Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Crowd sauce? Would this be a crazy idea for funding DiS?

By crazy, I mean less bonkers than doing a deal with a non-music-minded or Murdoch-like media corp again. Or as in, less crazy than turning the whole thing back into an amateur project, with an hour or so of several peoples time spent on it a week... which, quite likely, would mean DiS going the way of Stylus (RIP) - although things are stable at the moment, so that isn't something people need to worry about.

Basically, in the current climate, we have ever-increasing reliance on annoying and irrelevant advertising (although praise be for the folks at Beggars Group who you may have noticed taking out a lot of ads as of this week to reach our 300k+ users). Worryingly, the value of advertising (especially Google ads) is falling and there have times recently when advertising has ground to a halt and I think there must be another way.... especially as DiS the brand has value, it just needs to speculate a little more than we can afford right now, to accumulate.

Anyway, I just saw http://www.waywesee.com/nl/info/about- basically its a crowd-funded, shares-like business model (a bit like Sellaband, Bandstocks) but for film-makers.

What I'm thinking, in a very wafty half-awake kinda way from germs of ideas I've had over the years, is something that either:

1) Takes the possibilities of what a DiS community could look like 3years from now and you all help fund the features you'd like be it an iPhone app that finds you nearby music fans looking for people to have a pint with or some follie, like a crazy mash-up of Last.fm and types of biscuits people who like a certain band like. And then, should this site make money, we all share in the profits, when things are ten times as big and every music fan in the world benefits from all the best ideas being prioritized... mostly because at the moment advertising isn't significantly funding things and we need more than one Tom (or at least one and half, part-time), as well as some editorial staff. Although, maybe you'd all fund DiS and decide we don't need to focus on editorial... This is what Twitter should do.

2) Writers suggest features or jobs they'd like to do and people pay for the ones they want to read. Like, I dunno, Kev Kharas to come back as news editor for an hour-a-day a week is £70 a week, and then when enough money is raised for a few weeks in-a-row, he starts doing it. Or Mike Diver says he wants to write 1000 words on 20 bands Mastodon/Deftones fans should check out - a bit like a personal shopper or in response to popular "where to start with threads?" - and users pay him to write the piece, rather than other pieces and share in the ad revenue from the article. Or the people who pay for articles can pay more to advertise beside them (so, I dunno, Dananana... take out a £100 album ad to pay Diver to do a feature about bands inspired by comedians - this is sort of how Japanese style/music mags work, as, from what I could gather, the advertisers pick the articles they'd like to sponsor/fund, although I'm sure there are or would be clear guidelines which we could come up with for avoiding nepotism).

Obviously, the downside might be that some of the bigger shareholders would most likely be labels and musicians with agendas beyond philanthropy (there's obviously practical ways we could avoid this being an issue), or even business-minded hedgefunds, but am sure there are ways of addressing that. I guess I just get a sense that people would really need to have a hope of getting something back or something more or they wouldn't cough any money up (or view it as some cynical pyramid scheme). And perhaps we could offer some shares, like travel miles/indie-points, for users who do helpful things, like posting links on Wikipedia, adding listings, (this is a half-idea I've had in the back of my mind for ages, probably since the first time I played with Wikipedia, that I think a certain type of person will do more grafting if they feel some sense of reward, even if it's just enough 'points' to get into some gigs for free or get access to certain music early or something - although I did suggest this idea http://www.orangerockcorps.co.uk/ for Live8 and think it'd maybe it's a better and more positive use of the idea).

3) It'd potentially be a sensible way for DiS to re-open (well, we still have Martha Wainwright signed, so technically we're on hiatus until her next album) its label... I'm just not sure there is enough potential revenue tho for many people to be able to get their money back. And, for instance, if it was say Youthmovies next album, it'd need a minimum of £10k to make it (let alone fund any specialist people to work on it) and am not sure there are enough fans (although maybe a 1000 people paying a tenner isn't too unreasonable, as I hear Patrick Wolf has raised a fair but but obviously has the benefit of major label exposure and a hardcore fanbase) with enough money to fund them making a record and tour and everything else. And I'm pretty sure, going by sellaband, etc the types of acts people end up with the funding are either ones with existing fanbases, rich relatives or that make palatable crap that was relevant 10years ago.

