Lunchtime - time to rant!
I’ve been a Steinberg user since Pro24, so I’ve invested heavily in Steinberg products whilst tolerating some of the mediocre rubbish they’ve peddled over the years (as well as many of the bugs they’ve failed to fix before ‘moving on’ to the next major release too!). I’ve also accepted that some of their hardware has had the life-span of a Mayfly.
Against this backdrop, I’m now of the opinion that their pricing model requires modernising in some way. I don’t post to forums that often … but I’m pretty annoyed this morning at being taken advantage of, maligned and not listened to. So, for what it’s worth, here goes…
What has convinced me that a change is required to Steinberg’s pricing model is that I’ve just looked at the v5 to v6 (or, more correctly, v6.5) upgrade pricing for Cubase: £168, for an UPDATE!!!
ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY EIGHT BRITISH POUND STERLING.
I can acquire full versions of other manufacturer’s software for that! And I don’t need yet another soft synth, so that mitigates against the ‘investment’ in 2 new VSTi’s for the X.5 update, regardless of how good they are.
The problem, IMHO, is that there’s no (or very little) recognition for loyal customers. What’s more disheartening (aka annoying) is the “Special Offer” eMails Steinberg release which, to put it bluntly, quite simply aren’t “Special” at all and simply add insult to injury. Do you get the feeling Steinberg (or Yamaha) seldom ever check the real world and/or on-line pricing for their products at all? I can always obtain better pricing locally, albeit with a little haggling sometimes. Try it; it can be fun.
Dictionary definition of “Special”: “distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual”. Hmmm!!!
[And it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way: http://www.steinberg.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=12023&sid=263232377bee41e040bc95c0559aff32 !]
Whatever happened to the maxim that one of the benefits for customers of on-line distribution would be lower provisioning costs, i.e. the price you and me pay for products? Manufacturers rarely ship a decent manual with boxed products these days (having told us we’ll save money by downloading an Adobe version instead) yet this has proven empty, hollow rhetoric, a.k.a. polite marketing spiel for a lie. In reality there’s little or no differentiation achieved by not receiving a decent printed manual; rather, it’s simply a cost reduction on the manufacturer’s part, i.e. executed simply to increase profit margins by reducing overheads. (Do they really think we’re that stupid?).
[And you gotta love those companies who do still ship printed manuals … but only from an oversea’s destination, making the cost of shipping almost as high as the original product purchase itself, whilst disallowing downloads, even for upgardes. You know who you are, Soundsonline Europe!!! Go negotiate with FedEx, DPD or UPS … or get some decent in-country distributors set up!]
It’s taken this long to seriously consider upgrading not just because I wanted all the interminable early release issues to be resolved, but also because we’re in the middle of a global economic recession … and I simply didn’t have the free cash for ‘nice-to-haves’! Oh and I couldn’t find anything that would genuinely help me make music in the initial v6 release, just ‘toys’.
So, here’s a novel idea: howsabout a modular approach to software development and, ergo, pricing? Each major feature (or feature-set) has to be ‘unlocked’ by the payment of a fee? If you don’t have that feature, the upgrade costs are commensurately lower; if you don’t need a new feature in a later release, you don’t pay for it.
Isn’t it amazing that Apple’s apps (frequently retailing for <<< $1 or €1 or £1 can manage in-app upgrades and modular functionality … but~£600 of pro software cannot! It all comes down to willingness, not the (understandable) complexity this might introduce.
[Here’s another thought, Steinberg: if you want Media Bay to be genuinely useful to all your users, supply it with the requisite templates for products from all the major/popular VSTi developers out there, replete with all the pre-existing patch info readily categorised with high-quality, useful meta data. And howsabout including a simplified way to import VST banks and pacthes in one go, whilst you’re at it - not the current ‘clunky’ mechanism - as well as any underlying categorisation detail!? It’s Cubase in 2012, not a Fairlight in the 1980s.
Perhaps you could even consider being somewhat innovative in achieving these goals by incentivising companies - ‘partners’ in the modern parlance(!) - which already adhere to your VST2/3 standards, to play their part in some way? Maybe you could consider supplying development tools and/or licences to help them achieve this at a reduced cost, only if they embrace Media Bay and provide this highly-useful meta data at source, i.e. when the VSTi ships? Now there’s a genuinely useful feature I’d invest in. In fact, I’d pay a few quid for each and every VSTi that has usable Media Bay meta data integral to it or available as an add-on.
As it stands, Media Bay has not really progressed much since its inception and, to make it usable, much of the requisite investment of effort is actually required by the user, something which I’d venture has been duplicated many times over.
Well-implemented meta data is one of the reasons Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere is my go-to synth of choice: the directory system is well-developed and is well-suited to musicians, not programmers. Given the depth and breadth of sounds, I seldom need more than one other (analogue-based) synth and a dedicated drum machine to finish a track! On the downside, I was one of the fools that were conned by NI to buy into their Kore product range.]
Anyways … I digress.
It strikes me that Steinberg are undoubtedly technically innovative but not necessarily a visionary or commercially astute organisation (cf their sale to Pinnacle which benefited precisely no one! But I digress.)
Over the years then, my investment has been significant - both in terms of time and money - and it is these 2 facets which have helped sway the argument and keep me loyal (even through version 4 of Cubase, the first PC-compatible release and the initial attempts at adding audio to a MIDI-only sequencer!!!). However, I am at the point now where there are some truly excellent competing products out there, where the developer’s customer support is highly-responsive, where the overly-busy GUI doesn’t hurt my eyes(!) and where they actually listen to amateurs and pros alike. Ever spoken to a developer? I have … just not a Steinberg one! (The bug was resolved in less than 72 hours. Now that’s customer-centric service for you!)
