Next Sibelius release to feature UI updates, new licensing options

by Philip Rothman on April 11, 2015 · 38 comments

in News

Sib_Box_sqAvid today announced plans for the next version of Sibelius and, with it, plans for future Sibelius upgrades and licenses. Sibelius version numbers, like the symphonies of its namesake, will end at 7 (well, technically 7.5). Going forward, Avid plans to move away from version numbers with Sibelius and instead offer more frequent releases, which will likely be less comprehensive than previous major releases but also have the potential to be more responsive to user requests and changes in technology.

New features

The Surface Pro 3 has been receiving a lot of attention from music notation aficionados recently, thanks to the new Windows app StaffPad, a music handwriting recognition tool which makes full use of the tablet’s features and active pen-and-touch technology.

The next Sibelius version will also take advantage of the pen technology, by allowing users to add, select and delete objects in the score. We haven’t yet seen this in action, but one can envision the process being very similar to how StaffPad works for music that has been rendered in its scores.

Selecting music in Sibelius using a Surface Pen (promotional image provided by Avid)

Selecting music in Sibelius using a Surface Pen (promotional image provided by Avid)

Users will be able to add annotations in the next version of Sibelius, allowing you to draw directly on the score using a mouse, trackpad, USB tablet, or Surface Pro 3 Pen. There is good potential for this to be an effective tool for collaborators and educators, or simply to jot a note to oneself. Annotations will be grouped intelligently and always attached to the bar you add them to, and that the annotation layer can be optionally hidden.

If you use annotations to write in musical markings, however, it does not appear that they will automatically convert into Sibelius’s customary musical or text objects; you’ll need to input those in the usual way.

Annotating music in Sibelius (promotional image provided by Avid)

Annotating music in Sibelius (promotional image provided by Avid)

Windows users will be getting some more improvements from the next version of Sibelius, as it will support DPI scaling on Windows displays that support it. Sibelius already supports Retina Displays on Macs.

The PhotoScore Lite software from Neuratron that comes bundled with new versions of Sibelius will include support for NotateMe Now, and the upcoming PhotoScore Ultimate 8 will include the full suite of NotateMe features.

Owners of the Surface Pro 3 — and those with their eyes on one — must be feeling the love with the back-to-back announcements of StaffPad and the new Sibelius features, including NotateMe and PhotoScore. A workflow that involves beginning scores by handwriting them in StaffPad or NotateMe and then polishing them in Sibelius — all on one device that takes full advantage of the active pen-and-touch technology — will soon be possible in a way it wasn’t just a couple of weeks ago.

Additional features announced at this time are multi-touch support and UI improvements to the Keypad, Transport and other floating windows.

The new features will, for now, only apply to Sibelius, and not the entry-level Sibelius First product, according to Avid. Avid also says that future Sibelius upgrades will be more closely integrated with Sibelius Cloud Publishing, other products on the Avid MediaCentral Platform, and the Avid Marketplace community, although specific details were not available at this time.

Feature announcements for past versions of Sibelius have generally been timed to coincide with the public availability of the product. In this case, however, Avid is eager to demonstrate the new features in advance of its release, and will be doing so next week at the international Musikmesse trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. If you are attending and have a chance to check it out, please let us know what you think in the comments!

The next Sibelius version will be available in this quarter of 2015, in a number of licensing options described more fully in the following section.

Licensing changes

Similar to how it is offering the most recent version of Pro Tools, Avid will offer Sibelius in two main licensing options, to be delivered through a new Avid Application Manager app, or accessed through an Avid Master Account:

  • A perpetual license will be offered, which is similar to what is currently available. This entitles the user to use the software in perpetuity and includes one year of upgrades and support, with the option to purchase another upgrade and support plan at the conclusion of the year.
  • A renewable license, or subscription, which enables the user to essentially rent Sibelius for a period of as little as one month, with upgrades and support included for the terms of the license. These are offered at lower prices than the perpetual license, but, of course, once the license expires, so does the user’s ability to use Sibelius.

Essentially, Avid is making licenses time-bound rather than version-bound. In the past, major upgrades were packaged together in a new release, for which the user paid in the form of a new perpetual software license.

