How about a bit of controversy to start off your week?

Got this email a few days ago:

I’m not rich, and I don’t have money for plugins. Me and my friend are working on a project…the plugins we need are about $2,000 each. What would happen if we torrented the plugins and made a song? Would we get sent to jail?


Here’s my response:

It’s really a moral question. I personally don’t use pirated plugins because it’s morally wrong.

But there’s a bigger issue here than the question you’re asking. You’re assuming you “need” these $2,000 plugins. I’d be willing to bet you don’t need them at all.

I just finished up a song, and all I used were the free plugins that came with my software. I didn’t use any “extra” plugins at all…and it sounds amazing.

Why? Because I know what I’m doing. I learned the technique of mixing and making songs sound good. Plugins won’t help you do that.

You can buy fancy plugins (or steal them), and your mixes will still sound bad if you don’t know how to USE them.

Hope that helps.

Rather than debating the morality of pirating plugins, ask this question instead:

Will these plugins make ME better?

The answer is a big fat NO.

In fact, I propose that the more plugins you have, the WORSE your mixes will get…IF you don’t have a proper understanding of the basic concepts of audio.

For me, it all begins and ends with EQ:

Joe Gilder

  • Gary

    I was with you there until the end Joe!
    Until I realized you were trying to sell us your methods of mastering a track. Nice try.

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying there; plugins don’t make you better. If you start making music and you feel as though you need all of these expensive plugins to make it sound good, you’re wrong.
    The only way these expensive plugins will make your music better is by knowing the fundamentals of music production and by selecting plugins based on your own research and knowledge of what each one in particular does. If you find one that suits your needs as a musician and want to pick it up because you’ve come to the consideration that this specific tool will help you out, than by all means go for it.

  • Tom Hamlish

    The article seems politically right only. But, I see plugin piracy is not even a moral problem. If these kids downloaded the cracked plugins and made a hit (perhaps not immediately, but after they are able to learn how to use the plugins properly), I’m sure they’ll come back and buy those plugins. They won’t afford those plugins anyway so why not let them use. I believe that cracking has made the tools available to more ppl and a portion of them eventually become professional engineers and come back and support those developers. If they are not serious with their music, even in a world with no piracy, they won’t buy the legit version anyway, making no profit for the plugin maker what so ever in either case. Software makers most of the time have exaggerated how piracy made them loss money but actually they have benefit from it in the long run. Piracy has created a prosperous music making industry. Those who become professionals will for sure buy legit stuff just because that the most convenient way. It’s not comparable with stealing things from supermarket which would cost an actual loss for the market. Downloading cracked software most of the time won’t cause a loss, because again, they won’t buy legit with or without piracy.

    • Tom Hamlish

      I myself is a good example. I am a big plugin buyer right now. Spent tons on plugins, Vsts and stuff. I never would have become what I am if those softwares weren’t available by cracking. Now I don’t even care looking at cracks simply because the cost for legit ones are really nothing to me now. And I would love to pick up the phone and complain to the makers whenever problem arise. Downloading from the official website is much faster. I don’t want to solve the problem during the cracking because that’s a waist of time with which I can earn much more than the plugin. But, what about those kids who don’t have money buying these stuff and they are passionate about music making? Should they give up? If they “stole” the plugins, what loss will the plugin company have? Nothing really.

    • Tom Hamlish

      Also, for stealing in general. If everybody can make a decent living, who care about stealing? OK, stealing is wrong, should those who can’t afford food starve to death? Who caused the poverty? Those who make big load of money by manipulating the stock market, real estate, they are not stealing everyone else’s hard work? Now they start judging how stealing food from super market is morally wrong. How hypocritical.

      • And I don’t think starving children and kids who don’t wanna pay for plugins are in the same category. 🙂

    • I hear you, but just because you don’t make money with something doesn’t mean it’s okay to not pay for it. I don’t make money from losing weight, but I pay for the Weight Watchers app because it’s helpful to me. I don’t try to find ways to get it without paying for it.

  • Julio Franco

    Yes you right joe pirates plugins don’t help in any way because the same way we want the people to purchase or listen our music the same company’s want us to buy their product. I don’t we love some one to steal our music or don’t pay after all the effort and time we spend creating it.

  • Dabeatbakerz

    stop writing paragraph responses

  • KUBA Music

    but just as long as you buy them later its fine you forgot that one its called repaying your debts when u pirate something but then buying your saying that you think the plugin is amazing and that you want to buy it there’s nothing wrong with stealing in the digital world if you just buy it later like i did i pirated and about 1 month later i bought sylenth 1, serum, and spire, also nexus because i make good money really you don’t even have to buy all of them at once like i did but bottom line as long as you ‘repay your debts’ it doesn’t matter there problem solved

  • AntoxaGray

    I do not agree with you and you’re using logic fallacy as argument. You’re not magically become better producers if you buy software, as you not become magically worse if you torrent it.

    Just because you start with good plugins does not make you bad. I can learn too to make good song with 3xOsc if I wanted. And I will guarantee my mix wont be better if I do it with 3xOsc instead of one of popular 3rd party synth.

  • Jackobo

    Over the years, I’ve bought my share of plugins and wasted lot of money on products that just didn’t cut it. Struggled with some companie’s “No refund” policies, and tech support always blaming Microsoft or other software/hardware but theirs.
    That is stealing, yes.
    Yeah, of course you can buy crap everywhere, but at least if I buy crap at Costco, I can return it and get my money back.

    Now, I still buy every plugin I use, because I can afford it. I’m just being more careful on what I buy these days.

    That said, I don’t blame those who download pirated copies. Just try the hell out of them and make sure you like it. Then buy it.

