App Tease

I’ve been making music using only iOS devices and music “apps” going on 4 years now. In that time I’ve seen, used, beta tested, and reviewed countless music apps. I own somewhere around 400 music apps alone. Not counting all the crazy games and gadget apps. Addiction anyone?
In all that time development has gone berserk bringing new, improved and capable apps. It’s been nothing short of astonishing with how far it’s all come. Not to mention the insane low prices. Oh the prices! So low, for such brilliance.

In the early days using iOS music apps had been a bit cumbersome. I sure thought so. I had to record in one, audio copy and then paste into another. That was never enjoyable, but it made a lot of things possible that otherwise couldn’t be done without hooking up to other hardware or computers.
I hate wires, iTunes File Share is dreadful, so record & audio copy were essential features in any music app I would take seriously. Nothing against apps that didn’t have audio copy, it was just what I needed to do what I wanted to do wire free.

Audiobus finally arrived in December 2012 forever changing how I make my music, as I am sure it has done the same for many of you. It essentially brought everything together in a seamless and simple process. Not unlike how music is made on computers with DAWs and VSTs. They day I got Audiobus was the last day I used ACP in my process. It wasn’t until January when more developers supported Audiobus in significant number. That number grows day by day. Today everything I use to make music goes through Audiobus one way or another. See ya ACP!

After years of wishing, and hoping for something like Audiobus, and now having it, there’s no going back. So why do so many new music apps come out with no Audiobus support? Why? It is now the most necessary feature for any music app. It has resolved any need for any other method of transferring audio between music apps. Any other method is just painfully outdated. Obsolete even. Somehow new music apps keep coming out with no Audiobus support. It doesn’t make sense? Why release an app that makes us drool and get all excited about it, only to learn the apps developers failed to recognize that they left out support for one of the most critical features?
“App Tease”!

Hey look, a really cool new synth arrived in the App Store that sounds amazing! It’s a must have! Oh, wait a second? It doesn’t have Audiobus support. It doesn’t even record? What? You can only transfer audio via iTunes File Share or through some proxy via audio copy paste in another app. For the love of gawd why?

I’ve asked developers many times, and invariably hear the same absurd response. “We are listening to our customers feedback and will implement the most requested features in future updates.”
BullSpit! Seriously, they didn’t think end users would want to use their hot new music app with the single most important feature currently available today? If they didn’t know that, then how’d they even know to include a volume control? I can see the response to that would be something like: “Oh we didn’t know if end users wanted to actually hear anything? We will consider that for a future update. Thank you for your interest.”
OK, that was extreme. To me though, missing something like Audiobus support in the initial release of a new music app is pretty extreme itself. It reminds me of my favorite comparison of offering the coolest sports car ever made but with no steering wheel. They’ll be upgraded to support that later. Ferraris without steering, that’s what these new music apps without Audiobus are to me.
Apps made before last December get a pass. So do Midi controllers for the most part. They are jumping on board and updating often in most cases anyway. It’s the newest music apps that are making my head spin by arriving without it.

A year ago many of us would dismiss an app as a “toy” if it failed to have its own record function and audio copy. Today if a new app comes without Audiobus support, and no support even for the old ACP tech from past years, its hard to not feel teased. It’s a no brainier. New music apps must have basic functions and supports. Unless the intention is for novelty use.

Maybe I am alone on this? Maybe no one else wonders why a developer would create a super cool new music app that everyone will want, but not make it useable by today’s standards? It’s possible these are just the rantings of a mad man. Nevertheless, I am begging developers to please stop teasing me with the absence of Audiobus support, but are otherwise highly desirable and cool new music apps. No one wants to buy a Ferrari that only goes strait, and will be upgraded later if enough customers ask for a steering option.
No more App Tease, please. You know Audiobus support is crucial. Just finish it, then release it. 4 years ago it was tolerable. Today it’s just silly.

Can I get a second from any other end users in the comments? I’d like to hear from you if this strikes a chord. No pun intended.

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40 comments

  1. It’s complicated, but many softwarecompany goes light in first version, just like Propellerheads Figure…
    Figure has gone from a teaser to an amazingly complete little soundmachine with Audiobus and many more options…
    I think that there’s a secret agenda behind many popular apps today…. And, many company has’nt even got on the bus yet! Where’s IK Multimedia and Apples Garageband?
    I agree with you that everything has gone fast since iPad come around. What to expect the coming sex month?
    iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 will roll the iOS musiccommunity further against Musical Pros…

    By the way, we really love your review! Keep up the good work, Smitematter!

