Astiga pricing changes - introducing a time limit on the free trial

gravelldgravelld Administrator

Following the acquisition of Astiga in August and a period of consultation, we've decided to make a change to the Astiga pricing structure. We're going to be introducing a time limit to Astiga non-premium accounts.

TL;DR:

  • We will be limiting new free accounts to 7 days usage.
  • Premium account holders are unaffected.
  • The change will be introduced on Thursday 17th February 2022 (two week's time).
  • Existing non-premium accounts will be granted an extra-long period until Thursday 18th August (six months) before their free plan expires.
  • Nothing is permanent.

Now the longer version... let's start with goals.

My aim for the Astiga service is to develop it into a very real alternative to big-tech streaming services and make it a long-term sustainable and profitable business. I want it to offer a similar service to the rentier model of music streaming, with good support for offline access and a focus on personally curated and owned music libraries.

Koen made a great start - building the service as-is and keeping the business very lean.

From interviewing and surveying many of you (thanks everyone) I've learnt what you value and what you think could be improved. To implement these things, we're going to need more resources. And by resources, I mostly mean money.

One way is to save money, to have more to re-invest in development. As I said, Koen did a great job keeping costs low. However, free users do still incur a cost. Each stream is routed via Astiga servers, and this costs in both bandwidth and compute resources. So the free tier does have a real cost. (I'll use the term "free tier" from now on; I don't think it's really called this anywhere, but what I mean are free, non-premium accounts).

Saving money will only get us so far. I also want to increase the number of free tier users who contribute to the costs of the platform by going Premium. The free tier is important to trial the service, so it will remain, but from the 17th February we're going to start limiting it to seven days for new accounts.

Existing free tier accounts will be granted a six month leeway until 18th August, at which point their free trial will expire. This extended period is so free tier users, if they intend not to upgrade, have time to export any data from the platform to do as-they-will. Of course, upgrades nevertheless before the 18th August would be gratefully received 😉

I'm prepared to work on features to make this easier - if there's particular data that you cannot see yourself being able to export, let me know and we can work something out.

No decisions in business are final. I've made several judgement calls with this; the length of trial accounts, the six month extension, the decision to only change the free tier. But I have to try different things to achieve my goals for the service. It might be I experiment and change my mind later. Such are the complexities of life.

I cannot hope that no-one is disappointed, but I do hope that I am communicating my goals and why I have taken this decision. The easier decision would be to just let it continue turning a small profit, but not developing the service greatly. I encourage everyone to share their thoughts in this thread.

Thanks, and keep listening.

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Comments

  • Sounds fair to me. Of course I have easy talking as an already premium user (but then I paid for it too fair and square, and Astiga seems rather fair priced), and I don't doubt it'll create some negativity from some, but the explanation is clear and makes sense. As a software developer myself I sometimes feel people forget the cost to make and maintain stuff and want/expect too much for free or cheap. I guess big companies offering stuff below cost to increase market share doesn't help in that either, nor the lack of knowledge what's generally used to pay "free" services (from your personal data to advertisements, and anything else less common/known). Nothing in life is free, yet so far, afaik, free Astiga was (aside of the earlier announced collected data which was still minimal). But with the timely warning and grace period, I feel the change fair and understandable.

    Perhaps not the most useful reaction, or even 100% relevant to just Astiga. But hopefully some encouragement that it's not a wrong decision. People too often only comment on stuff they disagree or take issue with.

    I hope this creates room (read money) for requested improvements over time. I know I'm excited for it!

  • This is fairly fair but I fear you'll lose a lot of users. The app is great for a free app but it lacks a lot of polish if you are expecting people to pay for it. I love the idea of the app but I'm constantly frustrated by issues (e.g. search not working, no caching of artists so impossible to scroll to bottom of the list, lag in starting playback, etc.)

    Personally, as I can use Plex along with mounted cloud storage, if I'm forced to look for a paid solution I'll probably be moving to Plex for music. It has killer features like similar artists and is just a much more mature product.

  • This is exactly what I was worried about when Astiga was acquired, and it sadly means I'll no longer be able to use Astiga. I currently have no job as I am mentally-disabled, and I'm currently attempting but failing to get some sort of income, which means I have no means of paying for Premium and was relying entirely on the free service of both Astiga and my cloud service. This is one of the primary reasons I refused to use a traditional streaming service like Spotify (the other reason is because I dislike the lack of music ownership) and it's now the primary reason I won't be able to use Astiga. I'd gladly pay for it if I was able, as it's an amazing service, but sadly I'm not able to pay for it. Thankfully I was prepared for this scenario, and already had my music mirrored onto both iBroadcast (which I recommend for those also adversely-affected by this) and YouTube Music, so my listening will only be shortly interrupted. I don't blame you for trying to make the service profitable and self-sustainable, and evidently I may not be the target audience anymore (or perhaps I never was), but I'm still extremely disappointed and I can't count on two hands how many times I've seen this happen to good services after they've been acquired.

