Propellerhead, a loss of conversation

discoverThe music software company Propellerhead has recently closed its forums. At the same time they released a new music collaboration service called Discover. A service that lacks a way to communicate. But how can we collaborate if we are not able to communicate?

Tell me about communication! Me being a Dutch guy trying to do my best to express myself in a language that is not my own. But I am not complaining because thanks to the English language I am able to connect to many people around the globe.

The Reason community

I remember how I completely fell in love with Reason music software when I found out about it in early 2001. After downloading the trial version I bought it the next day. And soon I began sharing patches and sounds with other Reason users via my personal blog.

My first sampler, in the early 90’s, was the Ensoniq Mirage. But thanks to Reason and the cool community behind it I could now share these sounds with any worldwide user and receive feedback on them. And I got better and better at it. Then in April 2003 I started my own company Melodiefabriek and Propellerhead software was among the first companies to hire me for sound design. Now they were paying me instead I was paying them!

This turned into a continues collaboration between my company Melodiefabriek and Propellerhead. But we’re all individuals, to quote a famous Monty Python movie. I don’t have to approve everything they do. And vice versa. One thing that was always clear was this: they are an extremely closed company. They will never ever share any information with anybody outside the company before they are 100% sure about what message they want to communicate.

What would Propellerhead do?

I know that the Props will not blame other companies for faulty software, like a bad ReWire implementation for example. And all the discussions about “Reason sucks because it has a bad sound engine” must have been painful for them, but they stayed away from it. Propellerhead got blamed a lot but often didn’t say a word.

I don’t want to say they are bad communicators, because they are not. But I do feel they should communicate more directly and openly. They should be more outspoken in my opinion. I simply want to hear these people more often because they are true experts. This is what the blogosphere brought us. Your products need to be perfect, but your thoughts, your experiments, please share them. Please tell me what’s going on.

Discover is a collaboration service that lacks communication

Discover is the new online collaboration service of Propellerheads software (see discover.propellerheads.se). I have written a post about it a couple of weeks ago. With this Discover service you can reuse somebody else’s music. Here’s a promo video of Discover:

And sure, it works. But anyone who has ever collaborated with other people must notice the big thing missing here: a way to contact a person. Getting in touch with somebody you are collaborating with is essential. But when I click on a username in Discover all I get to see is a list of tracks I can reuse but no personal details about the person or contact details. There is simply no way to contact them. And since the Props have also killed their own community, the forums, this collaboration services feels simply weird and totally unconnected to me.

I can proudly say I am a collaboration expert. I was an early adopter of Creative Commons licenses for my music. And for years I collaborated on sites like em411.com and ccmixter.org. And I am a part of Disquiet Junto as well as some other online collaboration services. Some of my CC music is used on Creative Commons promo CDs and ended up in all sorts of non-profit productions. Over the years I have given many lectures and speeches about CC in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Without a way to communicate, collaboration feels wrong to me. It feels like someone simply takes what I have made and turns it into something else. Discover will not give you attribution as an artist, which is a serious mistake in my opinion. But not being able to communicate with the people you work with is even a bigger mistake.

Please rethink this Propellerhead. I know you are human.

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13 Responses to Propellerhead, a loss of conversation

  1. EnochLight February 5, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Yes, but the service is still in beta. I”m willing to wager that a lot of changes will occur, at least of which will be some sort of communication method between users.

  2. Kevmove02 February 6, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    I understand your point, but the music itself is communication. What if the point of the new service it to see what can be created if you didn’t have the option to use words… ever. Only the music. I may never learn speak Dutch, French or Hindi, but we all have a common language that is governed by a musical scale arranged on a staff.

    • Marco Raaphorst February 8, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

      Might be a cool experiment. And what about paying with music? Any future updates for Reason: just put some stuff on Discover and be happy 😀

      • Kevmove02 February 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

        I don’t see why not. What hurdle would keep leechers out of the picture, while attracting useful content? More significantly, how many people would let go of their fear that someone will steal their music to be willing to post content to Discover? All arguments aside, I want to trust that if a person bother to purchase a legit copy of Reason and register for the service, I’d trust that they would rather respect the rules of collaboration than wear a “scarlet letter” for stealing someone’s music.

        • Marco Raaphorst February 11, 2015 at 9:45 am #

          When you first opened Reason you had to approve the license. If not, you can not install Reason. And if you want to do business with the Props, like for example you want to make a Rack Extension, you need to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement. At the same time they want their users to give up all our rights? Weird.

