In 2002 6moons began as a one-man hobbyist venture. Within 7 months, founder and publisher Srajan Ebaen did it full-time and for a living. He has ever since and never looked back. What, fundamentally, separates the hobbyist and the professional? One does it for fun, the other for a living. Which, incidentally, doesn't—shouldn't—have to eliminate the fun. In this case a fun hobby became a fun job. And here this page could end if it weren't for that one persnickety little thing.

You see, unless one operated as a charity; lived off someone else's income like a wife working to support her hubby; had never-ending savings or a trust fund; a suitable pension; or was otherwise subsidized... nobody working full-time can afford to work for nothing. This becomes the great equalizer whenever anyone turns a hobby into a profession: how to get paid. In this case, on the Internet. But wait, isn't that the magical place where everything is free? Quite so. Unless you're selling porn or physical commodities.

Enter the ad-based publishing model. It's how 6moons has operated from day one. We've been very fortunate indeed that enough hifi manufacturers deemed us sufficiently interesting and worthwhile to support us by becoming our ad sponsors. Obviously ad sponsors aren't saints. They exercise self interest to promote their brand. But as it turns out, they actually do fund our operations in a quasi saintly fashion. They support us on behalf of all their competitors who get free reviews without any costs to them save for two-way shipping; and on behalf of our readers who read us for free. Again and except for porn sites, subscription-based websites which deliver content don't work that well. Online readers prefer not to pay. So do online listeners. If they do pay for a streaming subscription, it might be €9.99/month to have access to 20'000'000 songs. Making a living as a musician from the music-streaming model is tough!

From 2002 to mid 2014, this very strange ad-based system has meant that fewer than 30% of the manufacturers we reviewed supported us financially whilst more than 70% of their competitors had a free run. Now there's a universal law which some call pay it forward. Others refer to it as what goes around comes around. In our case we never had any upfront discussions about reciprocity. The assumption was that it would all balance out in the end; and that manufacturers happy with their coverage in our pages would eventually see fit to support us in the only way this business model allows for: by taking out an ad to contribute to the magazine's bottom line and keep it operational. Why I believe that this model is badly broken I've already explained in this Editorial. The fact is, our archives are filled with manufacturers who've collected up to 10 reviews without supporting us economically even once. It just didn't occur to them. And neither did we ask. It somehow seemed improper. Or so I thought. As I said, it is a very strange system.

So why change now? If this business model hobbles along just fine, why rock the boat? That's a very good question. In the end, it boils down to three things: fairness; balance; and respect. Let me explain. After 12 years of operations, we've demonstrated that ad support doesn't buy opinion. Supporters have received very critical reviews, non supporters have collected awards. Non advertisers were never treated like 2nd-class citizens. Quite the opposite. It's perhaps why we've become a popular first-time destination for new brands. So despite industry-wide cynicism that ads taint opinion, that clearly needn't be the case. I believe we have made that point. You're of course free to disagree. I simply doubt that you'd be a regular reader if you did.

There's a proverb which states that you get what you pay for. So let's consider the implication. Isn't the expectation that manufacturers should get free reviews a bit ludicrous? They clearly value reviews enough to want them in the first place. Why then demonstrate such blatant unwillingness to compensate us for our time by offering to take out an ad? I tell you why. Because we have let them. It's endemic to the ad-based model. It's why bigger operations run completely separate ad departments. Editorial really doesn't want to get mixed up with it. It's considered improper. As though the basic act of getting compensated for work was evil.

If only reviewers were treated like judges, referees, arbitrators or inspectors (all professions where people get paid to render independent judgment). Now they'd bill the manufacturers for their time. A short quicker job of 1'500 words would carry one fee, a longer more extensive job of 5'000 words another. A senior writer would charge more than a rookie, first tier publications more than third-tier types. The notion is quite self-explanatory. In hifi reviewing meanwhile, the concept of paying reviewers directly for their time is taboo. It's called quid pro quo. It insinuates collusion and corruption. Hence reviewers are paid 'indirectly'. If they're paid, it's out of ad revenues. Naturally that doesn't stop the cynics to keep insinuating that the mere act of payment regardless of revenue stream exerts undue influence. Their belief must be that getting paid to render independent honest judgment for a living is a contradiction in terms. Those people I wish good luck with their next free attorney, volunteer arbitrator and pro bono doctor's diagnosis.

My ongoing assumption that clearly successful manufacturers with obvious resources would voluntarily reciprocate was in error. The majority does not reciprocate. They clearly assume that we can and should work for free. This creates the very imbalanced condition we have today where a small minority of generous manufacturers fund our operations for the large majority of - well, cheapskate manufacturers. It's patently unfair. Now you might, justifiably so, interject that life isn't fair. Indeed it's not. But there's another aspect. Respect. Insisting on ongoing free work from people who do it for a living is clearly disrespectful. If fixing that also addresses unfairness in one fell swoop, I call it a win/win.

So here's the upshot. From mid July 2014 on, our review policy changed from what it was until then. From that point forward manufacturers who want a review from us commit upfront to at least a small one-month toekn ad. Here we're not talking about a full-page print ad for a costly one-time insertion rate. We're talking about a commitment 1/10th of that. Less than monthly health insurance. It's a very small fee. It is a demonstration of professional respect and courtesy for the time we spend to properly listen to gear, then write and publish a review on it. It makes it very easy even for brand-new manufacturers to participate in the process without having any large resources. And, it puts an end to the imbalance that the few carry the many. Put plain, it eliminates the freeloaders.

Ideally we'd have no ads whatsoever. Ideally we'd transition to a fee-based model like it exists for most industries which provide services. At this point however, one solitary magazine can't single-handedly change the dominant ad-based model. And we can't rely on reader subscriptions because as far bigger organizations have demonstrated conclusively—here I'm thinking of content providers like major newspapers—online readers don't want to pay. The Internet has trained them to expect things for free.