Now there’s a novel thought - developers (with some semblance of social skills) who are permitted to speak with users! And don’t give me the usual party line, Steinberg, that this would be a ‘distraction’ to their day-job. Surely their day-job is developing software users actually need; software which actually fulfils its promise? And isn’t listening to users an important part of that process? You’re quite happy for your staff to be ‘distracted’ by well-known professional users because there’s an upside to be had in terms of subsequent marketing opportunities: using their public profile and inherent/ensuing endorsement to achieve positive advertising and incremental sales for Steinberg. I just think that treating your everyday, bread’n’butter customers with such contempt is utterly contemptuous.
Customers who are seen as a distraction, IMHO, simply indicates the underlying modus operandi of a company; it’s philosophy; its ethos. Anyone else here frustrated with companies and their developers hiding behind forums, together with less-than-responsive moderators who never admit to anything, let alone a fault almost everyone else experiences but them(!)? It seems to me that far from becoming focused areas for dedicated customer support, forums have become stuffed with myopic tirades, worthless debate, lengthy discussion (like this one!) and questionable individuals who only ever seem to heap praise on the forum’s ‘owners’ and their products, as if they were themselves paid employees of self-same company(!)?
And why would you not want an evangelical ‘normal’ customer, one who screams your praises from the rooftops? I’d venture that they might be more trusted and effective than those pro users who can be seen as somewhat distant and divorced from the everyday reality of your myriad home-based users, for whom an investment is well-considered out of necessity. But, what do I know? I’m just speculating.
Are we not intelligent enough to prioritise our own service calls - something which puts us in control - only ever contacting Steinberg (and/or subsequently escalating faults) when we have a mission-critical issue that requires resolving? Obviously they think we’re not. We have to sit by politely accepting a “…we’ll try to respond to your correspondence in 24 (business) hours…”! And all this for a piece of software we’ve paid at least £600 for! I think we deserve (and should demand) telephone support! (Yet again, I can recommend Spectrasonics who, over the course of 3 days, placed 4 international telephone calls to track me down simply to tell me they knew of my problem already and were doing a, b and c to resolve it!)
Only 24 hours to acknowledge receipt? Of course … because hobbyists, amateurs and semi-pros tend to write music during the day, in the middle of the week, and can wait until the following weekend to finish their creative outpouring!!! How do you think we actually pay for your software, Steinberg? We actually play with it at weekends and late in the evenings … and earn the cash to buy your products during the week; ergo we need support at the weekends and during ‘evenings’! USA–>Germany–>Japan–>USA–>Germany–>Japan - when are you going to offer a ‘follow-the-sun’ model of customer support? Or are you still maintaining that Europe (Germany) is the only place which can formally respond to support requests despite being part of a multi-national conglomerate?
So, I seldom acquire an upgraded version of any manufacturer’s software until its proven and many of the release bugs are ironed out; ergo the extended ‘delay’ until upgrading from v5 to v6. But now I can only go straight for v6.5. I wouldn’t mind if that got me a fully-working, ‘fixed’ product … but I find I am having to fund the development of brand new ‘toys’ for which I have absolutely no need: I’ve all the VSTi’s I want … and scant time to learn and exploit these fully, if truth be told! And it peeves me that having made the v5 investment, I get charged exactly the same as a v4 user. What’s that all about? Did I miss the free v4 to v5 upgrade? I think not!
Whatever happened to X.0 major upgrades having new functionality and being (reasonably and understandably) chargeable, with minor X.y versions simply fixing and fine-tuning existing features/functionality at no charge? The current Steinberg model is confused and confusing in its execution … and expensive to boot.
[Take a look at the amazing support - both technical and commercial - levelled by Spectrasonics if you need any clues as to what’s possible. Superb!]
Like many before me, I now have a tough decision to make … made that bit easier by Yamaha showing their hand in how Steinberg price models are likely to operate going forward. It looks like around about now is the time to sever my erstwhile ties with Steinberg and look to a more sensible manufacturer, one who looks after and doesn’t fleece it’s loyal customer base.
[It might surprise anyone who’s managed to read this far(!) to know that there are a surprisingly high number of professional and semi-pro users who don’t employ their hard-earned profits to upgrade and update their software-based tools. They’re actually still at versions of software many years old … because it delivers the features they need, it works, is stable … and they’re far too busy actually working to spend an inordinate amount of time either understanding the ‘new’ methods (which are meant to improve workflow and reduce their administrative overhead on common tasks), or learning how to use all the worthless new functionality and whiz-bang features (devised/OK’d by marketeers to ensure their company sells yet more product). Cynical? Moi?
My new world order could prove fun - invigorating perhaps - as opposed to frustrating, without me paying through the nose to experience that self-same frustration with Steinberg.
Here’s hoping someone in the Yamaha behemoth takes note and at least gives this a little innovative consideration … rather than getting all (bean-counter) defensive, with sales hyperbole and marketing rhetoric. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Music Business itself was a horrendously profitable cash cow … until some young upstart upset the apple cart, altered our perspective and forever changed our view of what a standard pricing model could look like for consumables. I hear they’re as big as Exxon in some ways!
Food for thought, Steiny; food for thought…
Talking of food, lunchtime’s over … and I’ve not eaten a thing!!!