MainStage Alternatives For Both Windows/MAC

Alternatives to MainStage

MainStage is currently one of the easiest ways to use a MIDI controller when playing live. One of the main drawbacks of MainStage is that it is Apple only. This means, if you have a PC/laptop, you will not be able to use MainStage.

In this article, we are going to breakdown the best alternatives for MainStage for both Windows & MAC users.

It is important to note that MainStage is simply a host for your plugins and effects. It is not a full DAW and it is built with the sole purpose of allowing keyboardists to have full control of their sounds.

MainStage uses Audio Units for their format, whereas Ableton Live can use both VSTs and Audio Units.

Before we get into our favorite MainStage alternatives, let’s take a look at some recommended requirements for your PC/MAC.

Looking for a quick answer? My favorite alternative is currently Ableton Live and I use it in my touring rig.

Ableton Live 11

Ableton Live is my go-to DAW for live music. If you have strong desire to gig or play live, I would recommend Ableton Live.

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Can You Download MainStage On Windows/PC?

Legally speaking, no, you cannot. MainStage is built for Apple only and is not compatible with Windows.

With this being said, there are people who go to some extreme lengths to download Mainstage for Windows.

The only way to actually do this would be to use an emulator or simulator that tricks your PC into thinking you’re using an Apple product.

The downside to this is that you can download bad programs that are malicious and can damage your PC.

This is why we recommend just going with an alternative to MainStage, rather than going through a hassle and potentially damaging your PC.


The system requirements will change depending on which alternative you choose. With this being said, here’s a quick list of things I would recommend for your devices.

We are giving these recommendations as playing live will typically require a PC or macBook that can handle intense performances.

The last thing you want to do is to have your system crashing on you during performances.

*Note: When performing live with MainStage or one of these alternatives, always be sure to point a fan at your pc or laptop. This will prevent it from overheating and crashing mid-performance.

Now that you have an idea of equipment that you will likely need, let’s take a look at some alternatives.

MainStage Alternatives

Here a quick list of some programs you can use to replace MainStage. Some of these are Windows only and will be marked as that.

1)* Ableton Live – Best Product For Performing Live

Ableton Live 11

Ableton Live is my go-to DAW for live music. If you have strong desire to gig or play live, I would recommend Ableton Live.

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Ableton Live is a full DAW, which makes it different than MainStage. Ableton Live gives you the ability to do everything that MainStage does, while also providing you with an incredible DAW.

To put it in simple terms, Ableton can do more than MainStage does, including giving you the ability to record your own music and even run more complex tracks with your live performances.

Over the last few years, Ableton has become the industry standard as well when it comes to playing music live, whether your a keyboardist, a DJ or simply a musician running some backtracks.

Ableton gets our pick as the best alternative to MainStage and we believe that you will definitely find what you need with it. There are also some incredible tutorials you can watch on Youtube which show you exactly how to use it.

The only downside of Ableton is that it is expensive.

Should you choose Ableton, you can check out our guide on the best MIDI controllers for Ableton. These are all choices that work flawlessly with Ableton.

2) Gig Performer (Best Mainstage Alternative For Windows And MAC)

What I Like

  • Gig Performer doesn’t feel clunky or cluttered
  • Allows you to experiment
  • If you can envision your setup, you can create it in Gig Performer
  • I wasn’t able to get it to crash one time – using heavy plugins
  • Incredible community
  • Frequently updated
  • Created by an accomplished musician/designed with professional musicians in mind

If you’re looking solely for a product alternative to Mainstage, look no further than Gig Performer. After watching a few videos on Youtube, I was able to start to configure my rack and build setlists quickly.

The user interface of Gig Performer is beautiful and not cluttered at all, which paves the path for experimentation and allows you to learn quickly. 

Outside of Ableton Live, you’re not going to find other plugin hosts that can produce what Gig Performer does. 

For those who have elaborate setups with memory-intensive plugins such as Kontakt, Gig Performer is a must to try out. 

Another selling point for this product is its community. From Youtube videos to a great forum support system, you will always be able to find answers to any problems you may encounter.

3) Cantabile Windows/MAC


Cantabile is the Windows equivalent of MainStage. It is essentially the same type of product that allows you to get the most out of your keyboards.

One thing to quickly point out is that Cantabile has a free version that isn’t super limited. This is great as you can get a good feel for what you can do.

You can find tutorials on Youtube for Cantabile as well should you go this route. If you’re someone who owns a laptop and not a MAC, this could be a perfect pick.

While Cantabile is cheaper than Ableton, it is also a little bit more money than MainStage.

With this being said, you’re investing in something that is making you money, should be getting paid to play shows.

I recommend checking out some Youtube videos of Cantabile before deciding to purchase it to make sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for.

4) Camelot (Windows/MAC)


Camelot makes a great alternative to MainStage as it is a live performance app. Camelot currently supports a ton of different keyboards, however, the downside is that there is also a lot that it doesn’t support.

For example, Camelot doesn’t currently support the Nord Stage 3, which is one of the most popular keyboards for gigging.

