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Breaking: Sibelius software team is snapped up by arch-rivals

The team at the London development office of Sibelius software, laid off in August by their American owners Avid, have signed on today with audio pioneers Steinberg. A new London office will open next week.

This is outstandingly good news for Sibelius users, who now have somewhere to go. It should also please the Finn brothers, who tried and failed to buy back their invention from the avid Americans.

Here’s the brief announcement. Watch this space for more.

UPDATE: Hamburg-based Steinberg announce Ben Timms as head of the London R&D team. Daniel Spreadbury will be product marketing manager.  this is starting to look like an all-round happy ending (except for Avid).

 

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Comments

  1. Steve de Mena says:

    FYI, Steinberg is wholly owned by Yamaha, so they should have deep pockets.

  2. This is great news! I have my own concerns about Steinberg, being a long-time Cubase user, but I’m so please Sibelius has been saved. Excellent news for composing musicians everywhere.

    • Steve de Mena says:

      Are you not happy with Cubase? I’m a Pro Tools user and wondering what alternatives I might go to if Avid goes under or stops developing Pro Tools. Cubase & Logic seem like good alternatives, but not sure how committed Apple is to Logic these days.

    • I totally agree, I really like Sibelius, have used it for 15 years albeit on Sibelius 3…still that software is excellent!

  3. Have Steinberg bought Sibelius? If not I don’t understand how this arrangement can work — a Sibelius development team employed by a company that doesn’t own Sibelius.

    • They bought the team and the know-how, not the brand. They will develop not-Sibelius products.

      • Ah, I see – but a pity Avid are still in charge of Sibelius.

      • I hope they will develop notation software that’s as good as or even better than Sibelius – one in the eye for Avid.

        • Sir:

          More importantly, let us hope that any notation software they developed would be backward-compatible with Sibelius (i.e.: that Sibelius files could be imported into such software); I would be unlikely to change software if it resulted in a lot of my files becoming unusuable. Such a compatability feature would surely be perfectly legal (Sibelius has a feature to import scores typeset in Finale).

          • Very good point; I have around 1,000 Sibelius files.

          • John Murdoch says:

            Sibelius 7 cannot import Finale scores. Nor would any Steinberg notation application likely be able to directly import a Sibelius score. The answer, in both cases, is MusicXML. Sibelius can import Finale scores saved in MusicXML, and can export MusicXML that can be read by another notation program.

          • I’m excited by the news, but I am also surprised that Avid didn’t have some kind of non-compete clause in their original employment agreements. Maybe those are different in the UK than here in the USA, but in many cases, even if you are fired/laid off by a company you cannot legally compete against them for a certain period of time. That clause was included in a contract I signed with a tech company a few years ago.

          • How would they become unusable? It’s not like you’d have to remove your old copy of Sibelius?

          • and hopefully an upgrade/cross-grade channel for existing Sibelius users to procure any new developments ;-)

          • Joshua T Smith says:

            I agree – with all the Sibelius files I (and like many others here) have, it would difficult to leave Sibelius outright unless Steinberg’s (or anyone else’s) alternative product is backward compatible. Probably way to early to even guess what they have in mind, since this seems to have just happened.

          • Covert your files to musicXML (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MusicXML) via Sibelius’ export function and then you can take them to any program that will open them, including Finale and MuseScore.

    • Brad Fuller says:

      Great news for the team members. However, I can see potential lawsuits lurking. Ouch.. what a predicament they could find themselves within. Steinberg must be very careful isolating Avid IP from their own. An interesting portfolio management problem.

  4. Chris Wimlett says:

    This is excellent news, not least for the highly talented Sibelius development team. As a long time Cubase user, who has been mostly happy with Yamaha’s stewardship, I’m particularly hopeful about the future. Will Avid’s action be seen one day as one of the worst ever corporate decisions?

    • It may appear as though AVID have gone mental, but this is what happens when greedy investors get involved, they all want a return sooner or later. ProTools was developed by Digidesign, who also made excellent audio hardware, all designed and built in the U.S. When AVID acquired Digidesign all that stopped and production was shipped out to China. Now they produce a shit tonne of crap, but ProTools is still the king, thankfully!

  5. I have dealt with Steinberg for many years. I own many of their products and have never had a disappointing experience. The support is great and they genuinely care about their customers. This is good news. Of all of the companies the development team could end up signing Steinberg would be my first choice.

  6. Sue Persson says:

    Where does this leave music teachers who own expensive sibelius licenses and do not necessarily have the means to purchase new software?

    • John Murdoch says:

      The short answer is, you have an existing relationship with Avid.