In the future, though, as long as the user currently has an upgrade plan or subscription in force during the time that a Sibelius upgrade is released, the user will be able to install the upgrade without further charge. All Sibelius products will be downloadable (not cloud-based), with a DVD option available for an additional cost. Educational-based pricing and site licenses will also be offered (see below for full details on pricing).

Consumers are already accustomed to installing frequent updates to mobile and desktop software that has already been purchased, and other products like the free desktop web browsers Chrome and Firefox issue regular upgrades with little fanfare, so in some ways Sibelius’s new licensing and upgrade structure will be familiar.

In this case, though, even perpetual licensees will only be entitled to a limited term of upgrades. The software will continue to function beyond the initial one-year support term, but a new support package will be required for the licensee to take advantage of upgrades issued after the initial term.

Still, if you only fire up Sibelius a handful of times during the year, the subscription option could be a much less expensive way to be able to use the software. Likewise, buyer’s remorse is less of a concern for perpetual licensees who in the past might have been wary of buying the software when a major upgrade was rumored to be imminent.

Users may wonder about important maintenance updates, and whether those will be available outside of the upgrade plan. Avid has said that if an update is required such that it resolves important problems, they may push it to everyone who is eligible for the current release, regardless of whether the user’s upgrade plan has lapsed, to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Current users of Sibelius 1 through 7.5 are automatically considered to have a perpetual license at this time, and need only to purchase the annual upgrade plan to stay current.

It won’t be possible to for perpetual licensees to defer renewing an annual upgrade plan; licensees will need to renew at the one-year mark, although Avid says that there will be a grace period to afford users the opportunity to renew. If a plan lapses, a user must either buy a new perpetual license or move to a subscription.

It is possible for perpetual licensees with a lapsed plan to purchase a one-month subscription, as a low-cost way of accessing the latest Sibelius version for a limited time. Once the subscription expires, however, so does the user’s ability to use the most recent version; the version in force at the time the upgrade plan for the perpetual license expired will remain available for use.

With version numbers disappearing, users may be wondering about backwards-compatibility with files created with future versions, and how this will be addressed. How and when the file format would change is something that we will have to wait and see, but Avid says that version numbers will still appear in the info window and that they will try as much as possible to keep backward compatibility.

Avid’s standard support will be included with all current plan-holders and subscribers. Support  includes troubleshooting via unlimited online support, and one phone call per month.

The main thing users will be keen on evaluating is whether Sibelius is updated regularly and robustly enough for their needs going forward, so that both upgrade plan-holders and subscribers feel that they are receiving value in exchange for regular debits from their bank accounts.

Avid’s Sam Butler gives a comprehensive overview of Sibelius’s new licensing options and new features in this video, released today:

There is also a post by Avid’s Andrew Wild at the official Avid Blogs Sibelius.

Pricing details

  • Sibelius monthly subscription (one-month license subscription with updates): $24.99/month; €19 Ex-VAT/month; £22.80 In-VAT/month
  • Sibelius annual subscription (12-month license subscription with updates): $239; €219 Ex-VAT; £190.80 In-VAT
  • Perpetual license for Sibelius (includes 12 months of updates): $689; €639 Ex-VAT; £550.80 In-VAT
  • Sibelius upgrade (from a single-user license of a previous version of Sibelius): $89; €79 Ex-VAT; £70.80 In-VAT
  • Sibelius crossgrade as perpetual license (from Finale, Encore, Mosaic, or Notion): $199; €189 Ex-VAT; £154.80 In-VAT
  • Sibelius crossgrade as annual subscription: $120 for the first year, $239 thereafter
  • Sibelius for Education* (available for students and teachers as a perpetual license with updates): $299; €279 Ex-VAT; £238.80 In-VAT; annual subscription: $99; €89 Ex-VAT; £82.80 In-VAT
  • Sibelius for Education Institution licenses* (multi-seat licenses may be purchased from an Avid Authorized Reseller)

* Academic versions of the software require verification of academic eligibility.

More details can be found at the licensing page on the Sibelius web site.

Updated at 2:20 pm with information from Avid about a grace period for renewing annual upgrade plans, and with a link to the post on Avid Blogs Sibelius.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicholas Freestone April 11, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Well, to say this is unexpected would be an understatement (the timing of the announcement, I mean, not the move to subscription licensing options). I’m really not sure if this is a positive move, as this dinosaur would rather keep with the old-school fashion of version numbers and bi-annual updates!

