To change listener and artist membership standards

Our membership standards (aka “qualifying contributions”) for artists and listeners are able to be decided by members at a General Meeting. I find our current thresholds for membership to be confusing and odd – so I think we should change them! Here’s a proposal for how we can.

For listeners, the primary shift here is to raise the price of membership for folks in countries with powerful currencies and to create lower pricing tiers for folks in countries with less powerful currencies. Regular membership fees establishes a stable source of income for the co-op and makes us more independent.

For artists, the primary shift here is to switch from an input-based standard (artist contributes tracks), to an output-based standard (artist earns money). Many artists don’t release music every year, so our current “upload a song every two years” rule doesn’t work for them. An album published three years ago could be doing great on Resonate, but they’d lose membership anyway.

Proposal

Every user arriving at Resonate is encouraged to contribute 15 EUR to immediately join the co-op. 10 EUR and 5 EUR contribution tiers are offered to folks from countries with less powerful currencies. The membership type granted is Listener-Member, recognizing that everyone is a listener. This amount autobills annually.

A Listener-Member’s membership is renewed automatically by spending 15 EUR worth of credits in a year on the Resonate Player. Adding credits to your account is not included; only credits spent listening.

To earn Artist-Membership, you need to receive at least one earnings payout (earnings threshold to be set at 15 EUR) a year from Resonate. If you have active Artist-Membership, you won’t be autobilled for Listener-Membership.

Footnotes

15 EUR as our upper-range yearly expectation for listener membership would put us about equal with USA-based consumer cooperative REI, which expects folks to purchase 20 USD worth of merchandise per year to retain active membership.

Accepting the idea that artists couldn’t earn 15 EUR a year would mean we’re failing at our core concept. With our new music player and upcoming Artist Dashboard, we can expect higher earnings across the platform. Earning 15 EUR yearly for an artist is a low threshold. By comparison, fellow music co-op Ampled requires artist members to earn something like $30 a month! If an artist is earning 15 EUR a year, that means that the co-op is setting their membership fee at ~6.5 EUR vs the 15 EUR fee for listener members, since the co-op takes a 30% cut of earnings. Creating an artist membership standard focused on artists making money will spur our development to create tools by which artists can make money.

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If we allow a sliding scale for countries with different strengths of currency, why wouldn’t we afford the same consideration for artists with different expectations for audience appeal or earnings capability?

Technically, I am an artist in that I produce music-like sounds and made them available for people to stream on Resonate. However, I don’t have expectations that those tracks will garner a wide audience who will want to play them on repeat. One of them is a 33 minute longform drone ambient piece, for example. Not something I would ever expect to be in heavy rotation, but that wasn’t my objective. I honestly don’t expect to earn 15 EUR yearly given my small catalog, sporadic output, and niche appeal.

I’m okay with that, because I don’t do it “for business” and don’t have visions of “getting rich and famous”. My personal definition for success isn’t monetary-based or playcount-based, and that’s why the Resonate Manifesto appeals to me.

Requiring a minimum amount of annual earnings seems counter to that manifesto.

I do want to pull my weight to help Resonate thrive, and I agree that we must have objective standards by which we can gauge member contributions. But when it comes to artists, one-dimensional standards will invariably be inadequate. I think you’re on the right path in recognizing that “upload a song every two years” may be too restrictive. But I think changing from that one metric to one other metric only changes who will be disadvantaged. If Resonate must quantify whether or not someone “is an artist”, we must either be generous with simple rules or rigorous with complex rules.

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I appreciate you taking time to reflect on this, @remst8. One of the realities I’m trying to work through here is that Resonate is a business. Whether it is important or not to an artist to make money on Resonate is up to them and their listeners. But we can only host artists’ works on here if this business survives.

To be clear, our co-op has very little money. One of the surest ways to build stability and independence would be annual membership fees for all members, regardless of their role. That was the idea behind “listener member” being the default class for all members in my proposal. We’re all listeners and we all are expected to pitch in money (either via donation or via streaming) to keep this thing alive.

If artists who have music on Resonate want to propose their standards for artist membership, I’d love to hear more ideas; it’s up to us of course, not me. But I’m nervous for it to be something entirely disconnected from the co-op having dependable income. Creating a low, yet achievable earning standard for artist membership at the co-op seemed one way to keep us focused on our goal of the co-op and artists getting financial support.

What are some other standards you’d consider for artist membership?

