Piracy – Why Shouldn’t You?

Photo by Markus Spiske

There’s a request I keep getting regularly. It comes in different shapes and forms but the gist is always the same. Here’s an example of an email I received:

“I began with the program Logic pro X. But i have a problem: I want to get some plug ins for this program, i’d like to get it for free, because buying it is too expensive for me at the moment,
so i like to download it, but it’s so hard to find it…

I need the following plug ins:

[followed by a list of paid plugins]”

Now, ethics aside, there is something quite big at play here that I want to address. Something that is especially difficult to understand when you’re first starting out in music.

The above email reminds me of myself when I was younger. I admit I used to download loads of pirated plugins back then. It was so easy and there was not much peer pressure against it – quite the contrary. So trust me when I say this comes from personal experience.

Piracy a trap. You’ll be much better off using legit software. If you are serious about your craft, start investing into it. Even if it takes time to save up money.

Buying your tools forces you to develop your workflow. It forces you to figure out what you really need and makes you plan how everything fits in and plays together. Over the course of a few years you will see improvement which would not take place had you not began investing in your tools.

It is much easier to get work done with a limited set of great quality tools that work well, as opposed to a whole bunch of cracked software that is often unstable and may even come with malware.

Paying for your tools makes you value them more. This is basic human psychology. You are more likely to put time into learning your tools properly when it’s something you’ve personally invested in. With pirate software you skip and fast forward through things, only to lose focus and end up back to zero.

You will feel better for doing the right thing. Confidence is something a lot of us struggle with especially when first starting out. Staying clear of piracy helps.

The cumulative results of all of the benefits listed above?

You will see much faster improvement in your skills. You will make better music and advance your craft. You will begin to discover your own voice. I promise. I wish I had realised those things sooner.

In the recent times I’ve began to get back to making music with hardware equipment. It is the exact same dynamic at play there. Being invested into a limited set of tools with a limited (but well thought out) set of features can be so rewarding.

Mindless confusion or mindful progress. The choice is yours to make.

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  • Vladimir Naumov

    This is so true!

  • Joseph Whittle

    This is all true – plus you don’t need to pay for *every* piece of software. There are plenty of high quality free VSTs around, and keep your eyes peeled for software deals from people like soundtoys. You don’t need to run out and spend thousands of bucks.

    • heavymetalmixer

      I’m actually a free plugin collector, more than 6 GB in free plugins, with out a single sample xD.

  • garyg2

    Yep, all true.

  • txtist

    i may never use Ableton Live or Cycling74 Max/Msp in a professional capacity, but as a student I noticed those developers offered students a great discount, as did Avid (Protools, Sibelius), Native Instruments (Komplete) and even Sound Toys (aax/vst plugins) and of course Adobe (Creative Suite 6).
    If you’re poor (as I am) you need not resort to being a creep… just get a “dot edu” e-mail and try it out

    • heavymetalmixer

      Or you could use Reaper in evaluation mode, is completely legal, though when you have enough money you should buy the license.

      • Reaper is very affordable too, most of us will probably qualify for the discounted license which is only 60 USD.

  • Lz Sentelle

    Really excellent post, and so true.

  • Totally agree. First, you don’t want to be at the mercy of unlicensed plugins when they break, or your DAW updates. Your sessions could be ruined if anything changes, and you can’t contact the company who made the plugin to help you fix things. Second, plugin companies are always cranking out deals. I only shop at Audiodeluxe. Black Friday through New Years is prime time for sales!

  • Todd Dickinson

    Man, you are so on point with this post… Sitting around with a bunch of stolen software, while trying to create something that you would love for people to think enough of that they’d purchase it, is self defeating.

    Great, great article!

  • JussSomeBloke

    I was the same at the start. I had a huge collection of cracked software. I collected every VST I could find. Even my DAW was cracked. If I wasn’t worrying about viruses ( and I got a few ), I was loading tracks where the VST no longer worked because the crack was only good for that particular version. I couldn’t upgrade without hassle.
    I downloaded cracked software because I had no money, and because I thought “well, no-one is gonna know”, but the thing is, I knew, and I was damaging my own conscience.
    I finally got a steady job, and set out to buy every single plugin I had downloaded and loved. The creators of that software put just as much blood, sweat and tears into their creations as I was putting into my music, and not only was it right that they should get paid for their effort and their expertise, but also, once I started selling my music, I knew it wasn’t right to make money using stolen software. I was trying to make money from my music, but at the same time denying the software developers the same luxury. I now have 2 DAWs and over 1400 VST plugins on my system. A lot of them are free, but I’ve now bought things like NI Komplete 10, and loads of synths and effects.
    I feel so much better. My conscience is clear. Im talking the time to learn everything I buy because , as you rightly said, it has much more value when you know you sacrificed something to buy it.
    I am very much anti-piracy now, and I see just how much harm it does to the industry.

  • Jerry Atrick

    Good words. So true. A few good plug-ins that you know how to use is ultimately less expensive in $ and time compared to malware risk, upgrade hassle and unproductive time spent using so many plugins of unknown quality or which are just not right for your application that it breeds confusion and compromise in your end work. And, without being compensated, who would continue to develop software?