Additional sources of income
This discussion is a bit different than most. The amount of free users has increased massively, and that is fantastic. Operating the servers for those users is not free, and currently the income generated by most free users is around 0. Don't worry, this is not some plea for donations, Astiga is not close to bankruptcy, etc. However, I have been looking for additional sources of income, so that free users are more sustainable, and that is more difficult than it sounds. What I am trying to find is a way that does not annoy you, the user, and also does not sell your information to a dozen companies, like some ads seem to do nowadays. I still value you and your right to privacy.
So, how does Astiga currently make money? There are essentially two ways: Astiga Premium and pCloud affiliation. I believe both are a pretty "fair", both provide convenience and additional functionality.
What I have been looking into is music recommendations, just like someone in a record shop would recommend an album to you, based on context. E.g. if you are looking at the artist page for Adele, and you own the albums "19" and "21", then it might recommend "25" to you. This would simply be based on the page you are looking at, and not based on some elaborate profile of all things you have done on the internet (or even in Astiga). I don't have such a profile of you, and I intend to keep it that way. This would then either play an excerpt of the album, or link you to a shop of some kind where you can buy the album (of which a small percentage would go to Astiga). This would all be loaded by Astiga, not the external shop, so they would not be able to track you (until you click on the link). They would at most be able to deduce that "someone using Astiga" was looking at Adele.
I think that having such a system would be interesting, and also useful for you and for me. I am pretty sure not everyone would like it, so I do plan to add a switch to turn it off (at least for premium, not 100% sure about free users), or at least make it "Adblock-friendly" (so you can block the entire thing and the space it occupies easily).
The reason I have not implemented any of this yet is because I have not yet found a digital music store that I could integrate this with. Apple seems to redirect their web version of iTunes to Apple Music, which makes sense, but for obvious reasons is not quite what I am looking for :-). Amazon splits everything out between the different countries. If I were to limit it to the USA (where most of you are from), then I would just be able to get paid in gift cards, and gift cards don't pay server bills. Other digital music shops don't seem to be interested in this type of affiliate marketing.
I have also been looking at tracker-free, "ethical" advertising (the ethics of ads itself is a different story of course). There seems to be surprisingly little offering on that front. The only option I found so far is ContextCue, which from testing seems to mostly show ads for ContextCue itself, so I am not sure how effective that is going to be. Plus, they pay per click, and I don't think you (plural) are the type that tends to click on ads anyway.
Then there is merchandise of course, but I doubt anyone would want to walk around in an Astiga hoodie :-)
So, here is maybe a bit of a strange request, but do you have any suggestions? Maybe I have missed something.