    /Errka from Sweden

  2. I totally agree with everything you’ve said, except I do still use Audio Copy as much as Audiobus. Audio Copy is still a great way to transfer tracks made in other apps into Auria, so I don’t want to lose it yet.

  3. Thanks guys! I’m glad I’m not totally alone on this, and you have some solid insights. I agree ACP shouldn’t be removed from anything. It serves a purpose and can be helpful, especially when Audiobus is unavailable or not an option. I hope to see more readers comments and thoughts on this.
    Cheers 🙂

  4. I’m with you 100%, and I’m pretty sure our list of “WTF?” apps would probably match. It makes no sense that any serious developer, let alone a bigger name one, would release a new app without Audiobus support.

    In the past week, I’ve been playing around with running my iPad 2 into Audiobus on my iPad 4 via a cheap, tiny little Behringer UCA-202 interface. It’s still portable, but a lot less so than just using a single iPad as I have in the past. And it’s totally a workaround for the new Audiobus-less apps and the classic apps that just probably won’t ever get updated.

    Honestly, the cables make me cringe a little and it almost feels like cheating. I already find myself somewhat dreading the process, so I think I’ll probably grow weary of it fairly soon, especially once the last of my critical apps come on board. Once that happens, I seriously doubt I’ll be investing in audio apps that don’t support Audiobus, especially those in the $10 or more bracket.

      1. you can connect the rca audio out of the UCA-202 to the rca audio in of the UCA-202 (that´s called loopback), monitoring in the UCA-202 headphones jack. Audio goes from app 1 through the CCK – UCA – CCK to app 2. It works like a physical audiobus.

      2. That makes sense as long as there is no output from app 2, otherwise you’d be routing that back through as well, right? So you couldn’t monitor existing tracks in a DAW, for example, without essentially doing a bounce on every track. Or is there something fundamental I’m missing?

        If I’m correct, I can see that being useful for non-ACP/Audiobus apps for the initial track, or if you had tight enough sequencing to not need to monitor existing tracks. For me, that would definitely solve some of my SpaceWiz woes, which is win enough to try it. 🙂

        Do any of the major iDAWs (e.g. Auria) allow you to route output to internal vs external hardware? Meaning you could monitor the incoming audio and existing tracks via the iPad headphone jack and only the audio coming from the background apps would go to the USB device? Looking through the Auria manual, it looks like it’s possible, but not really clear.

      3. Yeah, that is correct. I use it for apps that don’t support ACP and AB (apg composer, borderlands, wopr, etc).
        Auria supports that kind of routing but you have to turn monitor off in order to avoid feedback in the incoming audio. So you would have to monitor Auria audio in the ipad and background app audio in the UCA.

      4. hi Mike,could you please tell me how to connect the 202 so I can record iMini .I have a Ipad3 & an Ipad Mini and I tried but I cant get it to work .Thanks,Joe

    1. Hi Clif, so if I get a UCA 202 I can record iMini from my Ipad Mini into a daw on my Ipad 3 Via Audiobus? If so can you please tell me how they connect together? Would I use the mic input in Audiobus on my 3? Thanks for any help/advice

  5. I totally agree with you dude, however you will probably find its part of a licence agreement with Retronyms, to further plug their software & development, ACP should stay in apps , I am a huge fan of Audiobus, however I do still use ACP even for audiobus enabled apps.

    I am not a great keyboard player so I need to practice certain pieces over and over until i get them sounding sort of right (luck mainly) then ill acp that part over, I lack the playing skills to record something live via audiobus.

    Audiobus is used mainly by me for recording loops with effects atm, but things in my ios world are always changing alongside the apps I tend to favour.

  6. You are not alone. I want audiobus compatability or I’m not interested. We want to keep looking forward and not in the rear window. Thanks for blogging this!

  7. You are right, but many developers ignored ACP at their peril because it meant that Apples ‘sandboxing’ just slowed workflow without the ability to integrate. My dilemma is even worse on that my favourite app is Nanostudio which I use to piece together my songs does not use Audiobus yet. I then export to Auria to work with the audio itself. So I am stuck with ACP in Nano because its all it offers.

