This is a copy of a thread I published on Mastodon this afternoon.


This is the beginning of a thread about the Fediverse, #Funkwhale, how to support #creators and content #monetization

I’ve got a lot of ideas these days. One of them is to bring Funkwhale to the next level by including creators and enable users to give back to them, straight from their Funkwhale instance.

First let me elaborate a bit on what I believe is a problem when users pay to access a content.

This is the beginning of a thread about the Fediverse, #Funkwhale, how to support #creators and content #monetization

I’ve got a lot of ideas these days. One of them is to bring Funkwhale to the next level by including creators and enable users to give back to them, straight from their Funkwhale instance.

First let me elaborate a bit on what I believe is a problem when users pay to access a content.

Sure the bandwidth/storage costs matters, but they are a fraction of the cost of a physical good.

On popular marketplaces and streaming services (Google Play, Spotify, Netflix…), you are paying either on a per-file (e.g. you download an app) or on a per-access basis (you pay X€ a month to access a library).

Paying per-file is usually easier to reason about: you pay 10€, the marketplace keeps X% and gives the rest back to the file creator.

Paying per-access is a much more blurry area: you pay 10€ a month, the service will keep its share and give the remaining amount back to… Someone?

Actually, it depends on the internal policy of the service.

Usually, on those services, there is a direct correlation between what you access and how much creators receives. The service will pay a fixed amount, 1€ for X access/views/listenings/downloads…

In this scenario, most popular creators get more money than small ones.

I can’t emphasize enough how much both models sucks, both for content creators and comsumers.

In both, the service holds a huge amount of power:

  • It can remove a content at any time, for any reason.
  • Because it receives the money in the first place, it can also increase its cut whenever it wants.
  • Because of the centralization of content and consumers on a handful of services, creators have usually no leverage to negociate better conditions.

Creators get less for their work. How does it suck for consumers?

If creators get less, it means they will have less resources to produce quality content. Please, don’t lie, you want quality content that is not filled with ads, product placements, buzz stuff…

Big services libraries are really valuable to those companies, thus this increase the tendency to implement DRM systems. Those system are broken by design and dangerous for privacy.

There is a lock-down effect of using those services: they work in silos and attract a lot of creators.

The bigger they are, the worst it gets, crushing alternative services, reducing, here again, the quality and variety of the global content.

Regardless of the good or bad behaviour of the actors operating those models, I believe paying to access content is an issue in itself, as it means people without money or a credit card cannot access the content.

And because the act of paying is enforced by the distributors, all the content is hosted on the internet, in silos, and it is not replicated elsewhere.

Thus, you also need an internet connexion to grab your content from Netflix or Spotify whenever you want to consume it. It’s not possible to create local or offline mirrors of those silos.

In the end, do we really need payment and content consumption to happen at the same time?

The way I see it, most if not all of Those issues comes from fear: creators that publish their content on those services are afraid people will consume their content without giving back anything to them.

And this is quite understandable. When you work hard on something, you want to know it will give you financial security in the future, so you can focus on other projects.

However, how is this actually working for most creators? How many of them are earning a living from their Spotify royalties? Of the revenues generated by advertising on their YouTube views?

Also: how stable is that source of income? If your revenue depends directly on your popularity, you’ll become poor the day you loose popularity or visibility.

Some creators (and consumers, as well) think like this:

“If I don’t sell my stuff, and give it for free, people will take it and I won’t get anything”.

But they usually forget this: if you sell your stuff, a lot of people won’t be able to access it, to share it, to pay for it.

If you’re hiding your content behind a paywall, you’re effectively lowering your visibility and your ability to reach new people.

The truth is, people are not stupid.

If they like what you do, they will want you to do more of it. And they will help you to do that if they can.

But for this to work, you have to trust people.

Sounds scary, right?

As a consumer, this is what comes to my mind when I puchase content:

  • How much the creator will get from my purchase? 10%? 20%? What a shame.
  • The creator already gets a lot of money, I’d rather give that money to someone with less resources.
  • I want to support the creator, but I don’t really care about the CD/File/Game/Whatever

Basically it’s about sending some money down a pit and hope a fraction of it will reach the creator (which is not really the case).

What I want is to know what creators needs.

Do they need more money, or do they have enough?

Do they need feedback on their work?

Do they need technical help with a new project?

Do they need people to share information about an upcoming event?

Sometimes you can you can pay, and sometimes you can’t.

Does it really matters, if the creator is already earning enough?

This is what I have in mind:

  1. We have a network of content servers (Peertube, Funkwhale, MediaGoblin instances…). Those servers are hosting and replicating the content (music, videos, whatever), making it available on the internet, for free (this is important)
  2. Creators publish their content on those servers
  3. Creators define needs/goals in a standardized way. Those are also made available publicly

(3. Could be based on ActivityPub, but let’s focus on the bigger picture here)

Sample needs could be:

  • Receiving 500€ a week for my work on X
  • Get help to organize a concert in town Y
  • Get user feedback about my new project Z so I can fix the last issues
  • Receive 1500€ to finance my next video project

Now, imagine content servers get a little smarter.

Typically, your Funkwhale instance could use your listening history to suggest you a few creators you like that also happen to need help.

Hell, you could even define a monthly budget on Liberapay, connect it to your PeerTube instance, and let PeerTube dispatch your donations based on your views to creators that need it the most!

This is not a new idea: Flattr does that. But it’s centralized.

As a creator, you could share various channels to get your financial contributions: a Liberapay account, a Ğ1 or Bitcoin address, an IBAN, a PayPal account, a Patreon or Tipeee page, a Flattr address…

No need to force your audience to use a specific channel.

Most of this could be semi or fully automatized.

Most of those channels are also pretty good in terms of transaction fees. Basically, you get more than 95% of the money that pours in.

Is it better to receive tips than getting payed when the content is accessed? Yes.

Because now, you can get contributions at anytime. If someones listen to some music you published two years ago, they can support you the same.

Sure, you may get less tips, but it’s a choice between a few cents every 1000s access, or almost 100% of all the tips you receive.

Also, because everything you release is publicly accessible, nothing stands between you and your audience.

People can access your content the way they are the most comfortable with, and give back to you straight

Having all at the same place provides a way better user experience.

Finally, and it’s probably the most important thing to me, money is not required to access culture anymore (which is quite antisocial, when you think about it).

All the burden of managing DRM systems, access control, complex royalties scheme, all the piracy guilt and shame, all of the projects that died by lack of audience and could have work, all of this become irrelevant.

Because we chose to trust each other.

From a technical standpoint, there are still things to figure to make this possible.

Especially, we need a way to reliably link creators to their content. If we figure that, the rest should be easier.

I can’t see any other blocking points right now.

As a user, would you use this?

As a creator, would you accept to give free access to your content if you get a bigger audience and a proper infrastructure to receive donations in exchange?