zenAud.io is winding down

Hi everyone, founder and owner here - Martin Percossi.

This is the post that no founder wants to write, but here I am writing it. zenAud.io is winding down.

I’m a customer, what does that mean for me?

  1. If you haven’t bought ALK, tough luck: we’re no longer selling. Sorry.
  2. If you already own ALK, be aware that I don’t plan any further updates, apart from a last maintenance update which cuts the umbilical cord between the software and the website. I’ve committed to providing that version by start of February 2021.
  3. Until that date, your account page should work - and you are now, once again, able to activate the product.

Why is zenAud.io winding down?

Sadly, the economics simply don’t work. Essentially ALK brings in enough cash on a monthly basis to partially support a single developer.

The money that zenAud.io brings in is used to pay @Robin-zenAud.io .Truth be told, it doesn’t even adequately compensate him, a fact that makes me sad. For my part, I haven’t received a salary since 2018. That’s actually an overstatement: during the period when I “made” a salary, the company was losing enough money that I was paying that “salary” from my personal savings; not from money raised by sales of the product. For the record: as an owner, I’m in the red with zenAud.io. I never profited - not even close - another fact that makes me sad, and a little sick in my stomach when I consider how much effort went in. (As in: how could I have been so stupid?)

I should say this, though: Robin did an amazing job at monetizing ALK. He was instrumental in getting ALK listed in Thomann. He basically paid his own salary through ingenious use of Facebook campaigns, in the process creating the small but clearly devoted - and now justifiably mutinous - userbase. And anyone who’s watched the countless instructional videos he created can attest to his intimate knowledge of the product, not to mention his pretty fucking awesome musical skills. He was tireless in seeking collaborations with other musicians.

So if you’re angry at zenAud.io, please don’t be angry at Robin. He doesn’t own this shit show; I do.

Dude, where were you?

As mentioned above, I had to make a living. Here is where I have to confront some uncomfortable truths about my personality. I’m not particularly organized or disciplined. When I’m excited about something - and even now the code and oh-my-god-the-responsiveness-when-pinch-zooming-at-60fps get me excited. (And the key bindings - though I suspect I’m in the minority there.) But eventually, I have to context-switch back to the job that actually pays me money. And context switching, is very costly for me.

In April (I think), with the best of intentions, I updated the Windows version and fixed a long-standing bug. I swore to myself I would devote more time to the product. What happened after that? Quite simple: shit hit the fan (in a good way) at my other job (the one that actually pays the bills). I got excited by that, and frankly, that led me to drop the ball on zenAud.io.

Sorry, I’m a nerd: programming has always been fun for me, and when faced with an interesting problem, of which my current job has plenty, I get kind of lost in those. I’ll invert that remark: I was able to make zenAud.io not because I was particularly disciplined (I’m not), but because I became engrossed in the creative, design, and technical aspects in creating audio software. At every step along the road, what motivated me was was the desire (which I’m sure more than a few musicians will be familiar with!) to do something no one else had done before. Keyboard bindings? Let’s one-up vi. Graphics? Nothing less than GPU-rendered 60FPS will do. UI? Make it all transparent: no chrome, nowhere. And so on. Oh and by the way, I’ll do that all by myself… It didn’t go to plan, needless to say.

To get back to why updates weren’t provided consistently in the recent past: I’m not temperementally suited to doing such reasonable things as budgeting my time. Also, it doesn’t help having 3 little screaming banshees demanding my attention in the evening. That sounds bad: they’re totally awesome. But after a full day’s work, and then making dinner for kids, corralling them to brush their teeth and put on their pyjamas, and then putting them to bed, I can’t tell you how drained you are.

It’s fair to say I’m a terrible - comically bad, actually - business man. Looking back at some of the design decisions, I have to laugh about how insane they were. I’ve mentioned a few of them. (The GPU thing cost me 6 months - and, in retrospect, honestly: who gives a shit?) Also, I really hate networking - and to be a good entrepeneur, you have to do a lot of networking. I could go on and on about the mistakes I made as businessman, as a designer, etc., but I don’t want to bore you.

Bottom Line

Enough self-flagellation. I want to conclude by expressing my gratitude to you, the customer, who supported us through your purchases and, most importantly, your time and creative input. I know as an owner I’ve been aloof and unresponsive, but to those of you who contacted me with messages of support for my work, and to those of you created using zenAud.io ALK: thank you so much - it makes me incredibly happy that some people liked what I conceived, and found use for it.