      The longer-term answer is that you should carefully notice the announcement about Daniel’s responsibilities: he is product manager for notation software AND education markets. I think you might reasonably expect some kind of competitive upgrade offer (and/or education discount) for whatever comes next.

      As to future development of Sibelius by Avid and their crack team of Ukrainian contractors (none of whom have been hired yet)? Don’t hold your breath.

    • Christina Desmond says:

      You may be stuck for a while, but it will likely take some time for the team to develop and market the new software. Maybe the economy will improve by the time you’re ready to upgrade. (One can hope.)

    • Alexander says:

      If they are smart (which they surely are), the team will come up with new software that allows users to easily import Sibelius files.

    • Cat Jefferson says:

      Sue, Sibelius isn’t going anywhere, at least not for a while. Avid simply let go of the development team to outsource the development to somewhere like the Ukraine to save money. Currently Avid has plans to release an upgrade to Sibelius so you don’t have to worry about it just yet. Maybe in the future you might.

      I’m thrilled that the old team has been hired by a stable company, and that we all know where they are!

    • Martin Penny says:

      Assuming Steinberg want to build a large customer base quickly, they’ll do what all ‘late entrant’ commercial software builders do and offer a cheap upgrade for existing Sibelius users – priced at around the Sib upgrade price and/or a free limited functionality version.

      Yamaha have done this before in other market areas and are almost certainly in it for the long term.

  7. I am ELATED. Could it be that doing the right thing – displaying enormous skill, concern and care for customers could be actually rewarded in this case? Couldn’t happen to a nicer or more adept group. Congrats to Daniel Spreadbury and his team.

    I will be an adopter of this new software quite early in its development, because I have a lot of patience and a very long memory.

    I hope Avid learns a big lesson here. Somehow though, I doubt it.

  8. While it’s certainly good news for the team and perhaps a glimmer of hope for Sibelius users, it does not mention what the team will be doing. It seems premature to celebrate – why say that “Sibelius is saved” and “Sibelius users have somewhere to go”? We could speculate that Steinberg may put in a bid for Sibelius, or they may want to improve the score-writing capabilities of Cubase, or they may want to develop a new standalone product, or none of these – but all this is pure speculation.

    • I have been using both Cubase and Sibelius for a long time.
      Reason why I went to Sibelius (Versoin 1) was simply ‘cos Cubase Score was awful – and I still don’t like when ever i tentaviely open it up. I have forgotten how to use it.

      SIbelius is a greta program – always has been and the same for Cubase.

      It’s great that it has been moving in bounds and strides over the other DAWS – I think that both are gonna do just fin.

  9. Good new for those who want to score one off Avid. But Sibelius users can now look froward to paying for a new license for a product without the features protected by whatever agreements the Finn Bros had with Avid.

  10. Nothing could make me happier!

  11. If you are seeking an alternative to Pro Tools then I would advise you demo Studio One. As an ex cubase user I can say that I’ve finally found a daw that its stable and simple.

  12. A few comments from a SW engineering / IP person:
    * It will take 12-18 months, at least, for them to have a product ready to go; probably more.
    * Avid will possibly sue them for code copyright infringement. It may never reach the trial stage, but I would expect there to be a considerable legal push from Avid to shut them down, and this may slow development.
    * Avid still owns the intellectual property to Sibelius. Any patents filed in the last 18 months or so are not yet visible in the Patent Office pipeline (at least in the US; not sure how long that delay is in the UK, if they even filed there), but once those patents are issued, Avid could extract large licensing monies from Steinberg, or claim damages and ask for an injunction.

    Steinberg has lawyers. They likely know what they’re doing. These are just things to be worked through, but they will take time. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t expect anything until 2014 at the very earliest.

    (BTW, IANAL, and none of this is legal advice; it’s for entertainment purposes only, as they say.)

    • John Murdoch says:

      So long as none of the Sibelius coders took Avid-owned source code with them, and incorporated it into a new notation application developed by Steinberg, Avid will have little success. There is clear case precedent on this point: John Warnock and his lab partner developed a page description language for high-resolution digital printing while working for Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Xerox executives–reasoning that high-res digital printing principally threatened their own high-end photocopier business–canned the project.

      Warnock and his team memorized their entire language, and very carefully ensured that they took nothing–nothing–with any code on it. They resigned from PARC, moved into nearby office space, and re-created the entire language from memory. The language is PostScript, Warnock’s company was named Adobe Systems, and the rest is history. Xerox eventually sued–and the courts ruled for Adobe.

      Daniel, Ben, James et al are fully aware of any patent filings done by Avid–they would have had to participate. The biggie that’s visible is the patent on magnetic layout–but I doubt there’s only one way to achieve those results.

    • Jeff Davis says:

      I think Yamaha can handle anything Avid tries to throw at them.

