Ardour and Money, 2014 edition
This is being written on June 20th, 2014, basically 2/3rds of the way through the month, and roughly half way through the year. Over there on the right hand side it says that the project has received a total of just under $1800 this month.
I really don't like writing articles about Ardour and money. I like to think that successful and worthy projects will magically fund themselves, and obviously, I like to think that Ardour is successful and worthy. This is wrong thinking, however.
The Income Curve & Subscriptions
The rate of income generation has falling dramatically in the last 3 or 4 months, in large part reflecting the end of many of the subscriptions started when Ardour 3 was released last year. You can't see this because PayPal's subscriptions API are so worthless (it is not even possible to programmatically list all current subscriptions). The number displayed there tends to reflect all subscriptions ever, rather than those still current. I almost certainly made a mistake making subscriptions be annual rather than "run until cancelled" - I received many emails from people wondering why their subscription had stopped - but it was my feeling at the time that it was somehow more appropriate that way. I think I was wrong about that.
At the current rate, it is not possible for me to consider myself "employed" to do Ardour development.
For better or for worse, I live in the US and as passionate about Ardour as I have been for over a decade, it makes no sense for me to work on it at the level I do if I make only $45k a year. I am fully aware that there are many Americans, let alone many more people around the world, who would love to make that kind of money. I know this, but it does not change the fact that in the absence of any likely upward trend in the program's ability to generate income, working as I do on Ardour doesn't make any sense as a full time occupation.
This doesn't even begin to cover the lack of any financial compensation for the incredible amount of work done by other developers.
What about doing <X> to raise more money?
Over the years, I've had lots of energetic advice from people on how to raise more money via the Ardour project. As well-intentioned as most of this advice has been (and some of it, notably the subscriptions idea, has been really good), it has typically not been grounded in the reality of what it takes to actually implement them. Engineering companies have sales people, managers and others who work full time on generating income and expanding into new potential sources of income. But while they do that, their engineers continue working on their actual products. I cannot put the time into Ardour that the continued development of the program requires if I am also spending time dealing with financial integration APIs, marketing, and generally "selling" the application. I already run the website and provide a significant amount of customer support as part of my work on Ardour. Even spending a few days messing around with whatever PayPal or BitSplat or Square has come up with for payment APIs, or designing new promotional materials etc. means that further work on MIDI, bugs, and the long list of other features the program needs is delayed.
The other option
I'm not really worried about income. I have the option of working for a digital audio company that is developing new projects based on Ardour. If I do this, I will still be working on Ardour's codebase, but my focus will cease being what I percieve the needs and desires of Ardour users to be, and will be dominated by what another company thinks I should be doing. I don't particularly want to go down this route, but given the current "curve" of the income trend, it appears to me that I will probably have to. You can expect to see the next minor release of Ardour (3.6) to still happen, but after that I have no idea what the development process for Ardour itself might be. Other developers have been extraordinarily energetic and productive and contributed immeasurable amounts to the program, but whether any of them would want to actually take over responsibility for the application itself is not clear.
That's that. At least for now. This is not an appeal for money. I just want to let people know and understand where things stand.