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Does Sibelius have a future? Avid says, for sure…

Do we believe Avid, which shut down Sibelius software’s UK office? Hmmm… Try reading between the lines of corporate flam.

Here’s a transcript of a BBC Radio 4 interview from the Save Sibelius site:

The BBC sent Avid 4 questions based on our concerns, to which Avid sent responses ahead of the 24 August interview (copied below):BBC QUESTION No 1
What are Avid’s plans for updates and new versions of Sibelius? (I understand the team in London completed Sibelius 8 to testing, so I’m asking about beyond the release of version 8.)AVID RESPONSE No 1
Sibelius users should feel very confident that Avid will continue to develop and invest in the product. Sibelius remains key to our commitment to education, publishing & engraving, and professional composers.Your information about Sibelius 8 isn’t accurate, but we do have exciting development plans we can share.In October, customers can expect update releases to the Sibelius family of products, including Sibelius, Sibelius First and our iPad app, Avid Scorch. We’re excited about this release which was developed through a collaborative approach with our customer base.The next major version of Sibelius, Sibelius 8, is now in early development and remains on schedule for release in 2013. Stay tuned for more information and details on how Sibelius customers can get involved in the beta access program. We continue to collaborate with Sibelius customers to ensure that we provide the best solutions to meet their challenges now and in the future.

BBC QUESTION No 2
After October, will there be any Sibelius development staff in the UK?

AVID RESPONSE No 2
We are moving all Sibelius development from Finsbury Park in London, although the Sibelius support team will remain at our European headquarters in Pinewood Studios. The cost of developing software in London is very high, which regrettably led us to close the Finsbury Park office.

We’ll align the Sibelius development team with the development teams for our many other creative software products used by audio, film and broadcast professionals worldwide, which includes the Pro Tools and Media Composer editing solutions. As with those groups, development for Sibelius will be led by product managers and engineers in San Francisco, Boston and Kiev. The transition of these product groups to a more unified team has enabled faster development, brought closer integration into related products, and improvement in customer support—we expect Sibelius products to reap the same benefits.

BBC QUESTION No 3
Who will carry out the work they were doing? (I’ve seen Martin Kloiber’s statement about the audio team in California, and the advert for posts in Ukraine.)

AVID RESPONSE No 3
Product development will be led by Sr. Product Manager Bobby Lombardi.

For the past 12-years, Bobby headed up development and product managed numerous releases for Avid’s Grammy-winning digital recording and editing software and hardware, Pro Tools, and his new role is to ensure the long-term development and success of Sibelius. Bobby pursued doctoral studies in music composition at Stanford University and holds music degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Liege Belgium, Florida International University, and SUNY Stony Brook. Users should feel confident that the future of Sibelius is in very safe hands.

BBC QUESTION No 4.
Many users have been able to contact the development team directly for support. Will they be able to do that in future?

AVID RESPONSE No 4
Yes, absolutely. Although the development team is moving, they will still be available and the existing Sibelius support team remains at Avid European headquarters at Pinewood Studios. There is also a support team in Florida for the US market. Support services for Sibelius have not changed. Avid understands its customers are passionate about Sibelius and will continue outreach to its customers in the same way.

The key message is this: although we’ve moved the development team for Sibelius, we have not changed our strong commitment to the product. We’re continuing development and investment and have plans in place for new releases. We’re absolutely committed to the community of musicians and composers that rely on the product.

 

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Comments

  1. This Bobbi Lombardi who’s about to take over Sibelius development does appear to have studied composition, just as they say, but every composition I can find listed somewhere on the Internet is for tape, i.e. what we used to call “electronic music” in the 1960s:

    https://ccrma.stanford.edu/events/concerts/19991121.html#sleigh
    https://ccrma.stanford.edu/events/concerts/Summer-1998.html#lombardi
    depthome.sunysuffolk.edu/Selden/Music/…/OpenEars1Program.doc

    He may be a great audio guy, but I wonder if in his “composer days” he ever even wrote a notated piece.

