EastWest’s new Composer Cloud could change the way we buy and use sample-based instruments. Mark Cousins peers to the sky
Price $29.99 (Full), $14.99 (Student) per month
Once upon a time, buying software was a question of ownership – you paid your money, collected a box with a DVD and a manual, and installed the application onto your computer.
Across the range of the IT industry, though, the ‘subscription model’ seems to be gaining increasing popularity. Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Apple Music and even Microsoft Office 365 have all demonstrated that an affordable monthly fee might be preferable to a one-off purchase.
From a developer’s standpoint, a continual income makes it much easier to run a business (especially when you need to update your software with each new OS), and from a user’s perspective they gain access to incredible range and diversity of software.
In the music technology industry, though, the subscription approach hasn’t made big inroads into the way we consume software. EastWest’s Composer Cloud, therefore, is a bold move, being the first sample library developer to offer a complete subscription-based service that delivers the entirety of its library for $29.99 a month.
Given the premium pricing of EastWest’s libraries, it would be fair to say that the Composer Cloud is a tempting proposition, but is it a viable way of working with such data-intensive packages?
Given that few of us have encountered cloud-based sample libraries, it’s worth explaining some of the mechanics behind Composer Cloud. Once you’ve purchased the cloud subscription, you can download and install EastWest’s new Installation Center, which provides a centralised point to download and activate the libraries.
The Composer Cloud works on two principle levels – either a ‘Student’ plan that lets you chose a total of seven products, or the ‘Complete’ plan that offers unrestricted access to the full catalogue.
The Installation Center shows a variety of important aspects of your EastWest library. First, you can see the current version of the Play and Installation Center applications, both of which can be updated. Below this, you can see the libraries available to you, and beneath that, the libraries installed in your system.
You can also use the Installation Center to manage your Composer Cloud authorisation – storing it either to your computer’s hard drive or an attached iLok 2. Any existing EastWest libraries or authorisations will work alongside Composer Cloud, and remain in place in the case of you terminating your subscription.
Unless you’ve got a blisteringly fast internet connection, the major caveat with Composer Cloud has to be the download times, especially when you consider the size of some of the larger packages. However, with most sample developers choosing to deliver their content via download links, this is a system most of us have grown used to. For those with less patience, there’s CCC Gold hard drive, which can be purchased for around £80.
For professional composers who appreciate the security of ‘owning’ a library, and may well have several EastWest products installed, Composer Cloud won’t be a game-changing proposition.
For new users, who would probably run a mile if you suggested paying $799 for a string library, Composer Cloud makes it possible to access an array of high-quality libraries for an affordable monthly sum. Over time, this modest figure can add up, so it’s good that you have the option of buying full licenses, even using Composer Cloud as a form of ‘test drive’.
East West’s subscription model is unique, so there’s nothing that compares to Composer Cloud. If you’re looking for affordable high-quality sample instruments covering many of the key libraries in Composer Cloud, it’s well worth looking at Spitfire Audio’s bundle deals, which offer savings of up to 35%.
In truth, the subscription model, as with the concept of ‘owning’ software, isn’t without flaws – the most obvious of which is what happens when you stop paying your monthly subscription.
Whether or not it’s a model that works for you is a matter of personal choice, so it’s good that EastWest has had the foresight to retain both models, rather than tying you into a subscription-only service, like Adobe’s Creative Cloud. If it turns out to be a success, Composer Cloud could usher in a new way of working with sampled instruments, potentially offering a wide palette of high-quality sounds for all.
● 50 libraries
● 9,000+ instruments
● On-demand download
● iLok or Machine-based licence