Culture Pledge (arts media and crowdfunding project)

Hey guys - I’m Sal and I’m the founding editor of a new site called CulturePledge.com. Our mission is to grow the arts crowdfunding space.

The short term plan is to get our arts and culture blog off the ground. We’re also aiming to launch our own arts crowdfunding platform in beta within the next 6 months. We’ve applied for a grant from GFTW to help us reach those goals.

I’ve been working on the project alone for about a month now. (In some ways I’ve been working on it my whole life but that’s another story.) It’s going pretty good so far. We cracked the top 1 million on the alexa site rankings today (yay). I’m now at the stage where I’d like to start working with more writers or other creative contributors.

We’re planning to focus maybe half our content on the arts crowdfunding niche directly. The rest of our content will be about whatever inspires us, so long as there’s some relationship to the core theme. This could be any arts topics (eg. retrospective pieces, profiles, reviews, interviews, opinions), crypto, startups, equity crowdfunding, universal basic income, thought pieces on topics like decentralization or creative and financial freedom, and of course, web monetization!

If you or anyone you know might be interested in contributing, I’d really appreciate an intro!

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Nice. Your last post talks about Basic Income. Do check out the folks at Artist Rescue Trust (A.R.T.). I could connect the dots if you’re interested in chatting to them.

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Also congrats on the site gaining popularity. Have you considered web monetizing it too? Since it’s Wordpress based you could use the plugin.

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Cool! We independently came to this same core idea: “art is what makes us human”. Seems like there’s crossover with what I’m trying to do. I’ll take a closer look. Thanks for posting.

The way I see it is something like kickstarter works really well for some artists today, but it’s not for everyone. A site like that that’s for artists by artists (FABA!) might work even be better. Not all artists (struggling like crazy or otherwise) who should be/deserve to be funded want to create a pitch to sell a campaign, though. And not everyone has a strong enough fanbase or network to be sure they can raise a significant enough sum of money. Our team wants to work with artists to follow the crowdfunding model despite all of that, to do things in a way that’s both true to the artist’s vision and to the specific needs of their project.

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Coil looks like a pretty great solution. I’m thinking of trying it out for either the crowdfunding campaign payments, or to onboard paid annual subscribers, or both. For subscriptions you pay, say, $10/yr to:

  1. help cover the site operations costs
  2. automagically add an equitable proportionate amount of seed funding to every single art campaign for the next year
  3. pay into a sort of mini-endowment that’s 100% used to back campaigns (but at the discretion of our staff)
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Hey @sal this is great! Ive had a lot of very similar ideas for the theatre and dance industries. Ive been speaking with several blockchain companies about tokenising choreographies and productions as a means of equity crowdfunding and art investment. Ive also talked to a handful of prominent choreographers and directors about it. Obviously coronavirus has put many artists in a bad situation but its really opened a lot of people’s minds and there is a real drive to innovate in the digital world and find novel solutions. If you are interested Id love to find a time to talk and see how we might collaborate. balletrising@gmail.com

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Great! I’ll send you an email.

Something I don’t think I brought up anywhere is that the impetus of my project was the idea of equity crowdfunding applied to smaller art projects, namely music. For example, say you’re a musician who plans to record and release a new song on streaming services. You could raise a few bucks to help you out and then later have a % of your revenues payed out directly to your backers (micropayments made possible thanks to crypto).

Most indie music projects will NOT deliver a good ROI. But a community surrounding a project like that could perhaps bolster some good songs enough to make them “hits”, at which point the financial dynamics change. To leverage the system’s potential to launch those hits, you could set something up where people invest in a pool of various music projects which offers a decent aggregate ROI. In one way it’d work like a small indie record label and in one way it’d work like an (extremely transparent) public financial company.

Even when some people lose money overall they’d be happy to have supported the artists to the tune of, say, $10-$100 per year, and then receiving only, say, $5-$50 back (or wtvr the eventual return might be). Of course, people could also invest much more cash directly into any project. Participating bigger name artist would offer a greater chance of profitability.

Who wouldn’t be interested in owning a piece of their favourite up and coming musical artist? Imagine if you’d invested in Lady Gaga’s first hit! I’m sure you’d still be earning revenues on that today. Anyways, while I think what I’m proposing here would be feasible technically, maybe leveraging something like Distrokid + Coil, the regulatory hurdles are perhaps still too great to make it worth pursuing…

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Helloi @sal I am Irene, present with a proposal on ethical digital and
Involved in the monetization of aural content for non english-speaking artists in an experience of bilingual aural monetization.
Also involved in digitally associating various forms of art.

I am interested in writing about language barriers as an opportunity to open on the culture of others in aural performance or written creation;
art creation incorporating writing [«Livre-objet» for instance – literally an object-book – I mean a complex work of art incorporating elements such as essay, poetry, typography, sound, voice… having the appearance of a book; I refer to artists such as Marinetti (Italy), Duchamp, South American Krasno, Neruda, Paz, today Martine Dubois (France), Matthiew Reihnart (USA) and many more].
To collaborate: netiskiv@gmail.com

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Thanks for your interest! I had a brainstorm the other day with a collaborator and the idea came up to feature artists and/or artisans who are refugees. This may relate with that. Do you have an idea of how you would tie this into crowdfunding or web monetization?

Hi Sal,
What I have in mind to write about is a bit different but I already planned in my proposal two cross-languages test beds for web monetization. We are going to test concurrently with coil directly and using the APIs from another environment. In one experiment, we consider mixing human voice, poetry, writing, in two languages through video. In fact, all depend on the artist’s work and what we can recreate, re-image, talk, sing with it.

