SeeMusic skyrockets monthly subscription by 450% with nothing new to see


Update: We’ve had a response from SeeMusic developer, Peter Shannon with the reasons behind the price increase. Here it is with our response.

We’ve been a fan of the SeeMusic app for a while now, after finally discovering what was driving those cool piano performance and tutorial videos on the web (with hat tip to Woody’s Piano Shack for the info). Last year we decided to get the software and use it for some of our own tutorials, as an interesting and alternative way to deliver content for those who appreciate a music keyboard visual to aid their learning.

SeeMusic describes itself as “the best solution for creators looking to make online piano videos quickly and easily. In the past, creators had to use a combination of tools, including expensive software and plugins.  Renders took about an hour for a minute of video. On a state-of-the-art computer, SeeMusic renders HD videos faster than realtime.”

Using it on a Mac, and getting it from the Mac App Store, was never going to be the cheapest method, and we discovered that the software author had employed a monthly subscription. Even with horrendous dollar to UK pound conversion, it was only £1.99 per month so we decided it was worth the relatively small investment.

SeeMusic is a nice piece of software. It is a little bit clunky, and is quite slow on our ageing Mac Mini, but it generally does the job and produces some nice effects. It generally renders well although some of our longer performance pieces went out of sync and I ended up kludging the video in a separate editor to try and maintain synchronisation throughout the piece.

All of this for a reasonable monthly subscription. I’m not a huge fan of ongoing subs for software, but it is definitely the way the industry is going. I understand that. So long as the price is reasonable for what’s being offered, and it guarantees ongoing development, bug fixes, support and the like, it seems like a fair deal. I’m all for developers getting paid for their hard work…

…until an element of perceived greed creeps in.

I’m not an idiot. I know the price of everything has shot up, and continues to rise at an alarming rate, as the world reels from pandemics, wars, supply chain issues, and such like. Everyone is feeling it. And there’s just the general price rises you’d expect year on year.

So receiving an email from Apple this morning with the subject “Your Subscription Price Increase” didn’t phase me. I expected perhaps an extra 50p to be added.

How much?!

“SeeMusic is increasing its subscription price per 1 month from £1.99 to £8.99. You have until 1 April to agree to the new price and keep your subscription.”

Wowzers!

£8.99?

Let’s put that into some context. I pay less than that per month to Adobe to access Photoshop. The Reason+ subscription service is not even twice that price per month.

Is SeeMusic really so good to justify a 450% overnight price increase?

Now, really, a software developer can charge whatever they like. Perhaps the creator of SeeMusic is in dire financial difficulties and is trying to ramp up cashflow. I don’t know.

It just looks… greedy.

We’re not even talking about a physical product for which raw materials have increased in price, or which now costs twice as much to distribute. Nothing, really, has changed. Not from one day to the next, at least. Not to justify such a massive monthly increase.

Sadly, the developer likely knows that those who use SeeMusic and who may have built up quite a following for themselves with this particular visual style, will either have to stump up the cash, try to find an alternative (not necessarily easy) or just give up.

Cancelling the subscription has no effect on any content already created with SeeMusic — if it’s out in the wild on YouTube or elsewhere, it’s there. It can’t be recalled for lack of payment. Going forward, though, it causes issues.

I don’t know how many active SeeMusic users there are. It’s a fairly niche creation tool and I don’t dispute how much time and effort it has taken to create and maintain it. This ridiculous price hike feels like robbery.

What’s also concerning is that the product is still rather jittery. Perhaps acceptable at £1.99 per month but not at 4½ times that. Social media pages haven’t been updated in well over a year; the forum ticks over but isn’t exactly thriving.

If a lot of people refuse to pay the massive sub increase and leave, this will potentially slow development and bug fixing even more. Those who remain risk paying a lot more money for a piece of software which is slowly dying.

Sorry to say, we can’t justify the expense of SeeMusic, and will either drop or modify our video plans accordingly. Despite feeling bludgeoned by this, we’re not going to cheapen ourselves or SeeMusic by using a watermarked (ie unpaid for) version.

It also means that, even if the developer reverses this price rise, or lessens it, we’re rather averse to taking the risk again.

Farewell SeeMusic, it was fun while it lasted.

Developer Response

We have received a response from Peter Shannon, who develops SeeMusic, offering a number of points with regard to the price increase. Here are his main arguments with our response.

$10 a month is what SeeMusic’s main competitor, Embers, charges.

I wasn’t aware of Embers. When I took a look it seems that Embers is currently very much in Beta phase, with Patreon funding. It seems to be PC only so I couldn’t download and test it out, but having said that, the minimum pay level for getting any kind of membership benefit currently stands at £4 (about $5.30). Perhaps that doesn’t get you a full version, but it’s less than $10. If I’m missing something here, do let me know.

$10 a month is the base market rate for highly specialized, niche software used by content creators at a high level.

I’m not sure where this has come from. There are many varieties of specialist software, some charge hundreds of dollars, some are a flat download fee (Logic Pro, for example, a one of payment of a couple hundred dollars), others are perhaps even free.

I’ve received many emails from successful content creators suggesting that I charge more for subscriptions.

That’s fine, some people want to pay more, and I genuinely am not one who believes creatives should be short-changed for their work and time. The main issue is the massive jump with no warning…

The initial subscription prices were always introductory prices to help get the app working, not a sustainable plan for the long term.

It’s a great pity this wasn’t made obvious anywhere (publicly at least). The “introductory prices” seem to have been in place for well over two years, and then have suddenly been hiked. It might have been more ethical, with this financial plan in mind, to at least make users/customers aware of the fact that prices would increase significantly in the future.

The app will remain free to use with the watermark.

No-one of any worth uses software with obvious watermarks. It cheapens the whole thing. Now perhaps I’m already going to be accused of being ‘tight’ for not sucking up the price increase, but particularly in the current economic climate it’s just too much to bear.

I’ve always paid for software, and I currently have other subscriptions. Things have to give somewhere. Sadly (or perhaps not) this niche market is not only small but many of the software offerings are really poorly developed and maintained. SeeMusic (despite the annoyances I found in use) does seem to be one of the better ones.

In any case, good luck to those who need and want to continue using it. I do hope it’s worth the massive price increase.

Disclaimer: These prices are based on the Mac version from the Apple Store, whose prices have been set higher due to the large cut Apple takes. However, expect similar increases on the PC version.