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

Thomas Vecchione seablaede at gmail.com
Mon Jan 12 21:51:01 PST 2009

On Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:45 PM, Dewey Smolka <dsmolka at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hey everyone,
> Sorry if this thread has been already beat to death, but it's been
> about the most interesting bit of conversation I've ever come across
> on this list. I would have replied sooner but work and weather and
> yada yada yada. My greatest hope is that all this talk will actually
> help to find some solution.

I don't think I would consider it beat to death until we start going in
circles.  In the meantime anything that might amount to more money or
development of Ardour is a good thing.

> I'm hardly suggested these be ignored, and even less that they be
> abandoned. Nor did I mean to suggest that Ardour is doing things
> 'badly' (as I clearly wrote). My big reservation about it is that in
> order to achieve financial sustainability through small donations or
> advertising, one needs a critical mass of donors and/or a large enough
> number of site visitors.
> Anything is possible, I suppose, but I guess I'm just skeptical that a
> DAW (and no DAW will ever interest more than a very small percentage
> of people) can generate enough dedicated interest or traffic to have
> more than a minor impact on the overall budget, particularly if that
> budget is to include salaries.
> But my gut feelings have been very wrong before.
> Small donations and advertising should be a part of any strategy, of
> course, but I'm not sure how big a part they can really be. I hope
> they make a bigger impact than any of us can now guess, but I'm trying
> to keep things realistic.

I am not going to disagree with this.  I am going to think that in order to
REACH that critical mass of people/donors, we(Ardour) will need more
mainstream acceptance.  In order to get that we will need to set ourselves
above and make even a marketing push.  THere are several technical issues as
well as business issues to be overcome with that first of course.

It's been a long time since I read the MySQL license. From what I
> recall, binaries and source are free for all comers. MySQL (or Sun
> now, I guess) are happy to sell you support and custom
> setup/programming. MySQL also allows (and sells) proprietary modules
> that run on top of the db system.
> I believe the license even allows binaries, provided that any GPLed
> code that has been altered to run the binaries is also released in
> source.

That would be a requirement of the GPL yes.  Proprietary modules are a
possibility, but you hit a point of limiting the primary product in favor of
paid modules,and that might be counter to thephilosophy behind the product
itself, if that makes sense.  In this particular case I don't think it would

> This brings up two more potential revenue streams that hadn't ocurred
> to me before. Both involve plugins.
> 1) The LADSPA plugins are really quite good, but it's pretty deep
> water to throw someone into. A new user doesn't necessarily
> understand, for example, that GVerb is only one part of a proper
> reverb chain. Some presets and predefined chains would go a long way.
> And this is not to mention more flexible interface design -- maybe I'm
> old fashioned but I like EQ pots and aux sends on the strips.

> Ardour could sell (or offer in return for donation) predefined and
> preconfigured effect-chain units -- e.g. a reverb unit consisting of
> EQ -> Tube PreAmp -> Early Reflection -> Delay -> Reverb ->
> Convolution -> EQ -- with a bunch of presets.
> This would also create the benefit of allowing dedicated users to
> contribute presets, chains, etc, which would help the project
> financially. I've got a few compressor and reverb chains I'm happy
> with. I'd be glad to share them, if there was an easy way to do that,
> and particularly if I thought someone else might find them useful.
> And if there were a way to buy 'units' with the 128 best presets (I'm
> old fashioned that way), I'd be interested in a compressor,
> reverb-delay, room+cab simulator, and maybe other units. There is a
> certain satisfaction in building things, but sometimes you just want
> to dial something in.
> This would require a modicum of QA, but then look at what's on the
> market. Ten solid presets are worth $50, easily.
> Ardour could also sell the ability to put pots on strips (at least to me).

Well the use of EQ on strips is a purposeful design decision of Ardour, and
I will leave that alone for the moment as it doesn't deal to directly with
the topic at hand.

The problem with selling the software comes down to philosophical issues I
think.  But that being said, there could be something to be said for giving
links to preset collections for donations or subscriptions.  I know some of
what you mentioend with linking various LADSPA plugins could not be done
easily, but I am wondering if LV2 might have an extension in such a way that
might allow it.  It has been a while since I looked into this.  To tired at
the moment to give it the serious thought I need to though, but it is
something staying in the back of my mind at any rate.