    • What’s the relevance? He’s heading up a large software dev. operation; his personal intimacy with composition matters not. His history of managing software projects does, and it seems he’s pretty good at it.

      • The relevance? tt’s a reply to this argument from Avid that all is well:

        “Bobby pursued doctoral studies in music composition at Stanford University and holds music degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Liege Belgium, Florida International University, and SUNY Stony Brook. Users should feel confident that the future of Sibelius is in very safe hands.”

        Sibelius is a *notation* and engraving program for traditional Western music notation (though it is flexible enough to allow lots of innovative notation too). If we are supposed to be reassured by Lombardi’s credentials because the program is in the hands of a person who understands what the program is all about, it is pretty relevant if these credentials are smoke, mirrors and tape loops.

        Compare the bio of on of the creators of Sibelius, whose offer to buy back the program was rebuffed:

        http://benfinn.t83.net/#/biography/4522800603

        or more signficantly, the bio of Daniel Spreadbury, the current Senior Project Manager for Sibelius, left over from the pre-Avid era, who is being replaced by Lombardi, to judge from what we can read:

        “Before I came to work at Sibelius, I obtained my degree in music from Oxford University, and was one of the two tenor lay clerks in the choir of Ely Cathedral for two years. I’m a keen singer and choral conductor, currently working with The Cantilena Singers in Cambridgeshire. I’ve even been known to write the odd little choral piece or arrangement in Sibelius myself, but my hectic work schedule doesn’t leave much time for it!” (http://www.sibeliusblog.com/about/)

  2. Robert Walp says:

    The final sentence of the second-to-last paragraph indicates how big-business, small-minded AVID is: the word “outreach” is NOT a verb.

    • Galen Johnson says:

      They didn’t use “outreach” as a verb, but as a noun, the something they will continue..

    • Big-business, undisputedly. Why small-minded? I don’t see it indicating anything of the sort.
      It’s corporate language from a large – American – corporate firm. We might prefer they had said “reach out to” (though even that is too corporate-speak for me), but isn’t it a bit small-minded in itself to accuse them of being so on the basis of a small misuse of the language?

  3. Those of us who have been using both Sibelius for notation and Avid’s flagship product ProTools for recording, editing & synching to film & TV pictures (ProTools is the industry standard) for many years may have another perspective on this sorry tale, beyond our dismay at the loss of the UK base for Sibelius and with it our relationships with the people who made it. As any ProTools user will tell you, Avid’s existing technical support is poor in comparision to other software providers in the field and has been for years as they have been laying off support staff. If Avid’s response above is indicative of a new approach across their products to improve support, then all well and good and we should welcome such resolve. If, on the other hand, they are trying to pretend that Sibelius users will now ‘enjoy’ what ProTools users have endured for some time now then I fear such users are in for a nasty surprise after the years of service and dedication they have grown accustomed to from the wonderful team at Finsbury Park. This is not an issue of nationality but competence. Sibelius has been a cash-cow for Avid since it was acquired by them so they won’t let it go, even to the Finn brothers, and it will become even more valuable if its only other serious comeptitor in the market, Finale, were to struggle (there are rumours around that it is not super-fit). The problem is not whether Sibelius will disappear, therefore, it is what kind of product will it become with code being written in e-sweatshops around the world and how well will it be looked after?

  4. Of course Avid are saying what they think we want to hear: ProTools’ Bobby Lombardi will replace Daniel Spreadbury and be just as good if not better; the Ukraine team will be as good as if not better than the British development team; Sibelius 8 is currently under development and will be cheaper because of lower development costs. Ergo, there is nothing to worry about. Everyone’s favourite uncle, Gary Greenfield is looking out for us.

    Now, have a re-read, and observe how short on detail Avid’s wordy responses to the BBC are. To me, they smack very much of “Let them eat cake”, “Read my lips, no new taxes” and “I bring you peace in our time”.

