Though I’ll state at the outset that I have never tried to confirm that this is true, we’re told that if you drop a frog into hot water it will jump out, but if you put it into cold water and then gently bring it to the boil, it will stay put — and eventually you get frog soup. I think there’s a definite correlation between this ‘fact’ and the way most people approach spending money. If you’re asked to shell out a lot of cash in one hit, it really makes you think about it, but if instead you can pay out multiple smaller amounts, it somehow doesn’t seem quite so scary. Credit sales have exploited this aspect of human psychology for as long as there has been money; you might not feel comfortable justifying £$25,000 for a new car but £$250 per month doesn’t seem quite so panic-inducing. The same applies to that shiny Les Paul, high-end computer or workstation keyboard — if it only costs the equivalent of a few beers per week, what’s the harm?
When it comes to music software, there are now several payment models for acquiring it, the least costly option being to use freeware or shareware (don’t even get me started on pirate software). Then there’s Apple’s approach, which is to sell the software relatively cheaply and to provide a number of free upgrades, but when a program such as Logic Pro gets a major version update, you have to buy the whole thing again rather than pay a reduced update fee (though to be fair the full cost of their software is still less than many people charge for an update). Their apps are even cheaper — just look at what you get in GarageBand — but then their business model seems to be to offer temptingly low-cost software to induce you to buy more up-to-date Apple hardware. Which you can also get on credit for small beer-sized repayments.
Then there’s the Adobe approach where you essentially rent the software. Various skews on this rental model are employed by other companies; for example where you first buy the software and then make further regular payments into an update plan. Some developers allow you to rent their software only when needed, which is an attractive option if you require something specialised only for a specific project. Renting doesn’t always feel as solid as ownership, but then in the grand scheme of things how permanent is ‘owned’ software anyway, when a change in the hardware platform — or even an upgrade to the operating system — can still render it obsolete?
On a lighter note, what I find particularly seductive is the way certain plug-in manufacturers now send out weekly emails offering huge discounts on just a few specific products. They may not always be plug-ins you’d previously considered buying, but when you see the low price tag it has the effect of making you look more closely to see if they might just be worth having anyway. If you can restrain yourself from buying up every offer, there are some genuine bargains to be had — and me being an ‘ex-pat’ Yorkshireman, you can probably guess how I feel about bargains!