    I'll be requesting a GDPR-compliant dump of my user data shortly before the expiration of my account.

  • I replied via email but duplicating it here publicly:

    So via acquisition, you decide the long standing free users get screwed over. Well, you lost a user and supporter. 

    It’s disappointing but not surprising that there wouldn’t be any consideration for users especially those being on the platform for literally years such as myself.

    I understand costs if running services and businesses. I have several ventures and such that I run myself. I understand business decisions need to be made sometimes but unceremoniously tossing aside people that have been users for years like this is just disappointing to say the least. It’s an unfortunate trend in tech you see all the time and now it’s hit Astiga.

    I will be seeking out alternatives that won’t throw users under the bus for some cash and deleting my account when I can. 

    What a shame.


    additionally, some may view this as negativity or begrudging a business just trying to be viable and self sustaining. Far from it, at least from a user’s perspective such as myself. These actions taken by tech such as astiga shows that from them stems negativity and disparate treatment of users solely based on if a user is paying. Users don’t or can’t always pay and it’s not because they want to mooch or leech off services. Some legitimately are under pressures and duress, be it financial ir otherwise. It’s just sad that a potentially great service is just no different than tech platforms like youtube, twitter etc that literally can’t muster up any modicum of care for even and fair handed treatment of grandfathered users.

  • If there were a one time fee I could pay for premium access I would strongly consider it, but I will not pay for an infinite subscription just to listen to my own music. Please reconsider this plan.

  • @Ccastigl Well said. If you haven't read already, I recommend iBroadcast as an alternative. It's completely free but the free tier limits music playback to 128kbps. The premium tier unblocks this, and is currently in development and is free while it's in development. There's a link on iBroadcast's front page that explains it well.

  • I want to chime in with some thoughts.

    I am on the free tier. Some time ago, unbidden, I wanted to throw you some cash. I was thinking that afternoon how I was grateful to find something to replace GPM when they decided to just their users in the cold.

    So I looked into being a paid subsriber, but the price per month was too high to overcome. And there were only the two tiers: free and paid.

    Others have made the point that Astiga lacks features. Forgivable when it's a free app, hard to swallow when it costs $6-7 per month.

    Of course, charging will let you add features (make search work, please), and we customers will support that. But think about the price point and make it something that doesn't stop somebody like me, somebody who wants to give you money, from clicking "subscribe."

    Best,

    RBW

  • I’ll check out iBroadcast but if the free aspect is temporary I may run into the same issue again. Thank you though. Very appreciated.

  • I'm not quite sure I understand some of the negative comments here. I just checked the pricing and Astiga premium costs 12 EUR per 4 months so that's 3 EUR per month. Here's my view point: if you are a user of astiga then you own a music collection, right? Either you ripped your own CDs or you bought your FLACs/MP3s somewhere, but if you want to have any meaningful use for this app then there's must be some substance to that collection, let's say 100 CDs... and that music collection did not come for free, right? So then the cost of Astiga is the equivalent of approx 1 CD per 3,4 months? That's not so crazy, I would say?

    I do have some issues with Astiga (mainly around properly showing names and cover art of files that i'm 100% sure I tagged correctly) but I hope that some cashflow will allow the owner(s) to invest in polishing the app and the back end. So i'm going to upgrade from free to premium.

  • I agree with, and support, this decision Dan.

    However I don't know if seven days is enough to test a service before committing to paying (though I probably took less time than that ).

    I will not comment on other users' reaction to the decision.

    Context - I pay for two premium accounts (one for me and one for my wife)

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @Cambionn thanks.

    I guess big companies offering stuff below cost to increase market share doesn't help in that either, nor the lack of knowledge what's generally used to pay "free" services (from your personal data to advertisements, and anything else less common/known).

    Ah yes, I forgot to include something along these lines. As I posted following the acquisition, I'm not prepared to entertain more byzantine revenue models which seem "free" at the outset but are only really "free" in terms of financial cost (i.e. gratis). My mindset is always: if something provides value, it's fair to charge for it.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @turkeyphant

    This is fairly fair but I fear you'll lose a lot of users. The app is great for a free app but it lacks a lot of polish if you are expecting people to pay for it. I love the idea of the app but I'm constantly frustrated by issues (e.g. search not working, no caching of artists so impossible to scroll to bottom of the list, lag in starting playback, etc.)