    The fact remains that the entire Sibelius UK development team is gone, along with its highly respected leader Daniel Spreadbury, and there’s no sign yet of a comparable team with the same dedication and hive mentality picking up the ball and running with it with seamless continuity.

    Since most of the sacked Sibelius programmers have already been able to source new employment, it is clear that the Save Sibelius campaign is not so much about saving a few British IT jobs as it is about doing the best for Sibelius. If we extrapolate the rationale of sending jobs offshore to cut costs in a reductio ad absurdum, then the entire British workforce should be laid off, because practically everything manufactured here, and the US for that matter, can be made cheaper in Asia.

    In any case, the mere act of sending the whole operation offshore isn’t a simple matter of doing exactly the same job at a cheaper price. A product like Sibelius didn’t come become the Rolls Royce of scorewriters it is today merely through hiring a team from a situations vacant ad, as Avid are now trying to do in Ukraine http://www.globallogic.com.ua/?option=com_jsjobs&view=jobposting&layout=viewjob&Itemid=6&jobcat=62&jobid=50961. This entirely belittles the sort of esprit de corps that begets creations of such genius as Sibelius.

    Sooner or later, one has to pay what the product costs to develop. If you want a Rolls Royce quality but are only willing to pay supermarket prices, you’ll eventually end up with cardboard seats in place of first class leather. Speaking for myself, I made back the cost of purchasing Sibelius on the first arranging job I did with it, and as a tool of trade it accounts for a substantial portion of my annual revenues. I don’t consider it overpriced by any means. Of course I concede that for some who do not use all Sibelius’s more powerful features it is likely too expensive, but for them the free, open source MuseScore or Sibelius First are viable options. I don’t want Sibelius downgraded in its feature set and stability just to make it cheaper, so I am prepared to pay for high quality, powerful features, reliability and longevity. Lack of longevity has already impacted on me significantly in other extinct software like Opcode, GigaStudio and Composers’ Mosaic to name but three.

    As for testing, Avid have sacked their chief Sibelius tester, and have gone on to state in their latest response (in the article above) to questions we sent via the BBC, that beta testing will now be carried out by end users, exposing us to cracks in data integrity and performance reliability with knock on effects to our productivity.

    Does anyone really think that Avid will drop the price of Sibelius after reducing their overheads? They haven’t with ProTools; if anything, they’re charging more and giving less. Take a look at what version 10 offered after version 9. There has been vehement widespread contention that the two releases offered so little between them, that they should have been packaged as one. Reliability has also been an ongoing issue in installations I am aware of in our studios at Edinburgh University.

    I predict that so long as we see salaries of board members like Gary Greenfield quadrupling (now at $4.8 million) in direct contrary motion to the share price (dividing by ten from $70 to $7 in less than a decade), prices of Avid software will continue to rise yet we will get less and less value for our money, not more and more. The only ones getting more appear to be the Avid board. The Avid rationale centres on how to make more money for themselves, ahead of how to provide us with visionary and imaginative inventions with the best, brightest and most motivated personnel.

    Avid employees with these qualities are being sacked or are leaving once their positions become untenable:

    http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2012/7/21/ex-avid-roll-of-honour-talent-bleeds-out.html

    In what other environment would half a million people (the estimated size of the Sibelius constituency) tolerate a board of just 9 members (http://ir.avid.com/directors.cfm) making far ranging decisions potentially damaging to their livelihoods and professions? In terms of balance of power, this should be a no-brainer. If you disagree with Avid’s decision to close down Sibelius UK, you are not powerless: join us at the websites below. If our revolt is strong enough, the 9 member board of Avid will eventually have no choice but to listen to its half million strong Sibelius constituency.

    To anyone who missed the message so clearly enunciated in the petition and on the website (below my signature), here it is again: “Avid: Sell Sibelius”. We have buyers waiting.

