[Ardour-Users] financial ideas commentary

Ken Restivo ken at restivo.org
Wed Feb 18 19:48:55 PST 2009

On Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 08:20:45AM +0100, Paul Davis wrote:
> I should probably weigh in on the ongoing discussion about ways to
> "solve Ardour's financial headache". This is long, and very personal.
> Let me start by saying that there are really *two* financial headaches.
> One of them belongs to solely to the actual project itself. Anything
> that raises any amount of money that can be used to somehow move the
> project forward in any way is a good thing, and should be welcomed.
> Because of widespread variations in individual motivation, and perhaps
> more importantly, typical income levels, it is quite likely that
> relatively small amounts of money could stimulate the addition of useful
> features. Therefore, even though many of the ideas that have been posted
> here are frankly likely to produce only very very small amounts of
> revenue, they are worth pursuing for the sake of the project itself.
> There is a second financial headache, however, and that is *my*
> financial headache. I have the "misfortune" to live in the United
> States, and to be the father (or stepfather) of several children. This
> means that I have to be concerned about long term costs like health
> insurance, college tuition for my children, and retirement for myself
> and to some extent my wife.  Most people in the US in my position (45
> years old, 23 years experience as a software engineer, father, husband)
> are in of two situations: either they are earning a substantive salary,
> along with health insurance, some kind of pension plan and possibly
> other benefits too, or have some kind of ownership in their own company.
> In the latter case, they are relying on a steady and substantive income
> stream from the company, and/or the idea of it being acquired, to assure
> them of their longer term financial well-being. I have the luxury of
> doing neither. 
> Ardour has a very low income stream, and cannot be sold. If I am not
> making sensible money doing this, then I probably need to stop. I have
> the good fortune to have relatively low day to day living expenses - I
> don't owe money on a house, I don't commute to work, I spend more time
> running or cycling than I do drinking or paying for various recreational
> activities. However, as mentioned above, there are other costs whose
> magnitude I cannot control very effectively. The cost of a college
> education, the cost of health insurance (I have none, by the way and
> neither does my wife), the long term finances needed to cover the later
> part of life ... these are not things that I can just scrape by on. 
> Being in the USA also means that I live in a place where, economic
> disaster notwithstanding, I could probably get a job writing software
> that paid me anywhere from US$80k to US$140k per year, possibly more if
> I did something really distasteful.
> In addition to all this, and at the risk of sounding a bit overly
> impressed with myself, I work way too damn hard on a project that nets
> me a total of only US$46k/year before taxes. I worry about Ardour all
> the time - my family would report me being really rather obsessed by it,
> I suspect. I don't mind the obsession part, but I'd like to think that
> it would result in my family's financial position being closer to the
> comfort zone. There are lots of jobs I could do where I'd take home $35k
> a year, but I guarantee you I wouldn't be up at 23:00 worrying about the
> job after having already worked that day.
> So the bottom line is this: for me, personally, I am not interested in
> financial ideas that might raise $100 here, $500 there. I need a real,
> sustainable and substantive income from this work. If it appears
> impossible to make this happen, common sense and logic and an adult
> sense of responsibility says that I should do something else instead.
> And this time, unlike a few years ago when I worked 75% time for Silver
> Spring Networks, I would plan on giving up Ardour, JACK etc, completely.
> Ardour will not die if I choose to do this. But it will slow down
> dramatically. There are several other extremely talented people working
> on Ardour, and I expect they would continue to do so. But ... most (not
> all) other "large" open source programs have 1 or more people paid to
> work full time on them, either directly or as part of their job working
> for a company with an interest in the software. If Ardour cannot manage
> this (for whatever reason), then perhaps it really deserves to slow down
> that much.
> My own financial skills are, I admit, poor. I am a pessimist about most
> ideas to raise the revenue the program can generate. I am a skeptic
> about the likelihood of this idea or that idea really changing the big
> picture. But this doesn't mean it cannot be done. It is, however, my
> responsibility, and I thank everyone for both their existing financial
> support and their ideas and enthusiasm.

Wow. I feel your pain. I'm a musician. Which means, at the moment, I make 1/10th of what you make.

Every single idea for making money through music, that I or anyone else has come up with, quickly turns out to be either some hare-brained scheme that'd never work, or an investment of cost, time, and/or risk for piddling little, if any, pay.

At this point I'm pretty much giving up and looking around for some kind of a day job(s). Everyone has to eat. Being poor sucks, but being poor and working your ass off, just to get even poorer? That's neither sustainable nor healthy in the long run.

So, I think what I'm saying is: your financial skills are NOT in any way substandard. You are doing remarkably, stunningly well, considering that an entire economic system is arrayed against you.

What you are trying to do (make a US$100k+/yr living with health care off of an Open Source project) appears to be so difficult, because-- at least in the USA-- it is actually impossible.


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