How Is Cakewalk by BandLab and BandLab free?

Why is BandLab free?

When I tell people that BandLab is free to use with no hidden costs or subscriptions, the first question I usually get is: “But how? What is their business model?” Well, let’s filter out the background noise and get to the facts!

In order to understand the business model, we first have to ask, “Who, and what is BandLab?”


BandLab is the flagship digital product of BandLab Technologies, and BandLab Technologies is actually a collective of global music brands. 

BandLab has quickly become the leading social music creation platform with a global reach of over 30 million users, and through its best-in-class, browser based digital audio workstation (DAW) and audio hardware division, BandLab Tech empowers creators to make music and share their creative process with musicians and fans all around the world.

To dive a little deeper, the BandLab product family also includes BandLab for Education, which is an award-winning music creation platform with classroom management tools, and Cakewalk by BandLab (formerly known as Cakewalk Sonar and my DAW of choice). Cakewalk is a professional-level digital recording studio, for career musicians and producers with over 30 years of innovative history backing it up. 

BandLab and BandLab for Education is built on the idea that music-making should be for everyone. In fact, after personally meeting Meng, the CEO of BandLab Technologies, I was reassured that keeping this technology free is a core part of their mission. The company believes that the more people they can engage in music creation, the more everyone can benefit in the long-run.

One way that they are holding true to this is by delivering high quality technology solutions in the classroom. BandLab for Education is a big part of that effort to be more inclusive, and tear down the barriers of entry to creativity. Apart from BandLab for Education, which is yet another free service, there is a broader music tech group that manufactures and sells products like the BandLab Link Series, Harmony Guitars, Teisco Pedals, MONO Cases and more. 

Essentially the business model is this. BandLab leads individuals into the passion of music creation by providing a free resource that anyone anywhere can learn and use, in turn this leads them into willingly wanting to support a company that helped them by purchasing instruments, interfaces, guitars and guitar pedals, and it’s all done organically out of the premise that if you provide value to your customer base they will in turn reward you with their loyalty and yes, even their wallets. 

In fact this is nearly the identical “business model” of this channel as well as other channels that offer free tutorials. Most of my paid mixing and mastering services are from individuals that have liked the free content and followed up to repay the favor by hiring me. This isn’t as odd as it seems considering even some of your favorite brands offer free products, building off of this same business model.  

You can find out more about the BandLab Technologies family here. So, in summary, by having revenue streams across several different businesses this means that BandLab is better poised to sustain free software, and can viably keep it open and accessible to everyone. 

Here is a list of companies that fall under their banner to put into perspective just how they can afford to make the software free.

How is BandLab different from Cakewalk by BandLab?

In short, Bandlab's mix editor is an online sharing program with limited features, while Cakewalk by Bandlab is an offline, professional, full fledged DAW. With the latest update you can now get the best of both worlds due to the seamless integration between the online and offline versions. 

Essentially, you can develop ideas with anyone from anywhere around the world, and then migrate your work into a professional desktop DAW that is powerful enough to take your ideas and turn them into radio ready productions that can then be uploaded back into the online platform for revision or release.

Surely there’s a catch somewhere!

I knew you’d ask, so you can check their terms and conditions of use for full details, but the short version is that they don’t sell your data to any third parties or advertise to your students.

In fact, the closest comparison might be Google Classrooms – which by the way they’re integrating with – and is similar to how they provide free classroom tools for educational purposes.

Let’s face it, the future of music production and all careers related to audio will require integration with digital tools, so why not get started with a platform that’s free, accessible, and fun to use? Not to mention with the money that you save you could invest it back into yourself by buying a good microphone or a sweet guitar!

Give it a try today, and let me know what you think! If at any time you need some help, reach out to me or contact with your questions or concerns.

Now this leads to another frequently asked question.

Is BandLab any good?

Bandlab is a 100% free Online DAW… the word FREE seems to devalue its worth in the eyes of some, however this is a new era in marketing and sales, so a lot of the old systems of “the more you pay, the better it must be”, is a little antiquated. 

BandLab with its Award-Winning Features, will allow you to gain access to:

  • Unlimited projects, secure storage, collaborations, algorithmic mastering and high-quality downloads

  • 10,000 professionally recorded royalty-free loops

  • 200 free MIDI-compatible virtual instruments

  • Cross-platform customisable guitar/bass/vocal FX & presets

  • Full version control and collaboration tools

  • Multi-device for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, tablet, Chromebook

Now, you may think that online DAWs don’t compare to the real thing, however, BandLab may be the one to change your mind. With lightning speed web apps and web content delivery getting quicker, it was only a matter of time before a fully online, cloud-based DAW became possible. 

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that plenty of manufacturers of Digital Audio Workstations have started to integrate some simple cloud features, BandLab is a DAW which has been completely built from the ground up, and keeping with the history of Cakewalk, it’s ahead of the curve once again.

Okay, so, is it any good? Well, as an audio engineer and musician with 20 years under my belt, I can give a resounding, “Yes!” 

I understand however that it is likely you will go through skeptical phases. With BandLab being over the internet, it is right to question how good the sound quality will be while still being playable and practical. 

Once again, give it a try, and I am sure you will be pleased to report back that BandLab is good. In fact, it is better than good, it’s great!

A lot of the heavy lifting happens server-side, so no matter if you are using a MIDI keyboard or computer keyboard with midi keys you’ll see minimal latency. The instrument sounds are lightweight and load quickly. 

In short, BandLab is an effective DAW that has been simplified to only the essentials in order to

support web and cloud cooperation without interfering with creativity. 

Is BandLab user friendly?

In terms of BandLab being user friendly, it can be placed comfortably between GarageBand and Logic in terms of its feature set. It’s easy to use like GarageBand, but it has some extra features such as tap tempo, magnetic timeline, and a lyric editor.

The sounds are better than anticipated, with BandLab choosing to take emphasis on putting slightly more power to the ‘studio staples’ such as grand piano, drum set and bass. The overall sound set is quite basic but the sounds load within seconds which allows you to play and record in real-time on most devices from Android, IOS, and even a workstation. 

When your project is done, you can export all your tracks from BandLab as WAV files to import into any DAW later, or use the seamless integration between BandLab and Cakewalk to edit them within the same infrastructure on a professional level.

Well, I hope this video helped to alleviate some of your fears about this amazing (and FREE) program. As usual all the applicable links to the topics discussed will be included in the description of this video for you to do more research of your own. 

If you’d like to reach out to BandLab and get your questions answered you can email them with the address I’ve included below, or if there was something I forgot to mention, leave it in the comments section below. Likewise, I have been offering support for years as well, so feel free to email me if you need anything.

Until next time remember, we can dream alone, we can create alone, but together we can achieve so much more!