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The Business of Free

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Author(s): 
Nikolaj Hald Nielsen, Bart Cerneels

Amarok 1.4.4 included, as one of the first Free Software music managers, an integrated store. At the time, implementing this was a lot of work, and the integration was not optimal, but it showed the potential of what could be achieved working with open minded stores and services. Following this, other Free Software music managers, such as Rhythmbox and Songbird also included a Magnatune store, using the open purchasing API developed for Amarok. This brings Magnatune music to a large new audience, and as Magnatune pays a 10% commission on sales, it is also a good way for projects to help pay for hosting costs and other expenses. As such , this collaboration brings value to both Magnatune and the projects integrating Magnatune support.

With the release of Amarok 2, we formalized this into a framework for adding services of many different types. Not only does this take away a lot of the effort required to add a service, it also ensure that all services have a minimum level of integration into the application itself. The ultimate goal of this is to turn Amarok into an open, vendor neutral marketplace for content, where anyone can participate on equal terms. And we are starting to see this effort take off.

The user base will grow by supporting more OS platforms, Mac OSX and Windows, but also other device classes with versions for mobile phones and netbooks.

This is noticed by corporations and creates opportunities for Amarok as a project and the individuals involved. The 10% commission on sales from Magnatune is helping to pay for developer sprints and expenses. By hiring one developer and allowing him to spend part of his time on Amarok they are even contributing to Amaroks adoption and generating more sales for themselves. The success of this collaboration is drawing in more online music stores who will further contribute to the growth. Even a well known hardware manufacturer wants to integrating Amarok in an upcoming project.

As a true free software project Amarok cost nothing and is available to anyone; yet with commissions to fund community activities and consulting contracts for it's developers, it can sustain itself financially. The creation of the Amarok financial council recently is a first step to make Amarok thrive, funded by a truly Open Source business plan.

In this talk, Amarok developers Bart Cerneels and Nikolaj Hald Nielsen will discuss these and other possible ways that a Free Software project can make money to sustain development, without compromising on the ideals of the project. As we obviously do not have all the answers discussion will be encouraged.

Author photo: 
Author bio: 
Nikolaj Hald Nielsen has been involved with the Amarok project since 2006 when he integrated the Magnatune.com music store into Amarok. This project let him to become an independent software developer and start working for Magnatune.com and he is now the lead programmer on their site. Magnatune also graciously allows him to spend part of his time working on Amarok thus supporting the project. In Amarok 2, he has coded on many parts, such as the Service API and many of the services, the new Playlist and many other things.
Second Author photo: 
Second Author bio: 
Bart Cerneels is a KDE contributer and Amarok coder since 2006 working mainly on podcasting and common infrastructure for playlists. Together with his girlfriend Wendy and the local team he organized Akademy 2008 in Belgium. He's a consultant specialized in Embedded development for Open Source software, drives his self-build recumbent bike to work and is currently building a high-tech sustainable house with Wendy.