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From my perspective as a non-artist, it seems like the two main opposing poles in this discussion are:

  • Is Resonate a museum/vault of tracks keeping music safe from the pollution of money and metrics
  • Is Resonate a business with a roadmap, goals it has to pay for, and workers it supports, artists who depend on it for some side money?
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I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone in our community argue for the first point. Instead, I see discussions about business strategy entirely within the second point, more or less informed by social position and experience. Within the argument @Hakanto offers, I see a (no doubt unintended) argument for abandoning Listener volume (and diversity) as the core component for the platform’s success.

I fear that would be a disaster for the coop in business, artistic and social terms.

In my view, diverse, adventuresome Listener volume is the key to Resonate’s success. There are both qualitative and quantitative requirements to be met.

Our present roadmap is based on satisfying both of these core components: diverse adventure (this is a quality) + volume (quantity).

To build a cohort of diverse adventuresome Listeners sufficient to secure the platform (about 1000 times present volume) it must have the trust and support of diverse and adventuresome artist-based networks and communities.

To build that trust, I believe we must resist imposing additional barriers, obstacles and expectations of “engagement” upon artist members beyond basic legal and commercial requirements and standards of good conduct. Their grant of commercial association and access to their work is the contribution from which all other operations of the co-op depend. The grant of work, and the relations it fosters, might well represent the totality of engagement required of them. This is not an uncommon condition in the commercial lives and social context of many mature and successful artists. The coop’s success (a mixture of specific social qualities plus high volume) depends on being welcoming and able to work with artists whose complicated social relations require these austere standards.

It is true that diversity and adventure make securing a business more difficult but for some people these are the qualities that make the endeavor worth doing. I often say that the number of truly adventuresome Listeners is a ‘Vast Minority’ of the Listening population. I put it at about 0.5%.

It is difficult, but not impossible to secure a business that cultivates and caters to this sector of the Listening population. However, it is impossible to do this without the trust and support of people who create and control the work that diverse and adventuresome Listeners will seek out and reward commercially.

It is Resonate’s good fortune to include among its members and longterm advocates a small number of people who have helped to foster careers (and movements) for producers of diverse adventuresome music (often including themselves).

I do not see them clamoring for a radical rewrite of the basic business offer to reduce Resonate’s dependencies on diverse adventure and high volumes.

Instead, I see a cohort of people advocating for the platform to develop the technical capacity to support the high volume of diverse, adventuresome Listenership necessary to sustain itself and reward the Artist networks upon which it both depends and serves.

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For me, the standard is simple: I contributed music.

And that’s the crux of my allergic reaction–that conditions exist where my music would still be available on Resonate for people to listen to, but I would no longer be recognized for that contribution. Further, if I contribute code as well as music that earns large amounts of money, how do you classify my membership?

Who I am, or the role I am performing is temporal, but my contributions to the co-op are not (unless I choose to remove them).

I agree, so I will suggest a counter-proposal that build’s on Nick_M’s suggestion in the “rename membership classes” proposal:

  • To be a Resonate co-op member, you pay the annual fee. That fee may vary to account for your financial reality and Resonate’s need to endure.
  • You may be able to offset the annual fee through your contributions to the co-op. (e.g. via stream revenue for music you uploaded, being paid to write code, etc.)
  • Through your interaction with the co-op, you may fulfill one or many roles (e.g. listening to music, uploading music, writing code, shepherding the community), but this does not alter the fact that you are a member. Nor is performing any of those roles a requirement for being a member. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
  • If it is important to the community to recognize the kind of contributions each member has made, we could use attributes, badges, etc. If you contributed X, you earned that attribute. These attributes should be static, for as long as your contribution is “in use” by Resonate.
  • If we need a way to recognize which role(s) members are actively engaged in, those can also be attributes, badges, etc. While you are contributing as role Y, you have that attribute. These attributes may come and go, reflecting whether the member is actively engaged in performing those roles (with reasonable buffer to allow for slack time/rotating across roles).
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I come from a community that is suspicious of ‘pay to play’ in all its forms.

Offering Membership (control) to artists solely for work shared (without any additional fee) is a powerful distinguishing feature between Resonate and other platforms (like Soundcloud).

I feel it is welcoming, respectful and just for the coop to recognize value in the artist’s labor at the very beginning of the relationship.

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Hi all,

I really appreciate this conversation and everyone’s perspectives here!

I am still unsure of the best way to handle this topic moving forward, but some of my thoughts are below.

I’ve always had the vision that Resonate was a business with the goal of supporting its members and the greater community with a fairer and more sustainable way to stream music.