    Derek Williams
    http://www.sibeliususers.org
    http://www.savesibelius.com

  5. Letter to Mr Ian Bruce, Avid Director of Communications, from Derek Williams, Sibelius Users Group:

    cc: BBC RADIO 4

    Dear Mr Bruce

    Following Avid’s public responses to BBC Radio 4 four questions compiled following consultation with us, I write to you on behalf of the Sibelius Users Group, regarding the recent changes at Sibelius UK, in the course of which Avid Technology fired the development team and shut down the British headquarters at Finsbury Park, London.

    Despite painstaking research from reliable sources both within and outwith Avid Technology, we have been unable to come up with any credible explanation for your action; in fact since our group was started six weeks ago, we have already amassed a membership of well over 10,000 with hundreds joining every week, who have signed a petition calling on Avid to divest itself of Sibelius.

    We now seek your substantive assurance that we are not mistaken in our belief that Avid’s action has been a massive blunder.

    Obviously no competent business would dream of shutting down an enterprise that was successful, profitable and providing excellent customer service. Therefore the only logical conclusion that a reasonable person could draw from Avid’s action is that Sibelius UK must have been unprofitable, the development team were underperforming and had to be sacked, and support provided by team leader Daniel Spreadbury was not up to par.

    It does seem incredible that such conclusions could possibly be drawn about a product that we understand is used by roughly half a million musicians globally, and is the world’s leading music scoring application, used by A-List Hollywood composers, orchestrators, arrangers, conductors, engravers, educators and students the world over.

    Moreover, all our investigation so far has revealed that, far from being incompetent, the development team had actually been winning multiple industry awards for their innovative accomplishments, and that not only was Mr Spreadbury well and truly up to par, he is actually considered to be at the very top of his game, providing expert support at all hours of the night and day on the Avid Sibelius forums. In fact his support is widely held to be superior to that provided by standard Avid technical support systems.

    In order for Avid to be able to provide seamless continuity of development, it is also reasonable to expect that ahead of sacking the present team and shutting down Sibelius UK, you must have already sourced far more experienced music score application developers in Ukraine than those on the British team that you sacked. To be better than the team you fired, your new team must indeed be truly utterly extraordinary.

    However all we have unearthed so far is your Global Logic ad for just three programmers, where music is last in a list of six criteria. Other than the appointment of Bobby Lombardi to replace Mr Spreadbury, we can see no trace of your new team and how it will surpass the one we already had.

    We also have good reason to believe that Sibelius is actually not losing money at all, but is in fact one of the more profitable arms of Avid. All this makes the shutting down of the very office that is responsible for such success completely incomprehensible.

    We now ask for your response to our followup questions (after “***” below Avid’s answers to the BBC questions):

    BBC QUESTION No 1
    “What are Avid’s plans for updates and new versions of Sibelius? (I understand the team in London completed Sibelius 8 to testing, so I’m asking about beyond the release of version 8.)”

    AVID RESPONSE No 1
    “Sibelius users should feel very confident that Avid will continue to develop and invest in the product. Sibelius remains key to our commitment to education, publishing & engraving, and professional composers.

    “Your information about Sibelius 8 isn’t accurate, but we do have exciting development plans we can share.

    “In October, customers can expect update releases to the Sibelius family of products, including Sibelius, Sibelius First and our iPad app, Avid Scorch. We’re excited about this release which was developed through a collaborative approach with our customer base.”

    *** But since no new Sibelius development team has yet been assembled, presumably these releases must have been developed by the existing Sibelius team, who are being fired?

    “The next major version of Sibelius, Sibelius 8, is now in early development and remains on schedule for release in 2013. Stay tuned for more information and details on how Sibelius customers can get involved in the beta access program. We continue to collaborate with Sibelius customers to ensure that we provide the best solutions to meet their challenges now and in the future.”

