOS and some of their own interfaces, and early upgraders reported snags and it led to a lot of FUD. PT10 won't run on OSX past a certain revision and all this, basically your studio will be frozen in 2011 if you have it.

But he has this beautiful Mac Pro tower, and I was trying to collaborate with him, and I was sending him deals on plug-ins and asking him to download conversion software so we could both use FLAC, and his system didn't support anything. The software I wanted him to run wouldn't run on the old OSX, PT10 didn't know what a FLAC was, PT10 didn't know what an AAX plug-in was so none of the cool free and $1 Pluginboutique deals I sent him were any good. He started doing everything on his iPhone because his computer couldn't run anything.

I finally called BS and said we're going to get you on PT11. This can't go on. By the time I got him to budge, it was even PT12. I researched everything, and it looked like Avid had gotten their act together, and in the end it worked great, he was so stoked he maxed everything on the Pro out, and because he had bought the thing so many years earlier, he could fill it with all the RAM and SSD's he wanted for peanuts compared to when he first bought it. He went from 4G of RAM to 32, converted entirely to SSD. The thing runs like a rocket sled now. And we even have his whole PT10 system hard disk as a time capsule in case something goes wrong.🤷‍♀️

He bought the "perpetual" license (sorry if anyone cringed), but it was way difficult to find that option and choose it over the subscription. they really, really want you on that monthly gravy train. That's what their business model is these days. Anyone who wants the other, old kind of license is treated as an anomaly.

And I'm sure we all know, Adobe has followed AutoDesk into all-subscription land. Or they tried. Did they make it stick?

So maybe we should think of Cakewalk's license not as "here's a copy for free," but rather as a subscription that costs $0.00 per 6 months.

I don't know if BandLab's experiment is going to work. As a software industry veteran and industry observer (and very briefly, writer for InfoWorld) I am fascinated to see where it goes, though.

This freeware thing is becoming way more widespread. My computer was already full of freeware before Cakewalk by BandLab appeared.

I have 3 Windows systems, all were running Windows 7 until a month ago. Microsoft just did the same thing that BandLab does and gave me 3 free licenses for their current OS, Windows 10.

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The short answer to why it is free is that all core platform software from BandLab is free - thanks to Meng's vision to make a powerful platform available to everyone with no boundaries.  As he indicated earlier, add on's to the platform such as plugins may not be free and of course BandLab also makes more traditional hardware and physical products .

As far as Cakewalk goes our focus over the last year has been stability and workflow. We've made enormous strides in improving the software, optimizing it and even adding some powerful features that will benefit everyone. Looking back through all the prior releases notes it should be evident that we've delivered on this. If you have an old version of SONAR still on your PC load it up and compare it side by side to Cakewalk. I'm pretty sure you will feel a solid difference in doing normal operations such as loading projects, editing and mixing. I've got so many messages from users and even ex employees who can feel the difference. In addition to this we've also added several new features. 

So... use the software, be happy its free, make music :)

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Hi @Noel Borthwick,

Thank you for your input here, as a member of staff, I really appreciate it :)

As for making music... Struggling there really as I am still trying to make my mind up on which DAW to use, hence my recent activities here.

I would love to jump right back into Cakewalk as, even after over a year away, I still feel comfortable with it. My "reticence" at the moment is perceived CPU loading. I also need to integrate some of my old hardware back into the mix, having been ITB VST for nearly ten years now. That is taking longer than I thought, mainly due to distractions with respect to CPU loading. But I think I may have put that to bed now and I just need to focus on that hardware.

cheers, and thanks again,

andy :)

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@synkrotron and @Starship Krupa - Good to read your lengthy and thoughtful exchange. I feel I know you both now -- at least more than I did. And intelligent points from both of you.

My take: Despite Meng's vision and Noel's and the Bakers' dedication, a free product might not be sustainable in the long run, and if we are going to learn anything as complex as a full-featured multitrack digital recording, mixing and mastering program, we want it to be around and supported for a long time (plus we all got burned in November 2017). So it's not surprising that some of us want to understand what the prospects are, although I don't think it's quite fair to look for assurances. This is life, after all. Shit happens. For this reason I am happily using CbB and rooting for its continued success, but remaining poised to jump over to one of two other DAWs if anything goes wrong here in Cakeland.

PS: Andy, you and I commented on each others music in the old Songs forum. Your stuff is foreign to an old rocker like me, but now that I've read all this from you I am going back and listening again. Diggin' it.

Edited by Larry Jones
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On 2/1/2019 at 8:14 AM, Starship Krupa said:

Why is Google Chrome free? Why is Audacity Free? Why is MediaHuman Audio Convertor Free? Why is MusicBee Free?

I'm pretty sure economic reasons for Chrome being free are not in the least bit related to the ideological reasons for Audacity being free... … ...

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8 hours ago, Larry Jones said:

I am happily using CbB and rooting for its continued success, but remaining poised to jump over to one of two other DAWs if anything goes wrong here in Cakeland.

I believe this to be the wisest course of action whatever one's commitment/choice of main DAW.

I came for the price and stayed for the ProChannel and the sound, and became a booster based on observing the nimble development.

If the tool became unavailable to me tomorrow, I'd go back to Mixcraft and the search would start for another DAW.

I'm throwing myself into learning the intricacies of using Cakewalk. I don't expect the time and effort will be wasted. That's the thing, for all the hot air thrown back and forth about trusting Cakewalk to be around in the future, well, what if it isn't? It's up to the wise user to future-proof their studio and skills by making them not dependent on one single tool.

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Hi @Larry Jones,

Good to see you here :)

I agree, Bandlab are not duty bound to provide any assurances but I am sure they will do their best to keep the Cakewalk machine running. Otherwise they wouldn't have stepped into the breech.

 

12 hours ago, Larry Jones said:

PS: Andy, you and I commented on each others music in the old Songs forum. Your stuff is foreign to an old rocker like me, but now that I've read all this from you I am going back and listening again. Diggin' it.

Haha! Yes, indeed we did, and I miss that place. Once I stopped using SONAR I strongly believed that I should no longer post my creations in there. I suppose I could have carried on being active in the Songs forum but I guess the incentive was lost once I no longer posted my own stuff there.

You listened again! Oh my goodness :o ;)

I know it's not the easiest stuff to listen to if you're not into that stuff. My missus hates it and wants me to play Led Zepp stuff, which ain't gonna happen due to a distinct skills gap haha!

cheers, and thanks for chipping in here :)

andy

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15 hours ago, SomeGuy said:

I'm pretty sure economic reasons for Chrome being free are not in the least bit related to the ideological reasons for Audacity being free... … ...

Exactly! There is free and free and free on the internet ... 

Some comments above I wanted to jump in when someone said "nothing is free". IMO that's not true, because there are lots of idealists on this world creating awesome, free software for us. Just look at some amazing Vst plugins. On the other hand most of the freeware coming from companies comprises some kind of payment (whatever it is).

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21 hours ago, Starship Krupa said:

I have 3 Windows systems, all were running Windows 7 until a month ago. Microsoft just did the same thing that BandLab does and gave me 3 free licenses for their current OS, Windows 10.

FWIW, I don't think the "Free" upgrade to Win10 was an altruistic move by Microsoft.

They're trying to get Win7,/Win8.1/Win10 users on a single platform.  Less to maintain/support 

Edited by Jim Roseberry

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