Another month missing the financial goal?

Its August 29th and with just two days left, the current financial flow for August is about 12% below the goal. Sigh. I guess I’ll roll another release next month. The release cycles of proprietary software start to be more and more understandable …

Paul, I’ve been a user of Ardour for a little over a year now, and a subscriber for about half that time. This is an amazing program, and I wish development to continue, and so I hope that what I have to say is taken in a constructive and positive manner.

As far as the money issue is concerned, I’d like to ask, what is it you are doing to increase financial support for Ardour? Because if all you’re currently doing is writing posts on your website about how there is not enough money, then I’d like to know what exactly you’re expecting? Thinking that you will get a strong response from such tactics seems mostly like magical thinking.

Which brings me to my second point, and that is the tone of your posts. Every time you bring up the subject, it is almost invariably to chide people in a snide manner for not doing enough to maintain Ardour. This mostly just alienates those who are supporting you while doing nothing to convince others to pitch in. If you are attempting to sell something (and you most definitely are) then it is very important to have a positive, gracious public image. Good customer service, so to speak.

You can write posts about how much programmers get paid in other fields, and what should be an appropriate income for developing a program such as Ardour, until you’re fingers go numb. But all a lot of people are going to see is someone who is apparently complaining about how he gets only $4000 a month in donations. I understand this may be seem like an inappropriate amount of money for the task at hand, but I ask you to remember that the great majority of people in this world would be ecstatic to make such an income.

But that is neither here nor there. The issues remains, how do we solve this problem? Since open-source is very much about community, perhaps a good way to approach this would be to ask: What can we do, as a community, to tackle the issue? Can we perhaps get together a group of people whose goal it is to create a solid financial backing for Ardour? A dedicated marketing and PR group for Ardour, so to speak? It seems apparent that we need to increase the numbers of monthly subscribers, so that there is consistent financial support. How can we do this?

On a final note, we are all aware of how things can be misinterpreted on the internet, and so I want to say that none of this is meant to be angry are insulting, and I hope it is not taken that way.

So, what do you all think?

As a subscriber since February (when I first started to actually do a ‘work’ project with Ardour; I had ‘played’ with it since pre-0.99 days), I’ll throw my two bits in the ring.

First, Paul, Ardour is and has been an excellent program for a number of years. Kudos to everyone responsible, especially Paul.

Second, Paul, I would hazard to say that the download statistics from the download page grossly underestimate the usage of Ardour, as it doesn’t count copies distributed with, say, Fedora or Ubuntu (or AVLinux, or 64studio, or…). The initial dialog (well, it IS a nag screen, isn’t it?) is a step; I was completely unaware of the financial issue until I updated my system to prepare for my current recording project, back in February. I visited the page, and subscribed (although my user ID here is just since late July; I subscribed prior to ever needing the forums, but my user ID hasn’t been updated to reflect my being a subscriber). And, I might add, since I have five kids and took a 20% pay reduction in January due to the recession, it really was a stretch to subscribe for even just $10 per month. But I felt it was the right thing to do. I just don’t eat lunch a few days each month. Took up a notch on my belt the other day; needed to shed that weight anyway.

And I plan to renew my subscription next February, as I hope this project is not my last ‘work’ project where I’ll need Ardour. Depending on how much the artist pays me, I may very well share back a percentage…

And it looks like 5% to go here on the last day of the month. Apparently the post had more impact than some would credit…

But, unfortunately, when something is being paid by the ‘honor system’ there are freeloaders who will abuse that system (and, of course, there are honest people who will throw in their two bits, and some will even double that to a half dollar). Been there, seen that done; at one job I worked at, where I was ‘coffeemeister’ and paid for my supplies with the quarters people put into a little jar, there were always fewer quarters than cups of coffee drunk. Some weeks I didn’t break even, until I’d ‘threaten’ to stop getting the coffee… And finally I was able to convince the management at that establishment to get a coffee vending machine. You’d have thought I’d killed somebody with the uproar it caused!

I fully agree with Beejunk’s original comment. Paul’s public money-grumblings are out of line with the overall spirit of open source software and the FOSS audio community in particular. Writing crabby blog posts that threaten to charge for future releases/features is not a good way to gain donors, and it does indeed alienate existing contributors, who may end up being driven here.