The perpetual licence route will cost slightly more to stay up-to-date than it previously did – as a UK buyer, I will now be paying £70 per annum (meaning just over £140 each two years) rather than the c. £120 that I would pay for a new version upon its release every other year. So not *much* of a financial difference. But the massive difference is that one is obliged to go down the route of either keeping up-to-date through the perpetual licence and paying the fee each year and then being obliged to take the new features or leaving the annual fee and being forced to either buy a new perpetual license (at full price, really?!) or then go onto the subscription model. Does this mean is that I will need to decide whether to ‘opt-in’ to all updates henceforth or to, effectively, never update again unless I either my a new full-price perpetual license or go onto the subscription model?

And this update really is very slim-pickings. I get that the pen stuff is cool, but the majority of users won’t be interested in that, the new Photoscore and Audioscore features have been developed by the Neurotron team, rather than the Sibelius team, so effectively I would be upgrading (and paying £70 per annum) purely for the addition of multi-touch gestures?!

I would far rather have waited until 2016 for a proper Sibelius 8 release with some notation enhancements (be that dynamic part enhancements, better tuplet handling, line overlaps or the myriad of other requests on the IdeaScale site), UI enhancements, rather than the slim pickings of this rather half-hearted announcement.

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Ralph L. Bowers Jr. April 11, 2015 at 1:50 PM

Hardly unexpected.

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B April 11, 2015 at 2:05 PM

Outrageous.

The name ‘perpetual license’ is a sick joke. The ‘renew it or lose it’ terms are more like extortion.

This feels to me like rent-seeking behavior, to use a term from economics: Avid appears to want to suck more money from customers while providing little (or no) additional value.

Given how much of a pain it is to switch to another application, and given the relatively small number of competitors, they have something of a captive audience.

Since firing the original Sibelius development team, their track record of updating the application is awful, and I’m skeptical of that changing. (And FWIW, none of the announced features interest me.)

I hope Steinberg releases their notation app soon, and that it doesn’t require a subscription. If it’s good and if converting Sibelius files works reasonably well, I’ll be willing to make the switch, and I’ll be relieved to not do business with Avid.

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Hannes Vanlancker April 11, 2015 at 3:24 PM

And where is the improvement for engravers in this new version?? Is there a list of features available? The pen tool is comes in more handy in stead of using the comment tool now, that’s true. But have they used the comments on http://sibelius.ideascale.com to really improve the core of the program and to get rid of the annoying bugs that keep appearing in every new version?

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B April 11, 2015 at 4:36 PM

Yes, Hannes – as a matter of fact I’ve just encountered a good number of those bugs today, like collisions and/or awkward stacking of accidentals in chords, improper default placement of ties, ending brackets that need to be retracted because they extend incorrectly over a line break, and more. Really basic stuff.

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Raphael D. Thoene April 11, 2015 at 3:40 PM

It is indeed questionable whether this update will provide professional engravers and in particular composers working in heavy time schedules (film and so on) with real new features. Instead of working at the core of the program to “re-invent” things, Avid adapts a typical current business model in which the user is not at the centre of attention but the steady cash-flow for the stock holders. Either continue working with 7.5 or switching to the new Steinberg program appears to be the better option.

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steven schuster April 11, 2015 at 3:47 PM

It may be time for me to bail out. My feelings about Sibelius have gone from delight at Sib 4, 5, to joy at sib.6, to irritation at 7.5, and now to despair that I may have to move out and find another program which will do the job. One where the shadow of extortion is less palpable.

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Nicholas Freestone April 11, 2015 at 5:58 PM

It might be poor form for me to do this (if it is, apologies Philip, please do feel free to delete the comment), but I have laid out some fuller thoughts in a blog post – too big for a comment here!

https://njfreestone.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/sibelius-new-pricing-arrangement-my-reaction/

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Steve Bye April 12, 2015 at 1:06 AM

I don’t think Avid understands Sibelius customers at all. I’ve never heard anyone wanting the new features being offered. The links to StaffPad sound very weak. Bad news all round. I don’t expect many people to buy into this plan.

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Claude Durand April 12, 2015 at 5:17 AM

Sibelius user for many years, I consider it an organized racket. I will renounce to continue with Sibelius in these conditions. As a teacher, I will discouraged all my students to obtain the software. There are other solutions ….

