BIAS Bites The Dust – What Should Music Software Companies Do When They Fail?

BIAS, Inc., maker of Peak Studio, SoundSoap, and several other well-respected audio apps, has officially ceased operations.

They note on their site:

BIAS, Inc. has ceased operations. We would like to thank all the BIAS customers and friends for the opportunity to have served the audio community for over 16 amazing years.

The BIAS Authorization Manager Server is functioning for authorizing and de-authorizing BIAS products at this time.

Follow these links to access the FAQ and updates areas of the BIAS site.

Bad news for BIAS app users.

Software Of The Damned

If you’re a BIAS app owner and you read a sentence like “The BIAS Authorization Manager Server is functioning for authorizing and de-authorizing BIAS products at this time.” – you’re probably wondering how soon you will be hosed.

At some point, you’ll get a new computer and want to reinstall the apps you paid for. But will you be able to?

This is something I wonder about everytime I have to jump through a convoluted authorization process to install a music app. If the company goes out of business or gets bought ought, will users be hosed?

What do you think music software companies should do when they go out of business? Do they have an obligation to release a version that doesn’t require authorization?

41 thoughts on “BIAS Bites The Dust – What Should Music Software Companies Do When They Fail?

  1. its a sad reality that these company’s don’t really need to do anything as people can get “borrowed” versions, the same version that has put them out of business in the first place

  2. They should release all old versions as freeware or at least not stop attempts by others to do so. But I guess if there are no operations there is no one to stop them.

  3. My hope is that this will go the way of the original Divx product that was pushed by the CEO of Circuit City (you know, when they could still afford to keep stores open). They had this God-awful, horrendous, and generally disgusting way of charging people to “rent” the movies on their discs after the intial purchase and rental period. Also, you could “unlock” the disc for unlimited viewing, but only on one player. So if a friend borrowed the media, that friend would also have to pay to rent or unlock the disc. This was awful.

    When they went under, there was a final “open” command that all the players were supposed to get that would allow for viewing of movies you already have. I’m not sure if that extended to every disc that was released, but I’d like to think so. 🙂

    This is how I believe these activation schemes should be handled. Post a final binary that doesn’t have the activation requirements and live people use the “abandonware” for as long as they like.

  4. Hell yeah. IMHO paying customers are your business partners and you need to do right by them. They’ve already invested in you, you’ve got to at least allow them to continue using what they’ve paid for. If you can’t enable that with your current schema then you need to provide an alternate one that works without your involvement.

    I recently upgraded to 7XT and am already hosed. One of the main reasons I upgraded was to get the promised multitrack update, but looks like that’ll never see the light of day. To have all my licenses stoned at this point would just be a massive burn.

    They need to do something. Installers with named license files, unlocked installers, something.

  5. Their software code and brand must be worth something to another company. Seems like it would be a management failure to not sell off its valuable assets. Maybe that is the next step and that is why they aren’t just opening the flood gates on their authorization system yet. Or, if they went bankrupt, liquidation of company assets could require a more complicated process.

    1. They should at least communicate what the plan is for their applications going forward, even if that’s just saying that they’re looking for someone to buy the apps.

  6. Native Instruments says explicitly that if they ever get into a situation that they cannot authorize their software, they will release magic keys that will effectively make the software free. The logical way of doing something like that is to give the keys to a third-party escrow company with instructions to release them if the owner goes out of business.

    1. They may say that would be their intention but I’d be surprised if they actually did this should the situation ever arise

      The liquidator would want to sell any assets to help pay creditors (as well as pocket as much for themselves, but that’s another issue) and I suspect there’d be a bunfight over the NI codebase from other software houses.

  7. Greetings:

    We understand that many people are surprised at the closing of BIAS and have questions as to the reason why. Please understand that we are not at liberty to discuss those reasons in detail since they concern matters of individual privacy. However, the conduct of certain employees resulted in disruptive interpersonal relationships which damaged morale and interfered with high functioning at a time when market pressures required that the company perform at an optimum level.
    Despite the high quality of our products and team, the disruption contributed to a lack of sales and marketing effectiveness that was fatal to the company. Our products remain among the best in the industry, and we exploring various avenues that we hope will result in our customers still receiving the benefit of the products they have valued in the past.  We appreciate your past patronage as well as your patience and support as we move through this difficult period.