Build a fundraising campaign based on the core value of Ardour–instead of guilt, threats, and gripes–and people will pay for it.

well, now it looks like the goal will be met, or will we end up 5% short? i think these few dollars don’t really make the difference. beejunk, among some constructive thoughts, critised the tone of paul’s post. i presume to disagree:

the ardour project is as open and transparent as can be, and the quality and accuracy of “customer service” simply has no comparison (where else you get erudite troubleshotting right from the devs in just minutes?). it is mainly paul’s work, and whole project is purely community driven - thus, a personal, extremely responsible approach. this implies that the same responsible and mature thinking is expected from the community (otherwise the gift econowy doesn’t work). if paul feels personaly frustrated from the funding problems (for any reason! i’m not entitled to judge his finantial needs, and he’s not obliged to explain me that his part of the world is more expensive than mine, etc. - this is not the plot!), he puts it forth in a personal, perhaps sort of emotional way. i appreciate this kind of courage a lot, as a part of that openness. for me, this approach is much more valuable than so-called “pr” (which often means, lets face it, just lies and simulated politeness).

thank you, paul, and please, go on this way!


Only my advice, I don’t speak for Paul cause don’t know him personally !

I agree what you Beejunk says about money, next month I’ll make $ 4000 will be the first one… But there are many people making much more in the programming area…

On another hand, do you imagine a second to send a mail to any closed source world author, and get an (appropriate) answer ? I have tried this with one M-audio executive months ago, and after several mails (complaining to have a driver for Linux) the final answer was something like “we are producing for professional audio and never said our products are Linux ready”… The first reply was : “Oh cool, Linux we love it, we are participating by given the Debian team some hardware”, and the general tone of mails changes in the following way, due to the writing form employeed by the exec_man :

answer 1 “Dear customer, thank you for purchasing…We like Linux…” my mate opened a beer
answer 2 “Dear Frederic, well, a driver for Linux…” the professor speaking to the child
answer 3 “Frederic, as I have said to you…” Daddy’s angry
answer 4 “Dear sir, we do professional stuff and you use Linux…” stop boring me, Mr bastard please

This story to say, yes sometimes Paul’s speaking seems “raw”, without what you call “gracious public image”, but don’t you think it could be re-interpreted in another way ? See, the man seems really busy, and try to help people with messages where there is only technical information in. What are you looking for when you ask for a tip ? A tip or a smiling blonde making some coffee and blah blah ? ;o))

That to say “interpret” is wide open, and please not see any insult or anger in my words… We are both Ardour users and suscribers Beejunk. Your marketing idea sounds constructive, even if it’s far away from Community spirit, maybe it will be a way for Ardour to take the best of both world ? Not to me to answer that, just some thoughts this morning… I was, like you, really perplexed with the original message by Paul, and your message Beejunk decide me to answer too…

To end, I hope Ardour developpement will continue. Good luck with financial issues Paul, and to find a better way to communicate about !

It’s all pretty simple folks: Either the monthly financial goals are reached and Ardour will continue its progress, or it will not. It’s not threatening or anything that Paul does. He is just reminding us.
Everyone is free to continue the development the existing source code in the spirit of FOSS, but be honest, without full time development, things like Ardour3 would take far too long for anyone to care.

I think it’s good that Paul reminds everyone of the possibility that he might be forced to stop his level of commitment one day. No one could blame him if things don’t work out.


I absolutely agree with Beejunk.

@linkx: what evidence do you have for your assertion that “people will pay for it” beyond ardour’s existing success at generating income? I have built a “fundraising campaign” based on Ardour’s core values, and my own. That campaign targets what I believe are rather modest goals. I believe i have the right to be a little irritated that despite continued downloading success, even that goal proves hard to reach without the same core people closing the gaps at the end of the month.

Furthermore, I have NEVER “threatened to charge for future releases” in the sense that you imply.
If you pay for any release for 2.8, all other 2.8.X releases are free of charge. Moreover, a substantial number, perhaps even a majority, of Ardour users are on Linux and are never required to pay anything at all for the program.

Open source software development is a new thing when done on the scale that its occuring at these days. There are various ways for it to happen. A lot takes place within companies that need software but don’t sell it - paying developers to work on tools simply makes sense for them. Quite a bit happens within a few companies that actually sell relatively large amounts of open source software and/or support for it, like Red Hat, and once again they have a business model that justifies paying developers to write software There’s also quite a lot that happens in the context of small, relatively simple programs that are developed as unpaid hobbies, maintained sporadically but are successful because they reach a certain level of functionality and are phenomenally useful without further substantive work. Linux is full of dozens or hundreds of examples of such programs.