  • rod emmanu

    At first I was like I’m going to have FL Studio (My Daw) and make music. Then I discover the use of plugins, vst … exist. I hated some of the “Stock” plugins or vst In FL Studio. So if I need some choir Sound I need a vst for that, If I need a good violin Sound or organ Hammond Sound I still need a v for that. So I did use “piracy vst or external plugins”. Now that I want to be pro and sell my music and also have already songs made with those plugins it could unprofessional to bring a track to a EDM music label made with piracy synth, vst, daw and plugins. I know they won’t askor Maybe they will. I doubt that big names or middle names In the electronic music industry are surviving with piracy daw and plugins. I have to keep using pirate stuff until I bought all the plugins that I really use right now + the daw After that I’m all legit and pro. Because if I wait t’ill I’m 100% legit and legal I’ll have to wait a year to sell and produce music because Of money issues. I won’t wait that long for making EP and else. Also I won’t change all my already produce songs because some synth I used and use are not bought legally right now.

    • Whatever works for you. But there are plenty of guitarists who saved up their money to buy guitars and amps so they could make music they wanted to make. If they can have the discipline to save up a few thousand dollars to buy their equipment, I don’t see why electronic musicians can’t do the same thing. Seems lazy to me.

      • rod emmanu

        yeah I know I started in “daw” FL Studio and use I lot of plugins for whatherer reason (Strings, organ, synth, violin, flute, drum, pad) and now i’m stuck wanted to be professional (I mean being legit) and wanted to sell my music . Also I saw some big name get caugth on youtube video for using an illegal version of some plugins ad the fans reactions was negative. Also their a lot of free tutorial on youtube made of course with piracy plugins.
        Like I said at first I was like (Why should I care) but now I’m like if want to be pro in electronic music I don’t have a choice to bought everything I use right now at different times but at least in the next year. of couse it will be expensive (because I was just using plugins, looking at great synth or else sound instead of the price and looking for alterative that is free or cheaper”). Now the songs are made so I can’t go back to alternatives solution. Yes I have good laptop and a soundcard and amidi keyboard. Also if i become known I don’t want to be the person that is too cheap to buy a single plugins or get caught in video like exemple “Kanye Eest with a torrent link for downloading a illegal VST” or making any video with my daw and somebody saw that I use a pirated version fo a good vst it wouldn’t be wise the artist name i’m trying to build.

  • Luis Moreno

    I think the part people are continually forgetting here is the Point isn’t “It should be cheaper or free”, It’s do I “Need” them.

    Stealing is morally wrong. I save my money for what I own. I make near minimum wage at my job in LA and started my studio and with the extra money coming in I save it and purchase what i WANT. Not what I “NEED”.

    When I first started I spent $6000 on my credit card and could not figure out why my recording and mixes were not coming out right!

    Bought hardware compressors and eq’s, great monitors and mics as well but due to fact that I did not fully understand, or at all for that fact, I kept putting out mediocre sounding recordings and mixes. I did not know how to use the tools in front of me.

    Would I have prefered to use a “free” copy first? No. I kept the gear and it sat and waited. As I took lessons and went to school I learned not only did I buy gear that did not work in conjunction with one another and the wrong kind of cables but I the tools I needed were not these plugins and hardware. IT WAS MY EARS.

    Once I focused on working on my ears and what tools gave what results I realized I bought gear I did not need!

    I was putting out better mixes and recordings with stock plugins and decent mics like a 57 and my interface. I sold all the extra gear and now only buy what I believe is a smart Investment.

    The point of my long(And I am sorry for that) is that I did NOT NEED TONS OF OPTIONS and though they can help and ultimately have a reason people want them I found myself hating so many options. I needed to train my ears. Did not need to have a ton of plugins or hardware.

    Remember: It’s not about if its o.k. to steal plugins. It’s that you don’t need them if you don’t know what your doing.

    Once Again, I spent too much (even if it was free) only to find out too late that I didn’t need them.

  • matt

    If you were that good you wouldn’t have time to write this article nor care to let this guy know how good you are. Get off the high horse.

  • Anoop

    Heres the thing… The music software industry has to catch up to mainsteam software industry… The bottom line is that very few people can actually afford to buy the plugins as they would want to and the industry is loosing a very huge share of the software market because they haven’t been making the pricing practically affordable to most people… Its easy for people who can afford to buy the actual hardware say that the plugins are affordable as its costs only a fraction of the cost to buy the hardware, which is why its funny atleast to me to see people like CLA talk against piracy… I mean, its easy for a successful producer to say, “save up and buy” but its impossible for the newbies who is struggling to make ends meet…

    The weird part is that the industry already knows about the solution to this problem, but somehow refuses to use it… Let me give you an example… Being one who is trying to start, I cannot afford to buy Avid’s Pro Tools software… The outright purchase price of ~$699 followed by the annual upgrade plan pricing is impossible for me… But, now that Avid has introduced a subscription plan which costs ~$29, I am able to pay and get Pro Tools(and I have taken the subscription)… Why can’t plugin manufacturers do the same thing? E.g. waves could sell subscription plans varying from $10 to $30 per month for various plugin bundles and people like me will be able to manage to pay… I don’t understand how these companies can’t understand this simple math: For every one person who can afford to pay the current price, they can get atleast a 100 subscribers who collectively can generate more revenue on a regular basis than from those who pay the current price just once… Its one thing to blame consumers, but the industry can’t remain oblivious to the market…

    • Matthias Calis

      Exactly! Like you I have purchased a Pro Tools subscription because it fits my limited budget. The companies that make DAWS and plugins can actually earn more money this way, especially if the subscription binds the end-user to remain subscription for at least a year or so.

      I am also the proud and happy owner of Adobe’s Creative Cloud because that too is subscription based. Thanks to the educational discount I was able to get, it’s actually affordable for me.

