The "paywall" and related matters

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Mirror download for Ardour 6 Binaries:

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Since Ardour is released under the GPL, you’re certainly entitled to do what you did.

But you joined our forums just 7 hours ago to post a notice here that seems intended to circumvent the primary way that continuing development of the software is paid for.

You also mispelled the source URL on

Again, there’s nothing technically wrong with what you did, but it’s not a particularly friendly action and doesn’t really speak well (to me at least) of your intent. Your user name seems to confirm that.

Lots of Ardour users already get the software without paying for downloads: they fetch it from their Linux repositories, or they build it themselves. Presumably you believe there is some benefit to making it available even more widely without cost. That’s certainly your perogative, but it will also be your responsibility if net income drops and it becomes harder to keep working on the project. I find this unlikely, but not impossible.

We gave you the choice, and you took it. I’m not going to thank you for that.


For me the equation is simple:

no payment for Ardour → no further development of the product.

And I would be forced to produce music on an operating system that I hate deeply (which I’m only using for tax declaration tasks).

… and I’m not worrying about Paul, Robin e. a. I’m pretty sure they would find a new job on the spot.

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@paul, I’m sorry, I disagree.

It is your decision to put binaries behind a paywall and it is certainly one way to go. However…

I’m absolutely convinced that people who want to contribute financially would continue to do so even if the paywall was removed. For example, there are plenty of Linux users who compile from source but who still contribute either one-off payments or monthly. In fact, I’d be more tempted to do so knowing that the binaries were available for free to those who cannot afford them. And before anyone chimes in with the “It’s only a dollar” argument, I refuse to fully engage with anyone who tells others what they can and cannot afford.

While users can download Ardour for free on Linux from their distro repositories, Windows and Mac users are at a massive disadvantage. The process of building is so complicated in terms of required packages and needing mingw etc that the instructions are not made publicly available (or at least not without a lot of searching). No official support is given for compiling either so the majority of users are made to pay for open source binaries which seems extremely rare in the open source world.

I don’t believe this to be true. See my point about users contributing regardless.

I’m really sorry but you’ve touched a particularly strong nerve of mine. The paywall is icky to me but much more so is making users feel guilty for doing what is 100% legal and in the rest of the open source world desirable e.g. posting binaries on file sharing sites and creating torrents to reduce server load, making great software even more well known and thereby increasing the userbase.

Oh well. I have probably made some enemies for speaking my mind but I have to live with that :stuck_out_tongue:


Everyone is free to do whatever they want with Ardour. That doesn’t mean that anybody has to think that it’s a good idea.

No official support is given for compiling either so the majority of users are made to pay for open source binaries which seems extremely rare in the open source world.

What else is rare? An essentially self-funded “major but niche” FLOSS project, with no grants from game companies or Google or Apple or the EU.

And yes, the mantra has always been “it doesn’t matter if everybody pays, it only matters that enough people pay”. Before we had a paytunnel (as Radiohead called this design), income from Ardour was a tiny fraction of what it is today. I have no doubt that many users would pay for it, before or after downloading/use. Whether or not enough would is an experiment that I’m not particularly excited to conduct.


Precisely. I hope there is ample room for healthy debate in these 'ere Ardour Discourse halls. I’m sure you are already aware that there is a LOT of confusion about whether Ardour is closed source, “shareware”, some weird hybrid open-source thing etc. The paywall is the cause of said confusion.

That said, and at the end of the day, I think I simply took issue with the way you addressed @freeyourbuilds. Your software, your forum etc but it didn’t feel quite right even if you are mildly ticked at them for releasing your binaries into the wild (though it seems a little odd given that the official binary is offered for free as part of the AVLinux distribution). With that, I’ll move on.

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Aside from the validity of what was done. That particular message was basically spam. Or at least it uses the same MO of most spam. Make a throw away account, post message, depart.


I love free software and even publish some bits. I disagree that free implies it has to be gratis in any case.

It’s obvious that running a project like Ardour needs massive amount of work - so much work, that it needs to make a living and luckily nowadays Ardour seems to do so. I support the project since a few years but rarely use it. This is, cos I like it a lot but more important, cos there is a paywall! Let’s be honest - I’m no exception I’m one of this lazy humans that would have clicked on the mirror cos it’s easier than subscribing

If a licence isn’t clear for me, I usually check the repo. IMHO this the most obvious way?

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Thanks for the release, Paul & The Gang!

For some obscure reasons not having to do with Ardour I had to get a Mac recently and I was pleased to see that Ardour 6.7 was very easy to install and runf there, too. On my Linux box, which is my main machine, it works like a charm.

For those complaining about the binaries not being free as in free beer… folks, I just want to tell you Ardour is such a great DAW and I can’t emphasize enough how much it has grown since its early versions I started using in 2006. I am very glad that it is backed up by subscriptions and donations. I run a very small business and I use Ardour for it, and my tiny subscription is less per month than what I pay for the gas to get to my video or recording jobs. I would not dare to complain.

Of course, I could built Ardour myself. I have done this before using LinVST to enable VST support, back in the days. But in the end it costs my way more, since I could be out there doing some funny church live stream in that time, which would pay me money.

Only trouble I’m having is that on my very system the Harrison AVA LegacyQ freezes when having more than one GUI window of it opened. I’ll dive into the issue see what I can find out. It’s most likely something with graphics. (The issue does not occur in Carla).

But anyways, 6.7 - I’m happy! Keep up the good work. Thank you!