What is missing at the moment, and what Ardour represents as an interesting experiment, is a way to facilitate the development of software that doesn’t fit into any of those categories. FOSS communities haven’t really grappled much with this to date. So, I don’t really know what you mean when you refer “the overall spirit of open source software” - how has this “overall spirit” addressed niche, highly complex, feature rich, workflow-sensitive, evolving feature set applications? Please don’t point to Blender - it was developed as a for-profit application, and even after its source code was open sourced, a substantial part of the initial funding for its continued developed came from Apple and the EU. Blender is also related to “graphics”, which generally seems to attract about 10x the level of interest that audio does on computers (based on my experience at a variety of workshops and conferences. The GIMP is probably a suitable example, and I don’t know a lot about how development has been facilitated there - is it all volunteer, are some developers paid to work part time, full time, etc. etc. I don’t think that there is an “overall spirit of open source software”.

Beejunk - I am stuck in a tricky position. I don’t want to try to force people to pay for Ardour, for all kinds of reasons that are not really worth going into here. At present, less than 3% of the people who download the software bother to pay for it at the time of download. The average price of those who do pay anything is about US$10. How many downloaders donate at some later time is hard to quantify, but a casual inspection of the data suggests not that many (i.e. my total income is almost entirely accounted for by subscriptions + pay-for-download amounts).

How do you think you would feel if you had worked for 9-10 years on a project that receives great acclaim, thousands of downloads per month, is known throughout the industry, and yet only 3% of the people who downloaded your work bothered to pay you anything for it? So yes, I am a little grumpy, and a little sour-toned. I happen to think that I am entitled to that attitude to some extent, though it may a mistake to display it in a place often visited by people who do support the work I do. However, at the core of this is that I believe that I’m doing something useful and productive, and that if I am right about that then I ought to be able to earn more than I am from my work.

This could mean a number of things: first, that I am wrong and that what I am doing with ardour is really not all that useful or productive. It is not available for the computing platform that 95% of the world uses, it lacks some major features that are commonly used by many users of this kind of software, and it has a relatively small user base comprised mostly of Linux-based home studio folk and people on OS X who are either strapped for cash and/or for some reason like Ardour. I’m entirely open to the idea that in truth, this effort is really not that worthwhile, and I would be better off doing something else to make a living. The second possibility is that there is some other way(s) to “market” ardour that will generate more income. There is another possibility that i will mention below.

What I think you are forgetting is that doing anything “for real” with a project like this involves substantial commitments of time and effort. Many people have already provided such commitments without any receiving any payment, including myself (I worked for 5 years on the program before any money started flowing around). Support, documentation and yes, even marketing - these are all major efforts. For someone to get involved in an attempt to market ardour more aggressively/successfully requires either that they have the time and don’t need the money, or alternatively that they believe there is some way to increase the cash flow so much that they can get paid for what they do (or have done). I personally am skeptical that this is true. If someone believes otherwise, they should get in touch with me and we’ll talk about their slice of the pie.

Finally, you do not need to remind me about the disproportionality of world income levels. I myself have commented upon it many times, and it is a huge problem when seeking income from a project that has worldwide distribution. I am fully aware that the income I make already would enable me to live extremely comfortably in many parts of the world. However, I do not live in those parts of the world, and I currently do not have the ability to move to them. Does this mean that working (independently) full time on libre software while living in a western industrial nation is a fool’s errand? It could. Maybe that applies to middle-aged people with families. I don’t know for sure. What I am doing with Ardour right now as far as income is an experiment that is partly intended to test that hypothesis. I’m ready for either outcome, but the part of the existing community that does not contribute financially needs to be ready for them both as well. Ardour will not “die” if I stop working on it, but I suspect it won’t move forward much either.

Paul, I didn’t mean to suggest that you were unaware of pay disparities in the third-world, although I would like to add that these disparities absolutely exist in industrialized nations, too.

I’m sorry I made that initial statement, though, because I didn’t mean to give the impression that you shouldn’t get paid that much for your work. You should, and in fact I would like to see Ardour as a whole receive a lot more than that in donations, so that you can perhaps one day have several well-payed, full-time developers.