  13. This is very interesting and encouraging. I don’t know anything about Sibelius internals, but I would be incredulous if Avid’s ownership does not include the copyright of the software. This means that the development team would have to rewite from scratch (or possibly from a fork of many years ago), and even then there could be intellectual property issues around employing former Sibelius developers. I’m sure that Steinberg will know this, but it seems that some of the commenters here may not.

    AFAIK the Sibelius binary formats are not published, but I’d be happy to be contradicted by people who know more than I do.

  14. Steven Clark says:

    The text of this story does not adequately support the head-line. Please flesh the story out more to explain the head-line. Believe it or not, there are those who gave up on Sibelius because of its bad user interface and tendency to second guess what we want to compose, who are hopeful that someone will acquire it and fix those problems.
    Journalistically, the text failed to make a case for Audio Pioneers being a “rival”, did not mention the rival music publishing product. It would be nice if the author of this would flesh the story out some.

  15. If the new employers of these talented folks are as astute as they appear, a logical next step would be to offer upgrade pricing for any Sibelius licensee.

    And I do think this Avid farce will be prime fodder for business school case studies in the “how NOT to manage an acquisition” department!

    • Peter McAleer says:

      Yammie, exactly. AVID gave us a powerful demonstration how to alienate your user base, lose your best employees and destroy your reputation within your own industry. Steinberg must have thought Christmas had arrived early this year.

  16. Jaakko Kuusisto says:

    Excellent news in any case. Will certainly keep eyes open for what they are up to.

  17. Hmmm. maybe I should invest in some Steinberg!

  18. Cathygolucky says:

    Not often that you see the word ‘elated’ in a press release

  19. As posted in Save Sibelius Facebook:

    Sibelius is dead.  ProTools may follow. Long live Steinberg!

    With the announcement yesterday that the Sibelius development team has miraculously survived in one piece and is now safely in the employ of Steinberg in London, the campaign to persuade Avid Technology to divest itself of Sibelius has perforce come to an end.  With no development team left, it is highly unlikely anyone will have interest in buying just the source code of Sibelius.  As of now, aside from the feature-slim version 8 which was already prepared by the sacked development team for release next year, Sibelius is therefore effectively defunct.

    This news will of course be received with mixed feelings.  On the one hand we are delighted that Daniel Spreadbury and the last 10 of the original Sibelius development team have been retained intact to develop a new, standalone music notation application, which will without question, become the new world leader, soon to displace both Sibelius and Finale.  On the other, we are left clinging to the carcass of Sibelius, that until July 2012 had been the world’s leading music scoring application, and in which we have all substantially invested financially, artistically and in learning.

    Once again, the consumer has lost heavily to high flying corporate avarice, where malpractice goes unpunished, while ineptitude and abject failure are incomprehensibly and staggeringly rewarded.  This is completely the wrong environment for ubiquitous resources like music scoring and recording software.

    I believe our concern should now be to directed to preventing this from happening yet again.  Even though Steinberg is a reputable company with a first class track record in innovation and development, it too was taken over by Yamaha.  Yamaha itself of course also has impeccable credentials as innovator of MIDI and manufacturer of products of high quality, but what will happen if a company like Avid monsters them too?

    It is highly tempting to throw our support unquestioningly behind Steinberg’s bold enterprise, but personally, I can only recommend this if at least the score file format is made open source, even if the application itself remains proprietary.  The easiest way to achieve this for now would simply be to extend the already powerful musicxml file format so as to append all the feature assets of the new application as and when they are added.

    If this is not going to be the case, then I consider that the long term interests of music composers and arrangers will be better served by a separate initiative to create a new open source application broadly modelled on the feature set of Sibelius, but entirely independent of any corporation.

    Speaking for myself, I am not willing to waste any more time and money, continually buying and learning different applications of duplicate functionality, just to do something I could already do forty years ago with pen and paper.  Paradoxically, I can still open and read my forty year old paper scores, yet I can’t open scores written on a music application in the 1990′s.  Scoring applications are of value to me only if I get to keep my work, and I don’t have to keep starting over every time a company like Avid loses interest in its customers or goes bust.

    I can only hope that Steinberg will insure longevity by adopting an open format for score files, so that I can comfortably and safely participate in their new application with our friends from Sibelius.

    Derek Williams

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

    • Peter McAleer says:

      I want to pay tribute to your passionate sense of injustice, Derek, and your energy inn setting up the hugely effective Save Sibelius campaign. It gave us the courage to follow your lead and tackle Avid face on – I for one am eternally grateful to you. I have ‘met’ a few wonderful new friends these last few months, none more so than your good self. Perhaps we will really ‘meet’ some day – I certainly hope so.