> 2) I don't know how much of a stranglehold Steinberg has on VST or
> what you need to port code built for it, but if enough people use
> Ardour (and in this market that's not a large number), and if it's
> easy enough to port code written for VST to something Ardour can use,
> then that's a market that current VST writers might want to pursue.
> Understand that I'm not talking about getting VST binaries working in
> Ardour; I'm talking about getting packages currently built into VST
> binaries rebuilt as something Ardour can use. Maybe this is
> technically impossible. But I wouldn't be sure of that until I found
> out how much of the original source can or cannot be rebuilt with
> tools outside of Steinberg's domain.
> This isn't about building functionality into Ardour so much as opening
> vendors to a new and potentially lucrative market. An open interface,
> even as simple as in-out (I know they have that already in JACK but
> maybe it needs to be made more simple), and an easy port, and Bob's
> your uncle.
> I'm probably greatly underestimating the technical challenges here,
> but want to leave no stone unturned.
In the vast majority of cases, you are severely underestimating what is
involved.  Getting the VST portion to run isn't the problem. THe problem
comes from several things.  One the VST SDK is a license that is
incompatible with the GPL, so neither it, nor binaries of Ardour with VST
compiled in, can be distributed.  So even if a VST was ported to run
natively, native VST support could not be included easily.

Aside from that, if the plugin was ported to, say, LV2.  That is a decent
amount of work, and combined with the fact that any UI would have to be
ported as well as most VST UIs are custom and wouldn't compile on Linux,
means that at that point the plugin may as well be rewritten nearly from
scratch as it would probably take less time.

> >  In fact I
> > thought both RedHat and MySQL followed a service model, where they bring
> in
> > the majority of their money from the service contracts that accompany
> their
> > commercial products.  That is not really something I can see succeeding
> with
> > Ardour myself.
> Alas, no. A DAW is a product, not a service. Consulting on
> studio/recording environment, hardware, construction, etc is a
> service, but I'm not sure a salable one -- too niche a market, and
> your potential customers already know what they want and how they want
> it.
Audio consulting is a sustainable business by the way;)  Although clients
may know what they want, often times they won't know how to get it as it
deals with areas that even though they might be related, are not directly
their area of expertise.  I have done it on occasion and know people that
made their living doing it.  But that is also not a topic for here.

> There's a lot of interesting stuff in here. Firstly I wasn't aware
> even of the existence of Harrison, but nicely done. It's interesting
> that Ardour is already trying to approach this from the top of the
> market, while it instinctively occurred to me to start at the bottom.
> I guess I would go after the Behringers and Mackies and such because
> their prices put them in the range, and  potentially Ardour in the
> hands, of a lot of your potential market. If you want to grow the
> userbase, there's a bit of room in professional shops, but the growth
> is in home recording and/or small-scale web production.
> Prices on all types of gear that a person needs to produce media are
> falling rapidly, to the point where the capacity to record, edit, and
> produce all manner of audio and video have fallen into almost anyone's
> range.
> There is a market of potential users/contributors in everyone who has
> a story to tell or a song to sing and figures it might get seen on
> YouTube -- and wants powerful multi-track recording to make it happen.
> They're buying Behringers, Mackies, Tascams, etc.
> As for the whole 'professional' thing, People already have Cubase
> and/or Protools and/or TakeYourPick for free anyway -- either crippled
> LE versions with gear they bought, or because they're broke and pro
> versions are quite easy to find.
> I guess I'm just not ready to exclude any potential partners or any
> potential market yet.