With that said, when I heard that an artist’s minimum contribution to become a member was…

I always felt that was a little lenient.

I respect all of the views and arguments for artists listed above, but if I understand this correctly, it always made me cringe at the fact that basically anyone could just create an audio clip, upload it to the platform, and have full-membership abilities for the next two years - unless we vetted the clips or accounts to make sure they’re “actually” artists and not just doing it to avoid paying listener membership fees.

If we want Membership to be widely available to people and don’t care much about it being an income stream for Resonate, then I think this current setup could be fine. We would just have to consider though if uploading a track is worth the right to vote at Resonate and potentially share in the profits.

I do like @remst8 's idea of having badges to signify roles of “membership” and I believe somewhere earlier in the year we floated the idea around of having one membership class with different ways to earn a full membership. (Example: upload 1 track = 50 membership points, volunteer 1 hour at the co-op = 20 membership points, pay €15 = 100 membership points; 100 membership points in total needed to become a member).

The only thing with that is we would still have to debate how many “points” each activity was worth, and it may be a bit complex for what we need right now.

Overall, although I still think it’s important that qualifications to become a member are made a bit stricter for the future, I think the most important thing now is to welcome others and get them streaming music on the platform, so I am okay with keeping membership a bit more lenient for now.

This would make streaming income the primary source of revenue for Resonate, and I think that once the infrastructure is fully in place, we could do a lot of good focusing on scaling here.

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I want to add clarifications to my original post which I think was misleading. This proposal was meant as a template for folks to riff off of, critique, tear apart, whatever – and I’m glad to see that. We all ultimately get a vote on this kind of thing, so I perhaps underestimate that a proposal on such a potentially divisive topic can be a big stone thrown in the water.

It was flippant to say Resonate is a “failure” if we don’t meet a particular payout level for artists annually. I just really care about artists being rewarded for their work, here or anywhere. I want our platform to work smoothly as a service. Gets me feisty.

Artist accounts on Resonate are free to signup, with the co-op taking 30% of earnings. That’s the current standard I don’t think anyone’s got a mission to change. Any artist can sign up, upload, and get paid. But an artist account is different from artist membership.

By our current artist membership standard, there isn’t much of a distinction between the resonate catalog and voting artist members. Maybe there should be. I feel a bit of injustice that a committed artist in our community might have the same voting power as a troll who uploads a minute long clip of them sneezing every two years.

If folks aren’t aware of the current membership rules, it may be hard to feel like they are really your own standards. That’s what I hoped to help with; building more awareness of how things currently work and that members have the right to change them if they wish. Sorry if this proposal added more confusion than clarity.

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Thank you for the clarifications, @Hakanto. Nothing wrong with throwing big stones in the water, as far as I’m concerned. You certainly got some engagement! :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you for also raising my awareness of the distinction between “artist accounts” and “artist memberships”. It has been too long since I have read our documentation about this; I will try to do that soon so I can provide informed feedback.

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All good things @Hakanto! I appreciate your additional reminders here, and for your willingness to bring this issue to the forefront.

I agree that Resonate wouldn’t be a “failure” if we don’t meet a particular payout level for artists, as there are a handful of factors that go into this payout. However, I do agree that if Resonate was something that could support artists socially - through our forum, AND financially - through our streaming platform, that would be a game-changer for how people interact with music, and would be a wonderful thing to accomplish!

I think part of the confusion here comes with what you’ve clarified in that

Besides voting as a perk of membership (and potentially sharing in profits) what other perks are there for becoming a Resonate member? Should voting rights be enough to encourage people to become members? I think first clarifying, or adding more value to what being a Resonate member means could help us come back to better qualifications for membership.

It is exciting to think however that we can focus both on welcoming new artists and listeners to the platform AND improving the value and qualifications for membership since being a listener or artist on Resonate is different than being a lister-member or artist-member.

Side-note: Even if we had a more structured/static approach to membership (I kinda prefer this to the points idea I threw out above), I still think it would be neat to have different badges and varying privileges for diferent memberships. This way, you would still be encouraged to be involved with Resonate in a few different ways, if you’d like, even though you would still only have 1 vote and (ideally) one account, if you wanted.

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I’m personally also in the super-niche no listeners camp and so would feel disincentivized by the €15 payout proposal.

I would imagine that Resonate would benefit from a serious influx of back catalogue in the long term. Resonate could/should be as much a platform for me to keep abreast of new german-death-reggae as to seek out 90s-shoegaze I missed the first time around. I would think that maintaining catalogue is potentially as valuable as contributing new material. I’m not sure where that leaves either metric of artist membership (2 yearly uploads or €15 payout) or how to approach measuring the value of works contributed vs costs of running the platform but I’m wary of disincentivising artists/uploads.

