Why You Probably Don’t Want a Subscription-Based DAW

Subscription-based pricing models for digital audio workstations seem to be getting more popular these days, and on the surface it makes sense.

Rather than paying hundreds of dollars, you can pay a measly $20-$30 a month and get access to everything you need to start producing some good music.

Pretty great, right?

If you don’t like the DAW after the first month or two you can just cancel the subscription and you’re all set.

But what if you’re a more serious music producer looking to make music for longer than just a few months?

There are 5 main problems with paying a subscription for your DAW instead of a one-time fee (perpetual license): Long-term costs, ownership issues, forced updates, internet dependency, and the risk of the company going out of business/discontinuing the product. I’ll explore each of these problems in this article and show you why a one-time fee is so much better.

Subscription-based DAWs are way more expensive in the long run

Let’s do some math on how expensive a subscription-based DAW is compared to a DAW with a one-time fee.

In this example, I’ll use the PreSonus Studio One Pro, which currently has a subscription fee of $19.99 monthly, and I’ll compare that to the one-time fee of FL Studio ($200).

I created a graph below showing how much you spend over 1 year (I rounded $19.99 to $20 to make the calculations a bit simpler).

You can see from the image above that after just 10 months, you start paying MORE for a subscription-based DAW than you do for a DAW that is a one-time fee.

If you don’t see yourself making music for more than a few months, then by all means feel free to try out a subscription-based DAW. But if you can see yourself making music for years then you’ll want to pay the one-time fee.

Yes the cost of the DAW will be more money you’ll have to pay upfront, but you will end up saving so much money in the long run.

You don’t own a subscription-based DAW

One of the main drawbacks of subscribing to a DAW is the lack of true ownership. When you purchase a perpetual license, you own the software and can use it indefinitely, even if you discontinue updates or support.

However, with a subscription model, your access to the DAW is based upon continuing to pay the subscription fee.

If you stop paying or if the company changes its terms, you can lose access to the software, your projects, and all of your hard work. Imagine having tens or hundreds of songs that you worked hard on disappear just because you decided you didn’t want to pay the subscription fee.

This lack of ownership is especially risky for producers who rely on their DAW for professional or long-term projects.

You might have to deal with forced updates

While regular updates can be beneficial for addressing bugs or providing enhancements to DAW software, subscriptions often come with automatic updates that users cannot opt out of. This can be problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, any given update could introduce compatibility issues with plugins, hardware, or other software in your music production setup, potentially disrupting your workflow. Imagine paying for a pricy third-party plugin like Kontakt and it just stopped working one day because of an update you were forced to get. Not fun.

Second, updates may change the interface, features, or functionality of the DAW, requiring you to adapt to new ways of working even if you prefer the previous version. With a perpetual license, you have more control over when and if you update the software.

You will constantly need access to the internet for a subscription-based DAW

Many subscription models require a constant internet connection for license validation and access to the DAW. This internet dependency can be a significant drawback for music producers with limited or unreliable internet access, such as those living in areas with poor connectivity or frequently working in studios without stable internet.

If the internet connection is lost or the validation servers are down, you might not be unable to access your DAW and work on any of your projects.

In contrast, perpetual licenses often allow offline activation and use, providing more flexibility and reliability for users in various working environments.

There’s a risk the company can go out of business or discontinue the DAW

When subscribing to a DAW, you are essentially investing in a long-term relationship with the software company. However, there is always a risk that the company may go out of business, be acquired by another company, or decide to discontinue the product.

In such cases, subscribers would be left without access to their projects and tools, and with no guarantee of a suitable replacement or compensation.

This lack of longevity is problematic for users who have built their entire workflow and creative process around a specific DAW. With a perpetual license, even if the company or product ceases to exist, you can still use the software version you own indefinitely.

Get yourself a DAW that is a one-time fee

If you’re interested in getting yourself a DAW that is a one-time fee, check out my guide on the best DAWs for music production. There I cover which DAWs are worth buying and what makes them good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *