What in the world is going on at MakeMusic?

This past week, several people provided insight into what has been going on at MakeMusic.

Externally, life has been pretty quiet regarding MakeMusic products. The fall SmartMusic rollout appeared to go rather smoothly, and Finale 2014d was recently released. As a negative, Finale 2012 (and earlier) is not compatible with the latest version of Mac OS (Yosemite)–so individuals like myself that (this far) chose not to upgrade to Finale 2014 are left with the decision to upgrade or to defect to another product. MakeMusic will not be releasing any patches for old versions of Finale, and support for Finale 2011 will cease in January.

The new CEO of MakeMusic (or, more accurately, the existing CEO of MakeMusic’s mother company, Peaksware) wrote a blog post detailing the personnel changes in the company as the transition from Minnesota to wraps up in the next few weeks–and also detailed that there will be no near-future release of a new version of Finale (in other words, if you update now, you will get good use out of your update). There are many new people in leadership roles in the company, some with a long-term relationship with MakeMusic. Only Michael Good, creator of the MusicXML format, remains from the most recent leadership of the company, and none of the leadership from before 2013 is with the company at this point. Think about that–a 100% change in ALL leadership positions (including product leads) in less than two years.

Gear Fisher, CEO, mentioned that 30 people from MakeMusic accepted the offer to transition to Boulder. As a result, there is some continuity in the move–but remember that MakeMusic employed over 130 people in Minnesota, so over 100 former employees are no longer with the company. Over the years, I had developed relationships with a number of MakeMusic employees, and none of them are with the company any longer. So that is certainly a sad thing in the midst of other good news. I am also a bit disappointed that no Minnesota law makers (or the governor) tried to get MakeMusic to stay. At one point, MakeMusic was one of the Top 50 companies in Minnesota.

Ultimately. MakeMusic has a clean slate–whether needed or not (Finale users have mixed opinions on this) to prepare Finale and SmartMusic for the future. One of Mr. Fisher’s goals is to make it easier to pubish works from Finale to SmartMusic, with the idea of SmartMusic also being a publishing platform.

I’ll be honest–I would rather see different pricing tiers. For example, I hardly use any existing literature as a choir director and would make my own content in SmartMusic–so should I pay as much as a band director whose students use SmartMusic for methods books AND band music? Furthermore, in my school where 40% of our population is on free and reduced lunch, a large percentage of our students cannot consider a $40 per year subscription to SmartMusic–even though that $40 doesn’t seem like much. After these two years in my new teaching job, I now know what it means for students to not be able to afford something.

Much like a football fan at the beginning of the season, I am hoping for the best and looking forward to see what will happen with Finale and SmartMusic. Really, there are only two options: improvement or decline.

Michael Good recently wrote about the changes in MusicXML that work with SMuFL, the new notation standard that is being overseen by the Steinberg music notation team–all which lead to a future in the publication of digital (versus paper) music, and that really encourages me. I don’t know the other new VPs and team leads at MakeMusic, but having Michael on board calms my concerns about the company.

Still, could anyone have predicted the changes at Sibelius and Finale while the former Sibelius team inches closer to releasing a brand new notation product? That new product would have struggled against the former strength of Finale and Sibelius–and furthermore, as MuseScore nears its 2.0 release, how is the notation market furth changed? These are crazy times in notation–and highlights the importance of SmartMusic in MakeMusic’s arsenal.

Trust me, you will also want to read Philip Rothman’s (Sibelius Blog) recent article about MakeMusic.


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