August 22, 2013

Steve Aoki and Linkin Park Still Can’t Afford Sylenth

A screen grab of the cracked copy of Lennar Digital's Sylenth 1 in use by Aoki/ Linkin Park

A screen grab of the cracked copy of Lennar Digital’s Sylenth 1 in use by Aoki/ Linkin Park


(ed: Since the time of writing, Steve Aoki has made efforts to clear up why the Team Arcade crack appeared in the video and presented a receipt. It’s been a fun ride, but the outrage has been quieted. See the note at the bottom of the post for links to Aoki’s blog.)

I know I’ve said it before, but the music business is hard kids. It’s SO HARD, in fact, that even when you have Vegas residencies and arena tours between two bands, it’s still apparently impossible to pool enough cash to buy plug-ins. Well, it must be, because Steve Aoki and Linkin Park couldn’t shell out for their copy of Lennar Digital’s Sylenth 1 that was in use for the collaboration “A Light That Never Comes.” A video preview of the single, presumably put forth so we can all bask in the glory of these apparent super powers as they come together to unite EDM and whatever it is you call what Linkin Park does, clearly shows the song being built using the Team Arcade crack of the plug-in.

I wrote about this recently, and as a result ended up getting a good few responses through various channels from friends and readers alike offering what (I will always be frank about telling people) amounted to rationalization of their own piracy. The common thought among so many people is that they will “pay for it when the music pays them.” I always ask people at what point they will know they have made it. There is rarely a financial amount plotted for this question. More to the point, those years between the success story and the black ink delivering checks to the door can be long and lean. As often as not, they may result in someone eventually coming back off the road and being a “civilian” again. It’s like these users expect software devs to invest their unpaid mortgage in hopes that at some point in the indefinite future they might still be using their product and think to pay for it finally… This was a pretty crappy premise in my eyes, but how about this one:

NIGHTLY, you dump champagne on people. You use a ridiculous amount of inflatable rafts. You bring in enough money that you are in a Forbes article two years running. You live in an airplane or a luxury hotel suite and talk at great length about what an entrepreneurial spirit you approach the music business with. You have literally built your career on plug-ins and the affordability of digital creation. You are just one half of what is, for all practical financial measurements, a super group. You make a video to promote said super group and think enough of the technology to make it a feature in the video. Yet you don’t think enough of this technology that makes your big old 24/7 party possible to pay for it?

Sounds like a pretty crappy repayment to the giants whose shoulders you’re standing on.

It doesn’t matter, I suppose, so long as Sylenth 1′s creators at Lennar Digital are digging the exposure… or that’s the implication in a number of comment threads on the subject. However, I disagree. I feel like the marketing here is really going to Team Arcade. I would be pretty surprised if people aren’t mostly saying “oh, I can get Sylenth 1 cracked!”

Regardless, the example being set is pretty terrible. Steve Aoki is simply confirming priorities in the EDM world, where you pay for shoes and fashion garbage, but the musical tools at the heart of things should be free apparently. These aren’t nearly as important as being seen in cool gear… right? Approaching this from the entrepreneurial standpoint, I am led to believe the secret of Steve’s success must be, in part, due to the decreased overhead thanks to software piracy. To my mind, Dim Mak has been one of the beneficiaries of low cost technology and is often trumpeted as part of a group of new musical success stories. I can’t help but see anyone in Aoki’s position needing to give back to the community. One bottle of dumped champagne (at least the kind being thrown around at Aoki gigs) would likely offset the cost of Sylenth 1. Hell, they’d probably have given him a free copy.

So what’s my point? Do I think there is something Aoki and Linkin Park could do to reverse this? Yes, as I rarely give in to what I call non-productive bitching. My solution is this: Set the better example. Answer up to this minor controversy by doing the right thing and buy all the crap you are using. Show the fans who hold you highly that you are paying for the software. I’ve met Aoki more than once, and he was a very kind and congenial guy every time. I can’t help but think he wouldn’t want to be perceived as this kind of businessman.

What I really want to know though, is what you guys think. I know people were quick to indignation when it came down to the tools they needed costing more than they could afford. Now that they see someone like Aoki doing it, can the actions really be justified?


After a lot of discussion on the matter- all over the place- Steve Aoki has responded to the allegations that began on Reddit on his own blog. You can read it for yourself but the gist is that: 

“…the honest truth is that screenshot is in fact of my road laptop (the laptop I DJ with). I go through 5 or 6 of them a year, usually purchasing them while on the road. After my last purchase, I had asked my road team to help me load in my production software and apparently they didn’t ask Jacob for the authorization code for Sylenth and installed a pirated version.

So my apologies go out to the good people at Lennar Digital and a big thank you to my fans that caught the mistake which has since been rectified.”

As I said, all I thought should be done was that Aoki set the better example. Done. He buys his stuff. Right on.