Dirk Ulrich & David Reitzas
Interview about the PLUGIN ALLIANCE concept.26.12.2011
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David Reitzas, Grammy awarded Producer and Engineer (Madonna, Guns´n´Roses, etc.), meets Dirk Ulrich (CEO Plugin Alliance USA and Brainworx Germany) at AES 2011 in New York.
This is a reprint of their conversation, recorded by Marty Druckman (NetworkProMarketing USA).
David and Dirk are friends for years, ever since they met at a NAMM show through Marty, the US distributor for SPL (still) and Brainworx (at that time), and a mutual dear friend. David and Dirk have also been working together mixing some music of Dirk´s German band GIFTIG at The Mix Room in LA in 2009.
The three met at AES 2011 in New York, where Dirk had just visited the initial Members of the Alliance and shared some details about the launch of plugin-alliance.com. Marty proposed to record the following conversation.
Hey Dirk, I just heard from my friend Cliff Maag about the new Plugin Alliance concept. As far as I understand you have started cooperations with some of the hottest pro audio companies to develop plugin versions of their analog gear?
Hey Dave. Yes, that´s right. As you know our German company Brainworx has been developing plugins for some years already. Besides making our own plugins we worked with SPL, Elysia and Vertigo, who are 3 of the top German analog manufacturers. Their plugins have been developed and maintained by our team from day 1 on. But the plugins were offered through the individual websites of the respective companies, which forced us to host several web stores, offer tech support and download services on multiple servers, etc. It got crazy after a while as we had more than 100,000 users in between these companies in spring 2011.
Around that time I was also talking to several US companies who were interested in releasing plugin versions of their gear as well. I was happy about the potential new cooperations, of course, but I felt that it would not be manageable anymore if we just started more and more web services. And we felt that the user experience would suffer if your customers would have to download and potentially buy plugins from 10 different websites, opening accounts at all these sites, etc.
So I talked to Hermann and Peter at SPL, and to Dominik at Elysia, and luckily enough they were all very open and positive about teaming up and offering all the plugins and services from one dedicated website in the future.
Wow, that sounds like now you will be responsible for a major plugin line then. But why didn´t you just put all the plugins on one of the existing websites, for example the Brainworx site?
Well, we thought about that for a minute but dismissed the idea as we really didn´t want the concept to look like one of the companies involved is taking over the other plugin lines now. As we are offering our own line of plugins with Brainworx, I decided to start a new company which would serve as the online distributor and the service provider for everybody involved and keep Brainworx one of the brands in the lineup.
Also, I am a huge America fan and always wanted to start a US company to establish business with our US customers and partner companies more serious. I grew up with American music, love American movies and the general vibe that I feel when I am in the country. I go to the US 4 or 5 times every year and for several years already now, so I know the people and the mentality quite well, and I love it.
So, the Plugin Alliance is a true American company?
Yes, sir! Plugin Alliance LLC was incorporated in Delaware in late 2011, to be launching the new website and services in January 2012. I found a very cool company in Delaware called IncPlan. Jacques Luben and his people did a great job putting a team together to start our new US company and get us rollin'. They put us together with Belfint as well, another great company. Both of them are highly recommended.
Alright, welcome then, sounds like a plan indeed. Initially I thought the Plugin Alliance concept was basically a web store, just offering several brands on one website.
No, the Plugin Alliance is much more than just an online store.
David with bx_digital & bx_dynEQ, 2 of his go-to plugins besides the SPL Passeq and the SPL Transient Designer.
No more iLok or eLicenser then?
No more hardware dongle at all!
Our new system will let customers use the plugins on 3 machines simultaneously, and we will offer solutions for the pro who needs more than 3 licenses, as well as accommodating services if users get new computers after a while, or if a machine dies and you need to replace it.
Our system requires only ONE license file which you need to copy to your music computer and which will then activate ALL of your Alliance plugins at once. Even better, we have developed an online activation system, so if your music computer is online everything is done automated in the background. Enter your email address and password and you´re rocking within 3 seconds!
