I’ve been using GarageBand since 2017, long after it first came out in January 2004. Due to the neverending updates, GarageBand is quite a bit different already from how it was in the late 2000s or the early 2000s. At one point, you even had to pay but now it’s free.
These days, GarageBand is available for download on any iPad, MacBook, iMac, or iPhone, and each version is slightly different from the others with the exception of MacBook and iMac. Moreover, Apple has continuously updated the application at least 3 times per year. For iOS, it seems like it gets an update every 3 months.
Simply put, Apple has not discontinued GarageBand. In fact, it was updated to version 10.4.7 on the 2nd of November, 2022. In addition to new drum kits and hundreds of loops, the update included solutions for VoiceOver problems, Intel Audio Unit plugins, and the ability to import voice memos.
As I said, it appears to me that GarageBand gets updates approximately 3 times per year. You can confirm this by heading over to the App Store and clicking on the “Version History” icon. This will show you all of the most recent updates by Apple over the last 10 years. There are a few reasons why Apple continues to hold on to GarageBand as free software, however, we can only speculate on their plans.
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Why GarageBand Hasn’t Been Discontinued
1) Steve Jobs Said He Wanted to “Democratize Music-Making”
You can see Steve Jobs introduce GarageBand at Macworld SF back in 2004, and he had Mayer help demonstrate what the application could do in its most limited format. During the same speech, Steve explained that he wanted to “democratize music-making” and make it accessible to everyone and in my view, he accomplished that.
GarageBand has made music creation entirely within the average person’s grasp, assuming you at least own a macOS or iOS device. The interface is incredibly user-friendly, and it doesn’t take long at all for a beginner to figure out how to use it.
You get royalty-free loops, drum machines, hundreds of virtual software instruments, and the ability to use third-party plugins and software in case you get sick of what GarageBand has by default. The only thing holding a person back from making great-sounding music with GarageBand is techniques and skill.
Rolling Stone had a great article that discussed just how popular it has become as well as its applications by some of the biggest stars in the world, ie, T-Pain, Grimes, and many others.
From a business perspective, Apple has taken a loss on GarageBand. But clearly, they don’t seem to mind because they continue to update it despite the fact it comes for free in the App Store for every iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or iMac.
2) Mobile, Convenient, User-Friendly Music Production Is The Future
As I’ve discussed in other articles including my most recent one on how to connect a mic to GarageBand iOS, mobile music production is probably the future, and this could explain why Apple has continued to work on it. Things in music production continue to get more user-friendly, and this appears to be where things are headed.
For example, there is a huge market for plugins and software that don’t obfuscate the music creation process. They make things simpler and easier to use, often by using a very clean user interface, and by minimizing how many knobs there are.
The comparison between an old-school parametric equalizer and a modern equalizer with a visual is massive. Older EQ units had knobs that you would twist to attenuate or increase particular frequency bands. You had to use your ears and your ears only to clean things up in the music.
But now, nearly all equalizers have a visual representation so it makes using it much, much easier. This seems to be where things are headed in the music world, and it’s because more and more people are getting into music production and few of these people are audio engineers with proper training or education.
Interfaces need to be clean, simple, and effective for the average person to enjoy using them. Nathan James Larsen’s video at the top of this section talks about his in a little more detail if you’re interested.
While there is something lost by reducing sophistication, there is also something gained – accessibility and the ability to make music for everyone.
I also think that GarageBand provides a nice way to test out concepts and ideas that may also work great in Logic Pro X, moreover, it ensures that iPad and iPhone can also be used to make music with proprietary Apple software.
At this time, Logic Pro X is still unavailable on iOS devices, but it’s only a matter of time before we’re able to use it on iPad and iPhone too. And that brings me to my next point.
3) It Makes The Purchase of Logic Pro X More Likely
Simply put, it’s good business to give away incredibly valuable things as a future investment. If a creator becomes proficient in using GarageBand, it’s only a matter of time before they start using Logic Pro X – an application that costs more than $300.
If you know anything about the two applications, it’s that Logic Pro X is thought of as the more “professional” and sophisticated version compared to its much simpler subsidiary. And it is true that GarageBand’s interface is much simpler, but the two look very similar and function in nearly identical ways.
This is great for Apple because you get access to GarageBand on your iOS or macOS device for free which could be an incentive to get an Apple product, and it also makes the purchase of Logic Pro X more likely. I know that I also plan on using Logic Pro X sometime in the future.