BLOG: The true value of free music software

The article first appeared in a Computer Music Freeware Special.
The article first appeared in a Computer Music Freeware Special.

When MusicRadar published the Top 10 reasons to use free music software, we honestly didn't except it to spark off a major debate.

However, last week, that's exactly what happened: Paul Kaufman from commercial developer IK Multimedia responded with his thoughts, then the issues he raised were discussed on MusicRadar, Create Digital Music and Analog Industries.

I'm all in favour of people having their say, but I just wanted to clarify a couple of points.

Firstly, although the original article was explicitly designed to extol the merits of free software - many musicians still don't know how good much of it is - the intention was never to imply that it's inherently better than the products you have to pay for.

This clearly isn't the case - take a look through MusicRadar's review archives and you'll see countless commercial DAWs, plug-ins and other apps being heartily recommended. But the fact is that many of the freebie offerings also have value, and they deserve to be recognised.

Secondly, I have a message for commercial software developers - free software can be your friend. On the one hand, you can release free, cutdown versions that should encourage punters to invest in your full products at a later date (particularly if you offer reasonably-priced upgrades), while on the other, free software gives people who can't afford your tools a legitimate alternative.

If would-be computer musicians are living impecuniously, surely it's better that they use software that's genuinely free than seek out cracks of applications that they should be paying for?

Ultimately, though, I don't think it's true that musicians make a conscious decision to use either free or commercial software. Most will buy their core tools - for many of the reasons that IK picked out in its response to MusicRadar - then supplement these with some of the best freebies.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.