What Will Happen to Avid Pro Tools?
Just raising the question suggests that there are issues at the company. Dark clouds are visible, which could dissipate or turn into a larger storm. From a user's perspective, there is a significant problem. To explain the issue, we need to go back a few decades.
Pro Tools has a history spanning over thirty years. It was one of the first systems to bring massive advancements to the industry. By the 2000s, the system and marketing were clearly built on the fact that this software and hardware combo offered the best quality available. As this was a real fact, many professionals sided with the Pro Tools system. If you want to make money, the tools you work with matter. TV channels and film studios also needed to use the system for their end products to be of excellent quality. The system became an industry standard because the software and hardware could be found everywhere, eliminating concerns about compatibility in different studios. During this period, Digidesign achieved such dominance that its effects can still be felt today. The release of their free 8-track version of the software in the 2000s also helped, as many people started using and getting familiar with Pro Tools, boosting sales at the time. Then something happened. The marketers saw that the competition was getting better. Pro Tools LE started being bundled with cheaper sound cards to increase revenue. Even at this time, the software didn't have to work with hardware, as it was evident that other manufacturers' software could run without hardware, but they stuck to this principle until they were forced to change. Pro Tools 9 was finally able to run natively on computers. So far, this shows the traditional path of a company: success, followed by a downturn, then the marketers come up with something, and more success follows. The competition is now even more intense with rivals, so Avid released Pro Tools First, a free software with 8-track usage, and a few years later, Pro Tools Intro. The situation seems familiar - when sales decline, they release a limited capability version to lure new customers. I think there's nothing wrong with this; every company does it. But now come the problems. Over the decades, Pro Tools has barely changed. In the beginning, there was no need for change. However, it's now clear that Avid has fallen into its own trap. The lack of development has led to a pile of primitive code called Pro Tools, which they patch and mend, but is extremely outdated even from a programmer's perspective. The software is slow, bloated, and unnecessarily complex compared to its competitors. They built their house on a foundation that is now weak. As a direct consequence, the user experience is subpar. Features that other manufacturers implemented years or even decades ago are only now being added to new versions of Pro Tools. This clearly shows that the developers are not given any room for creativity or innovation by upper management. Every other manufacturer listens to their users' opinions and implements their demands as quickly as possible. But not at Avid. They decided not to be creative and only implement what other manufacturers have already made successful. Take Melodyne integration, for example, which has been in StudioOne for about five years, and they are only now incorporating it into their system. The user experience is subpar; there is no autosave during system freezes, no drag & drop audio import, no one-click fades, and let's not even talk about the correct playback of different sample rate sounds. The graphical display is choppy, you have to work in a window that's been stuck on us for thirty years, you can't just move the mixer to another screen, and the list goes on.
So, one main problem is that instead of finally starting to develop their software, they seem to believe that marketing and the reliance on industry-standard status will continue to bring in revenue.
The first issue is the quality of the product. The second issue is the competition. Companies that have developed their software using modern programming languages now have a significant advantage. A prime example is StudioOne, which has climbed to the top tier within just 10 years and still has room for growth. The software already has features and user experiences that leave even Steinberg's engineers scratching their heads, wondering how to keep up.
The third issue is the price-to-value ratio: Users are not naive. They can tell when they are being taken advantage of. Pro Tools has shifted to a subscription model, with an annual subscription price of nearly a thousand dollars, while Reaper is practically free, and even StudioOne Pro's $400 price tag is more palatable, especially if you have a previous version where an upgrade could reduce the cost to $200. Then there's Cubase Pro, the most expensive among the cheaper options, but it still hovers around $500. So, why would users purchase a thousand-dollar relic when all the newer software options outshine the current iteration of Pro Tools?
The fourth issue: I am not the only one who sees the problem – professionals in the industry are noticing it as well. Long-time Pro Tools users who have worked with the software for 20-30 years are abandoning it in droves. Film and music professionals are leaving the software en masse. Releasing a free 8-track version will not solve the problem because younger users take the time to research which software is best for them. When they see that a company is being deceitful, they will catch on immediately. Therefore, the software's user base will eventually run out of new recruits.
How could Avid solve this problem? Perhaps by reducing marketing-driven money-grabbing tactics, finally listening to user feedback, and considering why Pro Tools was so successful in the first place. The answer: it was the best. If the company genuinely wants to soar, it needs to rewrite the entire Pro Tools program from scratch, down to the last line of code. Of course, the AVID company itself is not in immediate danger, as there are alternatives to Pro Tools, but the company has heavily built itself on this name. In any case, I would encourage users to switch to StudioOne, Reaper, Cubase, or Nuendo, while urging Avid to reconsider their entire strategy.