But perhaps this model make more sense for a way of funding some tracks or package tours (a bit like owngig.com) to help start some careers? And perhaps the idea needs to be a combination of ideas like milliondollarhomepage.com and creating some sort of fund for exceptional music. I know a friend of mine who was trying ot find 50 people to put in £50 each for a 7" singles club which was kinda a nice idea but not sure he found 50 willing people.

4) DiS could avoid these kinds of revenue-share ideas or traditional ideas and 'Do a Radiohead', allowing users to pay/donate what they want? Maybe a daily request to do so for an ad-free or premium selection of content? Although, the flaw I think is that I'd rather people paid because they liked something (rather than a pushy donation request, with the desperate air that without your money will we fail to exist), so it'd be clearly more like a tip or a thank you for a great review or reliable selection of suggestions of music to check out - and this could perhaps also apply to messageboarders who consistently give great and useful advice (sort of like 118 118 for music with any knowledgeable user making some beer money for their advice?)?



Jonathan said...

Great post - I've got a big interest in new media business models, and it's great to see some forward thinking in this area.

I've thought a lot about "online tip-jar" type business models for digital content - you got any views on sites like Tipjoy.com? Not sure it'd be possible to fund a whole site on micropayments, but it might be good for the odd feature, a la your second suggestion above.

Whichever method you choose, good luck, and please do keep writing posts like this on your thoughts and developments :-)

Raz said...

Wikipedia do their annual funding drive. Some is used for costs, some is for charity, some is for a massive pissup. I think it's the simplest way of doing it without a chicken egg scenario of needing to design a whole new relational system for honouring shareholders to help him get paid. Also, people just aren't used to buying articles like they buy magazines yet. Annual members' fees? Yes. Daily content fees which require thought for the decision? Not got the attention span yet. Ask for money incessantly for one month of every year until you find a better way.


Kev said...

I agree with Raz, I'm not sure people are ready to pay per article just yet.

Have you seen Bearded Magazine? I met Gareth who runs it at UnConvention in Belfast a couple of months back and he's doing a really good job. The mag is dedicated to independent bands and labels and he runs a thing called Beardaid online which, in exchange for a £2 per month subscription, gets you free copies of the printed zine plus lots of extra online content. http://beardedmagazine.co.uk/wp/wp-login.php?action=register - Obviously it wouldn't work exactly for DiS as there's no printed output, but a similar model could certainly be possible.

From the label side of things, the Friend of The Family website (http://www.bsmrocks.com/friend) and the 2009 Collection subscription series of compilation CDs (http://www.bsmrocks.com/shop) have both proven very successful for us, both in terms of popularity and funding.

Anonymous said...

I think what you have done there my friend is hit the wall. You know how this ends. You either suck it up, and move out the basement - the only sure fire way of doing that is to suckle on the Big 3's teet and get paid to xpromote their releases/tours/merch.

Or You try to carve the new niche in webzines. How have Pitchfork done it? well I dunno but the last time I worked for them they gave me $10 for a nights work, not including travel and I gave them 5 shots. 5!!

That put me off doing anything for them again.

I think you face the same financial issue that all pubs do, what is the business model? How do you sell it on advertising revenue alone, and as you rightly say, Google Adwords has become a quagmire of poor un-related listings.

I think it is actually the ad model which is where it is all falling down. I think you should look at http://buysellads.com/buy/detail/485/ and see how much of a huge impact they are having on the design blog community. Then maybe see if you have a way of pushing out a new ad model which you can then resell to the millions of music blogs on the net.

THAT! I think is where you solve the good ship DiS's financial issues and then I think you will have more interest from people desperate for coverage (Like me) who want to come back into the fold.

treblekicker said...

Thanks for the mention of Owngig.com - who I work for. It seems to be working well for us and I'd recommend it.

What about giving exclusive mp3s to those who give you money. You could do it as a revenue share with the record labels to encourage them to give you the content?

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