This is a post written mostly out of desperation from things I read on the internet specifically regarding Audiomatch (and to a varying degree Tabulas). Because this is somewhat of a sensitive topic, I'm going to write a short disclaimer.

Disclaimer: This is in NO way targetted at anybody personal in my life, so don't feel "bad" if you have done such things. Please do not also misread this as a cry for money and help, I am simply writing about what it's like to run these services. Please do not also read this as an advertisement to "buy" my products; the goal of this post is to "humanize" these services and for people to understand what really goes on "behind the scenes," so to speak.

So to those of you who don't know me: I am a college student at UNC-CH. I have no job; I spend most of my time on these projects, making them better and (hopefully) making a mediocre living when I get out of college running this projects.

The story that you've read over and over again is that I am moving more and more stuff "for paid" and cutting off free stuff for many of my projects; Audiomatch is the most notable ... Tabulas has slowly been constricting on the free user end for some time (and will continue to do so as I announce plans for Tabulas 2.0).

Now, a lot of you may be wondering, "Roy is a money-grubbing suit. He only wants more money for himself." This could be further from the truth. I am not obsessed with money; I only want enough to support myself and eat food. I am not out to be blinging in Benz (although that would be a lot of fun) drinking Cristal.

I think a lot of this has to do with misconceptions. I think these misconceptions break down into a few key points:

1.) These projects are very popular due to high signup. Ergo, Roy must also have a high number of paid users.
2.) Roy must make/have a lot of money due to the success of his projects.
3.) I make no difference when I don't buy a paid account. I also make no different when I register multiple accounts.
4.) Running these services are easy and require almost no overhead.
5.) I don't want to pay; just run advertisements!

I believe clarifying these positions will make people realize the truth behind these services. So let me break down each misconception and clarify each point.

Addressing "Roy must make a lot of money"
First off, let me be honest here in regards to my finances: I do not make any profit off of any my projects. In fact, I am losing money. At the risk of sounding too dependent for many prospective girlfriends (girls, I AM STILL NOT TOO BAD OF A CATCH... HAR HAR), I am currently in debt. Last month I went into debt (my parents have covered me for a few hundred from last month), but I will be billed another $370 in a few days, which I have not covered. I have not covered my $570 bill. And this does not include living expenses. Why do you think I had to cut prices on Tabulas accounts? You think honestly it was just because it was its birthday?

No, I had to slash prices because there just was simply NO demand for paid accounts. I am not blaming the general population, I understand most people CANNOT pay (either because of their age or international restrictions), and I certainly do not expect you to pay if do not like the service.

However, I find it insulting to me when I find people trying to cut through the backdoor and registering multiple Tabulas/Lightbox/Audiomatch accounts to try squeeze the "free aspect" when I have explicitly asked people to register one account per person. If you find yourself needing more space for gallery on either Tabluas/Lightbox and you like the service, you should be upgrading, not registering more accounts.

Addressing "Well, I'm just one person!"
You may be thinking to yourself, "Well, I'm one person. What difference do I make? I'm only taking up X megabytes more." Yes, and you're right. If you were the only person who did this, I wouldn't notice and we could all live like this forever. However, there is an incredibly high percentage of people who think like this; when you take this into an aggregate, what ends up happening is no one buys paid accounts and everyone registers multiple accounts to get more free stuff.

When I first launched Tabulas, I was a bit excited and gave everybody I knew and their friends lots of free stuff. As I have grown more experienced, I have been able to less and less give you free stuff. As much as I feel guilty that I cannot provide everybody I know with free paid accounts, I simply cannot afford to do this anymore. So any personal people who feel 'shafted' by my inability to give you free stuff ... please do not feel this way. When it comes to free stuff, everybody believes you are their friend.

I am not indicating any animosity towards people I refuse to give free accounts ... I just cannot afford to set some kind of precendent ("Well, why did you give THIS person a free account and not me?)

Addressing "Running a service is easy and cheap!"
Now as the most popular argument I hear on Audiomatch: "Running this service is easy. Quit whining about donations."

Let me put this in perspective. I am a (broke) college student, dedicating MY time to making a cool little product (with so much kudos to Neeraj for spending HIS time as well). Neither of us have jobs. We made a service that became quite popular (16,000 signups before we had to shut down free registrations). The site does scale, but servicing thousands of users every few minutes everytime their Winamp upates, while interfacing a database becomes VERY CPU INTENSIVE.

So while I work my ass off making a cool little product, I realize the hardware costs are piling up. So I decide to ask for donations. Then I realize although some really nice people donate, it's not enough to cover the costs of multiple servers.

So I decide to go pay. Then I get a flurry of emails and (anonymous) comments basically lambasting me for my decision. So basically because I spend time working on a site, trying to make it better ... and I'm paying for the site, I am obligated to YOU to keep it free? What kind of messed up mentality is that?

Running sites like Tabulas/Audiomatch/Lightbox is not easy nor is it cheap. You may think because you pay $9.99 a year for web hosting on a shitty shared server that somehow these economics applies to sites like Tabulas and Audiomatch, but they DON'T.