      Now, it could be argued that someone just needs to save up money. There’s some merit to that, but if you can’t get your hands on any tools in the period that you’re saving up, you’re not learning how to use any of the tools you plan on purchasing.

      And to play devil’s advocate here: I know of plenty people who initially cracked software and eventually bought it when they were done in college/university and heading into a professional industry. These same people would love to get their sofware legally from the get-go, but it’s just not affordable at $600 or what have you. Subscriptions are a fantastic solution for the budding mixer/composer to start to learn how to work with pro software. Then, once they’ve learned how to use those tools and enter the industry, they can stop their subscriptions and make a full purchase. It’s a win-win.

      @Joe I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • Interesting point. I’ve set up an alternative subscription version for my own plugin called ‘AutoTonic’ too. It costs $89 for 5 years, that’s less than $0,05 per day or otherwise $1,5 per month. But still some potential users are complaining about the price. I think there will be always someone complaining about the price, no matter how much you charge. But what ppl are often forgetting is, no matter what, as business owner and indie developer I do have costs like mortgages, taxes, bills and basic human needs to pay for too. Plus I’ve spent years of my personal life working on this software.

      • But in all of this we also have to remember that the market doesn’t and shouldn’t care how hard you worked to learn your craft, etc. The market shouldn’t care that you have bills to pay. So do they. All they care about is whether your product is valuable to them. That’s important too.
        The bigger point behind this article is that people have a mindset that plugins are their missing link, when talent and skill is really the missing link. And you can’t but those things.

        • @whether your product is valuable to them
          Yes, that I meant with ‘there will be always someone complaining about the price, no matter how much you charge’ … there will be always ppl who think it’s worth and those who won’t.
          @you can’t but those things
          But think a moment about it: What is it, that drives our talents and skills? Isn’t it experience and new knowledge too? Might this not be a thing that rises especially by trying out new stuff?

  • jane guest

    MARCUS PRODUCTIONS , SOUNDCLOUD, TWITTER is using pirate bay vsts to make his music . Theft , do not let this person get away with it. please share and have him stopped.

    • AntoxaGray

      cool story

  • Ro

    Very necessary keeping up with the latest sounds in fact this is one of the most important things when you are creating music the music companies know that the software companies know that the software designers know that that’s why it’s such a big business the need to come up with like software and updates that’s why you would never completely pay for a piece of software the design is to continuously psypher your account this is not conspiracy just pay close attention in the next few months they’ll make every piece of your software you own inferior so that you can purchase or add on to what you already have there is no end game here.

    • Haha. Not true if you don’t rely on software. I understand that sound samples and stuff like that are important. But fancy EQ’s and compressors? Eh…

      • Ro

        maybe country,or polka,jazz there my be some truth in that nice chatting with ya lots of fun your a good guy good luck bro.

  • Ro

    You know I purchased most of the programs that I own now for the exception of a few cracked ones that I have leftover from back in the day I’ve made lot of money in this business now and the only way that I got that sound was from those craked programs there is no way I would have ever been able to afford those expensive programs these same companies have made double from me now with there over priced software as they charge hardware prices there’s no way I’m going to feel sorry for them some little 17 year old producer is probably going to win a Grammy in the next few years using them guaranteed while these little whiners sit there at their consoles for the rest of their life with nothing to show fighting over virtuall not even real objects they should only be able to sell this software for a decent price and then reduce it to 1/3 after 1 year this may help greatly with piracy

    • See, I disagree that those high-end plugins are necessary. Talent is necessary. Plugins? Eh…they’re nice to have but not necessary.


      • rod emmanu

        I agreed with you “Ro” ! Also “Joe Gilder” those high ends pulgins for me it’a the sound like a cheap midi compare to a Toontack Ezdrummer, or a shitty synth compared to a Sylenth 1, or a cheap violin sound, strings, flutes compare to editrol orchestral and there’s a lot more like that, that I really use so for me it’s the sound or the synth that can be reproduce else where or that My daw doesn’t have it in good quality for my track, like using a guitar rig for making fake guitar. For me buying $$$ of delay, compressor, reverb, filter, is useless. for others I would say, unless your daw doesn’t do it good first. Like i said for the synth, piano, choir, strings, organ, drum you can’t always use the stuff that your daw gives you unless that satisfy you in terms of good qulity and music sound.

  • Ro


    • Hey, you don’t need my blessing, friend. Do what you feel is right.

  • Ro


    • You’re right. There is a difference. I always think it’s funny when people justify pirating plugins, then turn around and want people to buy their “intangible” music.

      • AntoxaGray

        The difference is that you would have to intimidate shopkeeper and have potential shooting. Also, they have limited stock.

  • Ro

    i completely understand your situation………SO TYPICAL THEY ALWAYS SAY THAT

    • I choose to either pay for something or not use it. That’s all.


  • Ro

    have you seen the the price’s of these plug-ins not to mention they get to sale the same digital
    software forever if you purchase it you own it and should be able to sale that single copy and key to whomever you wish once. they are the immoral ones really there taking advantage of this gray line just make it affordable and not just the wealthy get it how ever you can there trying to plug it and price’s are going to sore.

    • Why lower their prices if people are buying them? That’s like telling Dave Pensado he should lower his rates and mix songs for $300 so we can all afford to hire him. Ridiculous. If someone can’t afford the fancy plugins, they can’t afford them. It’s simple.

  • Dave S.

    But if you understand how each plugin works, and use them correctly and purposefully, paid plugins will certainly improve your mixing, and deliver much better results than using free plugins only. Of course, you don’t need to have like 100 plugins but having extra 10 or 20 plugins will help a lot. Personally, I don’t think investing $2,000 in plugins is actually that crazy. You buy high quality plugins such as UAD, Slate, or Plugin Alliance and you could easily hit $2,000, or more.