  8. I thought I read somewhere that currently Audiobus is not available to all IOS Music App developers. That Audiobus was allowing a select few apps at a time until the bugs were worked out and then they would release Audiobus to everyone. That would make sense to me. Does anyone know if this is true? Otherwise I agree with Smite Matter. I have commented to many developers that no one will buy an IOS music app anymore unless it has Audiobus.

  9. Hi, thanks for the rant, I enjoyed it! I imagine that given the much lower profit margins, adding AB support might be too expensive until the new app proves itself on its own merits and starts bringing in some cash. I have now told some developers I will not buy their new wizbang app until it gets AB, pure and simple. Hopefully they’ll get the message.

  10. I agree in general, but ACP is still better than Audiobus in some aspects. It is more precise and safe. And sometimes faster, for example for the creation of loops.

  11. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    New apps should have AudioBus – I totally agree 100%.

    I don’t agree that Copy/Paste is replaced by AudioBus. They do 2 totally different things. Copy/Paste excels at giving you control over the length of a snippet of sound: you can trim it to an exact length (in AudioShare, of course) then cut/paste into the exact position you desire.

    The perfect option is to have both AudioBus and Copy/Paste in an app.

    I think the reason some smaller developers don’t include it in version 1.0 apps is because they are flat out just getting the app written and into the store. They see adding AudioBus (or copy/paste) as just more time and work.

    Also, as far as I can tell, app developers are not that great at marketing – they don’t realise that many of us just won’t buy a sampler that doesn’t have copy/paste or Audiobus. We don’t want another synth that is missing AudioBus. They don’t realise they are losing sales because of missing features.

    But perhaps they will learn. Articles like this can only make things better.

    1. I’m not necessarily disputing your point about developers and marketing, but the reality is that if you are creating anything you plan to sell, there is no excuse for not understanding your target market. It honestly would surprise me to find out that an independent dev is not following these convos (blogs, twitter, google groups, etc) to some degree… I just can’t see creating a sophisticated music app with such isolation from the rest of the iOS music developer and end user community. I think it’s more likely that corporate devs might be in the dark, but then corporations creating music apps should have marketing departments who are researching the market.

      My point is, I guess, that there is no excuse for not understanding the needs and desires of your target market, and if a dev or company chooses to release an app without interactive features like ACP or Audiobus, they should understand that they are reducing their potential market by doing so.

      1. I tend to agree with you on this. Though iMini wasn’t the app that inspired me to write this post, it is an example of developers not understanding the breadth and width of the iOS music community. Making it exclusive to Table Top is is like releasing a movie on VHS only. Thus while satisfying a small group, leaves out the much larger group of end users very serious about their music, but not wanting to be pigeon holed to a single restrictive platform contained solidly inside a box all it’s own. That doesn’t mean Table Top isn’t excellent, it just means that folks like me who want greater freedom and better mixing and mastering tools would have to find a work around in order to use the synth. Pointless in my opinion, we are beyond looking for work arounds. Audiobus and even ACP (without another app as proxy) are available to make workflow, actually flow. Having to jury rig a work around while the proper tools are already available is absurd to me. Not the work around itself, (I think the ones mentioned in others comments is brilliant) but just being forced into that work around. It was avoidable and if only the developer cared or understood how most of us work, they’d not foolishly omit supports for what we want, need, and actually use. Now some other new app “Protien…”- something or other comes out, looks interesting, but utterly missing the point right off the bat. If I’m not mistaken, It only has iTunes File Share? Really? If so WTF? Hi, it’s 2013, you must’ve bumped your head coming out of the time machine from the past? It’s so aggravating to see iOS music come so far, but to still see development that’s painfully behind the curve.
        Nothing says “Don’t buy our new music app” quite like releasing a new music app with just iTunes File Share. I wouldn’t buy it.

      2. Agreed. That particular app also hits another pet peeve of mine, which is accurate relative pricing. I won’t go too far into hijacking this post, but it does relate to functionality, interoperability and usability. For context, here are a few apps that are regularly priced at $4.99: Seline Ultimate, miniSynth PRO, Progression, MoDrum, Stochastic, Molten Drum Machine, Arctic Keys, Mixtikl 5, Orphion, Magellan Jr, GarageBand, Protein Der Klang… see what I did there?