Camelot thrives when it comes to stability. You can use this with any apple device as well as Windows/androids. Whichever device you are using, you will notice that it is super stable and you likely won’t have problems with it crashing.

5) GarageBand (Mac Only)


While GarageBand is more of a full-on DAW than just a hosting platform, I still feel like it’s a great alternative.

MainStage built for live performance whereas GarageBand is mainly for composing. With this being said, you could find some workarounds with GarageBand to still perform live.

The one downside is that GarageBand is that it is for Apple only, so should you be looking for Windows options, this wouldn’t be for you.

GarageBand is a fairly easy program to use and it comes for free with every iOS device. There are also many great resources available on Youtube.

Should you be curious, we recently published an article that breaks down some great Garageband alternative options.

Wrapping Up

We have provided you with 4 great alternatives to MainStage. I believe all three of these work well and if I were deciding, I would recommend Ableton.

Ableton has become the king of live music for a reason and it is the DAW that I use as well when playing live.

Should you not have the budget, we would recommend going with Cantabile as there is a free version you can test out.

  1. Chris,
    Many keyboardists are working with iPad as their rig controller. I, for one, would not think of using a full-blown computer as part of a performance rig.

    I’ve been quite happy using Camelot Pro on my iPad. I’ve found their support quite responsive, to boot.

    1. Hey Dov,

      thanks for the comment. I too use an iPad for changing songs. My setup is very complex as I’m running aux tracks, launching loops, and stacking 5-6 synths on layered throughout most of my set. The computer allows me to use my exact sounds I’ve used in the studio which are typically heavily effected!

      In terms of reliability, I haven’t had problems in two years with the laptop.


        1. Hi there,

          Thanks for the comment. I run Ableton Live with Touch OSC. I also use a foot controller to launch certain scenes in Ableton for looping purposes.

    1. Hi Jack,

      I’m going to revisit Gigperformer as I’ve been using Ableton solely for the last few years of touring. All of the options are the ones I have solid experience with. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and check back in a few weeks when I have time to tackle Gigperformer.



    2. Hey Ken,

      Thanks for the note. Going to be tackling Gigperformer in the next couple of weeks. My current setup for touring has consisted of Ableton Live with Touch OSC for the last few years as I’m also triggering bass loops, aux tracks, and using tons of heavily effected samples.

      Check back in a few weeks, and I’ll have Gigperformer included. Again, thanks for the note.


  2. Another vote for GigPerformer here, too. Yes, maybe you’re covering it at some point, but to omit it from this list is tantamount to writing it off. Is this really an independent review or paid promotion?

  3. Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but if you are looking for an amazing program which does all the organizational/prep heavy lifting within Ableton Live to give you instant access to incredible patch combos, or ready to use banks of sounds which you bounce between at the touch of a button or fader for live performance, check out “Sunday Keys”. It was created for worship bands, but it certainly can be applied to many other things. Besides doing all the work for you to avoid hundreds of hours tweaking Ableton, it may help people who are initially intimidated by Ableton learn how to do their own set-up’s by copying and altering what they see. They also offer skins for inexpensive MIDI controllers which make it easy to control/fade-in or out the patch combos that they set-up in Ableton.

    1. As far as I understand Sunday Keys is not an alternative to Mainstage but a template for it. And it is really expensive.

  4. Just another vote for Gig Performer! You might find your list changes dramatically upon review! (With a new number one!;)
    And Mainstage suddenly the poor cousin!
    The software is incredibly easy to use.. With the visual wiring system brilliant.. It is powerful.. Flexible..resource efficient .(I’m running it on an older 2012 era laptop) Check out the Joel Brazy YouTube video to see how high end musicians are
    now using this. (I’ve got it synced with Mobile Sheets for a automated all in one music sheet changing synth power house) The other option could be Reaper.. Given how flexible it is.. But really dedicated software like Gig Performer is brilliant!

  5. I work with Mainstage, Gigperformer, Ableton. You certainly can use Ableton as a Mainstage Alternative, but it way more complex to make concerts and setlists. By this I don’t understand the vote for Ableton.
    Obviously a comparison of Mainstage alternatives without GP doesn’t make sense.

  6. I used Maintage for years. I changed to PC and tried alternatives. The only one that can handle my complex setup is Ableton Live but at the expense that it took me a lot of time and various M4l devices to do it. In other programs like Gig performer Cantabile Camelot the CPU choke very easy. I dont know if they dont utilize all CPU cores or what but are unuseable for me. Try to use 6 instances of Swam instruments at same time and you are gonna see

  7. 𝑭𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒐 𝑴𝒖𝒔𝒄𝒐𝒍𝒐 𝒔𝒂𝒊𝒅 – – 𝐓𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝟔 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐰𝐚𝐦 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐞
    I can’t speak for all of the programs but with Gig Performer you can create multiple instances and spread your Swam plugins over them to leverage multiple cores.

  8. “MainStage is simply a host for your VSTs and effects.”
    no it’s not. mainstage can host only audiounits. vst host is cantabile and au and vst host is gig performer and camelot

    1. Hi Joel,

      I’m going to look into Unrealbook. I have personal experience with all of options in the article that are mentioned.

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