If you find a free competitor and you think our site sucks, GO FOR IT. The problem is that eventually they will reach the SAME crossroads; servers do not come free nor do they grow on trees ... EVERYONE will reach a problem once they hit that critical number of users where the amount of hardware required to service the site exceeds the wallet of the owner.

In Conclusion
I do not make money from my sites (yet). Is this whole thing a money-losing scheme? I'd like to think it's not. Based on my experience looking at the sites, there is a sustainable level of income that can be met if people would just quit thinking of Tabulas/Audiomatch/Lightbox7 as being "cheap and easy to run" while realizing that a real person runs and pays for the site behind the scenes.

So in a rare moment of controlled anger: To those of you who continue the believe that the "free internet" is your RIGHT, and that sites who "charge" for their content are wrong, please think again. You are an asshole who is making my life a living hell.
Posted by roy on March 23, 2004 at 09:47 PM in Personal as a favorite post | 25 Comments

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Sat- (guest)

Comment posted on April 18th, 2004 at 05:19 PM
Wow. I know it\'s been quite a while that this has been posted but I can\'t help myself and say, \"hey I\'m with you\". Although I can\'t pay anything at the moment either... I am a student myself, I am a web developper myself and I just can\'t understand how people can be acting like that. I provide no paying services (I mainly manage websites) but it is pretty much the same thing that happens when people go complain with emails like, what are you doing lazy bitch instead of being upgrading that website ? Honest, I have my own life and coursework to deal with too, and I don\'t ask to get paid for what I do, so geroff me and if you don\'t like my work just go away... -- Anyway, that was just to say that I support what you said and I fully understand your point. I do not think that 5 euros for a lifetime service (unless I have misunderstood) is a lot of money. I\'d rather have every program at that price, I must say... But now, people just can\'t figure out how much work is takes. Well, I\'m no audiomatch nor any of your services user, but knowing who you are (i.e. not a big earning-lots-of-money-without-needing-more company, I wouldn\'t mind paying that fair amount... I just say it !
Comment posted on April 19th, 2004 at 02:35 AM
Thanks for your vote of confidence ... it does mean a lot to know that there are reasonable people out there =).

Good luck in your endeavors!

Sat- (guest)

Comment posted on April 18th, 2004 at 05:22 PM
--> Sorry, I messed up my English... I was on about 5 €/year, not for a lifetime service... but still !

lubdub (guest)

Comment posted on April 14th, 2004 at 01:23 AM
screw all u cheapasses out there
if i had a credit card i\'d pay roy $7 a year for being a cool guy..

Gener21839 (guest)

Comment posted on April 8th, 2004 at 09:36 PM
Just how many individual users do you have... then how much to run the cost of the servers. N is the charge for customers by year and Y will be the server cost by year, W is the projected amount or the what IS amount of users. (Y/W)*1.3=N.

This formula should profit you a lot. Your probably asking what does a few more cents do for me, well if you charge 7$ for AM alone its pretty bad, and you might get a very low revenue, but if u charge 1500 users that were attracted by the 1.90$ a year for a server that costs 6 dollars a day to keep up. Eventually it\'ll keep growing to a more fantastic size, so long as you add mere features such as statistics of songs and charts. In that you should make 715 dollars a year. Then thats assuming that very little people sign up (1500 is as im pretty sure EXTREMELY low amount of users). Adding maybe what could be even maybe daresay a hundred thousand users. Then again I need you to tell me the cost of server per year and how many users u have right now to make myself clearer.
Comment posted on April 9th, 2004 at 12:37 AM
The limiting factor for people buying AM is not the \"high price.\" $7/year is almost nothing ... if people are not willing to pay that much, then the service is not for them.

People who will pay $1.90 a year for AM will also most likely pay $7/year for AM. The difference between those two amounts when it comes to a per-year amount is almost insignificant.

HackMaster (guest)

Comment posted on April 7th, 2004 at 02:29 PM
I do hope that you track the IPs of the users that register. Why not allow only one register per full IP?

If you dont collect IPs yet, then simply retrive the IPs of the current users that login to their CP (if its on someone elses IP, so be it). I have been monitoring IPs of all the users that access my stuff, and its helped sometimes. I have a PHP IP script that you could use.

Also, I dont know if you do this already ( i dont remember if you do) is to collect E-mail addresses, and make users confirm their account via the e-mail. It would help much, but it would help.

Also, also, what are ur stats for the current MySQL server u have now, and how is it handleing it? (CPU Usage, Memory..)
Comment posted on April 7th, 2004 at 02:45 PM
Because IP addresses are not static; most internet services give you a new IP everytime you log on. Furthemore, those who have static IP addresses can use proxy servers to get different IP addresses.

It\'s just begging for abuse.