So where does that leave readers and manufacturers? Manufacturers decide what a review from us is worth to them. They get to pick our level of compensation, be it the minimum small one-month token banner or something longer. Consider it a short-term ad to get a free review; or consider it a time-compensated review with a free ad as a bonus. It works out to the same thing. Our readers have access to all our content for free as they always have. For them, nothing has really changed.

Where does that leave us? With a bit of respect. After 12 years of growth and improvements and having proven our commitment to independent enthusiast-type reporting, we now think of our work as professional grade. With that comes an attitude adjustment. From now on our reviewers are paid half of whatever a manufacturer determines they want to pay. And yes, it's silly that this arrangement would have to continue to involve the ad detour. Many makers in fact don't want an ad. But it's how this antiquated system works. Under it, we cannot bill a direct one-time service fee. And at this time we're not convinced that we can abandon the ad-based model for our preferred solution and remain operational. So this is our attempt at a transitional or interim model.

The upshot is simple. Quality work deserves compensation even if it amounts to no more than pocket change which a writer can apply to their next hifi purchase. Nobody associated with 6moons is getting rich from it. As the boss who works 60-hour weeks, I'm still renting. Each year a good amount of my income gets reinvested in equipment so I can do a better job. Other funds go to trade show coverage. My contributions to DAR are pro bono. As I said at the beginning, getting paid and being an enthusiast really aren't mutually exclusive. Neither is getting compensated and being honest. If you believe otherwise, you can always stop reading us or stop furnishing us with review loaners.
For manufacturers
How to get a review.
Select from one of our currently active writers. They and their emails are listed at the bottom of the main audioreviews page. See whether they're interested and available. We can't promise that we can handle all inquiries. Once the business part has been handled, I will give the all clear so you may make all necessary arrangements directly with the writer.

Things we expect you to do.
• due diligence: read up on the writer you've picked or been assigned to if your preferred writer wasn't available. Their room size and equipment is listed at the beginning of each of their reviews. Those are found in our 'by writer' archives. Read some of their reviews to get a sense for their style, biases and approach.
• answer questions: the writer will likely have questions about your company, the product at hand, the tech involved, certain features and such. He or she may also request photos if the equipment can't be easily opened. What you provide will of course be at your discretion but if you're evasive or make nothing available, the writer may say so in the review.
• remain in touch: if you can't make a promised delivery date, let us know. Stuff happens. We understand that. We simply ask for respect if you've been allocated a time slot which now has to be changed.
• fix problems: if the gear arrives damaged or malfunctions during the review, you will have to repair or replace it or provide us with the necessary assistance to get it working again.
• cover 2-way shipping: all transport and related border-crossing, import, VAT and customs fees are yours to cover. Upon conclusion of the review, you will be asked to organize a call-tag pickup. This has the shipper of your choice pick up the gear from the writer's house or place of work on your business account. Any fees that can't be prepaid or billed to your account which the recipient has to pay instead must be reimbursed. Should a writer wish to purchase the loaner, such a request will only be made at the conclusion of the review.
• have English web pages: our reviews are in English, hence your website ought to have an English version to be useful to our audience.
• ship regular production items: we don't review prototypes. It is acceptable to ship traveling demonstrators particularly for costly low-volume items. If those are known to suffer slight wear to not represent an as-new finish, this should be communicated to the writer upfront.
• ship broken-in items: please pre-condition your speakers, electronics and cables for whatever time you deem necessary so our writers don't have to.

Things you cannot do.
• interfere: you cannot tell a writer how to do their job, what they can and cannot compare to and such. Obviously if your gear requires very specific ancillaries to work as intended, that will have been covered before the assignment got underway.
• request published price changes: we will list the sell price of your component as you gave it to us at that time. We won't change it subsequently with each price increase to keep it current. Our reviews are properly dated so the reader knows that a listed price was valid for that time period.
• misrepresent your IP directly or by implication: if you make something available for review, we assume and accept as a given that you either outright own the rights to the circuitry and technology used; or have acquired the proper licenses.
• misrepresent compliance directly or by implication: if you make something available for review, we assume and accept as a given that your gear complies with the safety and usage regulations of the countries where it can be purchased.
• request cancellation: if you aren't pleased with a review, you cannot demand that it not be published. You can however request that a second writer be assigned to offer another opinion. In such a case we will make an announcement at the end of the first writer's review that a second opinion will be added once it's available.

Things we won't do.
• Get involved in law suits, arbitration or disputes related to your specs, your claimed operating principles, the safety of your gear or any type of misconduct your sales agents might be involved in.
• Measurements: we don't take any.

What you should expect from us.
Review turnaround not exceeding three months unless a writer encounters personal issues (sickness, work-related) which he will then communicate with you to ask for an extension. Except for the publisher, all other writers have regular day jobs which for obvious reasons must take precedent.
Confirmation of receipt and whether the component is working as it should.
• General questions and potential requests for assistance if we can't figure out certain features.
A pre-publication version of the raw review text by way of a word.doc or embedded in an email which deals with technical, personnel and company history descriptions so you can vet it for errors and omissions. Having signed off on this prior to publication of the complete review avoids having to do subsequent fixes.

Sundry other items.
You're free to link to your review without asking. Its URL won't change.
You're welcome to create a PDF of it to post on your website or social media pages. In that case it must be in its entirety and without a word changed. Again no prior permission is necessary.
You may use review quotes but here we do request that you ask the publisher's permission first so we can be sure that they're not used out of context.
• If you've received an award, we have a 300dpi Photoshop file of it which we can make available.

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