Sibelius changes its pricing model to require monthly fee

Composers ask: will other notation programs do the same?

Volume 116, No. 1January, 2016

Richie Vitale

Trumpeter Richie Vitale is a member of Local 802 and a user of Sibelius. Contact him at

Money graph calculator TZIDO istockThe notation program Sibelius is changing its pricing model. Instead of buying it and owning it, it is changing to a subscription model, where you have to pay every month to have access to the program. This is similar to what Adobe has done with the latest version of Photoshop and other products. Needless to say, this is a game-changer for those of us who use the program, and it prompted me to write this essay to let other members of Local 802 know what’s going on.

As with many things in life, there are good points and bad points to this new pricing model. The advantage to the new plan is that users get “free” upgrades of Sibelius – as long as you keep up your monthly payments. The disadvantage is that if you stop paying for your subscription, you lose the ability to save any changes until you renew the subscription.

The pricing is as follows. (This is always subject to change!) An existing user of Sibelius 1 to Sibelius 7.5 will pay $89 per year for Sibelius 8. But new users of Sibelius have to pay $239 a year. There are also discounts for educational users and even a special discount for those who are switching over from Finale. At first look, the deal doesn’t seem so bad, when you keep in mind that this monthly pricing model includes “free” upgrades. In the past, every couple of years there was a new version of Sibelius, which I used to upgrade to at a cost of $139. And yet, there is something tangible about owning an application outright as opposed to “renting” it.

When Adobe started charging monthly fees for Photoshop, I switched to some nice, affordable alternatives (Pixelmator and iDraw). Unfortunately, the choices to replace such a grand program as Sibelius are limited. There are rumors of a new program that will rival Sibelius from the company Steinberg-Yamaha. That company grabbed up former Sibelius programmer Daniel Spreadbury and his team. But this rival program has no clear date for release.

For many of us users, our vested interest in Sibelius is great. Many of us have fought for feature requests. Hundreds of third-party plug-ins have been written to make our workflow even easier.

Sibelius users used to feel a personal connection to the company. Daniel Spreadbury, the former Sibelius developer, would answer our concerns on the Sibelius help forum and often integrate a request of ours to make the program better. Or if he couldn’t do it himself, he would work closely with third-party plug-in writers to fulfill our needs.

Sibelius still continues to work on upgrades, but many of the requests on the IdeaScale site (a place where users report bugs and contribute feature requests) have not been addressed. Some items on my own Sibelius wish list are: slurs and ties improvements with accidentals; first endings overlapping the second; multiple staff sizes; being able to group objects; and, having the key signature display on only the top staves of a part.

Though there are no major new features or engraving improvements in Sibelius 8, it’s good to know for existing users that if we’d like to continue with Sibelius for the time being – or if we want to keep using Sibelius until there is a viable alternative – the program still exists for us.

If you’re a fellow Sibelius user, let me know what you think of all of this. I’m discussing it on my Facebook page:

The opinions expressed in this essay are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Local 802. If you’re a member of Local 802 and would like to submit a “Member to Member” essay for our consideration, e-mail