DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links, I may earn a small commission.
Cockos Reaper is one of the best value DAWs available. There is a misconception floating around on the internet that Reaper is free – it is not! It offers a 60-day free trial period, after which you must pay for a license. But what happens after the 60-day trial period, if you don’t pay for Reaper?
Reaper’s free trial lasts for 60 days. After that, you are required to buy a license. If you do not, Reaper will continue to work with no issues. A nag screen will be briefly displayed on start-up stating you require a license, but otherwise it will continue to operate fully featured.
So in theory, you could continue to use Reaper forever without paying for it, as long as you are prepared to put up with the nag screen on start-up. Do not do this! You should pay for a license, in accordance with the terms detailed on the Reaper website. Let’s examine Reaper’s licensing options in some detail in the rest of this article.
If you are new to Reaper and other DAW software, I highly recommend you check out my article detailing what exactly music recording software is. It walks you through exactly what Reaper and other DAWs are, what software you need to make music, and cuts through the often confusing information out there about recording software. You’ll also want to check out my article on how to start learning a DAW, which gives you a clear path to learn what you need so you can be productive as quickly as possible.
If you are interested in checking out the best recording gear such as audio interfaces, studio monitor speakers, microphones, etc., you can find them at Amazon by clicking here.
How Reaper’s licensing works
There is only one version of Reaper, but you can use it under one of two licenses…
- the discounted license or
- the commercial license
The discounted license is considerably cheaper than the commercial license. You get a 60-day free trial period, regardless of which license you intend to buy.
How much does a Reaper license cost?
Reaper licenses cost $60 for a discounted license, and $225 for a commercial license. The commercial license is only required if you use Reaper commercially with yearly gross revenue of $20,000 or more. You must pay for a license once the 60-day free trial period is over.
You can buy a license online on the Reaper website on the “Purchase” page.
The vast majority of you reading this will be fine with the discounted license for $60. That is the license I have used Reaper for years with, and unless you are using it commercially and earning over $20,000 per year with it, the discounted license is the one you should purchase.
In addition, educational and non-profit organizations are allowed to use the discounted license.
Full details of the licensing can be found on Reaper’s website Purchase page.
How long does a Reaper license last for?
The license you buy for Reaper lasts for 2 full versions of the software. For example, if you bought Reaper version 6.01, you could use Reaper under a license up to the release of version 7.99. Once version 8.0 is released, you would have to buy a new license.
How long does this mean in practice? Look at this table of Reaper versions and the dates they were released…
|August 23, 2006
|October 10, 2007
|May 22, 2009
|August 3, 2011
|August 12, 2015
|December 3, 2019
So say if you bought Reaper 4.0 on August 4, 2011, the license would have enabled you to use it through to the last version of Reaper 5, just before Reaper 6.0 was released on December 3, 2019. That’s approximately 8 years 4 months.
Note that lots of updates are released in between each full version. e.g. Reaper 5 had 76 updates released during its lifetime, ending with version v5.99 released on November 29, 2019, just before it was superseded by Reaper 6.0.
Full details of all Reaper’s releases can be found from the “old versions” page on Reaper’s website.
By the way, if you’re reading this article then you are almost certainly interested in using Reaper as your DAW. Check out these other articles that answer other common questions people ask when they are considering using or switching to Reaper…
- How to record guitar in Reaper – an illustrated guide
- Is Reaper good for beginners?
- Does Reaper have built-in instruments?
- Does Reaper have amp sims?
- Is Reaper a good DAW, suitable for professional use?
How many computers can you use Reaper on?
There is no limit to the number of your computers you can install Reaper on, using the same licensing key. However, you must only use Reaper on one computer at a time.
Details can be found on the Reaper website “purchase” page, under the “The Fine Print” section near the bottom of the page.
How to buy a Reaper license
To buy a Reaper license, go to the Purchase page on the Reaper website. Click the Buy Now button for the license you wish to buy. This will take you to a transaction page where you can buy with a credit card or Paypal. You will be sent a license key, which you enter into Reaper on start-up.
To view details of your license within Reaper, go to Help->About Reaper and click the Purchase tab.
To use Reaper or any DAW, you will need an audio interface. And if you are reading this article, you probably want to get the best bang-for-buck interface you can. I would highly recommend the Focusrite Scarlett series. You can buy the Focusrite Solo from Amazon (affiliate link) for a very reasonable price. I have been using these for years, and they give great sounding recordings for not very much money.
How long can you use Reaper for free?
You can use Reaper for free for 60 days after you first download and install it. After that, you must buy a license. Reaper will continue to work without issue after the 60 days, but you will be in breach of the licensing terms if you continue to use it without a valid license.
