Granted, no analogy is perfect, but bear with me for a bit.
Open source software (mostly?) owes its existence to the passion, creativity and ingenuity of its author(s), something we should all celebrate. Someone dedicated time to it, without thinking about a financial reward, just for the sake of solving a problem and sharing it with the world, without knowing if anyone would actually care.
Unlike a tool or a commodity, which you just buy to consume (and therefore at most expect to pay a one-time fee for acquiring it), it’s the craftsmanship behind the software that we should seek to support. It’s not about paying for the hours it took to create, or the time it takes to maintain, but about supporting someone who contributed something valuable that you enjoy every day, just like music.
I don’t think anyone opposes the idea that a musician who created a hit song or album decades ago enjoys a portion of your music subscription whenever you listen to it. It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by our how many hours he put in creating it.
That’s a thing I like about GitHub Sponsors: you sponsor the person, not a particular project.
So perhaps one day, just like your Spotify or Apple Music subscription, you’ll purchase an Open Source subscription, and as you use great libraries that enable you to achieve your own goals, you’ll be comforted in knowing that you have been contributing to their ongoing maintenance and their author’s future creations.
This would require coordination and integration into the editors and IDEs we use to consume these projects, to properly track and attribute usage consistently, but I think it’s technically doable and morally undisputable.
I think Microsoft and GitHub are in an enviable position to push for something like that, having done the heavy lifting of creating two of the most ubiquitous developer environments (VS Code and Visual Studio) as well as establishing deep ties with most other developer-focused companies, and figuring out how to get OSS devs paid throughout the world with the GitHub Sponsors program.