Artists Funded by Fans at Strayform.com

Posted by Levi in Reviews | 10.01.2007 at 8:37 am

strayform logo

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 🙂

An Overview

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.)

The Details

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.

Potential Problems

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!


3 responses on "Artists Funded by Fans at Strayform.com" »

Levi,

Thank you for the honest look at our site. It was very detailed and accurate.

Three quick notes:
Strayform can be used to fund any kind of media project, movies, books, music, games, software, research. It isn’t just for music.

Second, unlike our competition, everything on Strayform is Creative Commons licensed so that it can be used non-commercially anywhere. If your like a song put it up on your own site or burn copies for your friends.

Third, unlike the other sites you compared us to, our process is highly specialized for content creation. We protect both creator and funder and provide tools to negotiate and collaborate on the creation of new works.

Some comments on your critique (please give me your feedback on these comments)

Lechers:
Actually, I expect that many people will take advantage of the free content on Strayform and only contribute when they find something they really like. Creators will have to work hard to encourage funding and this will make for a more collaborative environment with better content produced. Also I hope that as Strayform becomes the norm, the total payment for media will drop for the average consumer. So freely enjoy our content and get behind projects you really find valuable.

Site Size:
Strayform is a very small team that uses only personal funds. We are in discussions with investors, but do not have the funds to market like the big boys now. However with our widgets you can raise funds using any site you currently are on so our size shouldn’t make a large impact in your funding efforts.

To Stream or Not to Stream:
Long term, I am not sure if we will stream or not. Our goal is to create new media content that can be used anywhere. Not streaming lets us take a variety of formats and sizes of files and leaves room for other companies to provide value-add by streaming, searching, aggregating the content created here.

Usability:
I’ve always put usability as one of the highest concerns of the site. In fact, you can get anywhere on Strayform in about 3 clicks. Personal navigation, page navigation, page actions, and search always fall on the same place everywhere. However, simply because our system is new and so elaborate it has a steep learning curve.

Design and Brand:
Our front page branding has always been our weak point. Any specific suggestions to make it clearer and more inviting are welcomed.

Yours,
Brandt Cannici
Founder
http://www.strayform.com
The Creation Network

Thanks for stopping by to clear things up Brandt! 🙂

celpe
Posted on January 11, 2008

Thanks for information. many interesting things there.

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