Bottom line: I gave it my best shot, and failed - for that I’m truly sorry. But it’s time to move on.

Thankfully at least now we know. I don’t get that sinking feeling seeing a comment from someone excited after hearing about this product, knowing that I probably needed to temper their excitement for their own good.

I would’ve hoped some other big company might pick up the idea and run with it.

Sad. You had a good idea, and Robin did a great job. I could tell his hands must’ve been tied in what he could say.

Thanks so much Martin. I do appreciate the open and brutally honest account of what happened with Zen. So sorry for your losses through the project. I shut down an internet startup once and can relate to your pain.

You made a hell of a product. The interface design was sooo good. I regret that I only found it recently and did not get a chance to purchase it before the site flaked out and ended registration.

I would hope that there is still some value to your product, interface and code base. Any chance of selling it to a company like Cockos or another DAW dev? It would make a fine addition to Reaper (or Live or Logic, etc.)

Glad to hear your current bill-paying gig is going well. I wish you much success in the future.

Tracy

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Thanks so much Martin - I recognise myself a lot in a lot of what you wrote, and I understand how you struggle. I’ve got 2 little attention and energy sponges at home!

It’s such a great piece of software, and I love using it! It’s really helped me create music with my computer - something I never did before, I’d only go near a computer with a finished piece of music. But now I’m using Ableton to sketch ideas into fully formed compositions. Who knows where this will lead?

I play music for a living, and I do a lot of shows, so loopers are really important to me. And ALK is my favourite looper. I was really hoping to continue using it in the future, but I’m really happy with how it worked for me.

Final note - is there any chance this might be made into some sort of open source project? I’m no programmer, but maybe if the code was put out, someone might keep the flame alight?

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You should sell your company to a bigger player. The design is fantastic and they probably have the resources to optimize it for performance. That or open source it so all is not in vain. It’s very cool that you actually created something that could be really special. Very few people have the aptitude and perseverance to do that so thanks for creating and contributing something of value to the world.

This is really great software. 2 days ago I bought additional controllers and a guitar processor because guitar rig vst crashed my trial ALK2. Today I have achieved stability with all instruments or plugins, and wanted to buy now. This is terrible news T_T
There will be no way to use it further?

I guess as much. Sorry to hear it. I loved the product. I’ve always thought you should sell the idea to one of the big ones. Logic is on track now to challenge Ableton Live, but Pro Tools and Cubase have nothing for live performance that I see. Why don’t you still try and do that? If successful, you can split the money with Robin and hopefully get yourselves a job doing it. If I put my mind to it and had some others to help, I’d be happy to try and help out doing that. Other than that, releasing it open source as suggested by Poltad might be cool.

This is such sad news, but at least we are no longer hanging. I purchased the full version a couple of years ago and feel that I was misled by the promises of those features that are still missing. I understand your situation having gone through similar myself, but I am very disappointed and hope that another company or developer can pick up where you left off. The concept is fantastic and the software has huge potential. We can only hope! Good luck for the future.

As far as I’m concerned it still achieved a certain level of success, if not commercially. It was a great idea. you should open-source it.

Noooooo! This is very sad to hear. However, it’s good we have gotten closure after months of speculation.

This was a dream come true for me as a live looper! I was just starting to get the hang of ALK Solo and planned to upgrade to ALK 2 shortly to take advantage of the more number of tracks. I understand there are bugs and memory issues, but that’s something us ardent fans are willing to put up with.

Can I still upgrade to ALK2?

Oh yes, I completely agree with the open source idea or selling it to someone who can run with the idea. Hope to see some positive news about this.

Just went to the UPGRADE page in my account and could upgrade…Can I please have the link?

Martin and all - thank you for making the hard decision and writing the hard message. I think the idea of this software is magnificent - especially for solo performers like myself who have the chops to program the music. I know we’re a small group, but this is such a nice compromise between playing to a fully recorded backup band and just using piano and/or regular loops. There’s an authenticity in this software (in this world of present) even as it allows us to “cheat” (ala Brian Eno). Sure I can figure out a few things to do w/ Logic live loops or whatever, but it will be super awkward and way less impressive than the stuff I was working on.

