[Ardour-Users] financial ideas commentary

Paul Davis paul at linuxaudiosystems.com
Thu Jan 15 23:20:45 PST 2009

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.


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