The busy first month of the new site has already passed with outstanding and unexpected success. In fact, it was so unexpectedly successful and busy that the second month is almost over too!
The first four goals on Patreon were reached in short succession: 16k versions of each HDRI were added, the first Vault was unlocked, and I promised to publish
one two HDRIs every single week.
As I’ve said before, I totally did not expect this kind of support. I was fairly sure people would like the new site (who doesn’t like free stuff), but to actually throw money at me to help me keep it going was just a pipe dream. Of course I worked hard to try and make that dream a reality, but there was no way to know if it would actually work.
Well, luckily for all of us, it did 🙂 At least so far as to cover all of its own costs and provide a reasonable budget to keep producing HDRIs regularly. It’s not enough for me to live off yet, I still need to do freelance work and find other sources of income, but it is a most excellent start.
As promised, here is the finance report for the first month, detailing the exact amount received from 266 patrons, how much was spent on various things, how much is being saved (in a separate bank account) for travel and other long-term costs, and how much I’m keeping for my own personal expenses (a salary if you will).
In future, I’d like to make all these figures more easily accessible and digestible, perhaps some pretty graphs to see how the income and expenses change over time, how the savings is accumulated and spent, etc.
In terms of statistics, the first few days of the launch were chaos. I knew the new site would be popular and that the server might struggle a bit, but it seems the news reached further than my usual small community of Blender users.
It’s hard to say exactly how many people were visiting the site. I was initially using Piwik to track how many unique visitors there were, but since this is a self-hosted solution and the server was already struggling with the sheer number of requests, the numbers are not trustworthy.
Many people, including myself, were hit with timeout errors or just impossibly slow loading times.
To (attempt to) solve this, I upgraded the server itself with more ram and storage, and signed up for a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to help manage the demand and bandwidth, both of which were paid for by the 266 generous patrons who supported me last month 🙂
The CDN is a network of servers around the world that caches each web page whenever it is visited. Then, the next time someone visits that page (within a few hours), the CDN can serve them the cached page without bugging my own server with the request. This means my server only has to deal with a fraction of the traffic, making things speedier and a lot more pleasant for everyone.
Similarly, it’s also hard to say how many HDRIs were downloaded since I only track the ones that were not cached. According to my data, there were a total of ~120,000 HDRI downloads in October, though considering this does not include the cached downloads, the real number is likely more than double that.
By comparison, before the new site was launched (back when I was still selling HDRIs) there were around 200,000 downloads in total of either fully free HDRIs or free 1k versions of paid HDRIs. That means there have likely been more HDRIs downloaded in the first month of the new site alone than in all 18 months of the old site combined.
That’s pretty amazing.
To add to the chaos, shortly after the launch I traveled to the Kruger Park (mostly as a holiday, but of course some HDRIs happened to be shot too 😉 ) and then to Amsterdam for the Blender Conference, after which Rico and I traveled further to Italy for ~2 weeks specifically to shoot HDRIs. I’ll write a separate report about that soon, but for now all patrons can check out the Trello board to see the long list of the HDRIs that came from that.
Well I guess that’s all there is to say 🙂 Still catching my breath from all the travels, goals being reached and chaos management.
If there’s something I missed or you’ve got any questions, just ask in the comments below 🙂
PS: Tracking the number of people who visit the site and how many times each HDRI is downloaded helps me make decisions about improving the site (e.g. which kinds of HDRIs are popular). Almost all websites do this. If you are concerned about your privacy, install something like uBlock Origin that blocks most of the popular trackers.