Downloading Ardour: Changes & Backstory

As some of you may already have noticed, the way that downloading Ardour works has changed tonight. Rather than everything be available as direct file downloads, the download system now requires you to go through a "donationware" path that is loosely modelled on Radiohead's recent experiment. Key points:

  • SVN is still wide open for anyone to use at any time
  • If you do not wish to pay for source releases, you do not have to. Consider the system a reminder, rather than a requirement.
  • If you want a ready-to-run package for OS X, you have two choices:
    1. Pay a minimum of US$1 to download the latest version with AudioUnit settings & and preset support.
    2. Pay nothing and get a version that will not save AudioUnit plugin settings or load AU presets.
  • There are more reasons than ever to register with site. While any payments received from anonymous users will be welcome, we cannot identify you in the future and connect future downloads that you may want to get with your prior payment.

Existing registered subscribers will not be asked to pay for any release while their subscription is valid. Unfortunately, it is impossible to do this for unregistered subscribers - the site simply has no way of knowing who you are since you chose to not tell us when you kindly added your subscription. If you are a subscriber but the download system does not recognize this, then please send me an email with: your paypal email address and your user name, and I will manually connect your subscription with your user account.

Registered users who have made donations will be thanked and given the chance to make another donation of any amount. Again, donations from unregistered users, while hugely appreciated, can't be tracked in the same way - we don't know who you are.

What about updates?

If you are a registered user and you pay for a download, then all other updates in that "series" (e.g. the 2.8 series) will be available to you without being prompted to pay again.

I Refuse To Use PayPal!

I will be adding Google Checkout support in the near future. Both of these services offer semi-reasonable rates and very nice website integration when compared to traditional credit card processing services. If the revenue rises high enough, I will consider adding one of these services as well. The other options for processing payments that I have investigated do not make sense at this time.

Two important notes: many e-commerce websites use PayPal as a credit card processor without you even seeing them as part of the process, and PayPal is held to the same exact security standards as every other credit card processor. They are not permitted to store your credit card information if you do not have an account with them. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you can use your existing credit card with PayPal without having an account with them.

Back Story

The current donation & subscription revenue, while incredibly gratifying and hugely successful for a niche open source project like this, appears certain to be insufficient as a living income for myself. It has become clear that there are somewhere between 5000 and 20,000 downloads of Ardour for OS X every month, and therefore I have decided to introduce a little more "obviousness" and "force" into an attempt to get people to actually pay something (even as little as US$1) for the program.

At present, the download pages do not explain very much at all, and take a rather uncharacteristic (for me) terse approach to the whole process. This is an experiment, and they may need more explanation added if it appears that the current process confuses people.

I have massive thanks for all the financial support the existing Ardour community has put into the development of the program to date - this is a (possibly final) effort to see if it can generate enough to pay 1 US-located developed to work full time. I am crossing my fingers.

It is simply not true that paypal requires creditcards, especially in Germany, where I can confirm this through first-hand experience. And it is possible to send money to ardour with this account.

Same problem here. I’d love to subscribe, but paypal tells me:
“Sie müssen eine Kreditkarte hinzufügen, um den Einkauf abzuschließen. Der Verkäufer akzeptiert ausschließlich Sofortzahlungen.” meaning, I need a credit card to subscribe, which I neither have nor want.

I’ve been playing with Ardour for… ages now and I think this is the first (maybe second) time I’ve paid for it.

I’ve compiled it from source on CCRMA and gentoo systems… also got it up on OS X…

I’m hoping that this will have a more “shrink-wrap” experience. I had a great time using Ardour on Linux a few months ago. As easy as protools for me, with tons of free plugins.

Great work at moving into new models of paid free software development Paul!

The micro payment mechanism is a good change, Paul.
I hope it’s working out well - Ardour really deserves it, and I’m curious about your experiences with it.

I’ll contact you to link my account with my paypal subscription.

I have a minor cosmetic suggestion for the “indicative pricing” marquee:
Black on dark-blue is rather close to being invisible to read - you might want to make it white on dark-blue?

Then, Steele, please please please tell us how tu subscribe without creditcard. Of course I already made a one time donation, but I want to do a subscription. Paypal does not accept anything but a credit card for me. Please give more detailed information than just a “it is simply not true”. I tried it a lot of times and it does not wrk for me (and not for spm_gl either as it looks like).


Excellent change Paul.

While I am a subscriber and bounty payer and hope that more people go down this path for more substantial support, it would be fantastic if this change to the model generates enough to keep you on the project full time (comfortably for you and your family).

Some of us have completely incorporated Ardour into our workflow and it would be a great loss to see the project slow down and lose it’s project lead and I am personally very scared this could lead Ardour to a slow death. So I guess it is almost selfish that I want this project to continue and wish more people would cough up a few dollars here or there.

Thanks to you and all of the other contributors Ardour is shaping up to be a true competitor to the commercial packages (for those of you not on SVN version, Ardour 3.0 will bring Ardour into full maturity with MIDI capabilities including MIDI clock sync)…

So a very big thanks to you, and all the contributors… and a very big call to others… please contribute !!!


Great idea, Paul!!

I hope it turns out as expected and you get the financial support you expect and deserve.

Good luck to you and to this amazing project!

That’s a good idea. Especially as the Mac user community has a long history of donationware and micropayments.