Elsewhere, in a discussion on supporting DJs needs and downloading tracks @macmac said:

I really want to see more music on Resonate, and therefore more artist members, as a route to more listener members. Making artist membership as open as possible seems preferable from this perspective.

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Late 2 the game but some of my thoughts that definitely regurgitate a lot of what is mentioned:

  1. I agree it’s important to keep a sense of sobriety of the co-op’s needs (re: upping the annual member fee, applying an automatic payment cycle to pay the actual fee)
  • Within this, I think the notion of the sliding scale is noble in intention, and we do need to consider the weight of 5-15 euros relative to position, but I also don’t want us to be rushed about this. 15 euros a year is on par with REI’s expectation, but it’s also distinctly very easy to accomplish this expectation given the average price of product put out by REI — I think you can maybe get stickers and some socks there for under 15 dollars, so like the average person clears it with just one purchase. That isn’t nearly as easy on the player. The lifetime membership fee is 20 dollars, and while every year that amount is expected to be purchased, this is a notoriously low threshold because REI gives it’s members 10% off purchase thus incentivizing purchase there and not somewhere else. I think the other consideration is that when we say purchasing credits but not using those credits is a distinction, we get into weird territory with whether or not we’re providing a catalog that sufficiently allows for this use of credits. REI doesn’t lack in providing what it’s consumers want. We’re getting there, but at this current moment, it’s hard to argue our catalog is as robust as it should be.

But anyways, more impt stuff — @remst8 I think nails it with not swapping one arbitrary metric for another, as @richjensen points out the very clear importance of not in anyways disincentivizing artists from approaching the platform. Objectively, we’re young, we’re small, and our relationship in the market involves attracting artists to us, not the other way around. We need to provide the benefits before we build towards re-evaluating the artist membership is my potentially hot take. The listener membership, yah, I think we can finagle with it. But it’s a little presumptive to ask for so much in this current stage (maybe that’s harsh, idk!)

Additionally, I’m honestly not principally for evaluating the the morality and weight of an artists contributions making some votes more legitimate than others, somehow. @Hakanto i know you mentioned directly that you’re concerned about catalog artists and voting members and the delegitimizing of voting power. That’s a perspective that admittedly I wholeheartedly disagree with.

  1. I don’t think (realistically) the average troll is going to take advantage of their voting power anyways, and like some kind of co-op ending apocalyptic assault on randos is probably deeply in tin foil hat area (that is to say, a little paranoid).
  2. Who cares if they do? When we start building our policy around engaging and enabling people we “like” or “care more” to feel their vote matters more, or is more informed, we risk inevitably sliding into constructing our membership policy around favoring those who achieve the most success by the co-op’s parameters. We shouldn’t conflate the desire to encourage people to become active co-op members from creating a policy that favors them and alienates potentiality. A member is a member is a member. How that power is used shouldn’t be shaped by the often misguided notion that less enthralled engagement invalidates active engagement. I think as we all know, there about a million different historical cases that point to this being a terribly isolating tactic when it comes to democratic voting policy. Our mission is to construct governance that inspires artists to engage more, not cut out those who engage less (huge hill I’m willing to die on quite honestly). Badges might be the right approach here, but as stated by like, everyone, a lower threshold with room to build up keeps the gates open
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I enjoy hearing additional perspectives like the ones above for this topic, so thanks for commenting!

@thehouseorgan, I would love to see more music on Resonate as well! My only pushback would be: Do you think artists wouldn’t want to put their music on Resonate if it wasn’t extremely viable for them to become a member? From my understanding, people can be artists on the platform without also being artist members, and that is perfectly fine, so it could make it worthwhile to have a more value-driven approach toward artist-member qualifications in exchange for Resonate adding more value to the artist through additional perks…kinda thinking like how they have Bandcamp Pro for $10/month.

@sganesh, never too late to add your awesome insight as well! You bring up some interesting points when comparing the REI membership to Resonate’s, and I appreciate your moral viewpoints of the conversation as well. Where I start to take a different stance compared to you is in talking about how to deal with these potential “trolls.” From my perspective, I don’t care too much about their voting power devaluing others’ because I agree when you mention how a member is a member. My only issue would be around the fact that if there are minimal requirements to become an artist member, and being an artist member grants you the same or similar power than any other member-class, it would be smart for most people to be artist members, therefore bypassing any potential revenue for the co-op, and potentially devaluing other artists on the platform who truly care about their art and are more committed to Resonate.