    But my philosophy is: If you need 10 EQ plugins, you’d better off buying 1 hardware EQ.

    “For me, it all begins and ends with EQ” Totally agree.

  • Bazinga

    I use the free trials and free plugins when I want to test out a “awesome new plugin that I have to have” but for the most part I use stock. I already paid for the daw… might as well use the tools that come with it.

    I will say that a few thousand dollars for gear seems steep sometimes. Then I look at the price tag on plugins and I laugh. The gear is a solid tangible object that you now own. It produces whatever change you bought it for. A plugin is someone’s work (and I give full credit to the creators because that is pretty cool stuff) but lets face it, you are paying premium price for a copy. If I took a picture of a famous painting and made perfect copies that you could not see any difference in, should they all cost the same? Or would that drop the value of them all? If I made a plugin I would want it to be the best… but I don’t think I would get all butthurt over someone “stealing” a copy… People take pictures off my facebook all the time. Maybe I should call the cops.

  • Danny Pellegrini

    Piracy is stealing period. Whether or not you think it’s moral to steal certain goods over others is your prerogative. Sadly, the people who make plugins couldn’t convince the super market to give them free food and unfortunately, that has a trickle down effect. So if you want to steal plugins, that’s fine, but if you can’t afford to pay for plugins, then eventually no one will make quality plugins because they can’t support themselves doing so.

    Aside from all of that, I think the stock plugins are great tools to work with and have many advantages over premium plugin bundles.

    Since many studios may not have the same plugin library as you, using stock plugins will allow you to move your session between locations without a hitch. In fact, this is often a common practice for rough mixes that are sent off to another engineer for mix down.

    Also, the less plugins you have, the less time you are going to spend figuring out which plugin to use, allowing you to focus more on mixing with your plugins rather than picking which plugin to mix with.

    Furthermore, if you limit yourself to stock plugins, they are less sexy than premium plugins and the temptation to over process your mix lessens because you’re less inclined to use plugins in the first place.

    Finally, since people seem to have the attitude that plugins (and any other piece of digital content for that matter) should be free, using stock plugins will protect your sessions from becoming obsolete since small companies that only manufacture boutique plugins will probably have to close their doors on the account of piracy anyway.

  • Christopher Jansen

    I remember a drummer once telling me that he’s ok helping himself to pirated music – he feels justified since if, and when the bands come to town, he supports them by purchasing the over-priced ticket. That’s it. There’s his moral compass set to his own true north.

    It just cracks me up to see folks justify their own actions in similar fashion.

    I’ve slowly build my recording environment over decades as I could afford to do so. The repeated grueling gigs until 3am in the morning helped. A few strategic purchases along the way is all you need. If you are fortunate enough to have a decent computer, that’s typically most of the price of admission.

    I would never spend thousands of dollars on plugins. It’s just not necessary. For example, if you must get into plugins that go beyond the uncolored and very accurate plugins that come with a DAW, look at developers like Steven Slate.

    Steve is passionate about providing top-in-class plugins to musicians at a reasonable price. Just like you, he wants to succeed in life and pay the bills. However, his passion, love & joy for the music first and foremost, fuels the amazing development of the plugins. Do you really want to steal from him? Hopefully, the answer is no.

  • zstojkov

    Articles like this are totaly irrelevant. Stealing is stealing and we all know consequences. Some countries are fighting against it, some don’t because they have more important things to do, but at the end stealing plugins is crime, no metter if we have excuses for it or not. If you steal 2000USD money or plugin you should be penalized. Period

  • Cam Osteen

    its easy for you to say that someone else doesn’t need $2000 plugins, when you yourself can afford it. try living in poverty and see if you end up with the same views toward “stealing” plugins.

    • You could make the same argument for stealing iPhones or Starbucks coffee or diamonds. If you can’t afford it, it’s okay to have it without paying for it.

      • Norman Heckscher

        The idea of not paying for software that I find useful, does not sit well with me. However, I find the argument comparing theft of physical goods to that of using cracked or pirated software to be laughable; and the people who profligate such ideas as crazy as those who believe that our planet earth is 10,000 years old.

        • Haha. I bet you’d disagree if you sold digital goods and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of your own money developing them. 🙂

        • Chuck Costello

          I have to agree with Joe here. It would be a similar comparison to say that, for example, you wrote a song, recorded, mixed, and released it, and someone else ripped off your complete song (without permission, of course) and made a bunch of money selling it. Based on your current stance, what would be your argument against a person doing something like this? The way I see it, your current argument would be pretty invalid and you’d have no stance or self-defense against such a scenario because you obviously don’t see intellectual property as having any kind of value. As a musician, I find it disturbing that you think theft of intellectual property as “laughable”. I would expect someone who shares a similar interest (music) would understand the concept of intellectual property and want to help take steps to maintain its integrity. I guess you’d be alright with giving away all your original music and ideas for free for the rest of your life, seeing as how it has no value, and I’d be willing to bet that your line of thinking justifies it being “okay” to illegally download movies, TV shows, and music as well. Personally, I’m NOT okay with giving away my music (no matter how good or bad) because it’s mine and I created it. I put a lot of time and money and effort into it and because I know and respect the process, I support other individuals and companies with my money by paying for their products, as is intended. Anyone who does otherwise because they feel that it’s useful to them, so they should have it for free, is only kidding themselves.

          • Norman Heckscher

            Like Joe, you must have missed the part where I said: “The idea of not paying for software that I find useful, does not sit well with me.”

            It’s the use of the word “theft” to describe the process of copying that I find laughable. I could go on about this and justify my position, however, I’d be wasting both yours and my time. Read my first sentence again, realise that we’re most likely on the same side, smile, go outside to look at the sky/clouds/nature and have a happy day.

