Friday, December 16, 2011

Support your artists, a new way to tackle piracy

The last couple of months I have been trying to figure out a way to both raise some money for our project so it can sustain itself, and find new ways to tackle piracy.

Send any amount of money to any artist.

I have come up with a number of ways to both ensure that artists get money to make sure that they can continue to practice their arts, and also let culture flow to enhance our society. As a first step towards this masterplan I am working on a way to let fans all over the world send money directly to their favorite artists.

We all love our artists
All of us have a special connection to the music we love. Music has a certain way to fill us with good feelings and enjoyment. Of course we want our favorite artists to continue making this great music but unfortunately they have been trapped between new technologies, greedy managers and freedom advocates.

Here at Stoffi we want to help fight piracy and ensure that artists can make a living. But we oppose measures such as SOPA, Protect IP Act and IPRED. We even see big holes in "compromises" such as the OPEN Act. We fear the long term consequences of actions such as Operation In Our Sites.

There must be a way to find peace between fans and artists without having to censor the Internet, remove due process and the ability for citizens to defend themselves in court, monitor all communications and force people (whom may be innocent) to choose between paying legal fees or settlements.

Removing the middle man
Some of the reasons people download music for free (I don't want to call it illegal because in many countries it actually isn't... yet) are many. However, a few one stands out. First of all is the availability. A lot of content and services are not available to people outside US. Here in Sweden there's no Rdio, no Pandora, no Hulu, no Netflix, no iTunes Match, and so on). And a lot of underground music cannot be found in your local store or on Amazon or iTunes. Technologies such as P2P have helped a lot of smaller artists gain a wider audience and find new fans.

Secondly is price, a lot of fans would simply not be able to enjoy as much music as they do today if they were forced to pay the amounts that they are asked. Resulting in they never getting to know a lot of the smaller artists that are just today gaining ground.

Lastly, and the point that suggest a solution to, is the fact that most of the money goes to record labels and other middle men. When you buy a CD or listen on Spotify the majority of the profits made just doesn't reach the artist.

That's why I am building a system to let fans send money directly to their favorite artists. As a donation. Making sure that the money really goes to the artist they want to support.

Control your money
The system will let your keep the power over your money. When you send money to Lady Gaga you can make sure that she gets 100% of it. If we are unable to deliver they money to the artist (the artist is dead, we get no answer because the artist thinks we are a scam saying "Hey, we want to give you money", or we just don't have enough time) you can be sure to get it all back, no fees or charges applied.

You can choose exactly how your money should be distributed.
Note that this is just a mockup, the minimum will probably be lower than $10.

The system will use PayPal which will let us return all your money with just one click. We need to do that in 60 days so you can be sure that within those 60 days the money has either been delivered successfully or been sent back to you. PayPal is even nice enough to refund their fees so you will get 100% of your money back.

That's keeping control over your money!

A way for us to ensure our existence
This system can help Stoffi as well. We don't make any money but we still have bills to pay. The server is not free, the bandwidth is not free and the domain is not free. Then there's always things that are not as easy to measure in dollars such as the time we all spend on the project.

That's why we by default will take 10% of the donations. But we still give you the ability to remove those 10%, change them to 5% or even increase it to 20% if you want to. Again: you control your money.

Future prospects
I really believe in a system where you, the users, can control exactly how your money will be distributed. We could expand this to have you decide how to distribute the money over the artist, the producer, the song-writer and so on.

If the fans gets to decide who gets how much money, it will in effect put pressure on the people involved in music to advertise themselves, convincing you why they deserve your money. I truly believe that such a system will be benefitial. If the producer wants a big cut from your money, s/he will have to make it clear to the fans why s/he is needed, what purpose s/he serve. Very remenisent of how democracy is supposed to work.

I am also envisioning expanding this to letting you decide how we should distribute money inside the Stoffi project. How much should we spend on server, on domain, even on salaries (if we ever get that far). Of course, we will still have defaults, you could just say "here's five bucks" and be done with it. But you can also do precise adjustments of how to distribute your money if you choose to.

Giving you an easy way to actually vote with your wallet.