          Trust is a great thing, but I can totally understand people not trusting people they don’t know. And as soon as money is involved most people get evil.

  3. Mooniac February 11, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    I think the closing of the forums is a bad decision. The advanced subforum was a *wonderful* resource. I just noticed it today, as I was about to ask a question about a RE.
    – you can’t tell me that moderation is more work than handling additional ticket flow by the support group. For moderation you just glance over the posts quickly and approve the large majority of posts, and a few you kill. That’s less work than writing replies to additional tickets that will result as a consequence of the closing.
    – I’ve filed three support tickets so far, and the replies were useless. I was very disappointed by their support!
    – They don’t provide support for the REs. The REs are not their products. I have a question about a RE that I now can’t get answered.
    – The providers of the REs usually don’t provide support for their own REs. I’ve tried sending one of them an email, and I got no reply.
    – Referring to facebook and other social media is not appropriate. Many people are not on facebook or Google+ etc.
    – Referring to Discover instead is a joke. Discover is not for communication, not for question/answer, not a textual knowledge base.
    – in this regard the reply from Kevmove02 above is nonsense too. Of course music is communication. That doesn’t mean all communication would have to be musical. I cannot ask a question about a RE by posting music. It’s like banning all aircraft and then saying “well, there’s always cars, that’s transportation too”. Now, how am I gonna get from the US to Australia now?

  4. Kevmove02 February 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    “you can’t tell me…”

    That phrase epitomizes all the reason why PUF had to end. When a dialogue includes a phrase like this, you end all possibility of cooperation, let alone collaboration. It expresses an unwillingness to accept alternative answers or points of view. It’s not a statement of inquiry, its argumentative and polemic in nature.

    Another collaboration killer is fear. Is your first motivation for creating music profit motive? Is that the source of inspiration? When you meet someone, are your first questions “can I profit from our relationship?”, followed by “Are you going to steal from me?” The fact that people across the planet continue to listen to and share content is a clear indicator that not everyone thinks Discover is a bad or dangerous idea. By withhold your musical contributions and telling those who do participate that they will soon be victims convinces me even more that the elitism associated with PUF is more true than not.

    I believe Propellerhead is just one of many companies trying to create an environment that allows willing participants to share information, to the exclusion of all the distractions that get in the way of creativity. We may think we understand the “true” Propellerhead community, but without knowing how many registered user exist, and how often they use Reason, we don’t have enough info to even claim an educated guess. But none of this really matters, because we have yet to realize and accept that “someone has moved the cheese” and we refuse to accept that reality. There is “new cheese”, but we refuse to eat it.

    • Mooniac February 12, 2015 at 2:25 am #

      Was that in reply to what I posted? It seems that way. I’ve rarely read so much nonsense.

      “That phrase epitomizes all the reason why PUF had to end.”

      If you think about what you wrote logically, it would mean the PUF had to end because many people don’t believe that handling support tickets is less work than moderating a forum. Absurd.

      “When a dialogue includes a phrase like this, you end all possibility of cooperation, let alone collaboration.”

      Nonsense. Perhaps I should have posted on reason101, there seem to be more people that have my viewpoint than those that support the decision. Besides, professional disagreements can be highly productive. It’s one of the foundations of science, philosophy, and law. Your statement is too general and one-dimensional (“end all”). That’s pretty presumptuous and apodictic.

      “It expresses an unwillingness to accept alternative answers or points of view.”

      Not in general, but in this case, yes. I don’t accept any of the “reasons” the propellerheads gave. Not a single one. And there can be no requirement to accept every opinion, action, behavior or “alternative answers” or “points of view” of everyone all the time everywhere. There’s many “alternative answers” and “points of view” I’ll never be able to accept. In fact, *you* express an unwillingness to accept alternative answers or points of view by saying “…you end all possibility…”

      “It’s not a statement of inquiry, its argumentative and polemic in nature.”

      That’s even bordering offensive. “Polemic” means somewhat hostile. Indeed, what I wrote is not a statement of inquiry (and I don’t have to “inquire” to disagree — not everything is some sort of a “mental finding” process), yes, it was argumentative, and that’s entirely acceptable, and I’m not polemic by making clear I don’t buy the “reasons” someone provided.

      “Another collaboration killer is fear. Is your first motivation for creating music profit motive?”