        • Ed

          Its amazing how many posters here are trying to justify stealing plugins. As if its the software companies fault for having the nerve to ask you to pay for their product. Let’s not take for granted how amazing the technology behind all these plugins is. What do you think people did before plugins existed? People still made recordings without big studios
          This idea that you HAVE to have plugins you can’t afford is crazy.
          The point of the guy’s article – you don’t NEED expensive plugins to make a good sounding song. Most DAWs come with all the tools you need anyway.
          Whatever happened to “well I can’t afford it, I’ll just do without.”?

      • AntoxaGray

        Not the same thing.

    • Tib Mozes

      Cam Osteen …..i completely understand your situation……who else could, if not me….i was and in a way ,im still in the same situation,…but thats not today’s debate….i used everything cracked ,starting frm plugins ,software…..even windows(cuz im on win platform)……yes i did!… Thats it i could not afford…at some point almost nothing sometimes not even a single peace of bread!….as a matter of fact who wants to know what i substituted with….:))))sugar:)))) …but any way slowly slowly i figured out a way out …thats what we do in fact all of us…survive in the first place … what I have found is what if i put together cent by cent and work harder…..EVERYTHING….even shovelling sh…t… i did ….fast forward….today i own a decent homestudio with almost everi single plugin that counts in todays market, but i can tell you after some time i started to regret 90 per cen t of it, but today ive foud out that if they are there i can find a creative purpose for them but to be honest…in the first place you really dont need anything else but stock plugins :eq….com…saturation….reverb…delay… Thats it!!! Sooner or later everyone of us will realize that……so why do i say that??….im saying cuz i figured out something,….i was imagining my self what if im in the plugins compay’s place and i would like to sell my “product” what if noone can or want to pay for my products,…but imagine your self just for a moment you try to sell your music/mix/production…?!….how can you eat how can you live….but most importantly how can you develop in much more amazing “plugins” which later is gonna serve amazing and creative music?!… try out things and to help you get on your feet ist ok to use stok plugins and/or demo one there are plenty of them which works for 30 days etc…so the key in our ability to find a way to be able to pay for a plugin is in our own hands, we just cannot expect, or we are not entitled to be given anything we want….WE HAVE TO EARN IT in the first place….so my dear friend get on your feet ,wipe out your pains ,or whatever might bother you ,and find your way… 100 per cent sure youll find it in fact if you really WANT it simply cannot be otherwise …in time you will find yourself full of payed plugins of which you litarelly dont need 90%of it you will see …is funny in anyways ….life is fun!….

  • Keldon Alleyne

    Haha, I’ve been saying this for years. In fact it goes deeper. Psychology shows that a person’s involvement in a product causes them to think more highly of it. So if you paid $1000 for a product you will feel more inclined to get more out it. You’ll expect it to be worth $1000 and so you’ll work until you’ve figured it out.

    Yes, some of the more expensive plugins add extra character, developed over years of trial and error that free developers just don’t have the time or money to invest in. And yet, if you look at the Reason community you see that users have found ways to create their own sounds.

    I’ve never been a fan of the “stealing” perspective and comparisons with physical items. There is no logical comparison, particularly if the said person actually couldn’t conceivably afford it. When money is being made is where I draw the line 🙂 Of course that’s more a matter of ones perspective and how we internally process the concept in our minds as to how we see it.

    That being said, I always advise people to start saving and paying for plugins just as they would with their equipment, and soon you will see their quality improve.

    • I still can’t agree with the “as long as you’re not making money it’s okay” mindset.
      I know it’s not the same, but it’s wrong for me to steal a lawnmower, even if I’m not making money with it.

      • Keldon Alleyne

        Your comment demonstrates what I mentioned about perception. There is an undeniable difference between stealing a lawnmower and downloading software illegally.

        The first robs someone of an actual lawnmower. As in, they can’t cut their lawn, so they will have to buy one.

        Piracy leaves the company exactly where they already were. The differences in the results of the actions are inarguable. In not saying that makes piracy good, just pointing out inescapable differences.

        However most people see things that way because they primarily believe piracy is wrong, but because they often can’t formulate a rule to describe why, they got it into existing models, with the nearest being physical theft.

        So then my question is, in a case where someone could not have possibly afforded software, therefore there is no potential loss of sale, how would you explain exactly what is wrong about this persons actions? And I don’t mean that as a rhetorical question or a challenge. I formed my own answer to that years ago when I decided to go from piracy to legitimate ownership in an almost overnight decision.

        So if there is no loss of sale, how could their action be considered wrong? When I share my idea it often makes people think divergently about whether they want to pirate 😉 because it doesn’t rely on broken analogies

        • Yeah I agree there’s a big difference between the two, but I still think it’s a very simple concept.

          I create tutorial videos, for example. I make my living (support my wife and 3 kids) by selling those to people.

          I also buy a lot of tutorials and memberships around business-related stuff.
          I think if something was created to be paid for, and we’re actively looking for a way to get it without paying for it, it’s morally wrong.

          Things like patent law exist to protect people from having their inventions “stolen.” Why is this any different?

          • Keldon Alleyne

            Well patent law exists to create a monopoly on a new market. Just look at all those patent trolls and trivial and broad “inventions” the digital sphere is now rife with.

            But yes that’s an almost similar reason to mine, which is just that it’s dishonest 🙂

            Although it’s easy to speak like this when it’s easy for me to afford expensive software and can confidently be sure I could afford just about anything on the market. In fact I thought like that even when I had very little, buying things everyone who had more money than me thought were too expensive. So perhaps mindset plays into it too

            • I think we’re on the same page. **high five**

      • AntoxaGray

        that’s strawman argument

    • AntoxaGray

      Never worked for me that way. I have paid software and pirated software, and I have same attachment to any of it, regardless how much paid.

