mAirList "editions"

Dear mAirList Council,

I have become a little unhappy with the current licensing scheme, for three reasons:

First, the registration process for getting a free license is very annoying, for the users as well as for me. Every day, I have to review all those requests, check if the addresses look authentic, and accept or request them. Once in a while, people try to fool me with names or addresses the obviously made up. Many people don’t understand why they have to provide their name, address or even e-mail address if the product is free anyway. And finally, I’m afraid that there is a number of people who request a free personal license and use it commercially then.

Second, when talking to commercial customers, it’s often hard to explain why the exact same product is free for one group of users and costs a few hundred Euros for the other group. (Actually, the reason is that - of course - mAirList is worth that price, but I’m endorsing people who use it without any commercial background.)

Finally, now that I quit my job at the university and started to work at a commercial company, my spare time has become significally less. I can only work on mAirList in the evenings, which means that I cannot do anything else in these evenings. If I want to keep up with the development in the usual manner, this will be quite an effort. I think a little more financial reward would appropriate.

I consider to change the licensing scheme, but I’m unsure what to do.

One option is to keep the curent licensing scheme (free for non-profit use, paid for commercial use), but don’t issue any license files anymore. mAirList would be unlocked right way. Pro: less work for me, all users still get the same set of features. Con: commercial users are no longer forced to get in touch with be but will have to do that voluntarily.

The second option is to introduce different editions of mAirList, e.g. “mAirList Free”, “mAirList Standard” and “mAirList Professional”. Some features would only be available in the “Standard” and “Professional” edition, and some only in the “Professional” edition. Although I have no idea which features to lock in which edition…

Do you think this would be fair to the non-profit users who are currently used to enjoy all of the features for free?


An interesting situation - a somebody who writes software and uses it, I can appreciate this problem. I guess you need to ask yourself why you wrote mAirList and if it’s current state is what you thought it’d be (ie: a variety of features with many small broadcasters making use of it etc) and of course: whether you enjoy working on it.

Obviously I have a free/personal licence for mAirList as I use it at home to tag my songs and set cue-points and what-have-you. Any pre-recording done with mAirList is later used on Phoenix FM (another non-profit user!). Most of my mAirList home useage (excluding the beta testing) is tagging new audio and taking the MMD files to Phoenix on my USB stick. I’d say that most “free” users would have little need for advanced functions like level-ducking, scheduling and anything more complex than basic A,B,C,A,B,C automation. This would then allow you to spend your time on the “pro” users who pay a premium for the advanced features and of course they’d require more time to develop, test and maintain.

I’ll ask the powers-that-be at Phoenix FM whether they could put a price on mAirList and see what they say… In the last year since we introduced it, it’s never really been a problem - the members love it (more so than the clunky Jazler we had!) as they can plug their USB stick in and drop files into the Playlist (we have many specialist music shows where presenters bring their own tracks in) so that’s a bonus. It runs Midnight-7am every day on it’s own and live-assist during the day and aside from the odd “Out of Memory” (it’s a Vista machine) when loading a playlist via the DDMM-HH script, it’s been great.

There’s certainly a market for your software over here in the UK - Not-for-profit Community Stations are still being licenced and some are operating on a disco console and Winamp! If you’ve not seen this package: This is £2000 for 3 playout licences plus their scheduler. For a commercial station, it’s £2000 per licence. It’s very popular in the UK although I’d say RCS Master Control (lease-only) is the most popular followed by Genesys which Absolute Radio use and also the new Global Radio (old GCap) network. From memory, RCS wanted £75/month to lease Master Control and £50 for Selector and this was for non-profit. EncoDAD wanted £5700 (50% down, with monthly installments) for a 2-licence package that included 2 Digigram audio cards and Natural Music for scheduling.

I guess if you really want to hit the big time, you need to see what these other packages do and how they work - I must say, most are a lot easier to configure than yours - and offer better value. Most new users (IMHO) will want to see a decent GUI with simple buttons and objects and have little fuss actually making it play some music :slight_smile:

Caveat: not all DJs have a Ph.D in Computer Sciences :wink:

I would suggest that the actual problem here is two-fold.

  1. As Torben says (and like Charlie, I’ve had this same problem myself), issuing the ‘free’ licences is a hassle. They can of course also be used illegitimately for commercial purposes.

  2. It would be a good idea for sales to commercial users to offer a full feature set, thereby immediately creating at least two versions of mAirList: Professional and Free. The Free edition would have no licencing but a limited set of features.

