The Music App Gamble

Something has been bothering me for a while. I have this folder on my iPad (both actually) I call “Music Apps With Potential”. It is full of incomplete music apps that are missing vital, basic functions. I can’t use them in their current builds because each is missing what I (most people I think would agree) consider very basic functions, and supports.
Those which I consider to be very basic are AudioCopy/Paste, midi, Audiobus, and or a built in recording feature. Basically the things that all iOS music apps should never be without. I’m not talking about expansions, or additional features that will increase usability. No, I am talking about the stuff that most of us expect and need in order to use the app to begin with. Stuff that if missing inhibit and or impead use.

It makes me a bit sad actually. So many music apps with great design. They’re innovative, unique, and just down right cool! Some are real game changers.
I knew they were half baked when I bought them, but I did check with each developer to confirm their development plans before purchase. Each of these were confirmed that the vital functions I had asked about, will be added in future updates. The time frames for these promised updates vary from app to app, but each had been confirmed.

With each confirmation I happily supported what I thought to be excellent development and I paid for the app.
Most of the time apps of this type don’t remain in the “potential” folder very long. They usually get the update in a timely manner or as promised. Unfortunately some never get out of app purgatory. Too many for me.
It is a little frustrating to see them there as a constant reminder of how many times I’ve been burned.
Worse is that such great innovations are abandoned and left unrealized.

While this sort of thing is a fairly small percentage of the whole, it is common. For me it’s common enough to make me reconsider ever purchasing another music app that cannot be used the day I buy it.
I understand that developers need to make money, and I have felt sympathetic frequently enough to take the gamble with buying their apps before they were really even close to ready. Always gambling on their word being true. Too many times have I been left holding an empty bag several months or even a year later having nothing to show for it.

They may have excellent reasons but I just don’t care. I see it as a breach of confidence. A hollow word, and an empty promise. It says a lot about ones integrity to break a promise or take advantage of people who will trust the giving of a seemingly honorable word. Even though most follow through, enough don’t and leave me feeling like it is now an undesirable gamble. Risky stuff sometimes. You know what they say about one bad apple.

It’s too risky of a gamble for me anymore. Simply put, after these many unfortunate experiences having lost the gamble, I am done. Finish the app, then I will buy it. I don’t believe I am being unreasonable to expect a product I buy should be finished and ready for intended use. How about you?


  1. Doesn’t seem unreasonable. You have prompted me to delete a whole range of stuff that I never use anymore.

  2. Agreed on a lot of this. I have become Mr. Audiobus Fanboy, but I think they need to up the quality control as far as what they allow in. Those 1 dollar apps can really add up, and lately, too many of them have been almost entirely useless, or broken, or just plain gimmicky. Does anyone really know what is happening with the iOS Guru Jordan Rudess? Is he holding out, or perhaps just thinking that Audiobus has stolen too much thunder from the whole concept of mobile music production? He seems very, very smart, and I hope he can convince them (Audiobus) to really stay on track as far as maintaining integrity. Audiobus has had a huge impact on my composition process, but they do have to be held somewhat accountable for app failures that they accept. I cannot see behind the scenes here, but one thing I do now when I buy an app is look to see that the developers respond in a timely fashion to user suggestions and needs. There are as many smart, innovative musicians out there as there are cheap thrill seekers, and they are the ones whose advice should at least be listened to. If an app has not been tweaked since 2010, I just stay the hell away now.

    1. They can’t dude, it’s in the public domain now, the genie is out of the bottle, I find it hard to resist but we as consumers must learn self control ( I struggle he he he lol )

  3. Well said. This business model would not be accepted in any other industries. As a consumer, you pay for what you get. Paying for promises and potential is for investors.

    The only way to end this is to simply not buy apps that lack essential features. That would send a clear Message to the developers.

  4. Ha! Great article. I just created a fokder named purgatory (two, in fact) with 33 apps in it. Thanks

  5. I whole hearted lay agree David, I have started to delete these apps, I fact all app I don’t use but before I do I add them to my appshopper account as I own or i want so that I get notified of any changes like updates/price amendments, then that prompts me to take another look, rather than delete and forget.
    My only small problem with this way of working is that it can become a notification hell at times 🙂

  6. I agree wholeheartdely. I would really benefit from seeing your list of apps that are in your purgatory bin – to compare to mine, and to perhaps have a … well, if not “blacklist”, at least “greylist” of apps that are flagged as caveat emptor. Since it’s pretty much impossible to get a refund on a crappy app, and since some audio apps can get comparatively quite costly, it would be good to know which ones to keep an eye on, but perhaps avoid until they “mature” to the point of being actually useful.

    1. I wouldn’t be likely to make such a list as it would be a bit too aggressive for my style. For me it’s more that certain apps are incomplete rather than crappy. Some are incredibly cool apps, like Borderlands, but are just unusable as is. I mean come on, really, the only way to import is by creating an iTunes folder, load it with my samples, then sync, and then I can use them? Talk about anti mobility. Well, ok, I bought it anyway because its so neat, and I believed the update comng soon promise. 10 months later its still useless, and has not seen the update promised. Such a cool app I want to use it, but waiting all this time for it to be updated with simple interoperability is bullshit. I think the best thing to do is just suggest that people avoid ever purchasing any music app before it has basic functionality that is important to them. In my opinion that would be any audio music app without Audiobus, Jack, or at least AudioCopy/Paste. Midi controllers are the exception. No matter how many promises a developer issues about these features “coming soon” just don’t buy it. Some of the developers need to learn to finish the app before releasing it, and stop making promises they won’t keep. They will not learn until we stop giving them our money for half assed, incomplete yet very cool apps we can’t use. They say, “coming soon in an update”, I say, “no purchase until its done.”

      1. I hear you – and I respect your position about not wanting to single out apps or appear too negative.

        Thanks for mentioning Jack – never heard about it before, but it sounds very promising! Possibly more powerful and useful than Audiobus, but seems to be much less supported. The big thing that really bugs me about AudioBus is the fact that there’s no record/play sync, nor is tempo transmitted. I mean, the amount of time I waste trimming AudioBus audio just because I can’t get a sync’ed start is worth switching to Jack, if only there were more apps…. like a DAW ffs!

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