      Can you show me scientific proof of that psychology, with paper and statistics?

      • Keldon Alleyne

        I’ve provided you with more than enough details to search for papers and studies yourself.

        • AntoxaGray

          So, that’s your wishful thinking then.

  • Dave

    I steal all the plugins and then I donate to the companies I steal from, amounts that I think are fair. So for a $2000 plugin I would donate say, $200 to them which is what I can afford. The way society is moving, there is no middle class so the outdated pricing model is done as far as I and most lower income people are concerned. Because of the widening gap in income levels, there needs to be an economy based upon that. If I was making millions a year I would pay $10000 for the plugin. Makes a lot more sense.

    • I don’t know why that logic only applies to plugins? I don’t walk into a high-end restaurant, eat the meal, then decide how much I will “donate” to their business. If I can’t afford the restaurant, it’s not their fault. I shouldn’t eat there.

      • Dave

        I don’t think you get what I am trying to say. The gap between rich and poor is widening. These plugin companies thinking they can continue charging thousands are dreaming. Those days are over. People do not pay for music anymore, thus all prices from producer rates, studio rates, engineering, plugins, DAWs etc all have to come down by many, many percentages. Recording music is basically a hobby now even for those that have “made it” in the biz. Every year the number of sales decreases and it is going to get a lot worse. Eventually when all music is free, how much do you think these companies will charge? Probably something more in line with what I am willing to pay.

        • Yeah I get it. You may be right that their business model won’t hold up indefinitely. But they’re staying in business. So people are buying. If I disagree with a company’s pricing structure, and feel like they’re over-charging, why would I want to use their product?
          And if I do want to use their product, I choose to pay what they’re charging.

          • Dave

            Morally you are totally correct, but realistically people are going to do what they have to do in this poor music climate and nobody can stop them what with torrent proxies and VPNs.

            • You’re right. It’s a moral issue.

              The funny thing is…all this debate on stealing plugins, and you can get fantastic mixes with stock plugins if you know what you’re doing.

              • Dave

                To a certain degree but there is a reason some of the great mix engineers use certain expensive plugins, they just sound better. I can record a great riff on an Epiphone guitar through a Crate amp and it will sound good but if I play it on a ’58 Goldtop Les Paul through a 1968 Plexi it is going to sound better, that is a fact.

                • Yeah but you can’t say that playing the Gibson makes YOU better. And the professionals are professionals because of their talent.

                  • Dave

                    Yes, I can say that if I record the same part using the Gibson as opposed to the cheap Epiphone that yes, I sound better therefore it makes me appear better. If my mixes sound better because the plugin helps get sounds warmer or cleaner, then my mixes will seem better. Attaching quality to use of stolen plugins does not make sense. If Bob Rock stole the plugins and mixed The Black Album, it is still going to sound great. Now if he had to mix it on a BR16, no it is not going to sound great, I don’t care how hard he tries.

                    • I think that’s where we disagree. A pro mixer will get pro results.

                    • Keldon Alleyne

                      You do make an important point. A pro mixer knows what needs to be changed, so doesn’t look to the plugin, but instead engineers with whatever he has.

                      Maybe he’ll utilise a microphone that has an unusual frequency response as a low pass, or he’ll construct his own high pass filter from electronic components if he has to. But whatever the case he will get the desired sound, and most times it won’t require anythinganythingmore than stock devices.

  • giovanni

    some of you asked how we would feel if nobody bought the songs we made… well, the moment i will start making money with my music, i will start considering to legally buy the plug ins i used.

    but untill then, i dont wanna live on the street just cuz i spent my rent on music softwares…

    in other words, if at this stage i start to learn how to use these expensive daws n plug ins i stole, there’s a remote chance that i will make some money out of my music and that in the future i will start to use part of this money to buy new cool plug ins or new libraries, thus giving some revenue to the developers.

    on the other hand, if i couldnt steal these programs, i would learn a lot less stuff, killing the remote chance of making some money out of music. and in that case, i will give up on this hobby cuz it’s taking me nowhere, the music i make sounds cheap because i’m using cheesy free vsts (the rent, remember?) and vsts developers will never ever see a dime from me.

    i think this makes sense. it’s the same principle according to which if i buy a fake chanel bag for my gf, it doesnt mean chanel lost 1k dollars, because i wouldnt have bought the real one anyway…

    • I understand your point, but what if I wanted to start a landscaping business, would it be okay for me to steal the lawnmowers and only pay for them if my business made money?

      • Man

        …but as previously stated. That isn’t a truly relevant argument structure against the benefit and ability of using plug-ins in our current reality. We aren’t stealing their lawnmower….They have, and will always be in control of their lawnmowers, and all future models of lawnmowers. Pirating may be immoral to any particular party, but the lawnmowers aren’t in any way actually being taken from the respective party.

        • True. The argument breaks down pretty easily. What about copyright? What if someone takes a song you wrote and records it as his own and tries to sell it? He’s not technically taking anything from you, but it’s your intellectual property. Whether he makes money with it or not.

          • Bjorg

            Again though, that’s not what he is talking about – “the argument [still] breaks down pretty easily”. Your analogy does not match his situation – a person who wouldn’t have bought it anyway and through piracy can develop talent that might allow him to make cash and pay for something which he wouldn’t have paid for otherwise. To match your analogy, he would need to be taking their software, copying it, and then reselling. Two completely different situations.

      • AntoxaGray

        Not the same thing.

        Music production is virtual. Lawnmowers are exist in physical world. We dont have yet (nano)techlology to pirate hardware.

