Ardour and Money, 2014 edition

(Paul Davis) #1

This is being written on June 20th, 2014, basically 2/3rds of the way through the month, and roughly half way through the year. Over there on the right hand side it says that the project has received a total of just under $1800 this month.

I really don't like writing articles about Ardour and money. I like to think that successful and worthy projects will magically fund themselves, and obviously, I like to think that Ardour is successful and worthy. This is wrong thinking, however.

The Income Curve & Subscriptions

The rate of income generation has falling dramatically in the last 3 or 4 months, in large part reflecting the end of many of the subscriptions started when Ardour 3 was released last year. You can't see this because PayPal's subscriptions API are so worthless (it is not even possible to programmatically list all current subscriptions). The number displayed there tends to reflect all subscriptions ever, rather than those still current. I almost certainly made a mistake making subscriptions be annual rather than "run until cancelled" - I received many emails from people wondering why their subscription had stopped - but it was my feeling at the time that it was somehow more appropriate that way. I think I was wrong about that.

The Takeaway

At the current rate, it is not possible for me to consider myself "employed" to do Ardour development.

Mea Culpa

For better or for worse, I live in the US and as passionate about Ardour as I have been for over a decade, it makes no sense for me to work on it at the level I do if I make only $45k a year. I am fully aware that there are many Americans, let alone many more people around the world, who would love to make that kind of money. I know this, but it does not change the fact that in the absence of any likely upward trend in the program's ability to generate income, working as I do on Ardour doesn't make any sense as a full time occupation.

This doesn't even begin to cover the lack of any financial compensation for the incredible amount of work done by other developers.

What about doing <X> to raise more money?

Over the years, I've had lots of energetic advice from people on how to raise more money via the Ardour project. As well-intentioned as most of this advice has been (and some of it, notably the subscriptions idea, has been really good), it has typically not been grounded in the reality of what it takes to actually implement them. Engineering companies have sales people, managers and others who work full time on generating income and expanding into new potential sources of income. But while they do that, their engineers continue working on their actual products. I cannot put the time into Ardour that the continued development of the program requires if I am also spending time dealing with financial integration APIs, marketing, and generally "selling" the application. I already run the website and provide a significant amount of customer support as part of my work on Ardour. Even spending a few days messing around with whatever PayPal or BitSplat or Square has come up with for payment APIs, or designing new promotional materials etc. means that further work on MIDI, bugs, and the long list of other features the program needs is delayed.

The other option

I'm not really worried about income. I have the option of working for a digital audio company that is developing new projects based on Ardour. If I do this, I will still be working on Ardour's codebase, but my focus will cease being what I percieve the needs and desires of Ardour users to be, and will be dominated by what another company thinks I should be doing. I don't particularly want to go down this route, but given the current "curve" of the income trend, it appears to me that I will probably have to. You can expect to see the next minor release of Ardour (3.6) to still happen, but after that I have no idea what the development process for Ardour itself might be. Other developers have been extraordinarily energetic and productive and contributed immeasurable amounts to the program, but whether any of them would want to actually take over responsibility for the application itself is not clear.

So ...

That's that. At least for now. This is not an appeal for money. I just want to let people know and understand where things stand.

(Support) #2

I think Ardour has to tread a difficult path, in common with many (sometimes critical) open source projects it will always struggle to get donations, simply because donating is optional, although it has done remarkably well compared to most donationware projects. But, its also clear that in attracting the necessary commercial sponsorship from companies, it could be argued that donations are simply subsidising the development costs of those companies, who will still expect users to pay for their Ardour based product, irrespective of whether those users contributed financially.
Whether the fall in income is a symptom of a wide malaise in the industry, or maybe a temporary problem is debatable (though personally I expect to make a loss on my linux software this month for the first time, and there’s not much indication that next month will be different - which is why development is currently focused on other more profitable platforms / products to sustain the business).
As for the amount of work involved in ardour, I imagine its immense, I also have to do all the things mentioned, including marketing, development, website, site admin, financial admin, hardware maintenance and support, etc etc for my software / company and it all comes without any right to financial reward (we are after all speculatively producing a product / products, in the hope they people will see value in them - sometimes just having a product you know is good isn’t enough, sometimes people just don’t get it no matter how hard you try)
Personally I hope Ardour will continue to develop in some form, but I think that people should be under no illusion that, open or closed source, applications don’t just spring spontaneously into existance from goodwill alone and that like alot of other creative endeavours, to be really good requires fulltime dedication - all of which needs to be funded somehow.