    Personally, as I can use Plex along with mounted cloud storage, if I'm forced to look for a paid solution I'll probably be moving to Plex for music. It has killer features like similar artists and is just a much more mature product.

    Thanks for that. Yes, this is what we want to move towards - much more polish, and much better UX.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @sks316 sorry to hear about your health issues. In a perfect world I'd like to continue offering the free service to all, but I don't feel the economics work out right now.

    I'll be requesting a GDPR-compliant dump of my user data shortly before the expiration of my account.

    That will be absolutely fine - let me know when you want to do this.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @Ccastigl

    I understand costs if running services and businesses. I have several ventures and such that I run myself. I understand business decisions need to be made sometimes but unceremoniously tossing aside people that have been users for years like this is just disappointing to say the least. It’s an unfortunate trend in tech you see all the time and now it’s hit Astiga.

    I don't really feel I'm tossing anyone aside. I'm giving six months notice, and if the service wasn't being paid for anyway I don't feel there's an enormous onus on the service to continue providing something without exchange of value.

    Users don’t or can’t always pay and it’s not because they want to mooch or leech off services. Some legitimately are under pressures and duress, be it financial ir otherwise. It’s just sad that a potentially great service is just no different than tech platforms like youtube, twitter etc that literally can’t muster up any modicum of care for even and fair handed treatment of grandfathered users.

    I'm open to any suggestions as to how we can build a fair exchange in value between free users and the service, other than paying for it which I prefer because it is most direct. In Astiga's sister product, bliss, we offer free licences to journalists for example. And I do also occasionally gift licences to non-profits.

  • Actually, there's a large amount of independent music communities that often make free releases (example: OverClocked ReMix) and you're forgetting about the less-than-legal alternative, plus it's also possible to get CDs handed down to you from family or to happen across them for free irl, so it's perfectly reasonable that someone would be able to have a full music collection without paying a cent!

    I understand the economics may not work out, however that doesn't stop me from being disappointed due to this decision, especially considering how many services I've seen this exact same thing happen to. I do feel like other methods of cash flow could've been possible. I'll be using iBroadcast from here on out.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @RB0412

    If there were a one time fee I could pay for premium access I would strongly consider it, but I will not pay for an infinite subscription just to listen to my own music. Please reconsider this plan.

    Do you mean a one-time fee forever? Because obviously we already have one-time fees which work differently to the subscriptions.

    Astiga is an ongoing service and it has ongoing costs. If it were a product you downloaded, installed, maintained and paid for the computer it runs on yourself then that would map nicely to one-time-forever fees. That's how the sister product, bliss, works, and it has the revenue model you are suggesting.

  • Very fair proposal. I will convert to the premium account when my “extended” free trial period is over. However, I am always loathe to subscribe to any service infinitely and I strongly urge you to consider offering people an additional choice of a reasonable one-off payment for lifetime access.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @rwales

    So I looked into being a paid subsriber, but the price per month was too high to overcome. And there were only the two tiers: free and paid.

    Others have made the point that Astiga lacks features. Forgivable when it's a free app, hard to swallow when it costs $6-7 per month.

    Of course, charging will let you add features (make search work, please), and we customers will support that. But think about the price point and make it something that doesn't stop somebody like me, somebody who wants to give you money, from clicking "subscribe."

    Thanks for this - it's really helpful to hear thought processes about the pricing.

    The cost is more like $4-$5 per month at the moment - and $3 or $2 if you take longer periods.

    Pricing is definitely something I can look at tweaking.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @Ronald Many thanks! As an aside, music library management has always been a massive interest to me and that's one area I want to improve the service.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @neasan You may be right about the 7 day thing. I came to it from looking at the server logs, basically, and my finger-in-the-air feel that 7 days is enough to get that "a-ha" moment. Again, something I may change in the future.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @sks316

    I understand the economics may not work out, however that doesn't stop me from being disappointed due to this decision

    Sure - totally understood. If you do come up with any ideas, or further thoughts, be sure to let me know here or via email.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @Taichiseal Thanks for your support. I wrote about one-time-forever just as you were posting: https://community.asti.ga/discussion/comment/1368/#Comment_1368

  • CambionnCambionn Member
    edited February 3

    I love this attitude to be honest. Upfront and honest about the cost and reasoning, direct contact with the users, and an honest service who rathers asks for income by payment over "stealing" data hidden in policies to pay their costs.

