[Ardour-Users] Could this solve Ardour's financial headache?

Dewey Smolka dsmolka at gmail.com
Thu Jan 8 20:12:43 PST 2009

I really don't think this needs to be as complicated as it's being
made to be. There are a number of ways that FOSS projects can make
money, or at least achieve sustainablility.

Let's at least look at them for the purposes of discussion:

1) Call it the RedHat/MySQL model. Here, you've got a base product
that is freely available, community-supported, developed in
cooperation between the community and professional Red Hat/Sun
developers, and which generates revenue through things like ongoing
service, custom programming, consulting, deployment, proprietary
top-layers, etc.

2) Call it the Asterisk/Digium model. Here you've got a hardware and
services company that funds and guides the development of Asterisk
with the idea that Asterisk helps them sell VoIP gear and services.

3) Call it the IBM model. Much like Asterisk and Digium but on a
larger scale, with more consulting and custom development, and may be

4) Call it the Wikipedia (or PBS) model. Achieve sustainability
through large numbers of small donations from the community at large.

5) Call it the quasi-commercial model. Have an open-source project
hosted at a revenue-generating site. Essentially, sell web ads.

6) Call it the MythTV model. Refuse to accept any donations at all, or
to set up a bounty system (no one wants to deal with the
administrative hassle). Relies on community and developers to keep
adding desired features. Also relies on core developers who say, in
essence, 'I'm going to keep writing and sharing this anyway, my taxes
are already complicated enough, and frankly I'd rather be coding than
doing foundation paperwork.'

7) Call it the Canonical model. I'm really not sure what this is. I
figure Mark Shuttleworh ([choose your deity] bless him) is angling for
a Nobel Peace prize or something. I can't see any plan or even any
particular desire to capitalize on Ubuntu. Then again, Richard Branson
used his fortune to build his own rocket-ship (WEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee!)

But the point of this model is that a wealthy patron, or patron
company, gives you all the support you need -- at least until said
patron decides that what he or she really wants is a choo-choo train.

There are, I'm sure, models I'm missing.

But the point is that there are alternatives. Ardour seems to be
following the Wikipedia model, and based on the existence of this
thread doing it rather badly.

So what else is there? I gather 6) is  out of the question. Fair
enough. It does depend on a critical mass of developers and users, on
a scale that a specialist application like a DAW cannot achieve.

I would argue that 4) and 5) are non-starters. I don't think there's
any real hope of generating revenue for even one developer through web
ads, and the discussion itself suggests that there are (correct me if
I'm wrong) only about 500 subscribers out of an estimated 10,000 to
20,000 users.

I don't mean to be a Johnny Raincloud here, but this is about what I
would expect. Just as service organizations get an overwhelming share
of work out of a small percentage of volunteers, and colleges get a
hugely outsize portion of their foundation budgets from a tiny share
of constituents, so too do open-source projects get nearly all of
their labor and financial support from a minuscule share of people
using the product

Option 1) seems to be what John originally proposed -- that the
software has a free branch and a commercial branch. In this case it
would be the opposite of Red Hat, in that the Fedora pushes updates
while commercial RHEL prefers stable packages.

Options 2) and 3) are not as out of the question as you might think. I
would think of 2) as being an arrangement with someone like Behringer,
who as far as I can tell sells budget mixers that come with cheap and
simple USB intefaces but no software.

There also outfits like M-Audio -- some of their gear ships with LE
versions of ProTools, for example. Are they paying or getting paid in
that deal? What's it cost them?

I see option 3) as being developing and selling a lightweight,
integrated Ardour system on a self-contained hardware device.
Something like the Tascam digital 8-tracks -- a small, self-contained,
digital multi-track recorder with a mixer interface. Yes, it runs
Linux, yes it runs Ardour. It also runs hardware-dependent stuff,
although you're welcome to the source if you've got the hardware.

I don't know any particular company that might be interested, but
today's economiy being what it is, I bet that with the proper hardware
spec and a well-tuned kernel you could build such a device in China
for under $50 a pop. The Tascams I'm thinking of retail at around

Option 7) is not out of the question either. There are a lot of people
out there that a project such as this would appeal to -- successful
artists, internet billionaires, well-meaning philanthropists. There
are more of them than you think, and you only need a couple.

A company may also be enticed to offer support for the brand
recognition they could get from being associated with free creation of
music (tm). I imagine a good pitch could at least get you a meeting
with Google.

It's not that I'm unwilling to give $35. It's that I'm not sure my $35
is what you need. If the goal is having multiple full-time employees,
then not even a $35 check from every post in this thread would get you

I'm sorry if I'm being negative or out of line. I really like Ardour.
The Ardour/Jack system is very elegant, and there is enormous

For context, I'm recording to an Athlon XP+ 4800 (I think), running
64-bit Ubuntu Studio. I think it's got 4GB RAM. OS and storage are on
separate volumes. Audio I/O is a Delta 1010LT run through a 16-track
Behringer board -- using 8 analog-in, 8 analog-out and MIDI.

I use Ardour because it's Free, not because it's free. I know I depend
on others to make it so, and I appreciate it. But I don't think the
project is going to support several full-time jobs out of paid svn
access, web ads, or nagware.

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