Its not so much a matter of excluding a market in the way you might think.
In fact it is more just the opposite of what you are thinking.  This has
more to do with the 'marketing' side of things, and once again this is all
only my opinion.  But if you mention Behringer or Mackie in the presense of
someone that has been doing this long enough to have left those brands
behind by choice long ago, you will get laughed at.  Anything related to
them has a very bad stigma in audio, for good reason.  Shady business
practices, a focus on quantity over quality, etc.  None of these things work
int heir favor when  you are dealing with people that are willing to, and
have, spent lots of money on their equipment.  You are more excluding the
upper end of the market at that point, or rather it is excluding you by
association.  (Mackie Audio Monitors are an exception, but even they in time
will probably fall under the same category).  I don't know every piece of
Behringer gear, and some of the ones I do know do a decent job.  But I won't
touch them because across the brand what i have experienced is poor quality
that doesn't last long, and in many cases poor audio from them as well.  As
such I don't look at Behringer myself when buying anymore, evne though I do
not have much money myself.

On the contrary, just because someone is associated with SSL or Harrison
does not exclude the lower end of the market int he same way.  What excludes
the lower end of the market is price at that point.  I don't know anyone
that is using a Mackie console that wouldn't love to switch to SSL Analog in
the studio for example.  But they can't afford it. And I only say SSL or
Harrison because they are companies that have in the past supported Ardour.

Now all this being said, this obviously will eventually come back to a
choice of money vs marketing that is obviously well above my head to make as
I am just a user.  But this is a choice that has to deal with the direction
that Paul wants to take Ardour.

Did not know that. I wonder what their conversion rate is between
> users of LE and buyers of a full version over, say, five years.

Hard to say, since it wasn't to long ago that Avid(Who also owns Digidesign)
bought M-Audio.  But the main thing isn't direct conversions for them, but
more getting people on their equipment early, so that they might be more
likely to push for PT HD in a studio, and are already familiar with how to
run it(Less training costs).  There are many levels to that particular
marketing campaign, but also keep in mind that they are making money off
each sale as well;)

Of all the options I mentioned earlier, this is by far the costliest
> and most difficult to develop. Plus, because so much of it would be
> hardware-specific, it would mean all the less development on
> functionality for general-purpose hardware.
> I only offered it because it's an option, and one that offers a
> slightly higher likelihood of interesting potential financiers than
> simply shipping a Linux+Ardour CD with their board and warning buyers
> to back up their data.
Its also one that will take a large investment of time, and any time
invested in something like this is obviously time that is taken away from
development of Ardour.  Not saying it isn't possible, but is certainly not
my first choice in it.  That being said other similar suggestions have also
poped up and it isn't that they are bad ideas, just difficult to do
correctly and require a significant investment in time and energy.

> I was actually going to mention Trent earlier. Off the top of my head,
> I came up with Trent Reznor, Chuck D, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, They
> Might Be Giants, Radiohead (a longshot but they seem to get it). There
> are, I'm sure, many more. You may not get in the door with any of
> them, but even an endorsement (even a comment in an interview or a
> link from a web page) can generate positive attention.

That was specifically why I thought of NIN actually.  They have in the past
done remix contests that might be a good opportunity to push something like
Ardour as a companion to the free tracks they release.  But that is more
marketing than fundraising though sadly so not directly related to this in
itself.  In as far as the fundraising is concerned, the question is always
going to come back to how much disposable incomes these people might have,
and in that way they are little different from any other individual donor or

Get users and proponents and the money will follow. Almost every
> musician I know has seen Protools or Cubase; none had ever heard of
> Ardour until I told them.

And that is a possibility.  Of course recently the userbase has exploded
dueto SAE, with no noticable(From my standpoint) increase in funding;)   So
obviously it isn't a hard and fast rule but I am certain you are aware of

Here's another idea: Is there enough of a market for a
> prebuilt/preconfigured recording workstation? You need a roomy case,
> ultra-quiet fans, tons of RAM, high-end desktop-class processor, big
> drive (optional 2x big drive), a base and optional audio i/o -- e.g.
> base is 2-in 2-out USB interface, optional is something like Delta
> 1010 --, add-on dual-monitor video card*, optical combo drive, etc.
> Software is a remix of UbuntuStudio that drops unnecessary apps
> (there's a lot of fat that can be trimmed into a very spry system),
> and is preconfigured to use the packaged hardware.
> I rebuilt my Mythtv system last fall, and looked over a lot of gear
> that faces the requirements and use patterns typical of a DAW, namely
> staying nearly silent while maxing out CPU throughput. Mythtv is not
> at all dependent on realtime operation, and that may be a key
> difference I'm overlooking.
> But I bet I could spec out such a machine at retail prices for under
> $1,000, including the 1010 and the second HDD (assuming 500 GB
> drives). I've seen similar hardware on sale at Guitar Center and major
> internet retailers for two grand and up.
> Lots of work, but an opportunity.