I’m a subscriber and I sponsor mantis issues that are important to me. I’m really glad that SAE saw Paul’s work on Ardour as a good use of their $$$ (however temporary the period) and I really hope this donationware approach works out. Ardour has come a looong way in the few years that I’ve been paying attention, and if it’s gonna take on behemoths from Apple and Digidesign, it needs our help. (Note, it already surpassed Pro Tools LE in terms of surround handling, flexible routing, plugin compatibility, and of course PRICE!)

Hopefully the new download policy is a reminder for more people to become subscribers.

Big thanks to all the developers.

This sounds very sensible. I hope this can help keeping Ardour development afloat. A nice sideffect should be more frequent releases, which is good too.

Paul. Any chance of putting a “suggested software” page somehere in the download process (kind of like you did with Jack).

OSX users don’t necessarily know what Jadeo is, or how to make it work on their OS. Robin (x42) made a working binary and posted it here:

Maybe some links to free LADSPA, LV2, or AU plugins?
edit: duh, sorry - of course there’s already a “plugins” page on the ardour site, but maybe a link there during the download process?

Not a bad idea, though the OS X release already includes 117 LADSPA plugins. AU plugins - I don’t feel competent to evaluate. LV2 - I’m still not really much of an evangelist for LV2 - the core technical spec is really good, but the GUI part (which is the most important addition to LADSPA for the majority of developers and users) doesn’t fill me with a desire to spread the gospel (yet).

Links to (x|q)jadeo for OS X would definitely be a good idea.

The donationware-approach is perfectly acceptable and even a must-pay-for model is OK


I am confident that source-code/SVN downloads will stay free for everybody. Asking explicitly for a donation in the course of such downloads will be OK for everybody, I guess…

A word on subscriptions:

PayPal accepts subscriptions only, if you own a credit-card. I do not and it looks like I will not in the near future.
To US-based people this might seem strange but the majority of the world-wide Linux-users have no access to credit-cards. So they cannot subscribe because PayPal does not allow them to.

At the other hand: Many people in the scene have very ahhmmm volatile income-situations. So this month it can be very good: you have a contract to program something, build a website, record an album for Metallica etc and so you have the money to make a donation, still you do not have an income-record that qualifies you to get a credit-card by any sane bank on the planet.
So you make a donation of say: $70 and what is that? A little more then a $10-subscription for half a year.

If someone wants to get some privileges that may be bound to subscription he/she could subscribe for a month and cancle the subscription after the benefit thus paying maybe $10 or 20…

I understand that subscriptions feel a bit better than one-time donations for they look more reliable but I doubt, that they are really that much better than donations on a regular basis.

best regards

paul wrote: “It is also not true that PayPal requires that you have a credit card in order to use their subscription system (…) I am not sure what makes you think this the case.”

I repeatedly tried to subscribe without a credit card, but paypal always says “you are required to register a credit card”. This is what makes a lot of us think that this is the case! I also tried this when I had more than 120 Dollars (so enough for the whole year’s subscription) on my paypal account, but it’s the same.


It is not strange to me that most people do not have a credit card. It is also not true that PayPal requires that you have a credit card in order to use their subscription system. PayPal has no credit card information from me, and I have subscriptions with a couple of internet music broadcasters. I am not sure what makes you think this the case.

Many people who criticize PayPal and do not wish to use it do not understand how bad the alternatives are. If you live in Germany, France and other EU countries, and you primarily pay others within the EU banking system, or even better in your own country, then electronic bank transfers are really fantastic. It is amazing to me that the US banking system can be so many years behind the european one, and that it still relies on a “pull” model (i give the payee my info, and they pull money from me) rather than the european “push” model (i, the payer, push money to the payee).

However, once you get outside of that system, international electronic bank transfers are incredibly expensive. For all of PayPal’s faults (and it has quite a few), its charges are entirely reasonable compared to other online transaction processing services, and it permits the handling of international transfers for costs that are typically comparable to what both parties would end up paying when using other mechanisms.

Subscriptions matter to me because I am attempting to make a living developing software that is accessed by thousands of people. Of course, ultimately, money is money, but faced with the choice between 12 evenly space, equally sized payments for the next year, or the uncertainty of varying amounts (up or down) during that time, I’d always prefer the former. Donations are still very welcome of course, but they provide me with no longer term security and this increases the pressure on me to quit working on Ardour and get a “real” job.

I have a bank-account registered with paypal to load up money to the paypal-account.

I think it is wonderful that you charge for binaries and I really hope it will turn out well for you.

It is an awesome piece of software and free software does not mean you get it for free but that you can do just about everything you want with it.

If this works well for you it might swell into something bigger where other people see that they can write good free software.
Charge for it.
And make a good living.

Also. Your goals page is right on the money (pun intended). It is akin to the wikipedia model.

I really really hope it turns out well for you.
Then it will turn out well for me and everybody else who like to play with music on a free system.

Best regards
Per-Olof Pettersson

I have the very same trouble with pay-pal. Tried it 3 times and 3 times it demanded me to register a credit card and did not look like it would accept the subscription if I would not have such credit-card registered.
This happened as I had about the equivalent of some 800 USD on the account so I even could have paid a one-year first-world subscription in advance.

So if there is anybody out there, who can say more than just “this is not true” to help us find a way to subscribe without owning a credit card:
your knowledge is most appreciated.

@zettberlin: do you have a bank account linked to your PayPal account?