Having dwelt further on the topic of legally distributing source code and binaries of open-source software even when initally behind a paywall, I feel my various points have distilled into one larger idea:

Having unspoken expectations, rules etc promotes the reality of an “in” club.

Allow me to back up slightly. We can all agree that distribution of the binaries is 100% legal even if the developers or other users might take issue with it. Because one user has exercised that right, that user has been chastised in response. Yet, another user who has, in essence, done exactly the same thing (perhaps asking beforehand as a courtesy), is not publicly wrist-slapped.

Therefore, we have an “in” club culture that could form or has formed. The route that each user took to make the binaries public is neither here nor there as both are entirely legal processes but, and very importantly, the reaction to both has been very different based on unspoken rules/ideas developed from inside the organization.

Perhaps we can begin to see why there is confusion about Ardour’s license/status when these expectations/rules are not visible from the outside. I think it goes beyond the simple confusion of a paywall.

So, I’m no longer suggesting what route to take in terms of donation or paywall but simply saying that no one should be made to feel guilty for doing exactly what the website states is one of the foundations of the GPL license which is “the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors…”, especially if that response comes from an insider expectation that runs counter to the spirit of the chosen license.

I’m not against the paywall approach - it’s 100 times better than nothing - but its as though there’s not enough confidence in the actual product when the thing that you monetise is the installer.

Shouldn’t the mantra be “people will pay good money for software that improves their productivity?”

I’m not surprised that going around with a begging bowl didn’t yield great rewards. I never saw Steinberg saying, “please give me $5; I worked so hard for it.” And don’t tell me about freedom to share binaries. Pirated Cubase was everywhere, and probably still is for all I know.

So you’ve monetised the installer. Here’s a low-cost experiment to monetise the software itself:

  1. Compile a short list of the most sought after features for Ardour.
  2. Put it in front of users.
  3. Get them to pledge money for the feature they most want to use in the next major release.
  4. Highest bid wins.

And if you want a fail safe, reserve the right to go back to your own roadmap if they don’t collectively reach a certain threshold.

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You may not be aware that we used to do this.

Before Ardour 3.0 came out, the #1 issue for users was “adding MIDI”. This was the most sponsored “bug” we ever had. Sponsorship for the bug totalled somewhere around US$3k. Google contributed US$4500 as part of its Summer of Code project.

This isn’t a viable way to fund development.

I would contest that interpretation of anything that’s been done in the past. But if you see anything that we’ve done that way, that’s fine, just a little sad.

This isn’t true. What is “monetised” is a build service, because we recognize that the majority of DAW users have neither the interest nor the skills to build the software themselves. I deliberately made the choice years ago that we do not charge for the software, but for the service of building it. That’s not because of a lack of confidence in the software, but is rooted in my 30+ years in GPL’ed projects that leaves me with a conviction that software itself should probably be gratis.


I’m VERY peripheral in all of this but I want to clarify that AVL exists because of Ardour and my appreciation for it and want to promote it. I have been distributing from the days of Ardour 2 long before there was any paywall. When the devs moved to bundled packaging and decided to stop support of ALL Distribution builds I asked Paul if I could distribute bundles (and then later full version bundles) and he agreed. I think this demonstrates even more generosity on his part because AVL has a large enough user base that I’m sure those free distributed builds cut into his revenue and are an overlooked way to get Ardour yet another free way. I encourage people who want to upgrade to subscribe or pay per download for version upgrades so hopefully that offsets some of it.

As for the “if it’s good people will pay for it without a paywall” I can say as a student of human nature and as a distributor of a free product with a donation page for more than a decade, there are indeed some very good people out there who ‘get it’ but sadly they are probably less than 1 in 100,000… You can’t and absolutely will not make a sustainable income that way.


It seems impossible to separate charging for the build process and saying that the software is gratis given that a standard non-tech-minded user cannot get the binary for free or even compile for themselves at no cost without some trouble in Linux (knowledge of dependencies etc) and tons of issues for Windows and MacOS (ridiculously difficult).

Do it again! What will you lose?

Ah, I misread what you said. I thought you said “before we had a paytunnel” as in, “a payment tunnel is what we had before.”

Is that a belief based on pragmatism or principle?

Ardour would lose all full-time developers. Development would grind to a halt.

PS. The system is still active on You can sort by “Sponsorship Total”.

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Why? Is it frowned upon, or something?

Because Paul and Robin need money to purchase food. If they had to become full time subsistence farmers they would not have enough time to develop Ardour. Which is what they would need to do if Ardour finance levels reverted to what they were when the previous system was in use.


So you think people are going to stop paying the subscriptions because they can bid for features instead? I suppose that’s possible, but I’d have thought it much more likely that you’ll diversify revenue streams. Maybe you’ll find a new set of customers who don’t want to subscribe yet, because the project isn’t ready for them, but will pledge money for the features they need. Or maybe some of the people who have subscriptions will also pledge money.

I’d be curious if you can cite any other FOSS project that uses sponsored features to raise anything close to full-time income. I’m not aware of any. The amounts that I’ve seen cited for Python, which has a user base that is likely several orders of magnitude larger than Ardour, are essentially beer money for a US-based independent developer.

And sure, perhaps it would be a diversification of income in some sense. However, it would also change the development process for the program, away from “stay in touch with what users want, chart a course that respects those priorities but also takes into account code realities and other long term plans” and towards “just do what people pay for”.

I’m not a huge fan of “money speaks” in any context (democracy, ardour development, …).