[music-dsp] To open source or to not open source...

Andrew "Silver Blade" Greenwood lists at silverblade.co.uk
Tue Jan 27 14:35:15 EST 2004

Thanks for that :)

> In my personal opinion, an open-source application with paid-for
> is not a good model for making money, unless perhaps you have a team of
> sales and marketing people like Netscape/Mozilla did for so many years.

Is there a particular reason for this?

The general idea would be the main application itself
(sequencer/multitracker) would be open-source and maybe even free of charge.
The plugins for it (virtual synths and effect units) would be add-ons and
maybe could be purchased with the main application as a package.

> You also use the word "free" a few times, presumably in the free-beer
> rather than libre. Software doesn't have to be open source to be free of
> charge. On mainstream platforms, users and plugin developers are often
> interested in factors other than the source beeing free and/or open.

True. I just hoped that maybe developers could make my program better in
turn to make other programmers interested in working on it (and plugins for

> Open-source probably isn't going to make your application more accessible
> end-users on Windows for example, but not charging for it will certainly
> lead many people to try it out.

The primary target for my program is Windows, although I'd love to have it
running on Linux as I haven't yet found a music program for Linux that will
do everything that I want. If it were open source, there would be the basic
Windows-style installation of the binary files as well as a source

If the main program isn't open source, I might place a few restrictions on
the free version and make a fairly cheap paid-for version without
restrictions. For example, I might limit the length of the song to 4 minutes
or so, so it can be used to make short tracks... Maybe limit the number of
MIDI and audio channels... Something like that.

> If you release the source, and sell a
> commercial version someone else is likely to compile a free version -- you
> need to consider how you will differentiate your for-fee offering from
> someone elses free version.

That is a valid point. I was thinking of maybe continuing with my own
commercial version as a separate program (fork the code, so the existing
code is used as a base for both versions.) But, I don't really like the idea
of my efforts going unrewarded.

> The kind of people who typically get involved in voluntarily contributing
> code to open-source music applications aren't interested in commercial
> factors. I'm thinking specifically of programs like SuperCollider and Pd,
> I'm not sure what the situation is for psycle, Buzz etc.

Hmm. I like the idea of open-source/free software, as I know it's great to
find a really useful program that's free of charge. But, I really would like
something in return for all my hard work.

> On the other hand, open source might be a way for atracting more/free
> developers, although it's really difficult to assess this. It's difficult
> get developers involved in open source projects unless being involved
> benefits them in some way (for example, someone develops a graphics card
> driver for Linux because they need it, not because they share the grand
> vision of Linux, whatever that is). It might be just as easy to find some
> dedicated developers who would be interested in profit-sharing on a
> closed-source project.

True. I recently joined RentACoder so I might look for some people there.

Might need some more expert advice on DSP-related stuff, as the guy I
usually talk to seems to have disappeared for a long time :( and also I need
design ideas, even though I have my own, I'm always sending diagrams and
sketches to people to see if they think I'm going about things the right

> I guess you need to think about:
> - who will be using the software (as end users)?

Musicians mostly... "Reason" users who want something similar to use on
Linux, or with the capabilities of a decent MIDI sequencer built-in.

> - who will be developing the software (open source contributors)?

Hmmmm... It'd need to be someone interested in music application
programming, but they're probably already involved in other projects.

> - who will be developing plugins/components (these should be thought of as
> clients/end-users, not as contributors)?

Anyone. Maybe some coders from RentACoder (I intend on getting most of the
synth/effect modules developed by other people, even some of the graphics
will be supplied by other people.) Open-source plugins could be made
available too.

> - who will be purchasing the software?

Musicians (I guess!) and people wishing to code new device modules.

It's worth noting at this point that I intend on adding a VST host module,
to ensure compatibility with existing plugins. The exact technicalities of
how this will work, I am unsure about at the moment.

> Don't underestimate your ability to get code written by yourself, and
> think underestimate the time overheads of managing an open-source project.

Good advice, I'll bear it in mind :)


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