How to offer VST2 plugins now?

Hello, this is my first post here :slight_smile:

I just launched my new plugin a few days ago, and as a new developer I was of course unable to offer VST2 versions.
The problem is many users still need the old VST2 wrapper because they either have an outdated DAW (like Ableton < 10.1, which is certainly not that old), or even an uptodate DAW that does not support VST3 (like MPC software).
I had to refund a few orders because of this, and I could feel their frustration. And of course there are probably also a lot of users that did not buy the plugin in the first place because there was no VST2 version.

I understand why Steinberg did this, but I don’t feel like letting all those users without a solution. Sounds like planned obsolescence for all those users that do not want or cannot update their systems.

So here is my question: wouldn’t there be a way to offer VST2 versions by having an official distributor that owns a VST2 licence distribute just that particular version?
There could for example be a code distributed with the official package that, once entered in an online form on that distributor’s website, would let the user download the dll/vst file that he needs. That version would be cross-branded between the two companies.

Does that sounds like a realistic scenario?

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Wouldn’t it be easier if you ”bought” the vst2 version from me or anybody else who have a valid license and distribute it yourself? :thinking:

Would that work?
So that would be as simple as offering all versions and add a footnote for the VST2 version with something like “VST2 version provided courtesy of XXX” ?

The Licensee has no permission to sell, licence, give-away and/or distribute the VST 2
Plug-In Interface technology or parts of it in anyway, on any medium, including the
Internet, to any other person, including sub-licensors of the Licensee or companies
where the Licensee has any involvement. This includes re-working this specification,
or reverse-engineering any products based upon this specification.

Resale of the licence is not permitted in the VST agreement.

You can find the VST2 licensing agreement online in some places still, such as here.

Point 2.4 seems to be targeted at your suggestion of involving a third party:

If the Licensee is developing a product, that is using parts or all of the Licensed
Software Developer Kit, and this product is not published under his own name but will
be published by another company, the Licensee is under the obligation to inform the
publisher of the resulting product, that he too must be a party to this Licensing
Agreement. The publisher has to completely agree with the VST 2 Plug-In SDK
Licensing Agreement. If the publisher is not in agreement with these conditions, the
publisher is not allowed to distribute this product which is using parts or all of the
Licensed Software Developer Kit.

Not legal advice: my personal interpretation on that would be all involved require a license so you could struggle going that way since you cannot get one, but you should probably consult a professional about this because let’s just zoom out a moment and consider the big picture. Steinberg seem to want to stop new vendors producing new products using VST2 to progressively help it sunset the technology. You can fight it by trying to find inventive ways around their contract if you wish, but be prepared for the consequences if you choose that path.

What is the “VST 2 Plug-In Interface technology” here?
My understanding is that it means the headers files only, not the final product compiled with these headers files (or any other compatible header files, if such exist) by someone who has the license.
Otherwise that would mean that Plugin Boutique and similar shops would need to have a VST2 licence to sell VST2 plugins.

But I might be completely wrong here, this whole legal thing is far above my head.

It includes .h and .cpp files which will end up compiled into your binary which they own the rights to. You need need their permission to make derivative works using them.

Thanks, that is very informative.
I don’t think “be a party to this Licensing Agreement” means having a license though, but just be informed and agree on the terms. Otherwise online plugin distributors would all require the license, and I doubt they all have it.

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I’d check that with a lawyer.

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I reckon it does.

That clause describes a situation where the license holder is developing a plugin that “is not published under his own name but will be published by another company”. In other words if I have a VST2 license, I can’t grant you the right to publish plugins under your name using my license.

The same restriction does not apply to distributors such as Plugin Boutique, because they are distributing software that is published using the license holder’s name, not under their name.

There was a recent thread exploring the possibility of legal workarounds. One suggestion was to buy a company that has a VST2 license, solely for the purpose of obtaining that license. Seems a bit extreme, but I guess some developers want a license pretty badly.

Do you offer a demo version of your plugin, so users can check that it works before they commit to buying a license? Or are customers buying blind?

I do not offer a demo but compatibility and plugin formats are clearly stated.

That whole situation is quite obnoxious for developers, and detrimental to end users.
That is especially ridiculous considering Steinberg itself continues to distribute VST2 versions of its own plugins: https://new.steinberg.net/rnd-portico/

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I agree it’s a messy situation that hurts end users. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t legally distribute VST2. But I hope it will be a short term inconvenience that fades away as customers upgrade to a VST3 compatible DAW.

If I am a reseller of BMW cars, do I sell the BMW car technology?

Well, why would the the reseller refuse to agree with that? Seems to be to other way around, i.e Steinberg refusing to agree…

The reseller could use it in a hypothetical way, that doesn’t comply with the terms in the agreement. By making them a party of the agreement, they are bound to obey the terms.

So, putting legal solutions aside, there could also be a technical way to solve this: a company with a VST2 licence could offer a very simple VST2/3 bridge plugin.
I have not touched the hosting side of plugin development yet so I have no idea how hard it would be to do this, but at least this is doable as Blue Cat’s PatchWork does it (among many other functionalities).

Companies not having a VST2 licence could then advertise their plugin as VST-compatible when used with this particular bridge, with a link to that company’s website.
To be a viable solution it would have to be free, but that would be a good investment for the company offering it both in terms of web traffic to its shop and in terms of reputation.

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Check this post on KVR from 2012: https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=4884031#p4884031
The files are still available, but its Windows only (vst3shell.dll)

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Thanks, that thing actually seem to work, kinda.
The process is a bit convoluted but in the end it turns a VST3 plugin into a 5KB dll wrapper with the same name.
The VST3 has to be and remain in C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3 for this to work, but it looks like the dll can me moved anywhere.
I noted one strange behavior though: the wrapper I produced kept opening a different plugin until I removed that particular plugin from the VST3 directory…

The question of distributing this wrapper remains though, and the process is far too complicated to ask users to do it themselves (assuming the files are still available, assuming the author is okay for this, and also assuming he actually does have a VST2 license…)

It’s important to be pragmatic in these situations and think carefully about how much time you are prepared to invest swimming against the industry current. The waters in much tech are fast moving and choppy.

We have a huge number of older technologies left behind at this point which are increasingly challenging to support, and users understand that. It can be difficult to disappoint customers that aren’t using the latest tools, especially when some them have good reasons to want to stick where they are, but you will not be alone in your position here.

New vendors come along all the time and they will all be in the same position, that is going to exert a lot of pressure on customers to upgrade their tools so they can use modern plugins. Those resisting change will certainly attempt to apply pressure on all businesses that are not facilitating the status quo, but don’t allow that to colour justifiable rational consideration because this is not your fault or your fight.

Once sufficient incentive is provided to those future customers from multiple vectors to move on to newer hosts, computers, tools, etc they will move on and they will still probably be interested in your products. This is a self-rectifying situation, but will require some resilience and patience.

Remember whatever time you are dedicating to supporting deprecated tech for a constantly shrinking cohort is reducing your capacity to create new tools for the majority of users.

If you choose to stay the course in this industry you will have enough difficulty adapting to changes coming down the road to worry too much about what is in the rear view mirror. Ask anybody that’s been through RTAS to AAX, 32-bit to 64-bit, VST2 to VST3, Apple notarisation, and probably other technical traumas that I am glad to have forgotten whether they would bend over backwards to support technology that the owner is forcefully trying to move away from - I would bet many would say no. Your desire to accommodate VST2 is commendable, but think carefully about whether it is really the right thing to do.

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problem SOLVED ! :smiley:

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