    I see people saying all the time "but some people just can't afford it, it's not fair to them". But I wonder if they realise that the alternative means the developer doesn't get paid for its work, and even has to make cost for you. Where's the fairness in that? How many people would go to work everyday for free? Yet it's expected of IT all the time, and otherwise deemed "unfair".

    Fact is, music services aren't a life necessity. You don't have a right to it like to food and a roof over your head. I love Ronald's comment. People who use this have a music collection. How they afford that but not max 4 euro a month, as little as 2p/m on a yearly plan? Not counting "less than legal" options as they're illegal for a reason anyways and imho doesn't deserve much thought for the same reason as above (and the fact marketing to use of illigal stuff is breaking law in many countries too, why you think services as PirateBay and Encrochat always official condem use for illigal activities? They just have "shit control" making it possible. Officially that is), maybe some got stuff handed down or gifted, but I doubt the majority of a "own music only" platform would never invest in such a collection at all. It's my developer side venting by now, so I'll leave it at this. But I know I'm glad I get paid for my work, and in the same way I gladly pay you for yours.

    Again, I hope you won't forget that negative people are louder than positive ones (while of course taking everyone's opinion into consideration), as I see quite some negative reactions already. I love your current attitude: honest and transparant. To me, it shows more respect to users than any "free" or freemium service ever has. And the fact you're replying to many with respect no matter if they're happy or not, I think is quite telling as well. My impression is you listen, you consider, then decide.

  • It boils down to this:

    Remove the glitches, provide documentation to user, and make it a nice experience. Then, I (and probably others) will be willing to pay for it.

  • I found out about Astiga on the Bliss website, just after purchasing Bliss. I am a typical Cloud hater, have spared no cost and time to tag, organise and not to forget store all my music. Heaps of disks, backup systems, sync scripts. I purchased Bliss to 'retire' a bit from manual tagging :-).

    I will NEVER have subscriptions like Spotify, Netflix and the like. I hate subscriptions. I always forget them, something happens in my life and I pay years for something I don't use. And, it is said above. I am someone who wants to OWN my stuff. My music, but also my software and systems. Things I can use when there is no internet or companies change their minds.

    When I discovered Astiga, I wanted to investigate the possibilty to have 'my own Spotify' based on a subset of my collection on my Onedrive storage, which I don't use anyway. Just to have a bigger selection than I can take on my phone or laptop. It took quite some time to select a subset, convert from flac to AAC and upload them. I had no experience in subsonic apps so it took some more time to have an idea if this all would be worth it.

    So first remark, 7 days is waay to short for a 'free trial'. I wanted to know how fast the syncing would be and how the app/browsers would scroll through larger amounts of songs. This I could not have done within 7 days. Heck I am still in the middle of the process. If I would have seen 7 days I would have not tried it to begin with.

    Second remark I see that the premium version does tagging/artwork. You probably have your own Bliss running there, but for me that is not needed. That is a very polite way of saying no-one touches my tagging :-). I can see however that this functionality could be worth an (even higher) monthly fee for some people that do not want to go in the OCD world of tagging themselves.

    I think it is a pity to see a free service go, but I get it from a cost perspective. Free stuff is never sustainable. Maybe a Standard subscription next to Premium?

    Since Astiga gives me a quite fair extension, I will certainly have the time to find out if this is for me. Although I was fine with the features of the free version, I will probably move to a paid subscription after august. Hopefully, by then things are less work in progress.

    That said IF you would implement a Spotify-like algorythm to generate playlists I would be very interested. Premium-Plus?

    kind regards from Portugal, Cheers R

  • Astiga is a great service. I've been paying for almost two years. And very possibly i will keep paying. It's great to have my own music collection available on mobile, desktop, Chromecast, car... And it's only 2 dollars at month... It worth it.

    My own music collection grows almost daily. It was a mess to get my music available that way. Always downloading and erasing files on the SD card or the computer. Subsonic local server was not an option for me. And Astiga makes that so easy.


    I'm sure that there's always people can not afford the price... But that's the way it is. If I can't afford Netflix, I don't use it. Same with any kind of service. 


    If less users means less server usage and more profitable service, we just have to say thanks for the years of free service.


    I'm one of the users very happy with the paid service.

  • @gravelld “I don't feel there's an enormous onus on the service to continue providing something without exchange of value.”

    Exactly. You proved my point. It’s not about user base or community, it’s just about money.

