The Darker Side of Subscriptions

Posted on by Larry

Adobe-CC-Logo-(small)I’m a fan of subscriptions. My Video Training Library is subscription-based. Subscriptions can flatten the extremes of cash flow between releases.

But, this evening, I needed to cancel several seats of my Adobe Creative Cloud for Teams membership and discovered some gotcha’s that I want to share; along with recommendations that Adobe should consider adding to their subscription service.

Adobe offers multiple pricing models where you can either pay month-to-month or annually. Not surprisingly, an annual subscription costs less per month than a monthly subscription. You can add team members and shift them around with no penalty.

But, tonight, I needed to either significantly reduce my team member count or cancel my subscription. Here I discovered elements in the fine print of which I wasn’t aware.


Cancelling a subscription does not damage any of your data. However, if you don’t have a subscription, you can’t access it because the applications themselves won’t launch.

Full-time professionals won’t really care, because they need these tools for their work. But, now, I better understand the concerns of hobbyists who dabble with their creative side, but don’t earn a living with it.

As I considered canceling my subscription I realized that I would lose access to hundreds of gigabytes of existing data.

COMMENT: In the case of Premiere, we still have access to all our source media. But, with Photoshop, After Effects or Audition the source media isn’t as important as what we do with it in the application.

It would be nice if Adobe offered a “Reader” application that allows us to look at the contents of a Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, or Audition file without allowing us to make changes to it. At least then, we could review past projects to see what we did.


When you cancel an annual subscription, you pay 50% of the remaining portion of that subscription, with the price calculated at the higher monthly, not annual, level.

In my case, I canceled a seat with 10 months left on the second year of my agreement. This meant that I paid a $349.50 cancellation fee.

I’ve been a member since Adobe shifted to subscription pricing in May, 2013. However, because I am on an annual contract, my penalty was not based on how long I’ve been a member but how much longer my contract has to run.

COMMENT: It would be nice if Adobe provided some sort of reduction of the cancellation fee based on how long we’ve been a member. Financial constraints are not always foreseeable.


As Adobe support wrote: “Renewal for Adobe subscriptions are automatic and also all one year plans are rolling memberships which means if the membership isn’t canceled in the last month of the first year, it will automatically roll over for another year with a new annual commitment.”

The kicker is that it is not possible to flag an annual subscription so that it doesn’t renew. Worse, you can only cancel a subscription in the month just before your account renews. In my case, my subscription renews on February 7. This means I need to contact Adobe on January 7 to cancel; and not before.

COMMENT: I understand that it is generally a good idea for subscriptions to renew automatically, as most people want their software to keep working. However, Adobe should make cancelling an annual policy a LOT easier. At a minimum, it should allow us to flag an account not to renew at any time during the subscription so that we don’t automatically renew when we weren’t watching.


I think subscriptions are good idea; in many situations, they operate smoothly and benefit both us and developers. However, in Adobe’s case, improvements could be made that would make subscriptions less harsh for subscribers.

As always, I’m interested in your comments.


28 Responses to The Darker Side of Subscriptions

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  1. Chris says:

    I can see training and business software as a subscription, but creative software should not be something that has to be paid month to month. I don’t see many hobbyists using CRM software in their spare time…

    I have been a CS user since 2.0 and had just upgraded to the Master Suite CS6 when Adobe yanked it all away and told me that I would need to pay them for the rest of my life if I wanted access to my original content.

    Luckily I get a steep discount on my personal subscription (very, very steep discount), or I would be FCPX, Motion, Resolve, and Protools (I like dialog editing and cleanup in Audition- Multitrack music and sound design in Protools).

    And as an added bonus, the last few updates have been very slim in the bug squashes and new features… When you are selling upgrades, you need to make sure that it is worth it for the end user, when you are getting the money every month anyways, it seems that you are not pushed enough for a better product.

  2. Allynn says:

    Okay… enough with the subscription bashing. Assuming you pay the full $50 a month (which I admit I don’t because I work for a university).. but assuming you do… if you *only* use Premiere, Photoshop, Audition and Media Encoder you are paying $150 a year for each application. If you use After Effects too it drops to $120 a year per app. If, on the other hand, you’re a hobbyist, you can buy Premiere and Media Encoder for $240 a year. I don’t get it. I know people who spend more than that on crap coffee each month. Is it just the “subscription” issue that bothers you? ‘Cuz I used to spend a *lot* more than that each year keeping my software up to date.

    • Chris says:

      I think it’s more because of the fact that if you don’t pay next month, you can’t open your files.
      With the licensed versions, you could sit out a cycle or two and be fine. All of your files would still open. Now you HAVE to pay every month or you can’t open anything.