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Andrei April 12, 2015 at 9:11 AM

Superficial, trendy “updates” that are meaningless to this Sibelius user (since 2005). I’m not going to pen (like this), and I’m most certainly can’t imagine myself going back to Windows.

Convoluted (smoke screen?) and (slightly) manipulating/extortionist pricing scheme. With all due respect, even Sam sounded unconvincing and cornered – I don’t envy his position, and wish him luck!

Clearly Avid DO NOT get Sibelius users. Hopefully they’ll care about the backlash, although I highly doubt it. I predict a run on existing 7.1 and 7.5 and eventually an exodus to Steinberg when released – a “1-2” punch for Avid.

I will happily stay with my 7.1.3, in perpetuity.

Anxiously awaiting responses from the more authoritative “veterans” that are still silent. Worrisome!

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Bill April 12, 2015 at 11:26 AM

I don’t hear anything that will get me to move from Version 6.2. It still works for me, it’s comfortable, and I know it so well that it’s fast and efficient. If I wanted to input by hand, I’d go back to my old set of pens and Alpheus vellum! I’m anticipating something good from Steinberg, but I suspect that product is still a couple of years away. I’m willing to wait.

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D April 12, 2015 at 12:47 PM

I too can hardly wait for the Steinberg project to be released, although I agree it is probably going to be a longer wait.

Ironically, I’m just finishing a review of MuseScore 2.0 and am amazed at the progress that they’ve made since 1.3 (both of them free) – and then this announcement. The idea of paying in perpetuity for features that may or may not be provided is certainly a great business model for Avid — if anyone goes for it. Given all the bugs that are still in 7.5, I had hoped that they might announce some fixes (however cleverly worded to sound like new features), but I realize how ridiculous that sounds.

I ended my review of Finale 2014d with the comment that it was the first version I felt could draw me away from Sibelius, and this announcement is certainly a strong shove in Finale’s direction.

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Jacob Vilhelm Larsen April 12, 2015 at 5:38 PM

I have been using Sibelius every day for the last 10 years as professional composer and arranger and Im affraid this announcement will force me to hand on to my 7.5 version of Sibelius or maybe look for alternative solutions.

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oddy April 12, 2015 at 9:30 PM

that is very disappointing :( with that kind of Cakewalk’s licensing option .. another avid failure .. just like my 11R’s fate .. bad after sales service .. always been avid’s trademark .. too bad sibelius bought by them .. i wish it was by Yamaha or other good company ..

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Cameron April 13, 2015 at 1:11 AM

No one so far has mentioned that this “new” Sibelius version is not Mac-supported. I have been a Mac user for many years, starting out with Sibelius v.1 and now sticking with 6 (since so many people complain about 7+) — and am very disappointed that Avid doesn’t seem to see fit to adapt the latest version for Mac.

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Richard April 13, 2015 at 4:59 AM

Where are you seeing this? It’s still listed as Mac-compatible in the tech specs, but of course that could be referring to the current version.

In any case, I don’t think I’ll be upgrading, and my school certainly can’t. Most British schools have music departments that work on an annual budget running through an academic year. That means if I want to bid for a major expenditure like this upgrade, the bid needs to be in by February for the following September. So the soonest I could now get money for this would be Sept 2016. I suspect most educational establishments will be in a similar position.

Not that I see any reason within the new feature-set to pay for it in any case.

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William Kay April 17, 2015 at 11:50 AM

Sam Butler has written in a post on the Avid blog that new features are coming for both Windows and Mac versions, in addition to the Surface Pro functionality. Given the large number of Macs shown in the promotional video, it would have been strange if they’d dropped support for it!

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Terence Jones April 13, 2015 at 7:32 AM

Well it looks like 7.5 will be the end of the line for me then after seventeen years of using Sibelius (I started on the first Windows version in 1998 as a degree student). I simply can’t justify a heavy annual subscription what sounds like minimal upgrades to me.

I’ll be looking at alternatives for the future.

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Max Tofone April 13, 2015 at 8:22 AM

I suspected that a move from Avid to a subscription base model was in the air, and I have to say that I am not impressed at all by this announcement!

