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Sibelius closure: inventors’ buyback offer rebuffed

The brilliant Finn twins who founded Sibelius software have broken silence on Avid’s decision to shut its UK base.

In a post on the Sibelius users site, they revealed that they had made Avid an offer to buy back the company in order to keep it alive. Avid declined.

Here’s what they wrote:

“We were very concerned to hear earlier this month that Avid is terminating the jobs of the Sibelius development team in London and handing the software over to other programmers, apparently to cut costs. As far as we know, Sibelius continues to be extremely successful, so this cost-cutting is a response to financial problems elsewhere in Avid, not with Sibelius itself.

“Ever since then we have been quietly trying to do everything we can to change this situation, including twice offering to buy Sibelius back from Avid. However, Avid has declined. While they haven’t given a reason, we assume that Sibelius is a substantial source of profits to them, so they don’t want to sell it to anyone.

“We naturally feel very sad about this treatment of our friends and colleagues who have been key to making Sibelius a success, and who have become the world experts in this specialized field. We are also very grateful to the many Sibelius users who have expressed their concern and support; though at this point, it seems unlikely that any protests will change Avid’s mind.

“We hope Sibelius nonetheless continues to be the world’s most successful music notation software.

Ben & Jonathan Finn
Sibelius founders”

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  1. This is what happens when we embrace capitalism, which for the most part we do, passively or not. A new social consciousness must arise where the positive capitalist principals co-exist within a cohesive social context and judgement calls vis-a-vis profitability, or not, of corporations are held hostage to the profit mongering of a few.

    • Theoretically, Capitalism operates on the theoretically antiseptic law of supply and demand, and is supposed to retain individual liberty based on property rights. . Any morality, immorality, or amorality associated with Capitalism is cut from the same cloth as that of Communism or fascism etc. Curiously most large corporations gratuitously advance lofty mores in their mission statements. Today we see that mission statements are mainly worthless.

      According to my world view, there is only one element which causes any well intentioned social system to fail. That element is people. Where we probably disagree, is that I believe that the failings of the PRACTICE of Capitalism rests with the many, not the few.

      To illustrate: nearly all ambitious employees of corporations (from the CEO to the lowest level) quickly understand that advancement in part depends upon fiscal growth , whether through economizing, or obtaining new sales. So, there is this young guy sitting in his cubicle at AARP medicine fulfillment He realizes that the system employs an unwieldy reminder system informing clients on when to reorder their medications. He figures that getting rid of the system he can save IT resources. He never gives any thought to how many cognitively impaired elderly are going to be injured by his action. He is rewarded by an ‘attaboy’, cash award, or promotion. When you multiply that kind of mindset by the employee base , you see that the evil of management is passive: i.e., merely in not recognizing the human impact of cost saving measures. . If clients (the many) would flee from such a company, then morality and human intelligence would be served. But we do not. So where is the problem? – - in the few at the top, or the many on both the demand and supply sides? [BTW the example owes to my mother-in-law!]

      And then what of myself. Why do I buy stuff made in China, when my neighbors in the USA are out of work?

      When gas prices first went up many years ago, the USA decided to drive less. Prices went down dramatically. See, what happens is that we now have all forgotten our collective power.

      The problem Sibelius faces just now can be solved by the pressure of Consumers. It is said that 75% of secondary schools in the UK now use Sibelius. But which of the procurers will recognize that if they continue to procure AVID-Sibelius programs they will be subscribing to a system of untrammeled Capitalism? To me that is where the peitions ought to be aimed, not at the “running scared – amoral CEO of AVID”.

      I believe you and I would like to live in a world of Social Capitalism. Social Capitalism seems to depend upon the collective will of consumers. How could that be realized – w/o infringing on individual liberties or property rights?

      Ben and Jonathan seem to kindly suggest that consumers ought to not waste energy mounting a campaign to save the UK office. I actually think that the campaign should be huge, noisy, and greatly enlarged; not just for the sake of Sibelius and its community. There is a larger issue at stake here. It is the systemic loss of freewill by ordinary people to fight for morality in business.

      How do we get the world to wake up? But first: how do I get myself to wake up?

      Best regards,

      • Wanderer says:

        “The problem” is actually very simple.
        Capitalism rewards those who own (the means of production), not those who work and produce.
        It’s ugly rear can be witnessed in today’s more and more inegalitarian anglo-american societies, where the 1% own the majority of a nation’s wealth.

        Now Marx et al made the mistake to just negate the fact with the idea to put the ownership completely into the workers hands. That doesn’t work either as we could see.

        A middle ground must be found, where private ownership remains the incentive for individual entrepreneurship, yet the actual producer and worker is equally participating in the created revenue.
        Property rights should be no holy cow and take second seat to “rights at one’s own production”.