    • Gabe Strong says:

      I’m not sure that telling people to ‘stop subscription bashing’ is really going to stop it. There are obviously people who feel strongly about it and have made the decision to stop using the products because of it. Obviously there are also people like you, who think it’s fine. Ok, that’s fair enough. People are different. Just because ‘some people spend more money on crap coffee’ doesn’t mean anything to me. There are plenty of people, who spend their money on all sorts of (what I would consider)… be frivolous things. Just because they do it, doesn’t mean much to me. As I’ve said before, I could ‘afford’ to hire an African witch doctor $100 a month to shake a bone rattle over my head to drive away the bad spirits that are preventing my business from growing at the rate it could grow too. That doesn’t mean it’s a good business decision for me. And for me, I make no more money using Adobe tools, than I do using other tools. And yet Adobe tools cost more in a year,, than having a perpetual license to the other tools I use. Plus, I don’t have to worry about future ‘subscription price raises’ or losing access to projects if I don’t keep paying. I understand, there are plenty of people who get educational/cheaper rates. There are others who need Adobe products to work together with ad agencies and production houses. They make money from the client to pay for the cost of the subscription, and they need to have Adobe tools to interface with others who have them. But just for me, it doesn’t make business sense.

  3. Bob Cole says:

    Re losing material: You can roll back an After Effects project a generation at a time, all the way back to a non-subscription edition. All sorts of caveats apply: new operating systems may not be compatible with older software; plug-ins may not work, etc.

    Re Adobe’s draconian annual renewal policy: I was bit by this too. I got auto-renewed, & was too busy at the time to research the terms. Had Adobe been pro-active in making sure I was aware of the financial commitment I was making, and the penalty for withdrawal, I would have opted for a month-to-month membership. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It feels “sneaky.”

  4. Michael says:

    Ah-ha at last! Well spoken Larry!! I am dead against subscriptions the way Adobe want to do it and so will not use their ‘service’. Subscribing to a library such as Larry’s is different – you can keep what you buy and you are offering a beneficial service – Adobe are not. I WANT to BUY Adobe Audition and use it on my Mac Pro when I want to (which is occasionally) and have my work to hand, not locked away on a Cloud and be held to ransom by some company.

    I have used Audition in its original BBC form as Cool Edit Pro (for it is they who invented it and Adobe bought it) for years. Sadly its assets “were acquired by Adobe from Syntrillium Software in May 2003 and then introduced as Adobe Audition software (a rebranded release of Cool Edit Pro) in August 2003.” I fully supported the product when it existed to purchase in a box and would do so again if purchasable for the Mac. At the time it wasn’t available for Mac and when it was I didn’t have a Mac.

    If Adobe work like this then they deserve to fail and have their software that once existed in the real world pirated. I don’t condone piracy but Adobe needs to see what their customers think. The user must fight back for it is they who keep people like Adobe in business!

  5. Kevin Monahan says:

    Hi Larry,
    Sorry for your pain points on canceling subscriptions. If there’s anything I can do to help, please contact me.

    Kevin Monahan
    Support Product Manager, DVA

  6. Dave says:

    Hi Larry, in regards to your first comment “Adobe should allow a read only solution” I think an even better thought would be for those that completed at least 1 year of subscription service and decided down the road to cancel their subscription, Adobe should allow you to use the last version available to you during your subscription. At least you still be able to use the apps – just without updates. If you want the latest version you would have to resubscribe. Just my 2 cents.

  7. Keith says:

    Personally I *like* the subscription approach to software, in general.

    I like that I have a fixed, predictable monthly cost for software that’s easily budgetable.
    I like that I’m always able to use the latest version (with whatever new enhancements are present) while still being in control of exactly *when* upgrade a working system.

    Larry does raise an interesting point about long-term access to old projects, though, and it’s something that I think Adobe should consider. A set of downloadable “reader” apps (for each of the CC applications where valid) that would allow users to open and view “project” files (whatever form these take: psd, ai, prproj etc) and output the file as-is to limited formats (e.g JPG/PDF/MP4) would go a long way to ensuring that people who no longer need the subscription can still at least view the contents of old projects and re-export them to an output format if that’s required.

    I don’t think it’s especially unreasonable to ask users to resubscribe if more edit/output options are required for a legacy project, given that it’s entirely possible to subscribe for a single month, but these viewer/exporter apps would fill a hole that might make some people who have problems with the sub approach a little more comfortable.

  8. Scott says:

    I recently signed up for Adobe Stock. It was a trial subscription. When I tried to cancel it after downloading one image the entire first month, they made me put in my credit card info again, which i did, after talking to their offshore customer support, who were not at all customer friendly. They said I had to do this and would then be credited the amount back I qualified for. So I did. Adobe then charged me the full amount ($150) for the entire year and wouldn’t remedy it even though I only used one or two months of it. I will have to dispute it with my credit card company. Bottom line: OTHER THAN CREATIVE CLOUD, I WILL NOT EVER PURCHASE AN ADOBE PRODUCT AGAIN. They are not an ethical company, I’m sorry to say.

  9. Mitch says:

    Adobe’s subscription terms are here: and include the phrase “annual renewal date.” The “annual renewal date” is essentially a new “order date,” so subscriptions can be cancelled within the first 14 days of the “annual renewal date” to avoid the 50% penalty fee — but Adobe chat support is especially ignorant or just deliberately ignores the “annual renewal date.”

    Given Adobe’s poor, even predatory customer disrespect, it’s worthwhile to always pay Adobe using a credit card. At least then you have dispute rights when Adobe ignores its own Terms and charges you for a subscription you don’t want.

    It’s just a matter of time before some state Attorney General or enterprising attorney takes Adobe to task for its dishonesty toward customers.

  10. […] designers are against the Creative Cloud. This is mostly because the current system will bar anyone from accessing the much-needed programs if they stop paying the monthly subscription […]

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