Convincing a Music department to drop Mac's and Sibelius

• Nov 14, 2019 - 11:41

This is my problem :-)

What ammunition can anyone offer to help me 'convert' a Music department from Mac's and Sibelius to Linux and Musescore. Forget the money, teachers seem to think it grows on trees ! While I'm grubbing around building servers out of bits they are 'we can't teach music without £50k of Mac's' !

What can I say bear in mind I am a computer person not a musician - like ( insert someone famous here ) uses it all the time. It does everything Sibelius does etc. I know that they will say Sibelius is 'the industry standard' but from what I have read Avid is not popular and their stranglehold maybe coming to an end.




MuseScore and Sibelius both have pros and cons, this is very well demonstrated in @Tantacrul's video. Maybe extract the "why MuseScore is a dream of new notation program users while Sibelius has extremely annoying and discouraging UX workflows" part and show it to the people you are trying to convince?

I understand the music department thinks Mac's are made to run music software and other platforms are not. Today, for less money you can get just as good quality of sound on a non-Mac as you can on a Mac. What more, if you switch to MuseScore you also don't have to worry about which platform you are using, MuseScore has a version for it and except for the UI requirements is idententical in function. You can use it on your Mac or your friends PC or run it under Linux on either platform the functions are identical and the scores 100% interchangeable.

Your students could actually save money buying a PC rather than a Mac and not having to pay for a notation program. That's about $2000 (it's probably actually less because Sibelius has student discounts but still well over $1000) in savings in America and a considerable amount of money.

Version 3.3 is very stable. Every program has a few bugs, but 3.3 is a quality piece of software so any concerns about an inferior product are due to misinformation.

In reply to by mike320

The perception has been that Mac's are better for graphics and sound. They are better against malware, and Apple makes killer deals for schools. The reality is not that simple. I used Ubuntu for a while. It's fine if you like messing with computers. But lots of people don't. That's why they turn to Apple. From what I've seen, out in the real world, it's a PC world. I own Sibelius. It's going to be a tough sell. Why? Because of perceptions. I think most people who have even heard of MuseScore are familiar with older versions with not very good playback. A professional can work with older versions of MS and write or arrange what they know to work. But students need playback. I have MS because some day my copy of Sibelius ( v7.5, the last version before forced subscriptions) will not run on some future version Windows. It is true that v 3.3 is far better than older versions.
Seems to me that if you are going to succeed, then you need to load up your machine with MS, get someone who knows how to use it as well as Sibelius, and have what we call a shoot out. You need to figure out why your idea is better. Price is not always a factor.

I think trying to convince them to change mac AND Sibelius at the same time is a mistake.
Start by installing MuseScore next Sibelius on the mac first.
Then have you considered the migration problem?
Do they have a bunch of scores that must stay accessible/modifiable?
What do you propose for that?
Have you tried to migrate some of the complexe ones with the more "open" user to evaluate the amount of work and the quality of the result ?

In reply to by frfancha

Agreed. In fact, I think it is very likely a mistake to even think about switching the department to Linux. A music department depends on teaching people the software used in the real world, and that means things like ProTools etc that just aren't available on Linux. And if the school has a composition department, the faculty probably has a significant body of work already in Sibelius and it would be unfair to them to drop the ability to run Sibelius at all.

So my advice is, keep the existing Mac's, keep enough Sibelius licenses for the faculty and whatever small percentage of composition students that might actually "need" it, but install MuseScore on the rest and use it for the majority of what is done (basic music theory courses, etc). The faculty can handle teaching MuseScore even if they continue to use Sibelius themselves for their new work. The students are going to want to use MuseScore on their own computers anyhow, because they aren't stupid; the faculty needs to support them in this very rational desire.

Maybe over time consider at least replacing Macs with Windows computers, as pretty much all the same music software available for macOS is also available for Windows, and of course the hardware is likely to be cheaper, but then you've got two systems to admin, so frankly, I wouldn't be in a hurry on that.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes and no.
In our universities, and in many other public institutions, it is difficult to convince those responsible to switch to open source.
You have to use a commercial program to make your work (sometimes they give you pirated copies) because We can't open your files. In reality, there is often compatibility (e.g. LibreOffice).
There are exceptions but, unfortunately, sometimes even users resist: learning costs effort I'm not capable. Just think about how many questions arrive in the forums because I don't have time/want to read the handbook.
(Years ago I was offering around CDs with the portable version of MuseScore; I gave one to a choir director and he told me I only use Finale and to my choristers I distribute the pirated copies. It seemed twice unfair to me, he held an institutional position).
You all have already exposed many points of view, I added my two cents and, like many here, I will continue to try to spread MsS and other free software.

In reply to by frfancha

True, I understand why you said this as when we moved everyone else from Windows to Linux we 'baby stepped them' however the Mac's were bought a long time ago when schools had money ! Since then a lot has changed and we have gone thru several heads of music . Now the Macs are so old practically only Sibelius works on them - most apps and the os won't upgrade any more. Replacing them will take half the schools whole IT budget !


Change is feared by most people. It takes time and effort to get used to something new and get your way around it. All beginnings come with dificulties.

Part of the reason Microsoft Windows became the most popular OS, is not because it was good, but they made sure from the begining that their system was to be included with almost any hardware available at the time. They also made good deals with companies, universities, organizations and goverments to provide the support needed for it.

When I was a student, my university had nothing else but MS Sofware on their PCs, as a result, all the students learned to use it and some even got proficient with it. Once we left university and starting working for a company, the transition was smooth, we were familiar with the software.

This strategy has put Microsoft in the lead for almost 40 years, and to this day, this strategy is still being copied successfully by others.

It would be difficult to find a way around it without knowing the reasons behind your organization adopting Sibelius. Taxes maybe another reason. Some profitable organizations enjoy and require spending money to help with their taxes. There may also be some political reasons involved.

Sibelius and Finale had made their reputation through the years positioning themselves as the leading notation software. For studends it will be more atractive to know that they will learn any of these than any other software with less reputation. This may be another reason for a school adopting them.

I also see this happening in the Digital Work Station world. Protools got their software being used by major recording studios, major artists, musicians, producers, and that put them in the lead. There are lots of DAWs as good, if not better, than Protools, but certain influencial people are using it and that's enough for the rest to follow.

Not and easy task.

Macs are actually a good choice for music departments. They come with very decent software for music editing (GarageBand) and video editing (iMovie) and are easy to use.

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