All They Need Is Funds: A Call For Community Support

This entry is a little off my regular beat, but its substance is of great importance to all users of Linux audio software. To get straight to the point, it's about money and two projects in real need of significant financial support, the Ardour hard disk recorder/digital audio workstation and the Hydrogen rhythm programmer/drum machine. Both projects are well along in their development cycles, both have achieved great status not only in the Linux audio software world but on OSX as well, and both need financing for their planned evolution. Ardour and Hydrogen are two of Linux's finest programs for musicians, rivalling their commercial counterparts and providing libre alternatives to the intense vendor lock-in typical of the Win/Mac sound and music software worlds. These are truly important projects that deserve your support and financial backing.

First up, this announcement from Paul Davis, Ardour's chief designer :

"Ardour is looking for new project sponsors after our major contributor, Solid State Logic, informed us that a conflict of interest prevents them from continuing the financial support they gave to Ardour during 2006.

Ardour is at an exciting point in its development: version 2.0 is about to released very shortly, and more and more developers have recently started contributing to the project. Once version 2.0 is released, we have a large list of substantial new features waiting to be added, including MIDI recording and playback (already implemented as part of our participation in Google's Summer of Code). New work to add support for Mackie/Logic Control surfaces is already substantially completed.

However, despite the growing number of developers and the excitement of a 2.0 release, Ardour will not keep moving forward at an acceptable pace without at least one developer focused full time on it, and the end of SSL's funding will have a significant impact in this area. Paul Davis, Ardour's lead developer and founder, was paid entirely by SSL and is now seeking other ways of allowing him to continue working on Ardour as well as JACK.

We welcome continuing contributions via PayPal. However, we are also in an urgent search for corporations or orther organizations that see the long term value of Ardour as part of the audio technology environment. If you or your organization are interested in helping to establish and support a non-profit foundation dedicated to ensuring Ardour's continuing development, please get in touch with Paul ("

Figure 1: Ardour (Click here for large view)

I've been testing and using Ardour2 for a while. Ardour is and has been an indispensable component in my Linux audio toolkit, and I suspect that's true for the majority of Linux sound & music people. I'll make a contribution via PayPal, as I hope you will too, but the matter at hand requires a more substantial and dependable source of funding. If you would like to see Linux continue on its way into the professional audio arena, please consider Paul's request. At the very least, please make a donation to the Ardour PayPal account. Whether or not you're a dedicated Ardourista, you'll help make the world a better-sounding place.

Next up, this message from Alessandro Cominu, aka Comix, the lead developer of the award-winning Hydrogen. I posted a query to the Hydrogen devel list regarding the project's future, this is Comix's reply :

Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 15:15:14 +0100
From: Comix
Subject: Re: [Hydrogen-devel] Hydrogen development ?

On 12/11/06, Dave Phillips

> I've not checked out recent SVN sources, but watching the devel mail list I get the distinct impression that there's no internal development going on with Hydrogen.
> Almost all traffic on the list is concerned with translations. So, what's the story ? Is there a Hydrogen 1.0 in the works or is it a deader ?
> It would be a deep shame to see Hydrogen's development languish.

No no no... Hydrogen is not a dead project but currently I have to use my spare time for other projects. :( The real problem is always the same: money...I'm very low now and I can't work as usual on Hydrogen since it is a zero-profit project. It's sad, I know...but I have no alternative :-( As I said in the ML [mail list] I'm going to work on Hydrogen again during the Xmas vacation.

A big step forward [towards the 1.0 release] can be some donations or just someone that can help me in the development.

Have you some advice?

Alessandro Cominu

Icq: 116354077
Linux User # 203765

Figure 2: Hydrogen (Click here for large view)

Well, the best advice I can give is to the community: Help this project! Like Ardour, Hydrogen is an essential part of the recommended Linux audio applications suite. It is already a very sophisticated program, and it would indeed be a grave shame on the Linux community at large if an application of this order of excellence should lapse into the limbo of stalled development. We need Hydrogen, so if you'd like to help ensure its availability to current and future Linux-based musicians, please contact Comix and make an offer of assistance. You'll sleep better at night, and the world beat will love you.


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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A most enjoyable article.

new thumbs daily's picture

A most enjoyable article.

A new model: Community Supported Software Development

Anonymous's picture

About financing: We have to start thinking about sustainable software development. Building a community around the project is the key as it is for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. For details see for example:
Community-supported agriculture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kurt Cagle wrote a while ago an article on a similar issue:
Understanding XML: Open Standards and Organic Foods

nearly 50% done

linux sound's picture

never used Ardour before just check out, it looks a really cool software, Status 49.4% complete, $3948, 104 contributors 10:00 Jan 26 keep up the good work


Nicholas Petreley's picture

For what it's worth, I love your blog entries and writings about this stuff. I have an ABD (all but dissertation) in music theory/composition. I abandoned all hope of being involved in music 25 years ago, but I'm rekindling it now. I bought a synthesizer for my daughter and I've been playing around with music synthesis and production as a result, and may even get back to doing some composition. So I appreciate all your contributions.

the water's fine

Dave Phillips's picture

Hey Nick,

Dive in, there's lots of nice stuff listed at that might draw you back into the pond. I've been making my music with Linux for more than ten years, IMO the tools are working now better than ever.