The reason I mentioned the issue of pay disparity at all was in the larger context of the tone of your posts. In a very practical sense, it doesn’t matter how justified you are to be grumpy, or how correct your are about the amount of compensation you should receive. A lot of people are going to interpret your words as ungrateful whining, for many reasons, including the fact that most people don’t make that much money. It doesn’t matter whether or not people are ‘right’ to interpret your statements this way, many just will.

As someone who is, in a sense, constantly engaged in outreach, you should take this type of thing seriously. Benjamin stated in a previous post that you were simply reminding us of the reality of the situation. This is not exactly the whole truth: You were reminding us in a negative manner. You can say these things in a more professional and kind way (and I’ve seen you do so!), which may sound cheesy, but believe me, it makes a HUGE difference. Take public radio, for example. Those people are CONSTANTLY asking for money, which sure can be annoying, but it works. However, what reaction do you think they’d get if they asked in ways that angered and insulted their audience?

I’d like to get a little more details on your statement that you ‘have built a fundraising campaign based on Ardour’s core values’. Are you referring to what you’ve been doing with the site? Because if that’s all, then that doesn’t seem to be much of a campaign. To have a real effect, people would need to be hearing about this from a lot more places than just the website. For instance, there are at least two well-known linux distributions (64 Studio and Ubuntu Studio) for which Ardour is, for all intents and purposes, the flagship software. Have you looked into perhaps having them spread the word about the fundraising campaign? A previous poster made the important point that a lot of people get Ardour through places such as Ubuntu’s repos, and that many of them probably weren’t at all aware of Ardour’s financial issues until you added a screen about it into the software. How can we make even more people aware of the situation?

One point I’d like to make is that currently most development effort (and therefore money) is going into Ardour 3 which is currently not even in a testable state. Now I know you are running under a different business model to off-the-shelf software, but being in a position to create a substantially new product based fundamentally on the proceeds of an existing product that is in maintenance mode is a pretty good position to be in. Okay, now I know most people are paying for the development of Ardour 3 as opposed to their use of Ardour 2, but one day Ardour 3 will be in maintenance mode (and you won’t have any outstanding debt for its development hanging over your head) and you can take a well earned rest while the 3% who pay keep showing their thanks. Sometimes I know things seem (and are) tough in the present, but the future looks pretty bright. :slight_smile:


My fist post here. I don’t use ardour, but I check its state almost on weekly basis. Why? Because I am eagerly waiting for midi and vsti support. I guess there is at least 10.000+ ppl like me. Maybe 100.000+.
I believe that donations and subscriptions will double if not triple when ardour 3 is out with midi and vsti. The problem is that we - the ppl - are not used to pay in advance for what we don’t use. I also believe that no more than 5% of users will ever donate, but if userbase is large enough, 5% will be more than enough to support this really great and admiring project - once we start to use it.

My 2 cents.

@minimalB: you are suffering from a well-known misunderstanding if you believe that that Ardour3 is going to magically make VSTi’s work in Ardour on Linux. My experience listening to and reading the experience of others who are using windows VST plugins on Linux makes me wish I had never spent any time trying to support that. It is true that we will have support for MIDI-driven instrument plugins. It is true that there will be some way to build ardour/vst. It is not true that anyone is going to get a smooth, reliable, predictable experience from running Ardour on Linux with plugins written to run on Windows.

Paul, I suggested this once before - but have you thought about using some of the existing income to fund a fundraiser? In other words, pay someone specifically to raise market awareness of Ardour, to publicise it, to attract sponsors, to find out about grant funding (rather more plentiful in Europe than the USA, I believe) and generally, to raise Ardour’s profile.

I’m sure you realise that writing software is a highly skilled job. Like sculpting, or writing a novel, or designing a circuit board, it isn’t something that any old schmuck can turn his hand to. Well, neither is selling… selling is a skill, like any other. Some people can do it. Some people (indeed most people) can’t. But almost nobody can do it successfully as a part time job

I’ve worked for some major audio manufacturers in my time but no matter how good our products, it was never the guys in R&D who sold them - it was the salesmen. No disrespect intended - but it’s a pretty safe bet that any good salesman would be a lot better at generating income than you are. That’s their skill. That’s what they’re good at.