(Anahata) #3

Hint taken. My Ardour-based studio has just released another album and it’s starting to sell, and I should restart my subscription.

(it is not even possible to programmatically list all current subscriptions). The number displayed there tends to reflect all subscriptions ever, rather than those still current.
Your download page seems to be letting me have Ardour for free even though my subscription expired. That could explain why.

PS subscription renewed now :slight_smile:

PPS come on gang, let’s keep this thing going…

(Pedro Picoto) #4

Subscription renewed and increased… I keep the faith…

(R M Schroeder) #5

Is it possible to make the subscriptions “run until cancelled” from here on out? I personally didn’t realise my subscription was cancelled until I saw this message. I just kind of assumed (incorrectly) that it would keep going. Subscription renewed.

(calimerox) #6

same thing here: i was sure i ve subscribed FOREVER to ardour, but it seems I m not paying anymore, although logging in I see the welcome screen with the subscription info etc… whatever will be Pauls decision at the end, you should make sure that people who think they subscribed actually also pay money! I ll renew now…

edit: maybe my fault: but i can just find a donation button and no subscription options on the webpage… maybe i didnt search hard enough, but this should be something easy to find…

(Paul Davis) #7

calimerox: “Subscribe” is a green button in the middle of the right-hand side financial info box on every page EXCEPT the ones related to download.

(Dlphillips) #8

Resubbed, even if development slows. Subscription is good karma. Ardour signifies.

Best always,


(calimerox) #9

too strange maybe it s a browser issue but it doesnt appear here… maybe because it thinks i ve already subscribed? screenshot here:

(Paul Davis) #10

calimerox: yes, your case is another victim of “we never saw the subscription cancellation notice from paypal, and there’s no way to programmatically check the status of a subscription” problem. It is unbelievable to me that PayPal has still not provided a mechanism to do this. Currently, I have download an comma-separated spreadsheet file with all subscriptions and then update the database from there. I suppose I should do that (again).

(Niels) #11

This post makes me feel a bit helples.

Anyways, thanks for pointing out the subscription issue. I just checked: mine is still runing and I put a not to my calendar to re-new it on time. Planning to increase next year when I hopefully will have a bit more money to spend.

Unfortunately, I don’t manage to make money with my recordings… I’m still hoping that this may change in the future.

(calimerox) #12

ha ok! Even when i go to the download section and click on subscribe i cant re-subscribe etc… I will just donate till this problem is solved. I m sure there are a lot of people struggling with the same issue…

(Fernesto Anzolam) #13

Although re-subscribe is at the moment impossible for me, i´d like to say that i understand this and i know it is not been really easy right now for a lot of people around the globe, right now i´m working 90% on Mixbus 5% Protools and 5% Live, being this said, since i made a partnership with other studio i´ve been introducing Mixbus to my associate and he really likes it, and to a few students (we are also a small audio school), which i cannot do that good with ardour because of the Mac issue, but i always explain how Mixbus is based on ardour and A3 can cost so low… right now i can´t do much more than that.

However i believe it´s very important to stay strong on Linux, times are slowly changing and software for Video like Lightworks is now on Linux and the more people see linux as a real alternative to make audio and video on a absolutely more reliable OS (than W7 or W8) at a much lower cost than using other hardware (that pricey fruit…) the more support from both users and companies (both hardware and software) Ardour as a donation based DAW should get at the end of the chain, but letting ardour as it is right now can otherwise be terrible, as users won´t find “any” real low cost choice to make audio in Linux, i recently bought a Mac system in which we use Mixbus at the studio and is great having support from even UAD hardware and plugins to work any day, not worring about what hardware can we use or not, if this is supported or not, if it has a driver or not, but we have 4 other machines with Linux and W7, i believe it is possible to reach a much better support level than what Linux has right now, but only if we keep strong then may be at some point it won´t even be necessary to talk about financing problems on the platform based software.

But as soon as i can resubscribe, i will. xD

(Benjamin Scherrer) #14

Paul: Add me to the list - I can’t resubscribed since the page thinks I’m a subcriber but I am not anymore

(Paul Davis) #15

I will try to do a CSV-sheet import sometime today (Monday).