    • Chuck Costello

      Justifying software piracy by saying it’s the only thing available to learn on is ridiculous. I also think it’s ridiculous to justify piracy by saying when and if I make money from the music I make with pirated software, then and only then will I consider paying for them. Truth is, you don’t need expensive plugins to make and record good music. I learned how to create good mixes on stock plugs first because I wanted to know I could do that before I spent money on something that wouldn’t help me if I don’t know how to use it. There are plenty of free or inexpensive plugs to use not to mention DAW’s like Studio One come standard with Presonus interfaces. You even get discounts on further updates later if you find you need more out of the DAW. But to justify pirating based on future potential income is ridiculous.

  • giovanni

    some of you asked how we would feel if nobody bought the songs we made… well, the moment i will start making money with my music, i will start considering to legally buy the plug ins i used.
    but untill then, i dont wanna live on the street just cuz i spent my rent on music softwares…

    in other words, if at this stage i start to learn how to use these expensive daws n plug ins i stole, there’s a remote chance that i will make some money out of my music and that in the future i will start to use part of this money to buy new cool plug ins or new libraries, thus giving some revenue to the developers.

    on the other hand, if i couldnt steal these programs, i would learn a lot less stuff, killing the remote chance of making some money out of music. and in that case, i will give up on this hobby cuz it’s taking me nowhere, the music i make sounds cheap because i’m using cheesy free vsts (the rent, remember?) and vsts developers will never ever see a dime from me.

    i think this makes sense. it’s the same principle according to which if i buy a fake chanel bag for my gf, it doesnt mean chanel lost 1k dollars, because i wouldnt have bought the real one anyway…

    I think you’re clever enough to understand this

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  • Mr Flodgycolonjgarvey

    Wrong or not, it’s still not stealing. Here’s a lawyer’s take on it:
    Though you do make a compelling point. Gear acquisition syndrome is potentially even more pernicious if you can just grab whatever the hell you want for free.
    Personally I do use pirated software; I will use stock plugins and freeware/stuff I can actually afford, but sometimes the best solution is a hugely expensive plugin that I will never be able to buy on my pitiful budget. So for me, “stealing” plugins hasn’t made my mixes worse. It’s made them better.

    • Stealing, copyright infringement. Call it what you want. I see it all the same.

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  • AQ

    Understandable sentiments on the morality of the issue, but the conclusion “stealing plugins makes your mixes worse” is nowhere established. Cheap rhetorical excess. If a plugin has any practical utility at all, then it’s possible for one to “steal” it, learn to use it properly and judiciously, and have it enhance one’s mixes. Denying that is like denying that cocaine feels good… because it’s illegal! Anyway, the moral debate is fraught with rhetorical excess too. IP sharing is problematic, but it’s not really accurate to call it “theft”. Traditionally theft requires someone to be deprived of the stolen item. That’s why stealing a car is such a dirty rotten thing – cuz you’ve deprived an innocent person of a car. IP sharing just isn’t like that, at all. In a sense, it’s almost the opposite. Yes, it’s still a problematic issue and needs to be addressed, but if we are to honor our IQ’s, we should use more sober and realistic language to talk about it.

    • Xan

      I think the theory that this is based on is that if you “steal” a copy ov something rather than “purchasing” it, then the author ov that package is deprived ov the (fair!) profit that he would have otherwise got.

      So by taking a copy without paying for it you are effectively stealing his *potential* income for that sale. This works the same for if you download a bands music instead ov buying it (unless they offer it for free, but then they are fools).

      However this is in some ways flawed logic because it is assuming that the person who “stole” the copy would have indeed “purchased” it if they couldn’t have taken it for free. But usually this is not the case on the internet. Nowadays if someone can’t get it free (either legitimately or not), then they simply don’t want it. Essentially it was a sale that would have NEVER been anyway.

  • Roger

    On the technical side, there are a lot of free plugins that will get you there.

    On the moral side, I would say that no one should make money on someone else’s work. This means that if you’re selling a song that you’ve recorded with pirated plugins, it’s just plain wrong!

    It’s basically the same principle as someone selling music that belongs to someone else, or selling software that was freeware on the first place. For me, there’s a distinct difference between something used for personal use or for public/business – and that applies to anything, from music to software.

  • Xan

    When someone one day releases the “Make Everything Instantly Sound Awesome (M.E.I.S.A)” plugin I’ll buy it, even if it costs $666 dollars. 😉

    Until then I’ll not pay a cent for any plugin. Why bother? A lot ov free ones work really well. I don’t need many cause I have EARS! hehe

    Lately though however, the only digital functionality I have been using during a major mastering project (100 band mp3 comp disc) is Normalise & volume adjustment. Those aren’t plugins at all. All my mastering has been through an analogue signal chain consisting ov the preamp in a Foxtex R8, a Yamaha EQ (with spectrum analyzer), a Kvltronics Mangler & a little Alesis Nano-Compressor.

    This chain has gotten pretty much all the tracks on the comp to within 1-2db ov each other in terms ov perceived volume and has made them phat sounding (pro sounding) as hell to boot..! 🙂

  • Smurf

    You can get the Classic series from the Acoustica site…

    I could list a ton of free ones that are well worth the downloads (and my site, which is getting re-done at the moment lists them + others) but the bottom line is that an EQ EQ’s, a Compressor Compresses, and a Reverb, well, verbs!

    There are a LOT of different ones that have different tones & ways of working, but the bottom line is if you do not know how to use them, they are all useless & will drown you in a sea of presets that teach ya nothing.