    Steve Berkley
    CEO and President, BIAS Inc.
    Member, Marin Audio Technology LLC

    1. Hopefully you will realize these solid products of yours in a new form someday. Never give it away free. People of the internet who think you should, are just ignorant of the work that went into it. When you do realize this, go get every registrered customers and make them a really good offer they can’t resist. This can be a chance to step back and reimagine all of your products. We are moving more and more towards simplicity in terms of use. My humble advise is that you impliment the new ideas within design, touch, cloud and connection within the software ecosystems to make super easy to use foolproof awesome solutions. Do not thow the baby out with the wash water. Best of wishes to you.

  8. Unfortunately at some point OS’s will advance beyond the point of the software support and we will be left holding the bag. You can only keep an older system running in hopes it won’t fail and leave you out, even as you advance into newer systems. i have a system that still runs VISION just for the purposes of data transfer of files to a new OS. And it keeps me working. But this is our fate.

    1. I can understand your attitude in this matter. Of course, software has massive advantages over hardware in many situations (one being the price), but on the other hand you are not dependent of some company after you have bought hardware – or at least, that would be the ideal case. But where software can cause problems because of registration / compatibility issues, hardware can become defect. So you can have bad luck in either situation…

  9. This situation reminds me of my worries regarding computer games. I don’t play games anymore, but my girlfriend does, and I get annoyed everytime she has to activate a game online – or worse, if you need to be online in order to play a singleplayer game like Diablo 3. What happens if the company goes out of business (unlikely in case of Blizzard, but still)? Who will host appropriate servers? If I have the right operating system / hardware, I can still play my 10 year old Windows 95 / 98 games. But with these online activations, you don’t feel like a owner but rather like a tenant of the very software you have bought.

    Same goes for online registrations of audio applications…

  10. I won’t miss them ~ stopped using them at least ten years ago because their customer support was dire. As a professional musician, I won’t support companies who get in the way of my job.

    1. I fully agree.
      In the past years I bought some music software and I was “framed” on several occasions e.g. after a special bundle offer with “lifetime upgrades”, the developpers stopped … Some other companies NEVER answered emails or simply stopped, some of them are still selling software products today which will never be upgraded or supported… 🙁

  11. Of course they would have to release a version that does not require authorization processes. You treat your customers (who ensured your survival for 16 years) with courtesy and respect. Also, I don’t think piracy put them out of business. Most people who hoard warez do so because it’s an intrinsic property in living things; to stockpile all kins of shit; more for their trophy value than for using them for their purpose. Music professionals and studios buy their software because none of them would want to be caught dead on the road or with a client and have a “Cracked by…” appear on screen.

  12. I used to work for an audio software company that “everybody loved” – we saw more mentions of our products by artists in magazines than we actually sold. Try to stick to opensource / freeware: one day your favorite software – the plugins and apps that you’ve spent good money on – will disappear and you will be caught holding the bag. It’s the nature of the beast.

    1. Sadly, any kind of personal computer ties you to the whims and breakdowns of the software developers. Having eaten it big-time initially with a Big Company whose bad service and constant disruptive updates became unbearable, I decided to go with Logic because Apple is big enough to keep supporting it, especially with ports to iOS. I pared my software synths down to Logic’s and just a couple of others. I also Autosampled every sound I think of as crucial and saved it to 20 different media. A solid, backed-up library of WAV files became my best defense against the ugly economics underlying many of the devices we use. The music I write also gets saved broadly. Ironically, all the industry turmoil STOPS me from buying more products and yet focuses me creatively in the process. Ultimately, the REAL issue comes down to ethics. If more people HAD them, we’d see a lot less of this kind of thread. I wish I could do more to help in some way, because I soberly appreciate the often VERY hard work required to make great tools. People such as Camel Audio deserve added praise for Good Attitude.

  13. i also worked for a now defunct audio software company that massivly suffered from illegal cracks killing our business and in the end the sales figures for 1 particular product couldn’t even pay 1 developer to maintain the software. The last version we released to registered users dropped Pace’s challenge/response copy protection in favour of a serialnumber.

    1. Rampant software piracy seems to be killing PC software development, hurting Mac software development and driving developers to develop iOS apps.

      While it’s great to see all the development for the iPhone and iPad, I’ve been wondering a lot about what’s going on with a lot of the long-time desktop music app developers.

      What’s going on with Native Instruments, for example? They used have cool new synths or updates coming out ALL THE TIME. Now you never hear about them, except for new DJ hardware.

      And what about Ableton & Live?

