There were times when you bought software or hardware, and you could work with that for a very long time without any issues occurring, for example, regarding incompatibility or licensing. Moreover, you owned the full product. In the last few years, things have been changed when companies drastically try to grow their customer base, tie those to them and increase the overall revenue. The go-to solution to achieve exactly that seems to be the subscription-based software licensing that finally takes place almost everywhere in the audio software landscape. Let us talk about that situation from the viewpoint of an audio professional.
First, I want to state out that from the companies' perspective, I understand the desire for revenue enhancements and the need for a strategy to make a company profitable in the long run. However, I still think that offering a subscription-based software is probably most interesting for newbies/semi-professionals in the music/audio sector because of the low upfront costs and the huge software bundles offered for rent but not for real professionals in the audio sector. Those are often customers since the company's opening or the ones who spent the largest amount of money into the company's products to date. If you plan to use the offered tools like DAWs or audio plug-ins for a long time, the business model of "renting" software and paying monthly or annually, results in higher long term investments for the customer. Professionals may like to own the products they invested in, aim at keeping running costs as low as possible and may not want the other hundred plug-ins that are often also included in those advertised "subscription bundles".
To be fair, I need to mention that, thanks to the negative response of people like me, a lot of companies provide both, the chance to get the perpetual licence for a one-time fee or to rent the software and receive updates and even new products during the subscription period. But in many cases I experienced that the companies try to lead their customers to the new business model vehemently by a) increasing the prices of the perpetual licences as well as the update/upgrade offers and by b) suddenly discontinuing the compatibility to "older OS versions" or other third party software. In some cases, the support and help desk models may additionally have been "reworked" to make the lives of non-subscription users in the case of an emergency even more unpleasant. In times when computers' OS versions are getting "major updates" at least annually, and hardware connectors almost change overnight, it is just super frustrating when a bunch of very expensive, professional software suddenly stops working after an OS update without a significant warning or actively delivered notification from the software developer.
In the following, developers with their DAWs and audio plug-ins are listed that I own and therefore know, how their offerings look like. (Updated: 17.08.2019)
|Developer||Name||Perpetual Licence||Subscription Model|
|Avid||Pro Tools||YES (+ annual service/update fee to use latest version and get support)||YES|
|Universal Audio||UAD Plugins||YES||NO|
|Waves Audio||Waves Plugins||YES (+ update plan fees or upgrade costs for newer major versions)||YES|
|Slate Digital||Slate Plugins||YES||YES|
|Plugin Alliance||PA Plugins (different brands)||YES (+ eventually update fees for newer plugin versions)||YES|
|iZotope||iZotope Plugins||YES||YES (Rent-To-Own via Splice)|
|Synchro Arts||VocALign||YES||YES (Rent-To-Own)|
|Eiosis||Eiosis Plugins||YES||YES (via Slate Digital Bundle Subscription)|
|Arturia||Arturia Plugins & Virutal Instruments||YES||YES (Rent-To-Own via Splice)|
|STL Tones||STL Tones Plugins||YES||NO|
|Neural DSP||Neural DSP Plugins||YES||NO|
|XLN Audio||XLN Audio Virtual Instruments||YES||NO|
|Lennar Digital||Sylenth1||YES||YES (Rent-To-Own "Payment Plan")|
Which type you choose to get your beloved audio software is - of course - up to you. I am just annoyed that companies try to push me into their subscription models and that most of the companies ignore the fact that you as a long-time, loyal customer already spent several thousand for their products and they do not offer you any or just a ridiculously small discount on their new subscription. Nevertheless, I think that rent-to-own models are a compromise of both sides but are relatively rare as you can see in the table above.