Most people in the music software industry are familiar with EastWest (also known as Soundsonline.com), producers of high quality sound libraries that span both eastern and western instruments. Back in 2015 East West started a subscription service called ComposerCloud, but what does this really mean for customers...
Some of the answers can be found by going to the horse's mouth. In this case Doug Rogers, founder of East West who was kind enough to take the time to share his thoughts. This the second interview KVR has done with Doug. The first one from 2012 is here.
What inspired East West to make the move to a subscription service?
Most people are familiar with our history at EastWest. We have been fortunate to work with some of the world's most elite composers, musicians, producers and engineers. But we also heard from serious hobbyists that could only afford one or two of our collections and wanted more. And we understand – after all, if you don't work with professional tools, your music will suffer, and that can be frustrating.
In the music industry many consumers are moving from paid downloads like iTunes to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, so they have decided that's it's not necessary to own the content, or they just want access to everything at a price they can afford. Of course, users have been able to download software for a while now, but a subscription model for content in our industry hadn't been done when we started it.
We really enjoy finding new ways to enable our customers. We're proud to be considered a pioneer since we released our first drum sample collection 28 years ago, on a – back then - relatively new CD format. We keep an eye on developments in the tech industry and try to jump on new opportunities.
What advantages does this model offer both the customer and EastWest?
We think it levels the playing field. Everyone from hobbyists or professionals can have the choice of thousands of our instruments of every style for a monthly fee. Subscribers tell us they find inspiration in the instruments that they would have not purchased as individual products. They can now be more adventurous and creative because of the large variety of instruments they can access– that's really nice to hear and confirms that the move to the subscription model was the right one. We are trying to make ComposerCloud as user-friendly as possible: We offer a free trial, and after that it's pay-as-you-go, there are no rules. Subscribers can start and stop their subscription from month to month right on their account page according to their schedule and budget.
We also increase the value of the subscription by adding new instruments as they are completed. Since the launch we've released ProDrummer, and the new Solo Hollywood Harp, Cello, and Hollywood Solo Violin, but the subscription price has stayed the same. We'll keep offering the option to buy individual products but subscribing will always be less expensive.
For EastWest, our main goal is to develop the best instruments we can, and by joining ComposerCloud, our customers invest in the development of future products. Subscriptions provide predictable and regular revenue for future development and timely launches of new products. ComposerCloud allows us to plan ahead and embark on even bigger projects. The fact that we've been releasing a steady stream of new collections, five in total since its launch in April 2015, shows the math is working out.
What changes have you had to make to deal with the enormous amount of data?
We've been thinking about it since 2011 when Adobe started their subscription service. However, there was no existing off-the-shelf software solution that could handle and manage the large amounts of data in our vast collection, so we had to code our own system from the ground up. This opened the door for us to offer our collection to subscribers. It's not been easy or inexpensive, but we are very pleased with the results so far.
Do you find more existing customers making the switch to the subscription or are you seeing more new users?
Good question. So far, we have welcomed a large number of new subscribers, which is great. It confirms our belief that many wanted to use our collections but couldn't afford them. Many existing customers made the switch as well, even though they had some of the collections, they didn't have everything we offer in ComposerCloud. So it's an affordable way to get access to a vast range of additional instruments they may not have.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from the existing subscribers since you started the service?
We can see the comments from users on our Facebook and Twitter pages, most can't believe it and they very much appreciate the service now being available.
Here are the thoughts of one of EastWest's customers:
David Earl is a successful Bay Area composer/ producer. At the moment he is scoring a video game called Headlander by Double Fine.
He also does TV and lots of "rebranding" campaigns. He also teaches composition at Pyramind in San Francisco.
What do you think makes the ComposerCloud model important?
I use all the EastWest products and I'm technically adept with the stuff in general. Also, a lot of my compositions are EastWest based. I have a lot of orchestral libraries from a lot of different producers, but I always keep coming back to the EastWest stuff. The strings have this big rosin (y) sound that really works for me. I love the brass. They have highly nuanced libraries that sound really good. I really like the idea of getting into the more esoteric libraries that I haven't bought.
I think ComposerCloud opens up the playing field to a lot of people who might be in the fence to commit themselves to a library that they haven't used yet, and especially if people can't afford to buy an entire orchestral library, but they need to have access to those types of libraries in order to compete with people that have them. A lot of my students are on the cloud and they're able to deliver a quality of work that there's no way they could have done before on a student's budget.
That's one customer's opinion. A few more questions for Doug:
Of course it's been a complex development project, so there were some technical issues when we launched, but we got on it. It's running very smoothly now and it continues to grow, which confirms we have satisfied users.
What does this mean for people who are using your software with PLAY now?
Subscribers use the same software to run the instruments as those purchasing them, they just have more of them compared to our average purchaser.
Does the user have to be connected to the Internet at all times, or is it usable offline?
The PLAY software and the virtual instrument products get installed directly on the desktop or hard drive so you can use them on or offline. The user is required to log in once a month to renew the license, but if they prefer to work offline, they can purchase a yearly subscription so it only has to happen once a year, and if they use the iLok they can reauthorize the key at any computer with an Internet connection.
Can one subscription be accessed from multiple computers?
For electronic licenses, activation is limited to one machine per user. If you upgrade your computer equipment you can deactivate your license and reactivate on your new computer. If you have a physical iLok key you can move your subscription around.
What happens to the instruments on the computer if a user cancels their subscription?
Nothing will happen to your compositions if you cancel. Anything composed during your membership with be yours to use as you choose forever. You simply won't be able to access the instruments as before to create new compositions. We recommend rendering all instruments from your compositions to your digital audio workstation should you wish to cancel. If you decide later you need to make changes, sign up for just one month to do so, we've tried hard to design a flexible system that works for the user.
What's been the most difficult thing you have had to learn in moving from packaged software to being an online distribution company?
For us as a company it was a monumental undertaking with a lot at stake. We wanted to deliver a complete, easy to use system for our customers. We knew we couldn't afford mistakes because want to be sure your customers will have a positive experience. We had been closely watching the development of subscription services in other markets, so we were able to identify what worked and what didn't, and we feel we now have a solid, working system in place.
So here is a little math: ComposerCloud costs $29.99/month. The entire collection is valued at $12,000 – you could subscribe for over 33 years to equal that amount. (For students, there is a plan for $14.99 for seven instruments at a time). For those who want multiple mic positions in East West's orchestral collections, there is Composer Cloud Plus, a yearly subscription plan with the Platinum and Diamond versions.
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