Reported first by Scoring Notes, it appears that Ultimate Guitar has acquired MuseScore.
MuseScore has been an outlier in the world of music notation. It is an open source, free program that can do most of what musicians (including educators) need a program to do, and it runs much like Sibelius. This past weekend, I visited with a fellow music education techie who mentioned that they have not upgraded Sibelius since version 6, and are generally using MuseScore for most of their work.
Music Notation is a crowded industry right now, with programs such as Sibelius, Finale, and Dorico, as well as programs like Noteflight and Flat.io, and platform specific solutions such as Notion (Mac/Win or iOS), StaffPad (Win), Komp (iOS), MusicJot (iOS), Symphony Pro (iOS), Forte (Win), and others. George Hess just wrote about this today as well, and he does what I do…most of his work in Notion (Mac/Win or iOS). I move to Finale when I can’t do what I need to do in Notion. All of these are paid programs. And now there are notation editors in programs such as SmartMusic and Soundslice, too!
MuseScore has been the outlier. Several years ago, I asked college students what programs they used, and they all used MuseScore. What did you use in college? Do you still use that application? Chances are, you do. What does this mean for the future of software notation? And now that MusicXML is not controlled by a company and can be freely used by every application (and new versions of MusicXML will be even better)—there is nothing to stop you from using whatever program you want to use. So why not choose free?
The large elephant in the room has been this: why pay for a notation program when a free version does nearly everything that you want it to do, with similar results? The answer usually lies in three categories:
- I need tech support that I can call; I don’t want to rely on a community for answers
- I want a program that is easier to use (Notion and Dorico)
- I need all the power I can get because I am a super human
I’ve been watching MuseScore for years, occasionally using it (the Sibelius-type note entry is hard to wrap my mind around as a Finale user), and have simply marveled at its existence. George mentions that the core developers of MuseScore wanted to make money with the program even when it was free. I suppose they have, at least now with the acquisition.
Ultimate Guitar has been very useful for me as I make ukulele play along videos—I check their chords when I work with music to make sure that chords I am using are correct. However, if you want all the functions of Ultimate Guitar, you need to subscribe (e.g. transposition). We call this a subscription/freemium model, and it works. In the world of iOS apps, it is one of the only ways to sustain income over time (versus the one time purchase of an app).
MuseScore and Ultimate Guitar are both promising that MuseScore will remain free and open source; and that MuseScore 3 (which could once again change the playing field) is still under development. All that said, I’m betting that MuseScore will be a freemium application, offering basic features for free, but advanced features for an affordable monthly or yearly rate. Again, mind, you, that is MY guess and has NOT been stated by either company. Just remember…if you want a product to make money, you have to actually collect money somehow.
Soundtrap was recently acquired by Spotify. Peaksware acquired MakeMusic and Alfred. Hal Leonard acquired Noteflight. Acquisition seems to be a part of the process in the field of music technology.
If you want to follow this industry more closely, follow the work at Scoring Notes and the thoughts of George Hess!