How about this. A fundraiser starts raising funds, and keeps a percentage of what he raises. I am sure Paul does NOT want to part with the money he is currently getting, it being just enough to sustain his 1st world expenses.

This way, if you are a good fundraiser, you will get a lot of extra money, and Ardour will as well.

John, no disrespect taken. I have no doubt that a good sales/marketing person could do at least a 300% better job of marketing Ardour than me. The problem is, there is no money to fund it. The income that arrives now is what we live on. It would have to be done on a contingency basis. If someone stepped up to do that who felt like they understood the open source and ardour ethos, I’d be all for it. The only downside is that I already have a good idea of what a lot of the response from the target audience will be (“VST plugins”, “import ProTools sessions”, “elastic time”, “MIDI” …)

Sure, Ardour will always be a tough sell to people with established careers, who will want things like elastic time and who don’t want to go through the pain of converting to a new system. I think part of the solution is to not make those people the target audience.

I’m currently working with a very small record label that is just starting up, and part of the initial model was to start out using open source software. It is so far working well, in the sense that the software more than does what it needs to do. I don’t miss the proprietary software in the least.

Ardour might be better off focusing organizations like this. Get to the people who are recording on a small scale and a small budget, or who are just starting. These people are going to be much more open to a different way of doing things. Sure, these people don’t have much money, but then again, you’re not asking for much money.

Very true Paul - but those are the exact same requests that you keep getting already. At least it might sugar the pill if companies were actively promising sponsorship in return for them. A persuasive salesperson would have the best chance of achieving this but of course, they’d want to get paid.

Paul I think you are right in a number of ways.

  1. You have every right to continually ask for money (and if this follows the public radio model to the level of annoyance so be it)…
  2. The responses he will get regarding features are going to be the same regardless of target audience… i.e.
    a) MIDI - this is essential for intercommunication with softsynths and hard synths alike
    b) VST support - while it is possible to not use it - the majority of softsynths available and desirable are VST’s… and unless a greater proportion of people take up MAC’s or Apple provide AU support to linux there isn’t really an alternative
    c) Import Pro-tools sessions… .Let’s face it… Ardou.r is not designed for the beginner… it can be used by a beginner to Paul’s credit he has produced a truly profesionallly targeted DAW… for beginners there are other options…that are easier to learn… the users that are most interested in Ardour are audio focussed semi-professionals wanting something less propietary than Pro-tools…
    d) Elastic TIme… this is not limited to Pro-Tools and Live… this is becoming commonplace everywhere (logic 8 has a fantastic implementation of the concept and I hear it only gets better with 9… .as does Cubase)… people are working with larger chunks of audio they want to manipulate in different ways…

Beejujnk I disagree with your last comment about beginners… Most beginners start with industry standards, things they can read about in Magazines and ask their friends about… and as mentioned before… things that don’t look so scary… Ardour is intimidating to someone not familiar with DAW’s… The target audience is limited and always will be more likely to be people looking for alternatives but already know what they want.

I too am getting pissed off at the state of Ardours funding… I have been a subscriber for 2 maybe 3 years… not sure exactly. I have also paid a couple of bounties… sure my subscription lapsed once because it expired and once because my account was empty and paypal cancelled it… that’s beside the point,. it pisses me off that other people who are obviously using the software aren’t chipping in… some may point out that I am releasing music made with the assistance of ardour… but to be frank I make less money out of music than I pay in subscriptions… People should be encouraged to subscribe if they are using it… regardless if they make money out of it… … Can I buy a Gibson guitar on a promise to pay when I become a rock god… NO… You can’t even buy other apps on a subscription basis…

We, as subscribers, shouldn’t be complaining that Paul is asking for money… we should be hassling other people to cough up!!! Paul has every right to stop working on ardour at any time if he can’t feed his family… regardless of what other developers earn…

I suggest a new tactic… put a subscription message on your email signature when emailing relevant mailing lists. (LAU, e.t.c.)

If you know anyone in the education industry… suggest this to them…

The other question is what else can be done?? Commercial sponsorship is probably still the best option but I can’t see this happening without at least the MIDI implementation coming in… I believe Behringer is possibly the best group to approach but I am not expert… so effectively anyone with these skills (acquiring funding)… is best placed to help.

education institutions are a good choice but other than SAE which has already decided to pull the plug I don’t know of any institutions that would have the funding…

The next thing to look at is government sponsorship… but again… I have no idea how this works… .