Apple MainStage is the industry-leading app for live performers. It allows musicians to design and organize sound patches, apply effects to audio in realtime, map hardware to control VSTs, and more. MainStage also comes with a large assortment of stock plugins and sound libraries, all for the low price of $29. MainStage, like other Apple-developed software, is only available for macOS. In this post, we'll discuss how to run Apple MainStage on a PC, and take a look at other PC alternatives to MainStage.
How to Run MainStage on a PC
The short answer is you can't run MainStage on a PC. Legally speaking, macOS is only supposed to be installed on Apple hardware. Thus, since MainStage is a macOS-exclusive app, it should not be used on non-Apple hardware.
If youre feeling adventurous and want to break Apple's EULA, it's technically possible to install MainStage on a Hakintosh – non-Apple hardware running macOS. I advise against going this route because Hackintosh systems are notoriously unstable due to the lack of proper driver support and incompatible hardware. Why risk your reputation as a musician by running a Hackintosh in your live performance rig? Terrible idea.
PC Alternatives to MainStage
MainStage's huge suite of features, comprehensive stock plugin and sample library, low price point, and classic Apple polish put it in a league of its own. Simply put, there is no true MainStage competitor in the PC world. With that said, there are a few PC-compatible apps that do a decent job in replicating a small subset of MainStage's features.
Now that Brainspawn has closed shop, Cantabile Performer is the most popular live performance app for PC users. With Cantabile Performer, you can perform with VST plugins, switch between songs, set up custom keyboard splits, trigger audio and MIDI clips, record your performances, and more.
Compared to MainStage's low price of $29, Cantabile Performer is $69 (Solo) or $199 (Pro) depending on which version you buy. The more expensive Pro version is “for serious live performance including fast song switching and complete rig control”. In my opinion, “fast song switching” is a crucial feature for live performance. I'm not sure why Cantabile reserved it for “pros” only. Thinking about it more, I don't understand the need for two tiers at all. Just have one complete version priced at $129 and call it a day.
Compared to MainStage and Cantabile Performer, Gig Performer is relatively new to the scene. The app started development in 2015, and currently supports both Windows and macOS. A few of Gig Performer's key features include setlist support, predictive loading for seamless patch changes, optimize CPU usage, bi-directional MIDI control, and a proprietary scripting language.
Gig Performer is priced at $149, and a macoS and Windows bundle is available for $199. I think the no frills pricing structure of Gig Performer makes it a more attractive offering. Practically speaking, it has all the necessary features for live performers, and comes in at $50 cheaper than Cantabile Performer Pro.