Free as in Google

A while ago, Kevin Kelly proposed that all that any artist required for survival was 1000 true fans. He was essentially rebuked by people saying that 1000 true fans is actually a hell of a lot to achieve… and to have each fan spend $100 per year, is also a large somewhat unrealistic sum. More likely you’d need 5000 fans spending $20 – $30 per year… 5000 fans is a lot to achieve (without commercial exposure).

More appropriate to the web is Scoble’s estimation that all a web site needs is 100,000 passionate fans. The figures I’ve done on Ambisonia’s business model suggest that I need 150,000 monthly visits to achieve ‘break even’ point (i.e. the site sustains my wage, and hence has a full-time staff of 1). Perhaps I have been pessimistic with my figures (I dont think so)… or my business models are not right.

But most interesting of all is an other post I just discovered by Kevin Kelly. “Better than Free” is Kevin’s attempt to break down what is worth value in an essentially “free as in Google” world (that’s my phrase, not Kevin’s).

Its an excellent break down. He proposes 8 areas where value still exists in a digital world. I’m going to attempt to very quickly elaborate these 8 areas where they relate to Ambisonia.


Pay $5/month and download the latest 20 tunes 1 week before everyone else? Not quite the right model, since very few tunes posted on Ambisonia relate to a highly anticipated ‘live’ performance.

Pay $5/month and access the ambisonic recording immediately (i.e. streaming then and there)? That would work.. its real value. But I want newcomers to have access to ambisonics as quickly as possible with as little barrier as possible, so not ideal for Ambisonia right now. That’s a feature I cant put behind a financial transaction.


Pay $5/month and get all the Ambisonia tunes mixed down to binaural using your personalisd HRTFs. Absolutely. This would be a champion model. Excellent value, I’d imagine people would get very excited about it. Its a very positive model.

Unfortunately, I dont think there’d be enough people with their own personalised HRTFs to sustain the site. Maybe this could be a part of an other larger model.


This is the Red Hat model … get the software for free, but you pay for the manual. Perhaps Ambisonia could produce a super-easy to use Ambisonic player… and charge for it. Hmmm. $10 one off purchase for a super-easy to use Ambisonic Player. For 100,000 passionate users, if 1/10th bought the software that would generate maybe 1 year’s sustainability. Not really a long term prospect. Wouldn’t be a bad project though.


Get all the tunes uploaded to Ambisonia this month on a DVD with signatures of each uploader. Not the right angle. Decodes could perhaps be considered ‘authentic’. Get an authentic Ambisonia 5.1 decode of such and such. It would have to be a demonstrably better decode than anyone else’s. Unlikely (at least not without cash input).


This is the one I am likely to go for. You can stream the track directly from the browser (free accessibilty to pull in newcomers) … you can download the *.amb via bittorent (perhaps, not sure about this). For $5/month Ambisonia will give you access to AC3, AAC, DTS and stereo… in an iTunes compatible podcast.


Something physical. How about a Sound card that is configured to work out of the box with Ambisonia (or for ambisonics more generally)? Or the DVD idea again.


This is key! As Kevin says “It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators“. I absolutely agree. And the “tip” system will allow people to tip the uploaders. I think it would also be great to report on patronage (at the patron’s agreement of course).


I guess this is a curatorial angle. Help people find the good content. Ambisonia already kind of does that via the ratings widget. Not sure how else I could work this angle.

These are just knee-jerk initial thought. Nothing ground breaking. But I’m going to mull over them in my head. Would love to have people’s suggestions.

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3 Responses to Free as in Google

  1. Nick says:

    regarding the “accessibility” model, what would you do about content-providers using Ambisonia as a way of accessing an audience (because of the “findability” aspect – but attempting to lure them elsewhere?

    i.e. – a scenario where content producer uploads short demo samples, but links to full content availability (free or via purchase) at another site – possibly the producer’s own site.

    will you make legal contracts with the content producers that Ambisonia has exclusive distribution rights? – and then enforce these rights?

    i think sites like flickr work like this for some people – i’ve often been asked for photos of a gig or something else i’ve shot and uploaded (in reduced size) to flickr.

    there are probably many other examples too.

    so what incentive (positive or negative) is there for a content producer to not use Ambisonia as a demo site, linking potential fans elsewhere…?

  2. Hi Nick,

    Currently I have no issue with content-providers using Ambisonia to ‘lure’ them elsewhere. I believe that locking users into web-sites actually forces people to want to go elsewhere. there is even a school of thought that says the more you link out, the more people will come back to your site.

    I’m even thinking of producing widgets like the youtube widgets so people can publish the tunes on any site.

    The (already drawn up) legal contract explicitely states that Ambisonia does _not_ have/want/need exclusive distribution rights.

    I think it is important to not offer negative incentives (try to stop people from doing stuff). Rather it is better to give positive incentives.

    Ambisonia is an aggregator … its a portal. There is no threat from someone landing on an Ambisonia page then being bounced off somewhere else.

    If an upload is just a ‘demo’ upload … a short sample, it will likely be moderated down (some of Angelo’s uploads were short snippets and there were some negative comments about that).

  3. Ambisonia files on DVD. Good idea. I would be interested in an archive of all recordings so that I could take them with me on DVD. It’s the convenience factor that is appealing.
    Long term I think the online player idea is the way to go, but for now existing members might support the concept of the files on media.

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