Music Software Subscription Blues

Mike Lawson • Perspective • February 2, 2018

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In the long, long ago, you purchased software in a box, with installable media, and bought a particular version.

If you wanted the upgrade, you either bought a new box, or downloaded it. There was a reasonable uniformity to the old school process, but old school is old school, and in the world of technology, old doesn’t cut it for very long. Eventually, updates came directly from the software publisher online through their website, or an app store.

Like many of you, I use Avid products, in particular – I use Pro Tools. A year or so back, Avid introduced subscription models, from the main software app to plugins, even an online cloud storage for sessions. Since I tended to upgrade each version, as soon as Mac OS X and Pro Tools were compatible, I liked the subscription model. However, there were some glitches. I was subscribed to multiple things: plugins annually, monthly cloud charge, annual support and upgrades for the main Pro Tools app. My account on their website shows a list of every product that I have ever bought. It was, in a word, messy. It was difficult to follow. I thought I had paid for my annual renewal for the main app. Apparently, I had only paid for the upgrade to the plugins. Why would I only renew the plugins?

I wanted to download v12.83, finally compatible with Mac OS High Sierra (though oddly, 12.8 seemed to work). I couldn’t because it kept saying I had not renewed, and on another line below it, it looked like I did. I tried to renew again. Somehow, all I did was extend my plugins plan out an extra year. Nice, so now I have paid for two years of that but still couldn’t upgrade Pro Tools. I was extremely confused. I’m no neophyte, I’ve been using Pro Tools since its beginning. I’ve co-written books on using the software. But here I was, wondering if somehow my lying, aging eyes were deceiving me, or if my reading comprehension skills had reached the cranky old man stage, where I’d have to call my 19-year old son in to explain things. I reached out to Avid Support. They replied, “Regarding the plan you renewed for $99, you actually renewed your annual plug-in and support plan [twice]. Your plug-in and support plan is your support contract if you have any technical issues within Pro Tools. This plan also comes with free plug-ins which are associated with your Pro Tools Plan license in your iLok Account. Unfortunately, this is not the plan that will keep you updated with the latest versions of Pro Tools. Unfortunately, your plan has already expired permanently. On the last day of your plan, you were given a 30-day grace period to renew it. If you want to continue using the latest version of Pro Tools, you’ll need to purchase a Reinstatement Plan or a subscription (Monthly or Annual).”

Support was actually very helpful and worked this out with me, I am happy to report. Within a few days they replied,” When we transitioned to these new plans they included 3 parts: Upgrades, Bonus Plug-ins and Support. We later split Upgrades from Plug-ins and Support. It looks like your intention was to renew your Upgrade Plan but instead renewed the Plug-Ins and Support Plan. I have corrected that and reset the term for both to run through 2019. I am working with our Product Managers to simplify both products and process to try and eliminate problems like the one you experienced.”

I’m happy to report that it appears they have made this better online, unless my aging eyes deceive me. I’ll let you know this time next year? Meanwhile, stay off my lawn!

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