(Teuvotohvelo) #16

The thing about fundraising/financing is really true: it’s real job that needs time and commitment. I’m just wondering, if Linux audio community as a whole could hire a person or two doing this kind of job. Maybe there would be some source for money for that? It would definitely be needed by some other projects as well…

One idea for Ardour: there is probably few schools/colleges around the globe using Ardour, and more could be encouraged. Maybe those could become a sort of “community subscribers” with $100/month or something similar. Even just a bunch of “community subscribers” could help this financing problem tremendously.

(Support) #17
I'm just wondering, if Linux audio community as a whole could hire a person or two doing this kind of job..
well, presumably they could hire paul to do the job he already does.. by... donating / subscribing to ardour.. ?

(Wolftune) #18

Hi Paul (and everyone else),

I have been concerned and also critical about the approach Ardour has taken to raise money. Anything that discourages downloads or hampers full use and engagement (e.g. the hassles put in place to encourage funding) reduces the potential audience and thus the pool of potential donors. More significantly, all forms of plain donation suffer from basic problems about asking individuals to unilaterally make the right decision to support public goods.

Ardour is a public good and needs more broad community support.

So, Paul, I have a real proposed solution for you. Unfortunately, it’s not ready yet. But I’m not asking YOU to do any of the hard work. I am working to build — a new social-contract many-to-many matching pledge system specifically for Free/Open projects. I hope that you might take an interest and consider using our system when it is ready. You could even participate in early testing if you’d like. This is a long-term solution, not an immediate answer. But Ardour is an ideal project we would love to support once we are fully launched.

Thanks for all your work over the years! I do hope to see it continue into the future.

(Support) #19
Anything that discourages downloads or hampers full use and engagement...
Which seems to include "anything that has to be paid for..." It seems to me that there's sgnificant effort (still) to dream up new and clever ways in which to acheive something we already have a solution for - its called money, and you use it to buy things. The issue here I think is actually in what Ardour is - on the one hand its presenting itself as a product which you have to pay for - albeit an almost insignificant amount at minimum - and on the other its presenting itself as a donation funded project (but your donation doesn't get you a download? - which creates confusion) Add to that, the fact that it is also funded by commercial entities for the development of their own ardour-based products, and you also have the possibility that some users will see that as a reason not to donate, if they see it as effectively subsidising the development of those commercial products, which they would then still have to pay for. Perhaps it just needs to be simpler. Something like 1. You can download the source for free - its GPL after all - unlike some commercial products which claim to be free (in the GPL sense), but actually keep the essence of their product closed and proprietary, and you can build it yourself (if you want to / prefer to invest time instead of money) 2. You can pay (e.g. maybe a minimum of $10) and get a fully working pre-built binary, and you pay for each new release - if you want to upgrade - say, with a monthly release cycle, as is - that funds / encourages the development, and pays for the service of having someone (paul) do all the - complex - work involved in building (and testing) the packaged release. 3. If this isn't enough of a revenue stream to support the project in addition to whatever commercial development funding might be happening, then perhaps the wrong deal has been struck with commercial companies - or perhaps its just an inevitable fact that in return the project has to be more focused on the objectives of those commercial companies - and that's not uncommon for successful open source projects.

That seems to me to be clearer - one the problems with donation (only) funded projects tends to be that approx 50% of people think they don’t need to donate because everyone else is, and 50% think they shouldn’t donate because nobody else is. Its not setting out a clear (or implied) contract of, this is what you get and this is what it costs.
In the real world, donation or ‘honesty’ based schemes normally work (better) because there’s a social implication e.g. in some way the provider will know / see if you take it and don’t put anything in the money box. If its essentially anonymous and you can download something for free, then, some people will always do the ‘right’ thing, but for others - why pay more than you have to? There isn’t the long term view of (if I don’t pay) it might not be there next time I need it - and that actually shouldn’t be something a prospective customer has to concern themselves with when they consider the ‘price’

(JL) #20

"Ardour is a public good " …!! am i dreaming reading that ? sure , as music !!! thats why we musicians have so much difficulties to get money for our work… and even if a tune is sold near 1$… we only see 1 or 2 cents coming back…