Over many years I have spent a lot of money in upgrades for Sibelius and I was happy to pay a reasonable fee every year or so for a substantial update with important new features but I am sorry to say that this move to a subscription model is probably not going to retain some top of the field engravers and the like if no new evident improvements will be added. I have a feeling that Avid is addressing more newcomers than supporting the many professionals that are and have been using the software for many years and invested a lot of money…

As far as the new touch and pen technology are concerned, it is certainly exiting to see the potential but no everybody will have the means to spend $1000 for a Surface Pro 3 tablet or touch screens to take advantage of the new features.

Overall I am disappointed and I am even more eager to see the new Steinberg scoring and notation application released.

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sousperregui April 13, 2015 at 11:35 AM

Quite amazed…Après lecture de ces traits! Depuis
le printemps de Sb2 (1999)…un orage semble
avoir tout detruit…Je dirai 1 seule affirmation:
LA TRADUCTION EN fr. en est INEXPLOITABLE
emilio

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B April 13, 2015 at 2:57 PM

Adding to the sad joke that Avid has become: I logged into my master account to send them feedback on the new Sibelius plans. After clicking on the ‘Contact’ link and then ‘Sales’ (I didn’t see any link for general feedback), I was taken to a form that said ‘Enterprise sales’. I entered all the required info, but couldn’t find a field for entering a question. I clicked on a purple bar that looked like a scroll bar, and then was taken to a page that said something like ‘thanks for contacting Avid’. Oh well. At least I tried.

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Metaharmony April 13, 2015 at 4:01 PM

At least Jean Sibelius burned whatever sketches he had composed of the 8th symphony instead of publicising anything of lesser value to what had preceded it.

Sibelius user since v.2 here, and one that didn’t skip, but bought every version that was dished out, and never really regretted it.

I am excited about the outdoors pad composition (if there is a virtual keyboard on screen as I have requested elsewhere – some of us write complex stuff), however, like others pointed out, there are lots more issues to be addressed first for the professional composer – unless AVID is trying to corner the school market and wishes to throw all professionals to Finale, or whatever Steinberg comes up with.

I for one refuse to use Windows, and will only do so on a pad (if there’s no other choice).

More usability (score and parts major issue), more intelligent plug-ins, more professional engraving, and much better sounds, are the things I would pay for.

I would go for a perpetual license if I were a “happy camper” – not at all interested in the other arrangements, but it should really be 2 years before I should have to pay for anything, and it would have to be a major update to boot!

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Engela Fullard April 14, 2015 at 9:56 AM

I have not seen one single positive response!! Most people seem to be disappointed and disillusioned but not surprised. I have also checked out the new MuseScore, and am extremely impressed.

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Barney April 14, 2015 at 1:55 PM

For years I worked as a Senior Sales Manager for an International FMCG Company. Over those years there were many Mergers, Acquisitions and restructures. I learnt one very important thing, whilst employees had to deal with the “Change Curve” or be dismissed/ leave (already seen by the loss of UK Development Team) customers on the other hand really do have a choice, especially informed customers. They will either accept the changes reluctantly over time or switch to another product or keep using their existing product and not upgrade. It is clear that the new pricing structure is geared to treat Sibelius as a “Cash Cow” and Avid Management are getting this in quick before a new rival appears on the scene. It is sad that an apparently inept senior Management at Avid can only use this septic business strategy rather than having a true belief in the future of this once great product. R.I.P. Sibelius for I fear you are not long for this world.

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Paolo April 14, 2015 at 4:51 PM

It looks as if this Senior Manager was still convinced that Microsoft is the way to go. What kind of innovation have we seen in the latest years? The Microsoft Office Ribbon, and Surface support. Not exactly something that I would expect from someone really interested in music. Nor too informed on recent IT developments.

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Mike April 14, 2015 at 2:13 PM

There’s nothing positive about this announcement. The new licenses are a joke, too expensive and a bit insulting. They’ve just rushed out some half hearted “feature” announcement based on the recent success of staffpad. From what I can tell its not even similar… its just stuff we do with the mouse anyway! Way to try and jump on the bandwagon and simultaneously piss off all your users guys!! I do think subscription models can work — but not like this. I won’t upgrade. I’m going to buy the new steinberg app as soon as its out and get staffpad for sketching. Bye sibelius!!