To me as a professional user working in different studios all the time this new system sounds like a dream come true. I hate having to install drivers and USB dongle hardware whenever I work in a new studio just to make sure I can use the tools I am used to, and all major studios I know have an internet connection these days to enable them to update their OS, DAW software or plugins, of course. Anyone who forgot their USB dongle at home only once knows what that means...
Absolutely. Lately we had more than 90% of our tech support requests related to the copy protection system we were using. We decided to come up with an EASY licensing solution instead and let people enjoy using their plugins.
The concept sounds great, but who are the Members of the new Alliance then?
First of all we look at all of our users as Members, but I guess you want to know who the participating companies are.
Plus Neve Custom Series 75 from Australia.
Thumbs up man! They are some of my favorite companies, I can´t wait to have plugins from all of them available! This already sounds like a very strong Alliance to me right now. And I am sure you will keep on adding new partners later on, right?
Absolutely. We wanted to start with a cool line of plugins that the Brainworx team has developed from the beginning on, but we decided that we will even let external companies use our “framework” and the system behind it in the future. For plugins which they have developed on their own. There are so many plugin formats and different standards out there, so we´re trying to establish a new “Über-Standard” which includes all the individual native DAW standards plus license management and downloads.
Brainworx has, over the past 4 years, developed what we call the “bx_framework”. It´s a software system that we use to develop plugins. Once we have a new plugin up and running, the bx_framework automatically compiles the plugin into all native plugin formats (VST, RTAS, AU, AAX, Audiosuite, etc.). For MAC and PC that is, 32- and 64-bit.
Then we can maintain all the plugins in the system simultaneously.
Let´s say there is a change needed to all of our plugins, because Steinberg changes the VST SDK. In that case we would add some changes to our framework in one centrally located file, recompile and upload ALL of the plugins we host to the download servers, and hurray.... all of our plugins and all of our partners´ plugins are up to date again.
The first external company to use this service is TC Electronic from Denmark. They have developed a great new metering tool called LM6, and they are working with Brainworx on a native version which will be developed under the bx_framework and maintained together with all the Alliance plugins. Our system is very reliable and stable; we have very few bug reports from users since we have established the system.
This sounds so logical; I am asking myself why nobody else has thought about this before. I mean, companies using your system in the future will surely save a lot of time which they can instead put into developing new tools, right?
Absolutely. It´s almost bizarre to see so many plugin developers worldwide going nuts as soon as a host company changes anything or announces a new plugin format like AVID have just done with the AAX format. Everybody stops developing new tools and instead is forced to redo their same existing plugins again and again. Which is a lot of work, and in the end causes costs. If the plugin companies then are forced to offer paid upgrades to their customers to cover these costs, everybody is affected in a negative way.
So, our goal is to establish the Plugin Alliance system as a new standard for native plugin formats. With this standard in place it will be easy and hassle free for the customers to use their native plugins under one unified, reliable and proven system, and developers will have more time to spend on developing new tools.
Finally, www.plugin-alliance.com will be the one-stop website to purchase all your Alliance tools, and the place to get tech support, downloads and updates etc.
Cool stuff. So, will your customers benefit from that Alliance financially as well?
I would think so. We have plans of releasing bundles with plugins by various vendors, for example a mastering bundle with several dedicated tools from more than just one of the companies, or a Hollywood bundle with tools for movie sound engineers, a Heavy Metal bundle with special tools, etc. You get the idea.
These bundles will be offered at special rates, of course.
And we will have special campaigns and offers for existing loyal customers.
There are many options to make the whole idea work for everybody involved, including the customers, of course. So far the initial feedback from our partner companies, media partners and beta testers has been very positive.
OK, thank you for all the background info and good luck with this exiting new project. Do send me some freebies when you go live! ;-)
Thank you, Dave, we will surely do that.
David & Dirk mixing a GIFTIG track in TheMixRoom, Burbank, CA.