    Take it from me, at one point last year I had over 600 VST-VSTi’s on my system, and tho I had fun running thru the sounds, I never finished a track all the way…I have a ton of “demos”, but nothing finished. But there have been a few keepers, like Ambiance, GlaceVerb and SIR reverbs with the free Bricasti M7 IR’s, PushTec 5+1 A EQ, and the entire TbT collection. Grease Tube & ToW compressor’s are the bomb on bass, and the TLs Maximizer is a great Master Limiter…..and The Price Is Right for all of them!

    I have also recently purchased the Don’t Crack (now Plug & Mix) collection of effects. Simple to use, sounds good, and are different enough to add to the native S1 effects. And I saved for over 6 months to get this $299 collection, but in the end I will get free effects as they come out, so it is worth the investment.

  • Andrew

    I use mostly stock plugins as well; however, there are some great freeware plugins floating around that I do use ALOT on my projects, but I personally don’t think the average consumer can hear the difference between a little higher quality plugin over my stocked ones LOL (I know engineers can! which is why I use some freeware plugins on my projects that are WORTH adding to my arsenal.

    Overall, DON’T STEAL! (Doesn’t anyone have morals anymore…*sigh*)

    And if you want to try the freeware plugin route try to avoid being a freeware junkie (basically someone swept into downloading as many free stuff as possible and forgetting the purpose of making music. That was me a couple months ago, but I am now rehabilitated LOL).

  • Bob Sorace

    I used to download stuff all the time, or just get a copy from someone else until Microsoft caught me! I have since had a moment of clarity, where it IS stealing, and this notion that people feel they’re “entitled” to things drives me crazy! I continue having this arguement with a friend of mine that wants my password to my Netflix account so he can get it without paying!

    However, I agree with Jason that they need to come up with something else to protect their product… I’m scared to death something’s going to happen to my ilok, and I’m going to have to pay through the nose just access stuff I’ve already bought!

    • Wayne Johnson

      I had my iLOK die on me and you have to buy a new one, or have a spare. You have to send in the old one to verify the licenses that are on it. I think a better system needs to be used as my Pro Tools was unusable for almost 3 weeks. I do have a spare one now but rarely use Pro Tools. I use mostly all the stock plugins because I have have come up with a lot of presets in The Pro Channel of Sonar X1 expanded. Studio One V2 is an awesome program and has some great plugins. Blue cat has some pretty good free plugins and you can find them At the bottom. I also have have several other plugins I bought and rarely use. Learn to master what you have and your mixes will go much quicker without having to search for 20 minutes. I know I’m guilty of it myself.

      • Xan

        So Wayne, you say you rarely use Pro-Tools now…just curious about what you usually use instead? 🙂

        • Wayne Johnson

          I usually use Sonar X1 expanded with all the additional comps and Fx. I have about 30 presets for what I want to use it for and the channel is already preset with the plugins for say vocal or drums. It’s like having a channel strip available on every audio, bus, and master fader. The workflow is very fast. I also use Studio One V2 it’s fast and easy to use. I like to master in studio one also. I refused to upgrade to 10 because it was over priced and it’s not yet 64 bit. The upgrades to clip gain etc. was not a major leap forward. No offline rendering and Sonar and Studio one both have clip gain. Pro Tools is a good program but my workflow in Sonar and Studio one is much faster as both are basically drag and drop with bi-directional drag and drop. I might upgrade to Pro Tools when they go 64 bit. That’s my reasons for not using it.

  • Jason

    Lol a studio owner I know told me about some kid on Craigslist selling thumb-drives packed with stolen plugins. The guy confronted him about it and, he swears, that the kid DID NOT think he was doing anything wrong….moral OR legal.

    On another note, I bought NI Reaktor 5’s Prism plugin and it was such a hassle to install due to all the “anti-piracy” protocol. If plugin companies wanna keep paying customers, they need to find a way to protect themselves while also keeping the verification process clean and somewhat hassle free IMO.

  • hillelKAPS

    I have my own story that is similar. (no I didnt rob anyone, keep reading)

    I bought EZdrummer and a few EZX’s off a guy on ebay, being slightly naive about these sort of things, I bought it at a “too good to be true” price because it seemed like the seller was trying to get rid of it. I received 1 CD followed by an email from the seller on how to get all of what I bought out of the 1 CD, if this wasn’t suspicious enough, he also gave me a link to a Key Generator to crack the software so I could use it.

    I went through an inner debate for a while being that I had actually spent money on this and I came to a final conclusion –

    -For all of us that are looking to “make it” in music, how can we possibly expect to get that far if we are using stolen/hacked materials to get there? If you slave away for hours just to come out with a single and then it gets passed around and no ones buys it, wouldn’t you be upset? I’m not saying by us being honorable and not stealing/torrenting/copying etc. we will stop people doing the same to us, but theres always the idea of Karma. We cant expect to become well known honest people trying to do what we love if we’re taking things that other people love from them

  • I completely agree! I use the stock Logic and Pro Tools plugins for almost everything (as well as a couple of freebies off the net) and I get decent results. One of my university lecturers actually warned us against what he called “plugin hoarding” because you often end up spending more time choosing a compressor than actually using it, which seems crazy to me!

    • Jason

      Yeah I think that’s called “plugin frenzy” or something LOL.

      It comes down to, not being the best engineer, but having the best studio, collecting a bunch of crazy plugins but barely even using them. Instead of taking the time to learn any of them, it becomes easier to hunt for and download a new one that might somehow magically transform their music into hits. If it doesn’t within a few clicks or after trying a couple presets, move on and download some more. Super sad IMO!!

      I think its also similar to the guy who polishes and supes up his ’67 Camaro or whatever and NEVER drives it…though that guys not breaking any laws.

  • Havard
    • Jason

      This guys stuff is commonly regarded as some of the better freeware plugins out there too:

    • dan

      The classic series by VJAERHUS AUDIO are pretty good. They’ve went out of business though so you will have to look around to find them. But they are still around.