With this said, I also think…

A. This community seems to be very down to earth and respectful, so I don’t see many “trolls” taking advantage of Resonate like this.

B. Even if people eventually took advantage of the lenient artist-member qualifications, I think the revenue from the streaming platform would still be a majority of Resonate’s total revenue, therefore hopefully not impacting much when it comes to supporting the Co-op financially.

Overall, my thoughts on the topic come down to preserving the integrity of being a Resonate member, and generating revenue for the co-op, but it is important that everyone feels welcome and that becoming a member at Resonate is something that is reasonably attainable for them too.

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Great question and, tbh, I’ve no idea. I like the idea that contributing music (I recognise there are other contributions too but am focused upon music here) gives you a say in the governance of the platform. Perhaps that’s actually a sense of entitlement I hold that needs challenging.

The simple bit - I agree with @sganesh that there’s more room to finagle with listener membership at this stage.

The reflective philosophical bit - Thinking through this ‘entitlement’: I make unpopular music >>> I ascribe it my own value separate from e.g., popular value metrics such as sales or plays >>> I expect Resonate to adhere to my valuation of my work despite the other factors that might require it to operate under a different value system.

I’m forgetting that value is something generated dynamically through interaction with other systems. In this case, my work also needs to create value, e.g., listenership, within the platform/community.

I use the term listnership here though because an artist’s work could contribute to bringing listeners even if few direct plays. I’m thinking that if a particular genre community established a strong presence here it might attract listeners though not all artists would attract the same level of listens. Listens are distributed over time, perhaps a popular example of a genre might lead to deeper exploration of said genre, leading to a ‘forgotten’ band having a resurgence of listening. Is potential listnership of value?

The weight of my initial reaction against artist-membership being tied to €15 payout, is simply the likelihood of me losing artist-membership under such conditions. It’s probably flawed of me to think this way, and it should be challenged, but, it’s still worth considering the risk others might think like this and how it might disincentivise them.

At the same time Resonate needs to be constantly addressing/readdressing how it ascribes value ethically (something I think it is doing, including this thread, but I think it’s worth restating as it is important).

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Said it before, will say it again, but those who can have the luxury to “engage more” might often be precisely the ones who already own more as well as opposed to those who “engage less” being precisely the ones who (wether or not we consider that a good choice on their part) feel for multiple reasons that they don’t have the luxury of spending time on that because first they must ensure their ability to eat, house themselves etc.

Low engagement might and is often related to high needs, which in turn means that we actively need to seek the experience, knowledge and specificities of the “low engage crowd” so that we can answer to their realities.

It’s a good hill to die on I believe.

PS: let us never forget the original sin of Resonate is believing Streaming platforms in and of themselves (that is, separated from the datametrics they can sell from listeners and without adveritising) create value/money as a business. For now this has never happened and so this is why we’re having so many headaches to solve this weird puzzle of “what is worth what”.

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I desire to participate in a community that embraces the observation that popular and unpopular are so fluid as to be operationally meaningless as categories. In fact, the design success of this co-op as an enterprise will be determined by its resilience in the face of these fluid dynamics. Genre after genre, personality after personality, social tendency after social tendency moves from obscurity to global glare (and back again) in an instant in this society.

There are social conditions that attend to popularity. It is difficult to hide, difficult to change ones relation, social time becomes incredibly dense, relationships become stressed, one becomes a mark for every kind of hustle, great quantities of people intimately loath, misrepresent and threaten you for superficial reasons over which you have no control, etc… Resonate’s success will be determined by being as welcoming to Members suffering under these conditions as it will be by showing solidarity, tolerance and making every effort to minimize demands on anyone whose time and resources are precarious.

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Resurrecting this discussion now that I have read the Resonate Rulebook and the Operating Manual Requirements

I have a better understanding now about the different classes of membership, and how that granularity is used for governance and dividend distribution. That seems foundational to the co-op’s theory of operation, so I respectfully back away from my prior suggestion to eliminate them.

As far as I can tell, the documents I read refer to all participants in the co-op as members.

Reading between the lines, I infer:

  • Each person must have an account to interact with the service.
  • A person may have an account but not be a member under 2 circumstances:
    i. Their membership is still pending because the membership process has not yet completed.
    ii. Their membership has expired because they have not made another qualifying contribution per the standard.

Is that correct?

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