    *** Why are you seeking new beta-testers? Have any of the existing ones resigned? [asked because we know some have]

    BBC QUESTION No 2
    “After October, will there be any Sibelius development staff in the UK?”

    AVID RESPONSE No 2
    “We are moving all Sibelius development from Finsbury Park in London, although the Sibelius support team will remain at our European headquarters in Pinewood Studios. The cost of developing software in London is very high, which regrettably led us to close the Finsbury Park office.”

    *** Is the cost of developing software in London higher than San Francisco or Boston (other Avid development locations)? If so, how much higher? Will the resulting increase in profit be matched by reduction in prices and an escalation in new features of Sibelius?

    “We’ll align the Sibelius development team with the development teams for our many other creative software products used by audio, film and broadcast professionals worldwide, which includes the Pro Tools and Media Composer editing solutions. As with those groups, development for Sibelius will be led by product managers and engineers in San Francisco, Boston and Kiev.”

    *** Managers are not the same as engineers. Where will the actual Sibelius engineers be located? Martin Kloiber (VP Product & Solutions, Audio) implied on July 23 that development would be done by existing Avid engineers in California, but it has since emerged that jobs are being advertised in Kiev, Ukraine.

    “The transition of these product groups to a more unified team has enabled faster development, brought closer integration into related products, and improvement in customer support—we expect Sibelius products to reap the same benefits.”

    *** Regarding faster development: most of the existing Sibelius development team had a decade or more of experience of working on it. How many years’ experience do their replacements have of developing music notation software? If the answer is zero, how will they manage to work faster than the existing team?

    *** Regarding improved customer support: Daniel Spreadbury, Sibelius’s product manager, has been providing online support for Sibelius for about a decade, for which he has been universally acclaimed by users. He probably knows more about using the software than anyone else in the world. Nonetheless, by making his position untenable with none of his development team left, Avid has effectively fired him. How will you be able to improve on his customer support?

    BBC QUESTION No 3
    “Who will carry out the work they were doing? (I’ve seen Martin Kloiber’s statement about the audio team in California, and the advert for posts in Ukraine.)”

    AVID RESPONSE No 3
    “Product development will be led by Sr. Product Manager Bobby Lombardi.

    “For the past 12-years, Bobby headed up development and product managed numerous releases for Avid’s Grammy-winning digital recording and editing software and hardware, Pro Tools, and his new role is to ensure the long-term development and success of Sibelius. Bobby pursued doctoral studies in music composition at Stanford University and holds music degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Liege Belgium, Florida International University, and SUNY Stony Brook. Users should feel confident that the future of Sibelius is in very safe hands.”

    *** Bobby Lombardi is one person, and not a developer (i.e. programmer, engineer). So who will carry out all the programming work, and where?

    BBC QUESTION No 4.
    “Many users have been able to contact the development team directly for support. Will they be able to do that in future?”

    AVID RESPONSE No 4
    “Yes, absolutely. Although the development team is moving, they will still be available and the existing Sibelius support team remains at Avid European headquarters at Pinewood Studios.

    “There is also a support team in Florida for the US market. Support services for Sibelius have not changed. Avid understands its customers are passionate about Sibelius and will continue outreach to its customers in the same way.”

    *** The question was specifically about contacting the development team for support. The member of the development team who previously provided online support was Daniel Spreadbury. How many years’ experience does his replacement Bobby Lombardi, or anyone else on the new development team, have of using or providing support for Sibelius?

    “The key message is this: although we’ve moved the development team for Sibelius, we have not changed our strong commitment to the product. We’re continuing development and investment and have plans in place for new releases. We’re absolutely committed to the community of musicians and composers that rely on the product.”

    *** You’ve said three times in these answers that the development team is ‘moving’, but our understanding is that they have been fired, and replacements are being hired in Ukraine. How many of the Sibelius development team are actually just ‘moving’?

    Yours sincerely
    Derek Williams

    http://www.sibeliususers.org
    http://www.savesibelius.com

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