    As someone who runs a business I’m not oblivious to costs and such, but throwing an entire swath of your user base under the proverbial bus locking them out of services they enjoyed for literally years is tossing them aside without a second thought isn’t a thoughtful approach, regardless of 6 months notice.

    and for someone to argue “you paid for CDs” or some other so pay for this is just plain ridiculous.

    Yes in one form or another I paid for music, dropbox to store it, subsonic to connect, home and mobile device data to stream it, paid for apps that would play and interface with astiga and subsonic correctly.

    and now i am forced (if I want to stay on Astiga) to pay one more service to just listen to music I already paid for 8-10 times over already. Let’s not forget how everything is much higher cost now thanks to inflation and horrible mismanagement of the economy (here in the US, but I digress because this isn’t a political issue).

    Want new users to have limited free trial options. Peachy. No problem. Grandfathered free accounts instead could see some appreciation of patience with bugs and limited functionality we’ve endured for years.

    Anyways, I’m not interested in debating this further. Astiga made their choice. I’ve made mine, and I’ll move on and enjoy my music in a different way. I may invest in my older devices and cut out the middlemen of subsonic, dropbox and Astiga out altogether and call it a day.

  • MikeMike Member

    I think the yearly price (24€) is fair. The only problem for me is that i rarely use it, for example when I want to listen to a song that is not on Spotify. I don't know if i will upgrade it, maybe consider a lower tier with limitations on number of streams. But I understand that this might complicate your operations.

  • I've been using Astiga for years now. I agree with this quote wholeheartedly. I'm still encountering minor lag and bugs when streaming (FLAC+320kpbs mp3, google drive, gigabit ethernet). It's what's kept me from subscribing in the first place.

    Regardless of bugs, Astiga satisfies a small (and shrinking!) niche or people who have their own collection of high quality music. As a result, I'm not sure your goal of having Astiga compete with "big tech streaming services" is realistic. People with large collections of hi-fi audio usually already have systems in place to listen to it. From my perspective, Astiga cuts out the need for a lot of the systems (Like a NAS or something). New users will have to make a decision- is it worth replacing their current system with Astiga? Regardless of the answer, I doubt that 7 days is enough for a solid answer.

    IMO, Astiga is the "glue" that ties the backend (google drive, FTP, nas) to the frontend (subsonic apps on your phone and computer). It doesn't seem important, but anyone considering alternatives may be surprised how difficult it is to find something as robust as asti.ga. That being said, it may be more cost effective in the long run to buy a raspberry pi zero and set it up as a subsonic server. And that's if you absolutely NEED subsonic. There are plenty of apps out there, for free or a one-time purchase, that will just stream your music from your cloud server.

    I can't imagine that this decision was an easy one. But I feel like it would still be possible to have a free tier, without incurring significant costs. I joined Asti.ga because I wanted a subscription-free way to listen to music. I wanted to make sure that if this thing tanked, I would have an exit strategy. That being said, I understand money is tight for everyone, and that you want this service to grow. Apologies if you have already thought of this, but maybe you could limit the free tier to only one "backend" connection account? @gravelld

    Finally, thank you for giving free accounts an extra 6 months of life- I think this will be more than enough time for me (and others) to reach a decision on subscribing to this service, and give you time to polish Astiga further. Regardless of the outcome, I want to thank Koen for creating an amazing program. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

  • gravelldgravelld Administrator

    @Cambionn

    I see people saying all the time "but some people just can't afford it, it's not fair to them". But I wonder if they realise that the alternative means the developer doesn't get paid for its work, and even has to make cost for you. Where's the fairness in that? How many people would go to work everyday for free? Yet it's expected of IT all the time, and otherwise deemed "unfair".

    I find economics fascinating and if I were to win the lottery I'd probably go back to Uni and do an economics degree 😄 Why say that? Well, introducing concepts of "fairness" are always subjective, so you end up trying to balance a revenue model with the needs of the business and your own personal morals. At this stage of human evolution, and in our locale, we exist in a capitalist system - they all vary a bit of course, and how you conduct yourself in that system is at your own discretion. I think the system can work if actors act honestly and straightforwardly - money is the obvious means by which we can exchange value. This is why I dislike advertising or data harvesting based "free" models. It's much harder for either side to value the transaction.

    Again, I hope you won't forget that negative people are louder than positive ones (while of course taking everyone's opinion into consideration), as I see quite some negative reactions already. I love your current attitude: honest and transparant.

    I think different people come from different backgrounds and have different expectations. I don't feel there's much that's morally absolutely "right", we are all influenced by history, parents, media and whatever else. So I respect the opinion of someone saying they don't feel this is fair - it might not be to them - but ultimately as the owner of this service I have to make the decision where it goes.

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