      • All:
        I have been reading with great interest the calls for the abolition of capitalism, either expressed or implied, arising out of a frustration with what is happening to Sibelius.
        I am an avid (no pun intended) Sibelius user, and just started using it at version 6 when I sent myself back to school (Berklee) to get a master’s cert in arranging. I have a lot of time and effort invested in having learned (and in my view mastered) the essentials of Sibelius–I can do just about anything I want to musically. It’s great power–it’s a tremendous program by any standard. So I have a great interest in seeing Sibelius survive, and don’t want to go elsewhere–I’m too old to change.
        However, you can’t take what’s happening to Avid out of context of what’s happening to the US/world economy. In particular, since Avid is an American corporation, this current U.S. administration’s economic policies are so anti-business that many companies, like Avid, are in a lot of financial trouble and are in jeopardy–and in my view, did not have to be this way.
        Many (hopefully most) Americans are fearful for the future of our economy, and therefore many of us are interested in changing this current administration and getting us out of the current economic mess. It can be done. I guarantee you, that if this happens, companies like Avid will spring back and resume their financial health; Sibelius will be saved.
        Folks, it’s not capitalism, with all its faults, that’s the problem. It’s this misguided attempt to bring “a new economic order” that’s the problem. Remember, Avid (and Sibelius, and Finale, and the rest) flourished in the past.
        Maybe the Finns could save Sibelius–but I don’t think that’s the problem. Anyway, in the short term, we have the program running on the platforms we have and everything works OK, am I right?
        I’m looking forward to (and praying for) November 6. As far as musicians are concerned, that’s the day Sibelius (and the US/world economy) will start to come back. Not so long off.

        • Johan Lund says:

          Dear “pespada”,
          Try to get your hand on the documetary film “Four Horsemen” ( I saw it yesterday. Through it you will find out what is wrong with the so called “capitalism” in U.S. today (and in Europe as well). I don’t think a NEW administration after November 6th will make U.S. and the world a better place to live in. On the contrary! BTW I am a frequent user of Sibelius Scorch and find it most helpful when rehersing my voice (= 2. bass)
          Best regards
          Johan Lund

    • Siobhan Madden says:

      Totally agree. Perhaps the best way for the Finns Brother to save Sibelius is by joining / leading the open-source musescore project:

      that is also developing in Sibelius’s direction, but because it is open source, no-one can take it away from us, and also the file format standards are open, so will never be obsolete in the future.

      By involving in Musescore, the Finns Brother can resurrect many of the Sibelius’ design and ideas, and can guarantee our existing Sibelius user to continue to benefit from Finns’ works

  2. Wanderer says:

    Dear Ben & Jonathan Finn,

    why did you sell your baby to Avid in the first place?

  3. Does Avid have shareholders?

    Can a take over not be done before we loose the development team and the product overseas?

  4. Ben Harris says:

    If they cant buy it back why not employ the sacked British staff to develop a rival product? My guess is that Sibelius will start a slow decline now – already key users of 6 not that happy, or feel they were not listened to with 7. Lots of opp for innovations in the future for a motivated, small company .

    • Siobhan Madden says:

      Or better, if the sacked British staff and the Finns’ to make Musescore the successor of Sibelius, perhaps this is the best way to rescue Sibelius, and its user base……

      • David Kastrup says:

        Musescore is based on totally different technology and has different file formats. So while the typesetting expertise of the previous Sibelius staff is likely welcome with every music typesetter product, it is quite unlikely that their programming skills would fit those products better than that of experienced programmers without a music typesetting background.

        So Sibelius users will in the long run have a migration to do, and there will be no “successor” extending on the previous experience of either users or programmers of Sibelius. It will require starting new for either of them.

  5. Jeff Davis says:

    I have just sent this to the Board of Avid.

    To say bluntly that Avid has a major public relations disaster on its hands is to state the obvious very mildly indeed. The hundreds of thousands of daily users of Sibelius have known for a long time that Sibelius is Daniel Spreadbury and his colleagues. We are now painfully aware that it is not Avid. For many years, far longer than Avid has been a part of things, we have worked closely with Daniel and his colleagues, advancing Sibelius to the point where it now easily leads the market. Further, we have successfully encouraged our colleagues and students to join us, thus ensuring continued growth. You have abruptly changed that. We cannot and will not recommend a company or any of its products that is so clueless about the broader effects of its decisions on its customers.

    Aside from the moral questions–and make no mistake, there are moral questions here–your unbelievably short-sighted decision to make Daniel ‘redundant’ (as if the unique could be redundant) is business folly of the first order. Don’t allow yourselves to think for a moment that the users of Sibelius will continue to purchase new iterations if they don’t show the same genius these talented people have so consistently produced. Moreover, other products marketed by Avid will also suffer even greater decline as word of mouth continues its rapid spread about your ineptness as a board. Who would want to purchase anything from a company so deaf to, and ignorant of, the needs and strengths of its employees and customers? Your words of commitment to the Sibelius community define hollow. In firing Spreadbury and his colleagues you show only that you want to unravel that community, your empty words to the contrary.

