It may or may not have escaped your notice that Sound On Sound devotes a fair amount of its pages each month to reviews of MIDI software and related topics. That's because we feel music software is very important. It is the Future, and more and more musicians and recording personnel are waking up to that fact each day. From the letters and phone calls we receive, there is no doubt in our mind that the underlying interest in music software is huge. The number of users, at present, is not. But if there is a proven demand for software products, why isn't it being fulfilled?
Good question, and one we have been trying to answer ourselves. There are good software houses already out there that are both fulfilling and creating that demand, but they can't quite do enough. As we see it, the problem lies in developing the market for music software.
As software companies are in many ways pioneering a new market, they are constricted both by the need to see a financial return from their programming efforts and the current size of the market. If there aren't that many users yet, then the cost of the software must remain fairly high in order for companies to remain in business. Most software sequencer packages, for example, are priced at such a level that they actually discourage interest in the product from casual users. How come? Well, as a potential user, you've got to be pretty damned committed to the idea of software in the first place to shell out several hundred pounds or more for a decent MIDI software sequencer. But if you have very little experience of using music software then you are unlikely to spend that amount unless you are pretty well off financially.
In order to expand the software market, you need to find a way of showing people how good software can be. Reviews, adverts and music store demos only scratch the surface; software is complex and cannot be evaluated in a short space of time. If more people can be encouraged to buy software then the unit price can come down, which will make it all the more attractive to a greater number of people and thus expand the market. And that is precisely where Sound On Sound comes in...
This month we are launching a range of SOS Shareware programs. We have taken the proven concept of 'shareware' and applied it to the music industry in an attempt to increase the size of the market, by allowing as many people as possible to experience and try out software for themselves, in the comfort of their own home and for minimal financial outlay (a mere £7 per disk).
The shareware concept developed in America first, where software authors who had written usable, working programs but had no means of marketing them, decided to give their programs away on disk to anyone who wanted them. Users were encouraged to copy the disk and pass it on to their friends, but could not charge money for the program. If they liked the program, they could pay to 'register' their copy of the program with the author (or his agent) who would then provide updates and support in the usual manner (usually in the form of telephone assistance on queries and a printed manual).
We have been encouraged by the reactions of existing software distributors, who all see this move as a superb way of expanding the market faster than would otherwise be possible - which is what every one wants after all. To this end, many of them have agreed to supply us exclusively with demonstration versions of their own, larger programs, to enable you to evaluate the program's in-depth features at your leisure; features that rarely get shown in product demonstrations or talked about in reviews, but which differentiate a good program from a mediocre one.
So, if you're interested in software, check out the SOS Shareware advert in this issue and stay tuned for some fabulous developments in the field of music software!
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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