Thanks for the note ! :)


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Ardour is great

Peter Venture's picture

I've been using Ardour for a while now and I must say I'm impressed by this program. I hope the development will continue, I will also donate some dollars right now. Hopefully other users will also give a donation.

Start your own free software business

Anonymous's picture

Most of us are initially not interested in starting a business on top of developing free (as in freedom) software, but what better time than now?

You have proprietary counterparts that are making money on their music software. Learn how to run a business from them. The answer is not to "protect my intellectual property" with silly copyright restrictions like they do. Just advertise and set a price - make it simple!

Here is a rewrite of Steinberg's advertisement on Cubase 4 from

"The new generation of Ardour supports the creative workflow of audio professionals in exciting new ways never before seen in music production software. The brand new VST3 effect plug-in set and new first-class VST instruments are only the beginning. Ardour manages all your audio files, patches and sounds in a powerful new database, while the new Control Room section integrates Ardour into any analog monitoring environment. Ardour offers a streamlined feature set for composers, musicians and project studios, including much of the new Ardour functionality at a lower price point."

Now, where in that text does it say anything about freedom or lack there of? Nowhere. Where in the text does it say exactly how much they charge? Nowhere. Where does it say that they are charging for licenses? Nowhere. I think you should add just one sentence somewhere in the middle like this:

"Ardour lets you run the software as you wish, you may hire us or the developer of your choice to extend it freely, and you can easily provide your fellow Ardour users with your extensions at our web site."

This is an advertisement, not a license, but freedom does come at a price. Say $350 if the feature set is comparable to Cubase which costs $600, less if it doesn't. What - charging for free software!? Yes, this should be routine now - see if in doubt.

So what if people can get Ardour at no charge over the Internet - stupid people can also get Cubase at no charge illegally. Both ensure that development most times will be slower than if supported by a commercial offer - see the article about need for funding.

Many people are not interested in waisting time - they want to be productive at once - so sell a boxed version with great documentation at an online store.

At no time in this advertisement have you given away what you are charging for. When the buyers open the Ardour box - what do they see?

"You are hereby granted installation and support services from Ardour Inc. for one year from purchase date, and upgrades available at no charge forever. This support offer will automatically terminate after the given time frame, but you may renew this offer for a small fee at any time by filling out the form at"

You may get in touch with paying customers by doing this!

How would you feel if you read that? Cheated or happy? I think I would love Ardour Inc.

Music is a tough space to make a business in

Anonymous's picture

Having founded and sold a company creating music software, I think you are underestimating the difficulty of sustaining a successful product in the pro audio/music space. Most of the "proprietary counterparts" making money are large corporations like Apple, Digidesign and Yamaha who subsidize software with profit from hardware. A lot of the independent music software companies are just scraping by (and I should know, because I've spoken to the founders and executives of many of these companies).

Most weekend musicians are reluctant to spend money on software, vastly preferring to invest in hardware like guitars, keyboards, amps etc. I imagine those using a free operating system like Linux may be even more reluctant to spend money, although that is purely my speculation. I don't think 'software freedom' in terms of open source is a major motivator for the average musician, so essentially Ardour Inc would be competing directly with MOTU, Digidesign, Steinberg, Emagic and all the other platforms.

There are plenty of professionals in the space who do spend money, but the majority are running Pro Tools on OS X, so your business model doesn't apply to them. I don't see any chance of driving those people off Pro Tools given the huge feature gap and learning curve.

I've always wondered at the drive behind developing Linux based music software. From the software libre perspective I understand it. As a musician, it makes no difference to me. I've found it's the technical aspects of computer based music that are the least satisfying i.e. wasting time fighting with software rather than creating music. This is one of the reasons OS X is so popular in the audio space because it offers a more satisfying experience than the marginal utility of Windows. Even as a Linux user of many years, I can't imagine having to fight with Linux before being able to create music.

Invent better virtual wheels

Anonymous's picture

This is an excerpt of a post I made to a local forum which frequently discusses MMOs/MMPORGs. There is currently a debate there about the viability of a Firefly/Serenity MMO. In short, it is going to take a lot more from us then simply requesting funds by matching investors to developers. Further pieces in solving this puzzle:

''..I want an open client platform with Creative commons oriented licensing and split commissions where pricing is bidded, not decided by committee. Gamers need infrastructure with redundancy so if the hosting network operation discontinues for whatever reason there is an instant fallback position to a number two backup. You see if you don't own the virtual property in MultiVerse as deeds redeemable for cash and openly taxed across a commmon, virtual multiverse where all game areas get demarcated as property, what happens? Then the owners go to executor-type decisioning making (like settling arbitration) by fiat and invoking "because we say so" rules. I think executors and fiduciary trusts can serve a good purpose in virtual games but that HAS TO OCCUR UNDER AN OPEN GAME FRAMEWORK.''

Wouldn't it be cool if a gaming environment was made in this manner and bids for virtual work could be taken through that interface and matched to physical events?

What would be nice is

NixerX's picture

If a harware vendor like say M-Audio were to take A project like Ardour under its wing and FULLY support it with its hardware. I know is a long shot but not as log as it will take for Motu open its drivers.....

No chance. M-Audio is a

Anonymous's picture

No chance. M-Audio is a division of Digidesign. They would prefer to promote Pro Tools over Ardour.

Most successful audio software is subsidized by hardware sales (e.g. Apple, Digidesign, Yamaha etc). There are actually very few successful standalone music software companies.