Sick of not only paying for music downloads, but to have DRM applied to them so their use is limited? I think a lot of people are, especially the members of a new site I found called Strayform. Today we’ll take a look at the site and what it could mean for the music industry.
(While I don’t handle the CD reviews, I have no problem critiquing a startup company!)
Strayform.com – The Creation Network!
The first problem here is that the site’s name, logo, and tagline leave me clueless as to what it does. After looking at the logo for a while, I realized it consisted of headphones, a book, a picture, and a video camera. That got things started, but if I wasn’t able to read the reviews at KillerStartups, TechCrunch, CNET, and Fox News, I probably would have been lost.
A couple quotes come in handy though:
Brandt Cannici has a new start-up called Strayform that promises to offer creatives a new way to establish economic sustainability for their projects. [CNET]
So that means there’s money 🙂
… a revolutionary new tool for independent musicians (which also happens to turn the business model of the music industry upside-down!) [Joe from Strayform]
And this means something new and exciting 🙂
So here is how I sum things up…
A musician will sign-up at Strayform and get a profile, as they would at any other social network. But the aspect that is “turning the business model of the music industry upside-down” is the proposal system. The musician creates a proposal to, for example, create a new album. Then that write-up and a budget for the proposal are posted on the site.
From there, fans see the proposal and pledge money towards the goal. When the goal is met, the musician creates the music, and then everyone can download it for free. (If the goal is not reached, each pledge is refunded.)
Brandt says “Its like you and some friends pitching together to buy a $10 CD. Each person may put in a different amount, some may put in none at all, but if the $10 is reached the CD can be purchased.”
So it ends up a win-win situation for the producer and consumer. (Places like record labels and iTunes are left out in the cold though.)
It seems Strayform has the process under control. It’s easy to sign-up, create a proposal, and pledge amounts as low as $5. You can pledge with credit card or PayPal, but I’d use the PayPal processing because the on-site system didn’t show up as totally secure in my browser.
Artists are provided with a neat widget they can copy and paste into their Myspace profiles to bring added exposure to their proposal. Fans could help promote in that way, too.
Fans might get cool perks if they make big pledges. For example, one artist offered “All pledgers will be credited on my website. The top 3 pledgers will received an autographed copy of the score. Thanks!”
One thing that’s missing is a streaming music player. While it’s great to be able to download all the free music, I’d prefer to listen to it first so that I don’t download stuff I don’t like.
The other thing that’s missing is a large user base. I signed up as member 349. I’d take that to mean the membership levels are a little lower than desired. Strayform definitely needs more members to get things rolling.
No new company is going to have it easy, and Strayform certainly faces its share of uphill battles.
Aside from simply getting A LOT more members, Strayform needs to attract some paying members. Plenty of freeloaders will stop by to download some music, but how many will be looking for new artists to support?
Firstly, it’s an issue with the “public goods.” People that don’t donate can still reap the rewards of the free music, artwork, etc. What’s the incentive to pledge? (Yes, artists may offer perks to those offering top pledges, but someone who just wants free music won’t care about that.)
Secondly, the pledging members are integral to the business model. Without pledges, the whole idea and business model could die.
Thirdly, just to put things in perspective, there will need to be A LOT of pledges for any artists to get anywhere if the $5 minimum pledge is used. Let’s say there are 1,000 members. If a proposal gets a 2% conversion, that’s 20 pledges. At $5 each, that’s $100. Hardly enough for a recording studio.
Getting into the heart of the matter, as interesting as the main idea is, it’s not totally revolutionary. Group funding like this can happen in other places. For example, Fundable.org allows for strangers to form groups to make bulk purchases, based on pledges and the “all or nothing” concept. MobIncentive.com allows groups to pile up cash for an end goal. So a band could make a request on one of those sites and random people throw in some cash. Even SponsorAnything.com would let a band post a listing for a deal like this.
Those sites may lack the targeted user base, but they have plenty of users.
Moving on, the site’s image needs some refinement. It’s not bad, but adding a few simple background images and style tweaks could do wonders for the overall appearance. (I can’t say too much because InsidePunk.com is in desperate need for a redesign too…)
The website’s usability gets a little messy though. I keep looking for a consistent navigation, or at least a “Back to all artists” link on the individual pages. And the search box in the top right corner says “Search” twice, which takes up extra screen real estate, and could be cut down similarly to the search at Amazon.com.
Next, branding. The logo wasn’t totally clear at first glance, and I’m concerned that the tag line “The Creation Network” doesn’t encompass the whole of Strayform. It’s kind of vague.
Only big, established brands with marketing budgets can get by with a generic tag line that does not actually describe the business. Coca Cola’s “the real thing” doesn’t tell me anything about beverages; I only associate Coca Cola with “the real thing” because of the extensive advertising.
Lastly, competition. Sell A Band operates on a similar idea. Fans all donate $10 for an artist, then at the $50,000 mark, a CD gets made, and each “believer” who donated gets one. They certainly have the lead when it comes to website popularity.
The Good News
I hate DRM crap and the music that uses it, so Strayform’s idea is sweet. (Although places like Ruckus are ok, especially if combined with DRM-busting software like TuneBite or Mirakagi.)
I have a feeling that big things could happen once the site gets noticed, especially since the Sell A Band business model appears to be working.
Also, the fact that there is competition makes the horizon that much brighter for everyone involved. Those competing sites are pretty popular and are seeing some funding, so that just proves that Strayform has potential.
Maybe we’re seeing a music revolution. First, Myspace and PureVolume allowed better connections between musicians and fans. Then Sell A Band came in and functioned as a middleman between bands and fans. Now Strayform will allow direct connections between fans and artists of all varieties (even those not looking for an entire $50,000!)
So if you want to get in on the action, sign-up today at Strayform.com!