      Peter

    • “where malpractice goes unpunished, while ineptitude and abject failure are incomprehensibly and staggeringly rewarded.”

      I’m sorry but this is not true. Malpractice does not go unpunished in the free-market. Consumers are aware of what Avid has done, and will punish them accordingly. There’s no reason to get all paranoid about the freedoms of hiring and firing people. In fact, since Cubase is leader in MIDI sequencing, the firing of the UK team by Avid is probably the best thing that could have ever happened. I’m really looking forward to it.

      • “I’m sorry but this is not true. Malpractice does not go unpunished in the free-market.”

        http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=104257&ticker=AVID

        http://apps.shareholder.com/sec/viewerContent.aspx?companyid=AVID&docid=8514927#A2208433ZDEF14A_HTM_DO77201_SUMMARY_COMPENSATION_TABLE

        When Gary Greenfield became CEO of Avid as a result of intervention by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, the Avid Technology share price was around $66. Under his custodianship, the share price has plummeted to $6 a share. During that same period, his salary ‘compensation’ has increased in almost inverse proportion from $670,000 to $4.8 million per annum. One year at such remuneration would be more than most people would earn in their entire lifetime. I can’t see any incentive to succeed when Mr Greenfield is rewarded so handsomely for dividing his company’s share value by 11.

        If $4.8 million remuneration is the consequence of the free market ‘punishing’ Mr Greenfield’s inept performance, how would the free market expect to reward him if he were successful?

        http://ir.avid.com/stockquote.cfm

        • John Murdoch says:

          Derek—

          What basis do you have for your assertion that Gary Greenberg was installed as CEO of Avid by Bain Capital?

          Avid Technology’s financial reports include shareholdings by a number of venture capital firms, but Bain Capital is not one of them. And I can’t find any indication of this using Google. Can you help me connect the dots?

          (The only place I can find a reference to Bain Capital and Avid Technology on the same page is a web site listing venture capital firms headquartered in Massachusetts. Bain Capital is listed–but another VC, named Highland Capital, is listed as having invested in Avid Technology.)

          John

          • John, from an insider who writes:

            “Are you aware that Bain Capital has advised Avid on financial matters over the last few years? I don’t know if Avid still consults with them, and, if so, recommended that the Finsbury Park office be closed. But I have corresponded with a former employee who was fired in October 2008 when Bain was hired by Avid. He worked in senior management.”

          • John – another:

            “…Bain was brought in by the Avid board of directors back in, I think, 2007. Their installed CEO is still in charge…”

          • John Murdoch says:

            Derek–

            Somebody is getting their advisors confused. Bain & Company is one of the major consulting firms; Bain Capital is an venture capital firm. Bain Capital doesn’t advise companies on whom to hire and fire. They buy companies, or take major equity stakes. By contrast, Bain & Company is a management consulting firm–advising companies on how to improve their operations is precisely what they do. I think you’ll find that Avid may have been a Bain & Company client–they do appear in any list I can find of Bain Capital companies.

            Bain Capital was a spin-off from Bain & Company–but they’re distinct companies. I’m sure there are personal relationships–but it would be a biiiig stretch to try to assert that there is or was any role in Avid’s purchase of Sibelius and Mitt Romney.

  20. David Knight says:

    No wonder I can’t get hold of support!

    Just upgraded to sib7 which works great, but it can’t see the sib7 sounds that installed witn the 3 disks,
    so have to play using the default midi sounds. Anyone any ideas how to fix?
    Is it worth a look at Finale?
    Thanks to anyone who can help.

    • Peter McAleer says:

      David, have you tried the Help forum? – There are many there willing to address such issues for you I’m sure

      • david knight says:

        Many thanks Peter for that. Not a great lover of forums usually, but needs must!

        Have just posted a new thread on the Sib forum from the help in the software. Had to register etc, and do I assume that this is the one you meant?

        David

        • Peter McAleer says:

          Yes that’s the one. i see you’ve had a reply – hope it helps

          • david knight says:

            Many thanks Peter and yes it did, now fixed as below; saves me going to Finale for now.

            Robin Walker said
            There are five installation to do in all.

            On the Program disk, there are two installations: the Sibelius application itself, and then the first of four Sounds installations.

            On Content Disks 1 to 3 are the second, third, and fourth Sounds installations.

            Have you done all five installations?

            When I checked, I had missed the 2nd one on disk one!
            Can’t believed I missed it!

          • Thanks Peter. I missed 2nd sound installation also.
            Could you tell me what’s the equivalent of the previous version’s ‘House Style’ drop-down menu where you can edit music fonts, lines etc.?

            (Sorry, Norman, for using your blog as a Sibelius forum.)

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