Like many other producers, I’ve obtained my fair share of ‘illegal’ plugins in my past as there was no way I could afford a quality DAW and all of the third party trimmings that come after it. However, once I decided to start taking music seriously (and I had a bit more money in my pocket), I bought a new MacBook Pro along with a legit copy of Ableton and Komplete 10 and that was more than enough to start me off in the audio world. Since then, my library of plugins has continued to grow and you won’t find a pirated one in the lot for many reasons. I get that a lot of people don’t have the money to buy all the plugins they use, but there are more reasons to consider buying your VSTs than just the ethics of it all.
I made my own extremely simple subtractive synthesizer in Reaktor once, and let’s just say I wouldn’t have been able to sell it for a dollar. The developers putting these plugins together work extremely hard at doing what they do – and it takes a lot of skill, knowledge, and time to create a commercially viable VST or DAW. Yeah you might have to shell out a few hundred bucks for that new soft synth everyone is going crazy for, but you’re paying for a lot more than just some oscillators and presets. You’re paying for stability, functionality, workflow, quality, various different options within the synth, customer support, and the list goes on.
Apart from supporting the developers that put their blood, sweat, and tears into these programs, there are a couple of other reasons to actually purchase your plugins. When I buy a VST, I tend to care about it a bit more. I’ve spent my hard earned money on this piece of software, so I won’t just to jump to the next plugin that everyone else starts using. I take the time and learn that plugin inside and out. Think of it this way – if you work your ass off to buy your first car, you’re going to take a lot better care of it than you would if your parents just gave one to you.
You will also be surprised at how much less your DAW crashes. I always see people asking what computer and specs they need to make music without experiencing crazy latency and frequent crashes, and my answer is always the same: a laptop with no cracked software. I produce off of a MacBook Pro with all legally obtained plugins and I hardly ever experience crashes regardless of the size of the project. There was one time when I got greedy and installed a cracked version of nexus from a friend, and I nearly lost the track I was working on because of it. Needless to say I trashed that file as soon as possible and luckily got my project back. Cracked plugins have to work way harder than normal since your computer has to get through the code before anything else.
In terms of pricing, in relation to other software, audio ware is hands down some of the cheaper stuff on the market. If you take a look at some of the top engineering and design software (Pro-E, CAD, etc.), you’re looking at price tags of thousands of dollars. A solution that a lot of companies have started utilizing to make their software more affordable is to grant perpetual licenses at a monthly rate. Adobe has done this with their products, and Avid has turned pro tools into a subscription based product rather than an outright purchase. I personally am not a fan of this, since I’d rather just buy a plugin or DAW and own it rather than continue to pay to use it, but whether I like it or not, it’s only a matter of time before many other companies adopt this style. That being said, if those companies started implementing monthly or weekly payment plans until you’ve payed off that $300 synth you just bought, I definitely wouldn’t complain.
Also, just because you purchase plugins doesn’t mean you can’t save money or even get some for free. There’s plenty of great freeware all over the internet and sites like Bedroom Producer’s Blog often post lists of freebies as well as discounts. I try to never pay full price for a plugin, and a few sites you can check out to do this are audiodeluxe.com, dontcrack.com, and my personal favourite: pluginalliance.com. All three are free to join and will definitely save you a pretty penny in your audio related purchases. Subscribe to their newsletters and they will email you with huge plugin savings. I just snagged Izotope’s DDYL dynamic delay for FREE (regularly 49 USD) from one of those emails (you can download the delay for free until March 10th on Izotope.com). Furthermore, if you’re a student you can often get huge discounts on DAWs and plugins like Ableton Live and Sylenth1. If you don’t see an option on the company’s website for a student discount, just shoot them an email, as often times they don’t advertise that bit of information.
Overall, if you plan on making a living in this industry, it’s definitely a good idea to consider purchasing all of your favorite plugins you are currently using, either now or later on down the road when you start making some money. Apart from the ethics of it all, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the performance of your computer and how much you actually get to know the software you’re working with. In reality, no one is going to bust you for using cracked software (unless you put out a really awesome tutorial on making 808s), but it’s definitely worth it to start investing in all of the tools you use to make your music. The more people start purchasing plugins, the more affordable they will become. To those of you who already purchase their VSTs, you the real MVP.