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Melinda Yin April 14, 2015 at 2:41 PM

I agree, Mike, that a careful listen to the video suggests the new tablet “features” are things we do with the mouse anyways: click noteheads into pitch position on the staff. That is _not_ the same as the new innovation of staffpad, where you are literally drawing in both pitch and duration with the stylus in one gesture.

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David O'Rourke April 15, 2015 at 1:32 PM

Sibelius since the team were terminated feels like the boxer getting beaten up for 11 rounds and being told “You’re doing fine …” by his corner only to be told round 12 that he needs a knockout! This is a final play to draw cash from us users with no assurance that the product will survive in the mid to long term. Sam can’t even look straight at the camera as he pitches this!

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Claes Wegener April 15, 2015 at 3:47 PM

That was it for me too.

After all these loyal years devoted to Sibelius. The smartest notation software in the world has turned into the most annoying and smartest money machine.

I will be looking for Steinbergs new release as my replacement.

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Wheat Williams April 20, 2015 at 9:12 PM

OK, that’s the last straw for me. Avid and Sibelius are clearly choosing Windows and the Surface tablet (which has sold in very small numbers at a constant financial loss to Microsoft). It’s clear that going forward the Apple Mac OS X version of Sibelius is going to be a second-class citizen with a smaller set of features and capabilities. As with Sibelius 7, Sibelius will continue to build their product around Windows UI ideas and conventions to the detriment of the Mac version.

I’ve been a Mac user for 28 years (and I’ve been using Sibelius since version 5). I’m not going to invest further in a platform that expects me to do the work on Windows. There’s no way I’m getting a Surface tablet, and it’s clear that Avid and Sibelius no longer care about the Apple iPad and iOS (Remember Avid Scorch for iPad? I got it and thought it could change the world, but then came a lengthy silence followed by a certain infamous mass-firing of some important Londoners…)

I’ll keep limping along with Sibelius 7.1 until I can find the means to switch to a different notation software, on the Mac.

OK, thanks for making all this clear. Sibelius is going in a direction where I’m not going to follow.

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Hadley Hazen April 21, 2015 at 11:41 AM

I’ve been a Sibelius user for years. I sold the program to music teachers and professional composers and musicians from the early days.

I am totally disappointed about the subscriptions. The 7.5 version is quite buggy and you have to a lot of working around procedures to accomplish what you want to do.

I’ll probably convert my Sibelius files over to xml and use finale or MusScore. MusScore has a lot of potential.

Adobe products did the same things and open source programs seems to be the way to go.

It is truly a sad day for the music software business.

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Hadley Hazen April 21, 2015 at 11:42 AM

Correction. Early days when I worked at local music store in Denver. I sold the software.

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David Sale May 1, 2015 at 9:37 AM

Sounds like everyone will be walking on this one. What an insane policy.

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Rikky Rooksby May 1, 2015 at 10:27 AM

I’ve been a Sibelius user since version 2. Don’t like the sound of this either. I agree with posters that the subscription model sounds exploitative for no good returns for the customer. It was a tragedy when Sibelius went to Avid. I doubt I’ll be going any further with Sibelius on this basis.

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Paul Zinniker May 1, 2015 at 1:02 PM

Oh no! I have a banana, maybe I can hire it to Avid-Folks when they’re hungry.
I never would pay monthly for a software!

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Tim July 29, 2016 at 5:26 AM

Just upgraded to Windows 10 from 7 and now my Sibelius 7 additional sound sets Chamber, Lite Jazz etc no longer work and I’m left with general midi. Avid only respond with it’s no longer compatible with the new Win 10 OS and the only solution is to upgrade to Sibelius 8 (with new sounds bundled) which I can ill afford! Has anyone else experienced this? Rant over!!

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Hadley Hazen July 29, 2016 at 8:33 AM

I would recommend to upgrade to Sibelius 8. Windows 10 with all of it flaws is still a better operation system than 7 or 8.3. I found that Sibelius 7 and 7.5 had a lot of flaws in transposing instruments etc. I had to do a lot of work a rounds.

There is also alternatives to Sibelius open source and not like Finale or Musescore.

Avid is posting new upgrade plans you might want to investigate. I have hundreds of Sibelius files from the beginning so for me alternative programs was out of the question.

Best regards,
Hadley :)

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