Last week I had the honor and pleasure of joining my friends Tatiana Moroz and Josh Scigala (with Brian Sovryn on tech) for a discussion on The Tatiana Show about Intellectual Property (IP) with Jeffrey Tucker and Justin Colletti. You can watch the full conversation here:
I had a chance to say most of what I wanted to say about IP during the discussion but ran short on time to discuss potential solutions for how to get artists paid in the absence of IP protection. While I did briefly mention what I see as perhaps the the simplest ways that artists have monetized their work without relying on IP – live performances, private lessons, and selling physical merchandise – there are other more interesting and experimental ways for artists to monetize their creative works that have only just recently become possible or scalable thanks to the internet.
One of the most popular ways for artists to monetize their content is crowdfunding using a platform like Indiegogo. Indiegogo allows artists to fund projects by posting previews of their work and creating different “levels” of backing so that people who contribute money to the project can get special features or experiences in addition to a copy of the work being produced. For example, a $5 backer of a music album could get a thank you card personally signed by the artist, a $30 backer could get a signed copy of the album, a $100 backer could get a signed copy of the album plus tickets to any show on an upcoming tour, etc etc.
Since an artist gets paid up-front before the album is actually created, there’s no risk of losing money on producing the album. All money earned after the album is produced is pure profit. Subsequent runs of the physical album or CD could be crowdfunded in this same way, so that there’s no chance of losing money on each production run either. An artist or group of artists could even fund a whole tour this way, by pre-selling tickets to the shows before committing to each venue. In this way, artists can test new markets with less risk of losing money. Crowdfunding is by no means perfect, but it’s a great way for artists to fund their work and develop closer relationships with their fans.
There are few services that I can say that I love but Patreon is one of them. Patreon is like a combination of a crowdfunding platform and an art subscription service. The platform allows artists to set up profiles that people can subscribe to at different contribution levels. Each time the artist releases a new piece of art, subscribers’ credit cards are charged the amount of the level they subscribed to.
For example, if someone subscribes to the $5 level of an artist’s Patreon profile, then each time the artist produces a new piece of art, that subscriber will get charged $5. Patreon “patrons”, as subscribers are called, are often given access to special deals, events, and unique pieces of art not available to non-patrons, providing a level of exclusivity to the experience. Again, a great way for artists to fund their work while developing closer relationships with their fans.
ProTip is a bitcoin wallet that automatically sends a tip at the end of every week to bitcoin addresses that were on the webpages you have visited. You can choose to exclude certain bitcoin addresses, webpages, or even entire websites so that you don’t accidentally send every bitcoin address on your favorite blockchain explorer a tip when the wallet runs its weekly program.
For example, if you visited ten different Soundcloud pages throughout the week, and seven of them had a bitcoin address in their profile description, then those seven artists would each receive a tip from your ProTip wallet at the end of the week as long as you have not chosen to exclude any of them. The wallet can tip a certain amount to each address e.g. 0.001 BTC per address, or divide a certain amount evenly between each address e.g. divide 0.007 BTC seven ways.
All an artist has to do to make their content “ProTip-ready” is paste one of their bitcoin addresses on each webpage that hosts their content – whether that’s a YouTube video, a Soundcloud profile, a Bandcamp page, or even their own website. Then, fans who have ProTip installed will automatically send the artist tips if they’re not excluded from the wallet. This is a frictionless, passive way for fans to support artists that only requires a browser extension and some bitcoin, with a small amount of effort to exclude unwanted bitcoin addresses.
From the Mediachain website:
Mediachain is a peer-to-peer, decentralized database for sharing information across applications and organizations… Using cryptography, all data in Mediachain stays connected to the identity of the author, offering a channel for attribution, analytics and value to flow directly.
With Mediachain, artists can ensure that their work gets proper attribution no matter what application is used to distribute it, even if the artists themselves are not the ones who uploaded their content. This way, artists can get credit for their work and get a slice of any revenues that get directed towards the work and the curator that is hosting it.
From the Yours website:
Yours is a social platform with peer-to-peer monetization so that our users earn money for creating and discovering good content and consumers can pay for quality and curation.
With Yours, creators or curators can post content that consumers can then pay for. This sounds pretty straightforward, but it comes with a twist: paying for content with Yours is also investing in that content’s success, and the earlier a consumer pays for a piece of content, the more they could earn if that content becomes popular. This way, not only do creators get paid, but their earliest supporters do as well. The platform hasn’t actually been released yet, but there are several exciting demo videos on the Yours website and I look forward to trying out the software once it’s ready for prime-time.
Being an artist has always been tough. Heck, being any kind of entrepreneur has always been tough. And yet, many have found ways to be successful at it. I would consider anyone who makes a living doing what they love a success. Since the popularization of the web, it seems that more artists than ever are able to make a living doing what they love. The long tail of content has become more accessible than ever, and with new payment methods like bitcoin it is now possible for anyone anywhere to show artists love by paying for the content they create. I look forward to seeing the innovation to come in technology that helps artists get paid, and eagerly await the day when IP is no longer a hindrance on creativity and the sharing of artistic content.
Flattr, a micropayments platform.
Lighthouse, a p2p crowdfunding platform.
Rocketr, an easy way to sell digital products.
Supload, monetize images and gifs.
Tatiana Coin, a digital currency used to crowdfund Tatiana Moroz’s music.
Bitcoin tips accepted:
Bitcoin address (what’s this?)
Bitcoin payment code (what’s this?)