Note: All this week, we’ll be publishing posts from the 2020 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 2020 coverage at Scoring Notes, and on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In this post, we interview Jason Wick, senior manager at MakeMusic, about the latest Finale developments and what to expect for the future.
When Finale was first released more than 30 years ago, the concept of the year 2020 must have seemed like the distant future. But time flies, and it’s entirely possible you could have, say, a Finale 2.0 file created in 1994 and open it in 2020 in version 26.2 (as I have) and continue right where you left off. That alone is a remarkable feat in the rapid-paced world of software development.
Jason Wick started with Finale as a use in college student in Chicago in the 1990s, and, as he said to me during our talk at the 2020 NAMM Show, “the rest is history.” That user experience came in handy when he started working at MakeMusic six years ago as an automated test engineer, writing tests in the Finale user interface to help make it more efficient, and gradually worked his way through several roles to eventually become a senior manager, managing all aspects of Finale: “the planning, testing, development, user manual, and technology tools related to using the product,” he said. “We’re never bored!”
“Finale is so many things to so many people,” Jason said. “It’s like a multi-tool,” (but not a metatool — little Finale joke there), and the software can be used to create just about any type of musical composition. The program’s legacy cuts both ways — both as a venerable platform with a storied history, but also with a lot of legacy code as well.
At the time of the most recent release of Finale 26.2 in November 2019, Jason addressed the latter point:
Over the past twelve months, the majority of our team’s efforts have gone into technical improvements that don’t yield short-term user-facing benefits. Although our friends using Finale haven’t seen big differences on the surface, the underlying code has changed dramatically…The architectural work that we’ve been doing modifies hundreds of thousands of lines of code and those changes are investments in the long-term viability of Finale.
I asked about what that means for the user. “Over time, Finale has evolved into something so powerful,” Jason said. “What that means in some cases is, when you’re trying to add value to the user over time and give them the capability to do different things, the challenge of the technical work to be done can be hard. We want to double down on our investment so that we can more reliably and more quickly add feature updates in the long-term. I understand that can be a frustrating thing for a customer to hear, and I fully understand that. … In the short-term the user won’t see [a lot of difference].”
MakeMusic is also responsible for MusicXML and SmartMusic, and is under the same corporate umbrella as Alfred Music. “One thing we’re looking at as a set of companies,” Jason said, “is Alfred, the biggest music education publisher in the world, and our offering of software, and how we can find ways to integrate those things. It’s such a tremendous opportunity, and I’m so excited about what we’ll be able to deliver to the user base in the years ahead.”
Jason said that the work is “so fulfilling — it would be if it was any type of education, but it’s the most fulfilling for music education. To be able to provide some of the tools that they’re going to use is really fulfilling.”
About the future of Finale, Jason said that “we want to target the longer-standing issues that are affecting the most people. I think it would be nice to see some more improvements on the Windows side. We put a lot of work into the Mac side — and Windows too — but I would like to give a little more love to the Windows users.”
Our discussion was punctuated repeatedly by music demos on the NAMM floor — the media center was smack in the middle of a very noisy hall, and we apologize for that to viewers of our video interview — but I asked Jason about the importance of being at the NAMM Show. “This is just crazy! It’s just enormous and huge,” Jason said, “and it means a lot to be able to be at this show. It’s great to see all of the people engaged in the booth for products — all of these people with a common passion, so many like-minded individuals, as well as disruptors. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m happy to be here.”
The video of our entire interview with MakeMusic’s Jason Wick is below. As is often the case, the surrounding environment at NAMM was very loud, but we did our best to mitigate the background to the extent possible. Apologies if it’s a little hard to hear in some places!