  12. Mainly I think this is a result of NOT doing enough market research and therefore, not finding out what is going on in the mobile music space – some people think it isn’t taken seriously and initially release a “sophisticated toy” then find out they’ve made a major oversight. It’s possible they have done market research but Audiob.us have declined providing the SDK – which in the case of iMini and Protein would be a crazy decision by AB, so I doubt it’s the case.

    IMHO A music app without ALL the options, copypaste, ability to record inapp and also Audiobus is selling itself short and not going to be in my setup.

    Itunesharing could make a “comeback” if it becomes a pool-type system where all audio apps can have read-write access to a single shared folder (and it’s subfolders), so that it becomes far easier for musicians to organize all their files. ATM it’s a messy set up – God knows how much MB I’ve currently wasted due to duplicate files…

    Best workaround for this seems to be Audioshare rightnow.

    1. I think the whole “plug your device into your computer” thing needs to go away. With iOS 6, Apple was proud to announce that you can buy and use an iPad without even owning a computer, which is obviously not the case if you have apps that rely on file-sharing. I think the real long-term solution for apps that need file-sharing would be for the developers to implement iCloud support (available now), and then, as you were kind of saying, for Apple to provide an interface for managing iCloud data Dropbox-style. Then an app like AudioShare could implement the iCloud API and provide for copy-paste of audio and midi files between music app document folders – no wires, no computer. 🙂

      1. Yes, good idea. Why not? Any new music app released without fundamental supports for sharing and transferring audio among other music apps should not be purchased. No more accepting promises of future updates that may never come. We end users are the bulk of the consumer demographic. If we refuse to purchase anything that is not currently supporting the fundamental audio sharing and transferring tools we want, (whatever you want) then maybe, just maybe some developers will wake up? Otherwise we will keep seeing new incomplete music apps like Protein selling and sitting in the top 100.

  13. Cliff wrote:
    <<>>

    I agree with you Cliff. Please note that I wasn’t making my point about developers and marketing as an excuse for the developers – I was just stating what I think is the fact: they are so busy getting the app made they don’t really think (or know) about marketing. But, of course, it shouldn’t be like that.

    To may amazement I have see apps that have no YouTube video, apps that have no manuals, apps that don’t explain in the iTunes description how you export/import audio (or even if you can), apps that list in app purchases but don’t explain what they are or why you would want to buy them… etc ….

    Developers are lousy at marketing! 🙂

    smitematter wrote:
    <<>>

    Yes – every week there are at least 1 or 2 new apps released that I am interested in but don’t buy due to the lack of AudioBus or copy/paste.

    1. Yeah, the no manual thing floors me for a lot of apps. Given, there are some apps that are so intuitive that they really don’t need a manual, but those are definitely exceptions. Also, my preference is for a PDF version of the manual so I can look at the manual and the app at the same time, followed by an in-app manual. IMHO, only offering an online version is lazy and undermines the portability of the device.

  14. Cliff wrote: ” Also, my preference is for a PDF version of the manual so I can look at the manual and the app at the same time”

    Yes, same here.

    I like to be able to check out a PDF manual before I buy the app to see exactly how it works.

  15. I truly believe Audiobus is a revolutionary concept that needed to exist for so many reasons; the stunning portability, the way every app is like a spice, a unique character, that the big DAWs tend to smother over in their native state. I am, simply, in love with Audiobus. HOWEVER, I also get the idea that with Garageband, to bang out quick and dirty scratch tracks, pure, simple, songwriting, it is in its own league. The thing that is good about Audio Copy Paste is that now and then, we like to work discretely within an app, focussing on its quirks, dimensions, and musicality in a more undistracted way…if something sticks, move it on over. Finally, some amazing apps, like Ellatron, should be on the bus, but I like them as musical instruments in their own right. Plug it into an amp with the out jack, and play some live music for a change! Nothing wrong with that. While I have become an ABus fanboy, I am not going to resort to being a Nazi about it just yet. Life does go on outside the bus…

  16. Great post David, and great discussion in the comments. Just wanted to throw in my 2c as an app developer to whom much of the ‘guesses’ apply. Hopefully this is useful info for all, particularly for app developers considering AB.