Gener21839 (guest)

Comment posted on April 4th, 2004 at 10:41 PM
Something that would REALLY help. Try charging 1 cent a day (for Audio Match). That shouldn\'t cover the charges, but it\'ll really cut down on people trying to use many accounts or just wasting space. And I suppose that will rack some cash up. Well even the most slightly interested person will give up a penny a day Right? Just use your Visa or a parents Visa kinda thing. It\'s something a lot of people would shrug off, but its certainly worth a try.
Comment posted on April 5th, 2004 at 08:06 AM
Well once we launch the new site, we\'ll be charging people $7/year to use the site, which works out to roughly 2 cents a day =).

Val (guest)

Comment posted on March 27th, 2004 at 09:41 PM
-claps- Well said.

Servers are not cheap.. and even if you were able to find a \"cheap\" host who \"fit Audiomatches needs,\" chances are that the owner of the server is overselling, and Audiomatch would be down shortly.. or that the owner of the server would have to force you to switch servers because of the stress that Audiomatch would put on the server. You\'d be better off purchasing your own server, which is super unbelievably expensive... then find a place to house it and such.
I say do what livejournal (<a href=""></a>) did. Have paid accounts that get so many invitation codes (based on how much money was spent), have everyone who uses an invitation code put as an \"early adopter,\" have all developers as \"permenant accounts,\" and then severly limit the free/invited users. Sort of have free users get a demo.. and then paid users have the full deal (but restricted on the invite codes), and then have Early Adopters/Permenant accounts get everything without restrictions.. then, maybe, you can sell \"permenant accounts\" at a very high price.. on Livejournal, quite a few people bought them!

David (guest)

Comment posted on March 27th, 2004 at 08:42 PM
I have no problem paying for your AudioMatch service. I think it rocks and is well worth the price you ask. I just want to say thank you for making such a cool product.

hkt (guest)

Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 04:40 PM
i\'ve got some $ that i\'ve been meaning to send to you. just haven\'t gotten around to it. been to lazy to look up the address you posted on nP. I might do that now, but could you post it up again? It won\'t be much, but shoud be something.

Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 03:34 PM
i totally agree with you, and if i could id buy/donate money, because i love this service. but my parents want me to learn the value of a dollar...psh.
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 02:43 PM
Well, if they weren\'t roy wouldn\'t have to go ranting about them, would he? :P
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 02:26 PM
Why would anyone register multiple accounts for themselves? Isn\'t one more than enough? Damn, people are greedy.
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 09:49 AM
point out the jerks that use multiple accounts to me roy, i\'ll knock some sense into them..

and um, i also dont know how to get money to u.. do u want me to use my paypal, money order, check, or just walk across the room and pay u in CASH MONEY!
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 03:58 AM
You so very rock, Roy. I\'ve been wondering why you didn\'t implement ads. And way to tell off the people who register multiple free accounts! Good for you.
Comment posted on March 23rd, 2004 at 11:16 PM
roy, when i finally start work, i promise to pay for some of the accounts i use. :) i\'ve been mooching off u for way too long!!! o^_^o thanks for all ur hard work!

PM5K (guest)

Comment posted on March 23rd, 2004 at 10:57 PM
I\'m afraid I do not know your services well enough to give you very useful advice, however I am confident that things will work out for you if you have the patience to see your plans through.

The popup ads that I used to run on my website did fairly well to be honest with you and I\'m not sure why you couldn\'t somehow work something like that into an ad supported account.

Again I\'m not that familiar with any of your projects so you would know better than I do...
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 12:46 AM
Well it\'s going to be a lie if I say I know for 100% that advertisements won\'t work on Tabulas. However, part of my goal is to NOT rely on the third parties to make my living; the idea is to sell services to USERS and make money that way... I\'m not trying to become a media company.

HOWEVER, I do plan on incorporating advertisements into Tabulas to \"try\" out Google Adsense. However, these plans are pushed back because implementation on a wide scale requires the revamping of the styling system... but I have been thinking about adding Adsense into Tabby accounts for at least a few months (I\'ve been cleared by Google Adsense for a few weeks now at the least)


PM5K (guest)

Comment posted on March 23rd, 2004 at 10:31 PM
You didn\'t address this one:

I don\'t want to pay; just run advertisements!

Which is what I\'ve said to you before (not in regards to not wanting to pay because I do not use your service) but in regards to having limited free accounts, paid accounts and ad supported accounts.

While I fully understand the first four and know where you are coming from, I do not know why you haven\'t at least tried ad supported accounts.

Enlighten Me Please ;-)
Comment posted on March 23rd, 2004 at 10:40 PM
Advertisements simply do not pay. This comes from experience working with banner advertisers.

Now, that argument was specifically towards AM and LB7; there are very few advertisers who would pay, nor is there really space to sell.

However, I have registered for Google Adsense and will be implementing it for Tabby 2.0. But that is still far down the road and is a bit too far to address.
Comment posted on March 23rd, 2004 at 10:05 PM
i need to find a way to pay for a paid account. my mommy wont give me her credit card, and i dont entirely know how to send a money order. any tips?
Comment posted on March 24th, 2004 at 02:01 AM
Well, personal check via mail can work... you can buy money orders from the USPS.