  3. Based on personal experience, I would recommend that the Free edition is a separately built EXE which does not physically contain any of the code to support any features only present in the Pro edition. Otherwise, there is the potential for any Free user to hack the EXE to illegitimately ‘unlock’ the Pro edition for free.

  4. It would be a bad idea to alienate the large band of dedicated and legitimate mAirList users who have, after all, championed the product for at least two years. Therefore, I suggest that non-commercial users (who currently have a Free licence) are given a Pro licence file at no cost. New applicants would still need to be verified, and then be told whether or not they will need to pay for a Pro licence (are they commercial or not?), but that will always be the case. :smiley:

  5. It is then easier to justify the cost of a licence to commercial users, because you can correctly state that the ‘free Pro’ licenced users are all legitimate non-commercial or very small not-for-profit stations like community stations, campus radio, etc. who simply do not have the funds to purchase professional software. Indeed, this can be a selling point if you know that there are ‘small’ mAirList users local to a commercial station: people coming from the ‘small’ station will already know mAirList if they later work at the commercial station! :wink:

  6. Obvious features to remove from the Free version are mAirListDB :o ; ALL scripting support including anything that can ‘run script,’ including remote ‘buttons’ and Action On Start/Stop, and notification scripting; logging; remotes other than keyboard (no SOAP support etc.) or maybe joystick and game controllers as well?; streaming output/input; control of mixer devices (e.g. line in); support for scheduler program commands in M3Us; containers; and really pretty much anything else that a ‘home user’ doesn’t actually need (or should be applying for a licence of some sort if they DO need it! ;)). That’s just a list off the top of my head: there are probably lots more features I’d take out if it were my product.

Hope that helps, and adds some sensible points to the discussion for consideration and further debate?

Cad Delworth CEng MBCS CITP

Thanks for your input guys (also Michel who sent me an e-mail in German regarding this topic).

To answer your questions, Charlie: Yes, I do enjoy working on mAirList. And the reason why I started it in the first place was that eldoradio needed a new playout software but could not afford any appropriate 3rd party product. That is, to be honest, they didn’t really need one, because they had one, but it was really bad, and I thought I could do better. After all, it was pretty cool having your own playout software. And it still is, especially with BBC, WDR and SWR now using it :wink:

I must also admit that if mAirList was not free for almost everyone, there wouldn’t be so many people using it, and there wouldn’t have been so much input regarding bugs, new features etc. In other words, mAirList would not have become so popular without these people, so I guess I should be thankful. Of course, anyone who contributed to mAirList will still receive a free license, and so will non-profit organizations. If they don’t earn any money, I’m happy to support them and I don’t want their money either.

I repeat: This whole discussion about different editions etc. is not about making the big money. It’s about how to continue to support the enthusiasts and hobbyists, and at the same time not throwing away the commercial potential this software has. Fortunately, I don’t depend on the money I earn from mAirList (and it’s far too less to make a living from it).

Oh, by the way, did I tell you about my new job? I have started a new business with two people who have been running a service named “audimark” for a few years, allowing web radio stations to easily broadcast audio ads which are detected and accounted automatically by the audimark software. Our new company, “radio content & control”, or “radio c&c” for short, will now extended this software so that it can be used for other purposes. Although I’m a partner of the new business, mAirList is not involved at the time being. Perhaps it will be at some point. That’s also something I should keep in mind.

Over the past years, with all the features introduced, mAirList has become a very powerful software. But also, as Charlie pointed out, a software which can be very difficult to handle, especially when it comes to configuration and customization. This is certainly something I must consider. So one thing I could to is to take a feasible subset of the features, make them a little more user-friendly, and repackage them into a “Free” edition or even a new product. And mAirList as we know it, with all the configuration options and pro features, would then be turned into the paid “Pro” version.

During the last few months, I have spend countless hours splitting mAirList into separate internal “modules” which can be activated or deactivated indepently (or even excluded from an .exe file by commenting out a single line in the source code). So it would be very easy to compile different editions, or even create a new product from these building blocks.

Cad: mAirListDB will be available in two versions, Lite and Pro. The Lite version, which is the only one currently included in the Betas, is only meant for a single PC installation where the database and the playout is running on the same computer. I think that it would be ok to include the Lite version in the free edition. The Pro version, running on PostgreSQL and intended to be run in a network, should be in the paid version then.


PS: The core modules - text mode only with no GUI - do even compile under Linux now. And un4seen will soon release a Linux version of BASS (Ian sent be a preliminary beta version which already works very well). So a Linux or OSX port of mAirList is now in reach. Or some other exciting product based on “mAirList technology”.