    1) iOS offers developers a number of ways to play sounds in their app, ranging from “simple and easy” to “powerful and not-easy”. Don’t want to get too technical, but the bottom line is that AB is super-easy to integrate for a developer using CoreAudio (the most powerful audio system in iOS), and hard-to-impossible to integrate for devs using any simpler audio systems. Most advanced music apps are already using CoreAudio, but indie types often start simple to prove out their app concept before diving deeper. E.g. for guitarism I didn’t use CoreAudio until almost a year after initial launch. Along the same lines, a developer typically has a long todo list of things to integrate with – Soundcloud, ACP, CoreMIDI, Virtual MIDI, WIST, Audiobus, etc etc. So they probably just think of all this as future stuff, whereas IMO the reality is that there’s Audiobus, and then there’s everything else. I definitely feel that devs shouldn’t lump AB into the list of “future things” but put it front and center in their plans.

    2) It’s 100% true that most indie app developers suck at marketing. I’m certainly guilty of that. guitarism’s been out for over 2 years, yet most people only found out about it when it got onto AB (thanks to AB’s compatible app listings). I’m a guitarist not an electronic musician, so most of these forums and sites are fairly alien to me. I didn’t know about this whole community or that folks buying $20 electronic synth apps would even care about virtual guitars, until one of my users emailed me asking why he hadn’t heard of guitarism these last 2 years, and then proceeded to send me a list of relevant iOS music sites and blogs, whom I then contacted and got great responses all around. Being a great indie music app developer requires a bunch of skills, including coding, sound design, musicality, visual design, interface design, and marketing. Very few people are good at all of the above. Actually I don’t think anyone really is… which is why teams do much better than solo developers (but then they have to share the profits too).

    3) I think it’s also true that some of the larger software developers have business motives to not support Audiobus as it would undercut their existing revenues. I don’t know the folks at Retronyms, but if I was them I would worry that adding Audiobus support could be a suicidal move for TableTop. If they don’t support AB they may lose some customers, but they’re still making really good money on TT so why rock the boat and risk losing all those profitable (and high-margin) IAPs? The world of iOS music apps is not very lucrative, so devs have to think about these things in order to survive. If people stopped buying TT IAPs and demanded AB support, they’d eventually do it.

    1. Thank you so much for that comment! Developers are always welcome to chip in, and add some helpful bits of info that end users don’t always know. Being an end user myself with no development experience; I find your comments extremely informative. You opened my eyes a bunch. I appreciate that!

      1. Just to add on to my earlier comment regarding Audiobus ease-of-integration for music apps – today Michael Tyson (the developer behind Audiobus) released another project of his called The Amazing Audio Engine, which basically offers a much easier system for app developers to do advanced audio stuff, and is automatically compatible with Audiobus. What this means is that anyone creating a music app for the first time would be well-advised to use TAAE as their underlying audio engine (rather than try using CoreAudio or any of the other iOS audio systems) as it’s easy to use, offers advanced features and ensures that your app will be AB-compatible right out of the box!

  17. As a IOS musician working totally in the “live improvised” workflow, I personally place full MIDI implimentation (including int/ext clock sync) as my highest priority, followed by audiobus.

    I do however understand that for small developers, there is a line after which the product can be released and become (hopefully) profitable, I think that as long as the core functionality is there, and an explaination of the upcoming additions (devs such as Sonosaurus and Beep Streeet have been good for this via their forums) …I can handle the wait. much better this then them rish their product because they need it to start earning.

    also, while I am here,

    I use an Ipad 2 and audiobus in a live situation can be a daunting experiance, I have to go very careful which apps I have active at the same time, normally any more than two and i am asking for glitches and dropouts whilst switching.

    I Imagine that this will become less the case as the models of Ipad improve, is anyone here using an Ipad 4? how many apps can you run smooth at once?

    I

    1. I’m using iPad4. But no matter the device it’s best to use as few apps simultaneously as you can. I usually only use (including Audiobus) 5 at any one time. I’ve not had any problems. Not even seen a “low CPU”warning yet.

  18. Very enjoyable discussion! I have another thought on this, that given the state of making money from app sales, some devs might be better at marketing than you think. Any new music app can expect an initial sales surge, then start a steady decline. Adding major updates later gives a sales boost, especially Audiobus which does a little marketing for you by adding you to their list.

    I agree that Audiobus is essential for a good music app, and I think ACP is old but still somewhat useful. I wrote an article last year on ACP apps, and with all the research I did for that piece I can’t imagine doing a whole song like that any more! I like to think of it like making music on a regular computer DAW. Sometimes you need to copy audio in, but a lot of the time you need to record into a track. IOS music right now I think strikes just the right balance between freedom and limitations.

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