NAMM 2024: Avid’s Sam Butler on upcoming Sibelius features, Android app, and more


All this week, we’ll be publishing posts from the 2024 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. It’s a huge exhibition, so we’ll focus on what we do best: covering the field of music notation software and related technology. Follow all of our NAMM 2024 coverage at Scoring Notes, and on our social media accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

In many ways, the NAMM Show is an ideal place for Avid to showcase Sibelius to all of its constituencies. There are lots of people that compose and perform music, especially music in notated form; there are publishers that both use Sibelius to create the music and also use Sibelius Cloud Publishing to view and sell the music online; and then there is the massive audience that’s interested in the audio side.

I asked Sam Butler, Avid’s director of product management, specifically who he and his colleagues are talking to at NAMM, and what he’s hearing about how they are using Sibelius.

Sam Butler at Avid’s booth at the 2024 NAMM Show

“The way we’ve structured Sibelius with the free entry mobile apps and desktop app, anybody can get it for free,” Sam said. “So we’ve got people that just need to get a little idea down on their phone or on their PC, and they just want to get going and make sure that it’s compatible with their new Mac; then, all the way up through to professional composers who are handing off scores to orchestrators who then use Sibelius to create the parts and then print them out for performance or recording. Those users are really interested in the little tiny details of have you fixed this bug? Have you changed the behavior of this? They really would like the reassurance that nothing is changing because nothing can change in their workflow. They don’t have time to relearn something that breaks all those workflows. So we need to be very conscious of that. So it’s really good to see people and learn about their use cases here.

“And, as you say, with the publishers, we’re showing off the new viewers and new API for Cloud Publishing. So we’re really catering to everybody: the complete beginner and just wants to write a few things, all the way up through to publishing.”

At the show, Avid previewed a new feature that will come to both Sibelius and Pro Tools — the ability to copy and paste MIDI directly to and from those applications. “That’s a really fun feature,” Sam said. “You can select that MIDI region, or MIDI clip, and you can just use standard copy and paste. So Ctrl-C, or Cmd-C to copy it, move to Sibelius, and just paste, and it will stream the MIDI from that point in your score.”

Sam Butler and Philip Rothman in conversation at the 2024 NAMM Show

Like many of Sibelius’s recent releases, Avid plans to release it and the refine it in future updates. “For version one,” Sam said, we’ll start to learn all the workflows and see what people do after pasting the MIDI to see if we can actually automate some of that, to remove key switches or tidy up. Maybe we just run the Renotate Performance plug-in all the time, because that at least gets you to a much cleaner result.”

This feature isn’t proprietary to Sibelius and Pro Tools; any application that can support copying and pasting MIDI to the clipboard will work. “We’ve done it intentionally to be open,” Sam said. “It’s standard MIDI data. Of course, we’re adding our own workflows that benefit Pro Tools and Sibelius for song structure or MIDI data only. But it really doesn’t matter what the intention is. If there’s another application that would like to do it as well, and support it, then we’re really keen for that.” Another item previewed at NAMM is a Sibelius app for Android and Chromebook.

“This is really exciting,” Sam said. “It’s been a multi-year project to get Sibelius running on all devices that we could mainly conceive of. And that means iOS and Android. We released our iOS app in July, 2021. That’s had great success. It’s really key in education, though, for people to be able to bring their own devices. Ideally we would have had this before the pandemic, and then everybody would be able to take any device home and carry on. But we’re really there now. It’s going to be key to allow a school to have a trolley of Chromebooks or iPads or whatever; we don’t want the technology to get in the way. You just want to write music and here’s Sibelius — go for it. So now people have got a choice.”

For the first time, the app will be an open beta. “You don’t need to sign our non-disclosure agreement as regular desktop beta users would have had to do,” Sam said. “But it is beta, so back your phone up and don’t try and use your production scores without backing those up!”

Sam also talked about the updates to Cloud Publishing that publishers will be able to take advantage of, which will ultimately benefit the customer experience in the form of a better user interface and faster processing times of uploaded scores.

We also discussed the balance between bug fixes, development of features in response to user requests, and keeping apace with technological progress, like the recent AI-based chord symbol generation feature. “It’s really fun,” Sam said. So now we’re looking at other things; do we expand more harmony? Do we do other sorts of things in AI? We’re doing that across the board at Avid as well. “So watch this space!”

We will indeed watch that space… but for now, you can watch my complete interview with Sam Butler on the NYC Music Services YouTube channel.


Keep coming back to Scoring Notes for more coverage from the 2024 NAMM Show, and follow us on our social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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