The only real consequence of using Reaper beyond the 60 days trial period is a 5-second nag screen that will appear when you open up the software. Once the trial period is over (60 days), you are simply expected to pay up. Cockos (the company who makes Reaper) are trusting the users to do the right thing.
Is it OK to use Reaper DAW without ever paying?
It is not OK to use Reaper without ever paying! The software is offered under the agreement that after the free 60-day evaluation period, you will buy a license. Just because the software will continue to work after the 60-days should not be taken as an invitation to use it forever without paying.
Cockos could quite easily cripple the software after 60-days, disabling some vital features, time limiting its use or adding audio artifacts to recordings. These are all models employed by other media software companies. The “trust” licensing model that it uses is one that should be respected, and one I highly admire. Coupled with the very reasonable price of Reaper when compared to other DAWs, I highly encourage you to respect the licensing terms and buy a license when required.
A hugely fully featured and complex application such as Reaper requires a sizable, highly skilled development team. All these developers need paying and have families to support. A valuable service is being provided, and those that provide such a service should be appropriately compensated.
Playing devil’s advocate for a second…is it OK for say a teenager who has no money to continue to use Reaper for a little while beyond the 60-day evaluation period? Perhaps while they save up some money to buy it, or maybe wait for a birthday to get it bought for them. Hmm…maybe. Although Cockos is not losing any money, strictly speaking it’s still breaking the terms of the license.
I’m sure that Cockos take into consideration some people not paying for Reaper in their financial planning, and probably have a good idea of how many people are using Reaper beyond the evaluation period without a valid license. This should not be an invitation to break the licensing terms. Aside from the ethical considerations, if you want the application to continue to be developed, new features added and bugs fixed, then the development will require funding.
As a final point on the licensing, Reaper is incredibly competitively priced compared to other comparable DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. Cubase Pro is multiple hundreds of dollars for example, and Pro-Tools requires a subscription that costs for a few months the same as Reaper costs for two full versions lifetimes (8 years in the example discussed earlier).
If you are completely new to home recording, I highly recommend you check out my beginner’s guide to recording music at home. This is a comprehensive guide to making your first home recording. It details everything you need and walks you step-by-step through the process. I put a lot of work into it, you should find it very helpful.
My personal history with Reaper
Reaper has been my DAW of choice for about 5 years now. I actually switched from Cubase due to some technical issues I was having. I was so impressed with Reaper when I first tried it, I bought a license after about 10 days of using it! Although I could have legitimately used it for free for another 50 days, I was so sure I would continue to use it for years that I bought the license early as I wanted to reward the developers.
As a side note, a good pair of headphones is essential for recording using Reaper or any other DAW. My favorite headphones for recording are the Sony MDR-7506s, which I have been using in my home studio for many years. Indeed, they are a favorite of professional recording studios around the world. You can buy Sony MDR-7506 headphones from Amazon (affiliate link) for a great price.
Commonly asked questions
Is Reaper a monthly payment?
Reaper does not require a monthly payment. It offers a 60-day free trial, during which you can use the software without charge. After that, you must make a one-off payment for a license. The license then lasts for the lifetime of two full versions of the software e.g. from versions 5.01 to 6.99.
Is Reaper still free?
Reaper is not free, and never has been. It has a free trial period, which lasts for 60 days. Once this period expires, you must buy a license if you continue to use Reaper, although it will continue to work without a license. A discounted license can be bought for a one-off payment of $60.
Before you go, consider reading these other related articles covering how to do common tasks in Reaper…
Here is some of my favorite home studio gear…
Thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful in your home music-making activities. Here are a few of the tools that I personally use in my home studio. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to use any of them I’ll earn a small commission.
Audio interface: My personal choice for audio interfaces are the Focusrite Scarlett series. I have been using these for years, and they have always given me great-sounding recordings. For a very reasonable price from Amazon you can buy the excellent Focusrite Scarlett 4i4, or if you don’t need MIDI capability the Focusrite Solo is a great choice.
Amp sim: Guitar amplifier simulator software has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, such that I record all my electric guitar parts using amp sims these days. One of the very best is the incredible Amplitube from IK Multimedia, which I have used on many of my songs.
Headphones for recording: My favorite headphones for recording are the Sony MDR-7506s, which I use for monitoring during all my recording sessions. They can also be found in many pro recording studios. Get the Sony MDR-7506 headphones from Amazon here.
General-purpose microphone: You can’t go wrong with a good ol’ Shure SM-57, one of the most versatile and ubiquitous microphones around. I’ve been using one in my home studio for as long as I can remember. Amazon offers the Shure SM-57 for a very competitive price.
To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you!