Heh ever wonder where Paul got his IRC nickname from?  If you aren't
familiar with it don't worry.

Again it is an investment, and if done by the central Ardour team it would
be a time sink vs Ardour itself.  It is also a risk, and at the moment I am
not certain that it could be a self sustaining business, much less sustain
development of Ardour.  Myth, Asterisk, and the half dozen other projects
that do similar successfully tend to have an even much larger userbase than
Ardour does now to my knowledge.

There is also the problem of the distribution of Linux.  This is a seperate
problem that is starting to hold Ardour back from the possiblity of
mainstream use to be honest.  On OS X it isn't much of a problem, because OS
X is a working distribution for this.  But Linux 'multimedia' distributions
tend to be having problems int his regards.  Some don't set up realtime
priveleges correctly, or don't make it obvious to the user that they need to
be part of a group, or even do that for them.  Some do, but then tend to
have somewhat outdated packages and problems keeping up with packaage
maintenence.  As a result a LOT of the troubleshooting on IRC, in Mantis, or
ont he Forums, tends to be system administration issues that don't even
directly have to deal with Ardour.  As one person trying to review Ardour
recently found out, for a newcomer from Windows (or Mac OS X) coming to
Linux, they got hung up on system administration issues and never even got
to the point to try out Ardour.  This has to deal a lot of the state of
Linux Audio at the moment sadly, it is a very confusing mess.  But
maintaining a distribution is not easy, and I don't mean to imply it is,
just that people are running quickly into distribution issues and being
'scared off' by that long before they even get to the point to really try

Heck one person spent several days on Ardour just to find out that his
problem was caused by a USB mouse IRQ conflict.  They were very dedicated
and stuck it out, but half the stuff they had to do a basic user should
NEVER have to do to sit down at a workstation and use the software.

> * Just out of curiousity, does nvidia's VDPAU have any implications
> for audio processing in Ardour/JACK/Linux? As I understand it, Nvidia
> has finally opened the source for (certain of their) video drivers and
> there are now fully native linux drivers under heavy development that
> allow pretty much full on-card decoding of HD video.
> That's a lot of goddamn throughput. I had a P4 2.5 with an nvidia card
> and using XvMC for acceleration and it could only play HD when nothing
> else was running. They say on the Myth list they've got nvidia
> 9000-series cards (earlier ones don't support VDPAU) running full HD
> playback on Atoms, without hardly touching the CPU.
> I'm not a hardware engineer, but it seems that video chips can do
> massive real-time processing. If the VDPAU driver is as open as it
> seems, can it be used for audio co-processing? Could it provide a
> plugin layer? Could this be a potential SoC project? Would Nvidia be
> interested in having a chat?

Import terminology distinction.  NVidia did not release code, they released
an API to this IIRC.  All of their driver code is still closed

On to your question, can it be utilized for plugin processing, as far as I
know most certainly.  In fact I believe there was a thread on LAD about
testing these waters to see how good they could be and the results looked
promising, but I don't remember if there was more testing done or if it
ended there.

> Another longshot, to be sure, but SoC is good visibility. I wouldn't
> count on a check next week, but it's definitely worth staying on their
> radar. In a perfect world, I'm sure they'd like to give away
> pro-quality tools for producing Youtube content. Especially when it
> would cost them so little.
Another longshot certainly.  Google would be more likely to support a web
based solution, but you are right, it probably isn't completely out of the
question to at least try.

> Also, please let me know if Ardour.org has US 501(c)3 status. If so, I
> believe I can get a company matching gift. Presumably this is also the
> case for a healthy number of Ardour users.

As Patrick mentioned, it does not currently have 501(c)3 status.  It is not
out of the question for the future, but I believe a good reaosn to give
motivation would be needed to deal with the hassle of obtaining it.  Just my
opinion of course.

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