I figured funding was the issue, and even considered the possibility of offering to help, as even though I’ve invested in things that I now don’t really need (external software etc.), I think it’s worthwhile stuff. So I hope you you hand this off to someone who fires up a kickstarter campaign or something. I think it’s important. And I think it will be especially important given the socially distant world we live in now and for the near future.

So thank you (and Robin) for your vision and pursuit of your vision with passion. And for your honesty in this letter. All of that has an impact - it matters - as we all go forward. There are no failures, only next steps…

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Damn… Don´t think you lost. Was simply bad luck. You created one of the best GUI in industry and a genious concept. Perhaps too much for a one-man-show…

I sent you a personal message… someone from the industry I know would perhaps be interested in figuring out the possibilities to save the concept and wants to contact you… Give it a chance.

All the best for you personally in the future.

Sorry, i didn’t know this will coming, but always prepared to buy this, at least the cheaper version. Can you make a last minute sell or something? (It’s ok without support also)
Or just send an install/license code for me? I do hate pirating, so i won’t do that, but asking you nicely!
Or let me buy it as a last minute at the original price or with some discount… it doesn’t change for you anything now, but i’m really sad to read that! I want to have thism but didn’t have the money, but now i dig it from the underground if need…

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Many thanks for the words of support, and for the suggestions in how to prevent ALK from falling into bit rot.

I still have a few steps to complete to fully wind down the business structure, which involves dissolving the GmbH - which is one thing, ironically, I’m very much looking forward to. At the time I created the company, I spoke to a tax adviser who said “You should just operate this as a sole trader”. I wish I’d listened to him: a GmbH gives you nothing except paperwork and costs. I won’t be sad to see that go.

After that’s all done, I’ll consider my options. I’m somewhat skeptical that open source will prevent ALK from falling into bit rot. A lot of the work in maintaining ALK isn’t glamorous, and I’m not sure there will takers on the development side. Also, I’m a little nervous about open-sourcing itself becoming a huge time-sink for me, and in particular I have little desire for the political aspects of open source and “drama” surrounding it. I have more faith in ALK surviving if some other company takes it over, so I’ll be reaching out to potential suitors in the coming weeks.

That said, I’m leaving all options open so this obviously isn’t the final word.

Some users have asked that a version be made available. I hear you. I’ll work something out this weekend – I already have builds working on Mac. I managed to break them again on Windows because I very stupidly tried switching to Visual Studio’s clang (which is much faster because it uses all the cores of my laptop, but doesn’t work with conan as I discovered after several hours of faffing about!). I’ll have to revert. But at that point, I can create new builds on both Mac and Windows. I’ll then probably just post a link to the program and remove the license barriers.

Once again, apologies to all the users who are disappointed and who expressed your frustration. I do understand where you’re coming from.

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Hi Martin, Hi Robin,

I am happy you announced that everybody feared, at least now we know where we stand. I am sad but have no bitterness. I have myself developed a business in graphic design wirh 11 employees and, when the digital world changed, could not support everybody any more and had to close. Change management came in and today I am independent and thing work again. When you have to pull the plug, you have to.

Now I want to THANK you for the great app you and Robin developed and tell you all my admiration for doing so despite the difficulties.

I will continue use it because there is no other like this out there. I blocked a computer that I will not upgrade. But eventually I will have to re-programm all my show with another software.

Can you please help me answering a few questions others may have too:

  1. What other software do you suggest we migrate to?
  2. How long can we consult the tutorial videos on YouTube?
  3. How can we download the user guide on your website?
  4. Is anybody buying Alk2?

Thank you again for all your efforts and good luck to Robin and you for you professional future!
Warm regards

Enrico

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Hi @Enrico, I have to be brief, so I’ll only address your questions:

  1. Ableton. There are YouTube videos how to accomplish what can be done in ALK.
  2. Forever; we won’t take them down.
  3. Fair point. I will see if I can print this in PDF or single HTML page form. Let me get back to you on that!
  4. No, I disabled the checkout page. There’s no way to buy right now.

Kind regards,
Martin

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Thanks for hearing us out Martin! :+1: No Rush!

Not to discount the Windows users, but if the Mac link to download can be released first, that will be great! Mostly Mac users here I believe.

No, actually i’m a win10 user and can’t wait that version to download that seertaak mentioned before. :slight_smile: Thank you very much!