Featured image reads how do plugin developers monetize free VSTs

This is a question I was wondering about for a while: How can a developers monetize free VSTs? Of course, there have to be ways that they do actually make money from them. No business, whoever they are, would really make a software program like a VST plugin if they didn’t make something from it. After doing a fruitless search on Google to find out how this is done, I asked ChatGPT and in this post I will share with you exactly how developers monetize free VSTs.

Key Takeaways

  • By the end of this post, you will know how VST plugins can actually be monetized.
  • Of course, no business would make a plugin if it couldn’t be monetized in some way, shape or form
  • You may even be inspired to have a go at making your own VST plugin. It can be monetized through these ways.

How Do Plugin Developers Monetize Free VSTs?

Here is a run through of exactly how a plugin developer would monetize a free VST.


If a plugin is any good, it will attract something of a fanbase. Plugin Developers should always add a payment gateway to a free downloads page. Donations could be any amount. It is considered that people are more generous in giving donations than they are willing to pay a set amount. Therefore, the developer could end up with more money than they would have if they charged a set amount.

Upselling Premium Versions

A developer can put out a free restricted lite version or a sample pack This is to entice the user into actually upgrading and purchasing a more expensive version. In this way, the freebie has to be good to make sure that the user wants to have the upgraded version. Therefore, the user can be confident that the freebie is good.

One example of this is The Sub by Iceberg Audio. The free version is a sample pack that was made with the VST. As you may have gathered The Sub is a sub bsae plugin. Therefore, if you want to feel those sub vibrations, it could be a good investment.

Ads and Sponsorships Can Monetize Free VSTs

Some VST plugin developers sell advertising space or seek sponsorships from other businesses who are seeking to reach the audience who are using the plugins. Therefore, they could be other music software developers, other music-related companies, cultural businesses, etc.

Affiliate Marketing

Anyone can get into affiliate marketing. You are basically starting your own sales business and advertising your product on behalf of the maker of the product. You make a commission when you generate a sale. It works very well. This can be a small amount of money on its own. However, it adds up and some people have made a substantial amount of money from affiliate marketing.

Bundle Sales

Free VST plugins can be bundled with premium plugins. The company gets a portion of the revenue.

The Freemium Model Can Monetize Free VSTs

One way in which a developer can make additional revenue is to offer a VST for free. The would then sell preset and expansion packs to the customer. If the customer likes what they find in the base model, they may well want to further their use of the plugin with additional presets. Experts make the products after all.

These preset packs have to be high-quality presets. They must have the “wow!” factor. Otherwise, you are compromising on the quality of the presets. You are also compromising on the name, reputation and overall success of the entire plugin.

Sample Libraries and Sound Packs Can Monetize Free VSTs

Again, this uses the same freemium model. The sample libraries and sound packs are products that you would sell at a cost to the user. The customer would specifically use the free plugin that they downloaded for free. If your base VST was good and the user had a good experience, there is nothing stopping them. They would be happy to purchase your sample libraries and / or sound packs.

Consulting and Customization Services

You can offer consultation services or technical assistance to your customers if they require such services. It is likely that some of your customers are completely technophobic and just want to jam with your software. In that case, they will need to have your assistance in customizing the plugin. They would need you to set it to their requirements or to suit their specifications.

This would be quite rare. I haven’t heard of a developer who will charge for customization or consulting.

Licensing to Third Parties

If your product sounds professional and you can achieve a very high standard from it, you could find people who use it professionally. These people may have achieved fame and fortune with the help of your software. In that case, you could be able to generate some of the royalties as the developer of that particular product.

You could also sell the VST to another developer. That developer would offer you a decent amount of money for it. It could also be available to you as a white-label product. Therefore, they can make some money themselves from your technology.

Community Support and Training

This is not something I recommend you to rely on. This is because if someone can’t use your software, they may not even bother. Therefore, I would steer clear of creating unnecessarily difficult-to-use VSTs. Instead, make something simple to use, but offer support just in case there is an issue. In that case, you haven’t burned your bridges with the customer. You are still in a good working relationship with them and you have nothing to fear.

You could also offer additional training courses such as Udemy video courses if there is sufficient demand for it.


You see, nothing is free. There are ways to monetize free VSTs if you need to. On the other side, if you’re a music artist and want to try out some free VSTs, you now know how your VST developer makes money. You can proceed with confidence. Have you ever wondered how the developer makes his money? You know now.

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