    Musicians are not as idiotic as you apparently believe. We can easily see that your own reputations already have, and will continue to suffer from this decision. Your ability to get future employment will decline as word of how stupidly you have handled Sibelius becomes even more public. I suggest you peruse this hastily mounted Facebook page to begin to grasp just what damage you have already done: When a man as prominent and gifted as Bob Zawalich already speaks of his relation to Sibelius in the past tense, you need to understand that you are deeply in trouble. But, of course, I suspect your bean-counting attitude has completely deafened you to real-world truth. Frankly, I don’t think you are worthy of this software, the people who created it, and those who use it. You are left with some computer code, nothing more.

    As I wrote above, at this moment you have, at the very least, a major public relations disaster on your hands. How you handle it will clearly affect the future of your business. Silence on your part is not a viable option if you care at all about your customers. We are not your employees, for which you have shown such little concern. We are the ones, like it or not, paying your bills. In a real sense, therefore, we are your superiors. We will spend our money in our own best interests, of that you can be certain. Aside from the stupid option you have chosen, you have two others: attempt to rehire Daniel and his colleagues under whatever conditions they impose, or sell Sibelius. Personally, I hope you choose the last.

    Daniel is certain to find future employment. There is no one else in the world of music notation software as brilliant or dedicated. Any competitor you have, or will have in the future, will jump at the chance to have Daniel and his colleagues on board. It will be, mark my words, your own self-inflicted loss. With Daniel as a competitor, you stand no chance of survival in the music notation software business. Given the current state of Avid, this will prove disastrous to the rest of your already weakened holdings.

    Daniel and his London colleagues were worth far more to you than you can ever imagine. You will come to see just how third-rate your judgement is, as the future inevitably brings you continuously diminishing returns. I honestly don’t believe you are smart enough as a group to admit to making such a grave mistake, and that you are clearly willing to give away the treasure you have without even understanding what you are doing. Pride, as is said, comes before the fall. Your behavior and your silence are deafeningly loud to Sibelius users, and will become increasingly so for users of your other products. And then, inevitably, you will be forced to hear our silence.

    Very truly yours,

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis
    University Carillonist
    The University of Californa

  6. Avid may have enjoyed considerable success with their Sibelius acquisition up to now, but if they continue their path of ignoring their customers’ wishes and needs by removing their once free-of-charge tech-help service, and by making those radical (and mostly horrible) changes in Sibelius 7, they may begin to see a shockingly steep and swift decline in revenue during the coming months and years.

    • Stephanie says:

      I enjoyed reading all of the posts.
      I will do my part in trying to save sibelius.
      I hate to ask this question here but I have been trying for a while to find a place to get online help with sibelius, just for questions like how do I get it to play the molto rit. more molto.? etc…
      Sorry and thank you for anyones help.

  7. Is this the country to be entrusted with the care of Sibelius? Where the composer of the score for Brokeback Mountain would be imprisoned?

  8. To understand the full story behind Avid’s shutdown of Sibelius UK, and to take such action as you see fit, please visit the new website we have launched today in order to help bring focus to this crisis:

    The Sibelius Users website includes a full background, financials on Avid, a Change.Org petition, links to our Facebook ‘Save Sibelius’ page, and the ability to send an email instantly to all the decision makers at Avid with a single click. Also provided are Avid media sites, and local fax numbers and physical addresses for Avid offices worldwide. We implore you to take whatever action you feel able to. Every click helps.

    Please share the Website, the Facebook page and the Petition far and wide. Only you can stop this shutdown from occurring, by the strength of your arguments and the sheer strength of your numbers. With nearly half a million users worldwide, our Sibelius community has the power to make Avid sit up and listen to us.

  9. Peter Morgan says:

    If, as I read, Avid is planning to cut the Sibelius development team, reduce technical support for Sibelius, and charge for what was once free, it doesn’t look like a sensible business strategy. Sibelius has an enormous international reputation and a large community of devoted users, many of whom are in public sector education, both as teachers and students. Some are calling it a PR disaster; but PR disasters go hand in hand with operational disasters. I quote from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
    “Golden goose. A goose in folklore that laid a golden egg every day until its greedy owner killed it in an
    attempt to lay his hands on all the gold at once.”

  10. to Norman Lebrecht: Please provide examples of Avid’s “reckless cost-cutting.” M-Audio and Pinnacle were bleeding red ink with high support costs. (~21% versus ~15% for all products). The fact that two symbiotic audio brands were divorced was collateral damage; if Avid goes bankrupt, I guarantee Sibelius will be adversely affected.

    Or perhaps you refer to the reckless cost-cutting of closing a UK office and shifting resources to other places, particularly to Silicon Valley where Avid has some of the world’s best audio software engineers.

    Are you really so naive as to believe businesses shouldn’t allow one division to make enough profit to support another which may be more specialized? Are you also aware that perhaps 95% of Avid’s decision to buy Sibelius was to incorporate it into PT, that without it PT will lose out to Logic which has notation, and than the Finns certainly knew all this when they sold out?

    It sounds to me as if Avid is very focused on keeping their company afloat in a dismal world econommy, and trying to keep their products vital and robust. Your concerns are based largely on speculation.

    The onus of responsibility is on the Finn Brothers to show why they should be allowed to take back the company and customers they abandoned, and how much they were willing to pay.

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