      No, but that’s irrelevant for my decision to criticize the Props for closing the PUF. It has nothing to do with what I wrote.

      “Is that the source of inspiration? When you meet someone, are your first questions “can I profit from our relationship?”, followed by “Are you going to steal from me?” ”

      No, but again, this has not relation to what I wrote. A professional discussion should stay on the topic of that discussion.

      “The fact that people across the planet continue to listen to and share content is a clear indicator that not everyone thinks Discover is a bad or dangerous idea.”

      Neither do I. I think Discover has the potential to become something great. Again you’re missing my point. I didn’t criticize Discover, I criticized your crazy suggestion to see it as an alternative to the forum. As I clearly wrote, music is not replacement of textual dialog. I cannot ask technical questions by posting music.

      “By withhold your musical contributions and telling those who do participate that they will soon be victims convinces me even more that the elitism associated with PUF is more true than not.”

      Why would anyone have to contribute music? By making music, you have no obligation to contribute at all. “Victims”? “Elitism”? Who? Where? Besides, one way to “withhold” music is by closing the forums, because now I can’t get my questions answered by more competent Reason users. By leaving the forums open I can find answers to my questions, allowing me to create more music that I could contribute.

      “I believe Propellerhead is just one of many companies trying to create an environment that allows willing participants to share information,”

      and that’s a fine goal. I commend them on that. But again, completely irrelevant to what I wrote.

      ” to the exclusion of all the distractions that get in the way of creativity.”

      Asking questions and getting answers by competent people is not a distraction. Quite the contrary. By NOT getting answers on my questions by competent people I’m prevented from using Reason or REs to the extent needed for my creativity.

      “We may think we understand the “true” Propellerhead community, but without knowing how many registered user exist, and how often they use Reason, we don’t have enough info to even claim an educated guess.”

      And your point?

      Anyway, I’m out of this conversation, this is my last post on this. Call it “ending all possibility of cooperation, let alone collaboration, accepting unwillingness to accept altnerative answers”, etc. all over again. People don’t have to accept everything thrown at them. Only the reasonable (no pun intended) alternatives. Referring us to Twitter, facebook, Google+, etc. are not reasonable alternatives to the forum, and what you wrote is so absurd and a smorgasboard of totally unrelated statements that I indeed refuse further dialog. I think I’ll prefer reason101 where people agree with me (or: I agree with them). Whatever you’ll respond, I won’t reply. I only reply in a reasonable dialog. But I’ll save your reply to my original text, we’ll always be able to compare my text and your reply. What I’m reading in many reactions all over the web is that the Props wanted to get rid of too much negative bashing and endless banter that just resulted in useless tit-for-tat. I see your reply in that light. That’s why I won’t continue this discussion, lest *I* might be accused of participating in tit-for-tat. But I’ll save this dialog, your reply, especially as an attempted reply to my text, stands, for others to analyze to what extent you were actually addressing my points.

  5. Kevmove02 February 12, 2015 at 3:03 am #

    Nooniac, thank you making my point.

  6. Joshua August 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    I agree with the above article: Discover is an interesting idea with an inviting GUI, but is severely lacking without a social aspect. I can tell you that after adding some bass lines to some tracks, without any contact from the original composers, is really awkward and I will not be participating any longer, unfortunately, because of this lack of communication with the other musicians.

    I’ll be patiently waiting for improvements to a great idea from a great company.

  7. Steve August 24, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    Only a complete fool would go anywhere near the Propellerhead Discover service. I have great sympathy for the complete and utter lack of insight that could lead a person to make such a decision. We in the age of self empowerment through technology – to submit your intellectual property to a poorly defined system is taking a big step backwards.

    • Kevmove02 August 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

      The world is filled with fools, and I am glad to be numbered among them; the foolish alone are unencumbered by a need to possess and control every thought or whim; the fool is content in the hope that their bit of inspiration released unencumbered may result in something beautiful. My only hope for you is that in your zeal to protect that which you believe is yours alone, you neglect to create anything at all.

  8. Yorick November 5, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Yeah it’s pretty idiotic bro… the whole licensing aspect is really bad.
    Anyway, you could always record a spoken message over someone’s track as a way of communicating to them. It’s not ideal, but it can be done.
    I posted my problems with the TOS here: https://www.propellerheads.se/s/vdYqUzMM in a faux southern accent…. Benedict added banjo to it! 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for posting. You’re #1 when you google “Propellerhead discover sucks” btw.

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