      I wonder if there’s a bloodbath for music software companies coming in the future.

      1. That’s not really true. A while back they released Razor which must have been a godsend to all who are caught up in the dubstep fad; a massive piano plug and most recently Skanner XT and before that a suite of high end mastering plugins that were well met in publications like Future Music and Computer Music just to name two. They put a pretty penny into marketing too as they regularly pop up online and in mags. But what do I know being the fan boy I am with my single solitary NI synth.

      2. >Rampant software piracy seems to be killing PC software development, hurting Mac software development
        >and driving developers to develop iOS apps.

        Not exactly accurate. Developers are rushing to the iOS because of VOLUME.

  14. When a software company fails it’s understandable that users want their wares released to all but often that can be the worst thing long-term because then it’s an officially ‘dead business’

    What usually happens is that negotiations take place behind the scenes for the IP to be purchased by another company. This is infinitely more preferable because the chances are the new company will continue to support those original users. it makes good business sense all round and it’s possible this is what Steve Berkley alludes to in his post.

    Software is a tough business for both the companies involved in creating the products (thanks to piracy and constant updates) and the user (thanks to constant updates). It’s always sad when things like this happen but it’s surprising they don’t happen with more regularity.

    The alternative is hardware but the truth is that hardware is more costly and when a hardware company goes down, there is an almos nil chance of any product resurrection. Hartmann Neuron anyone?

  15. This brings me back to simply asking WHY I write music and who I’m trying to impress. Do I expect to be hailed as the next Vangelis or Van Cliburn? No, even though people have generally liked my noodlings. Aside from a well-maintained piano or a few hardy synths that have surprisingly long, useful lifespans, all tools decay and break in a loosely predictable manner. With software synths, that goes double. So if I’m willing to shoulder the hassles and I don’t give a rat’s what people say when I’m dead, hmmm… I guess its for the FUN of it. Remember, for every kid who is making bad dubstep in his bedroom, that’s one less little rotter to shoot bottle rockets at your house.

  16. Ok, I’ll be the one to say it. Top notch software, no doubt, but selling at the highest price point by far of anyone in this category and on only one platform had to have something do with things. It was high time they slot the product into a more sellable price point, which could have expanded their market base dramatically. Even “pro” level tools need to cost a lot less these days, or the companies will simply fold.

  17. I only own one Bias program–Sound Soap–and I’ve used it sparingly. It’s a great tool, and I’ve gotten better results than the Denoiser plugin in Logic. But if I couldn’t use it anymore, I’m not sure I’d miss it.

  18. I am so angry I can hardly type.

    Theopening comment on this page is good but I just bought Peak Pro 7 at full price!!. A month later th corporation, without any notice, just tubes!

    They shpuld issue refunds for the suckers of 2012 at least. As well as release their software without all this authorisation crap!

    Pity they’re closed. Would like to have delivered my gripes in person!

  19. I purchased a new laptop. Started to deauthorize my various Bias products on my old machine so I could install on my new machine. After 3 deauthorizations a prompt appeared telling me I had reached the maximum number. “Contact Support”. Seriously? This totally sucks. I have no recourse. Others switching machines will run into the same wall. If I had a voodoo doll, Bias former owner would know exactly how I feel. 🙁

  20. Let’s see… Peak could NEVER remember which drive it was supposed to use; SOP became to set that drive every time I used it. If you don’t have the I/O channel it’s using, it crashes rather than letting you set it; NO other software on the Mac does that. If you are on a roll and working too fast for Peak BOOM! it’s gone. There are LOTS of stupid amateur programming mistakes.

    Trouble is, I got really fast at using it, but now I’m forced to switch to more robust software. Not sad at all to see it bite the dust.

  21. Oh, yeah. Ever bounce a playlist from a higher rate and 24-bit down to 44.1/16? Don’t you wish Peak did the bit reduction AFTER the sample rate conversion? Sorry. I won an argument with their customer support a few years ago, they denied it was backwards until I proved it to them, but they never fixed it.

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  25. Hello Steve Berkley,

    It’s now 2018 and I haven’t seen any resurgence or read of any plans to resurrect Bias-Peak Pro6 & 7 (which I bought years ago and still love). If there’s no chance of that happening could you please free up the need to register so that I can put my version of Peak Pro 6 and/or 7 on my other computer. Until that happens at your end, I’m not able to remove it from my current computer so that I could be able to install it again on my other computer. Thanks!

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