It could apply as well to refugee artists, especially if their written language / typography is visually different from our alphabet.

However, I will design the full experiment if we get finance from the grant.

Does it make sense to you?

Crowdfunding is different in essence.
Irene

I have a better picture of your idea now :slight_smile: Still I think it’s probably the type of thing that needs to be experienced to be understood properly. Culture Pledge will be happy to look at publishing a piece on your work once it comes to fruition. Also, with regard to crowdfunding, you could perhaps use our platform later on to finance furthering your work.

Hi Sal,
That’s a nice idea. I will go ahead with the work and storyboard.
Will get back to you once I make some progress.
Cheers
Irene

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This thread’s a month old today so I figured I’d post a quick update:

  • We’ve received ~15 submissions (amazingly from writers in 9 different countries). None are published but a handful will be soon.
  • We’re paying writers $0.10 per word and giving them the option of paypal or crypto.
  • Our first official interview is tomorrow for a part-time assistant role.
  • Our most popular post is an interview piece with crypto artist Connie Digital
  • We’re doing some planning for our crowdfunding platform, a forum, and a small VR art space, and also discussing a film related idea here

Successes

  • Site traffic is higher than I thought it’d be so soon. Alexa traffic rank is 432,800. This despite us not picking up authority from Google yet (ie. organic search results are still terrible). I’m optimistic traffic will increase as we push on.
  • People I speak with show more interest and take the project more seriously than I thought they would so early on.

Struggles

  • Social engagement is low relative to traffic. The hope is that increased engagement will come naturally as we continue to grow and do more for artists (eg. provide a venue for funding their projects). This’ll take time.

Creating content, reviewing submissions / talking to writers, interviewing prospective contributors, social media, planning / brainstorming all feel very experimental at this time. A key realization from July is that there are endless ways to get derailed! I’m telling myself that the core idea: arts / crowdfunding content + the future crowdfunding platform are good (still the best ideas) and to just make sure we keep the focus on those things as we plough forward.

We’ve also earned approx. $5-$10 from Coil since installing their Wordpress plugin! Revenue!

30 day stats:

Sessions: 609
+100% vs. Previous 30 Days

Pageviews: 2372
+100% vs. Previous 30 Days

Avg. Session Duration: 3m 4s
+100% vs. Previous 30 Days

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These stats are super interesting - thanks for sharing!

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Yes really interesting.
Not been very active last weeks although I intended to offer a preview of my first experiment to circumvent language barriers and possibly crowdfund it on your platform. I severely injured my back again and can hardly carry anything. I will try to mount an appropriate computing environment for virtual components only. Will let you know if it works. Cheers

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AUGUST RECAP

  • CP team is now 7 people (6 freelance writers + editor)
  • We’ve remunerated writers (via PayPal, BTC, or CAD interac in 4 currencies)
  • We use Trello for tasks/projects and just added Slack for comms
  • First Newsletter sent to 453 subscribers of previous web media project
  • Starting to see organic traffic
  • We have a physical address! (cowork space access) :house:

Culture Pledge
110 James St., Suite 200
St.Catharines, ON, L2R 7E8
Canada

STATS AND SOCIAL

August pageviews: 2,303
Alexa rank: 271,036
Newsletter: 500 sent (47 bounced), 126 opened, 23 clicked thru, 10 unsubscribed

Pageviews haven’t increased which is a bit disappointing. Still, we have reasons to be optimistic:

We’ve yet to build any significant site authority and so aren’t seeing much organic traffic (39 hits in Aug vs. 11 in July). Sept 4th was the first day we appeared on the Google first page for the search term: culture pledge. We’ve also yet to do a comprehensive SEO sweep of the site (planned for when more content was up). Hopefully we’ll see increases in organic traffic soon.

Twitter has been a top referrer but we tweeted only 14 times in August vs. 65 times in July. Despite the decrease, we only saw an approx. 50% decrease across our Twitter metrics. So Twitter engagement is much better, relatively. We’ve been studying how larger publications do Twitter and have new ideas. One we’ll try soon is compose multiple tweets per post and thread them, posting one every few hours/days.

Despite us not having a Facebook page, FB was a top referrer for Aug generating 165 “New Users” (Google analytics term). This is mostly due to one article being shared by a few bands. I’m not a big fan of Facebook but a lot of people and artists of all kinds use it and so it shouldn’t be ignored.

DIRECTION

CP is 4 ideas with only #1 in (public) motion:

  1. Media site focusing on arts, crowdfunding, innovation, and monetization
  2. Arts crowdfunding platform
  3. Community/forum section to the site
  4. Section publishing details and reviews on the platforms in our niche

A crowdfunding platform seems like an obvious business idea as it could scale and potentially drive a lot of revenue. Realistically, in the short to medium term, we’ll be a fringe option that could only be best used by members of the CP community. And when I talk to people about CP, often they seem a lot more interested in the content idea(s) than the crowdfunding platform. I get a sense that our strength is as a media project. That said, we’re continuing with our original roadmap (which already has us mostly focused on content). We’ll be striving to figure out what the community could truly benefit from which could also make us viable as a business.

A lot of brainstorming this month has been on the Metaverse / VR space. We plan to expand our coverage more into that space and are working on a graphic design concept for a recurring monthly column. We have a potential VR art gallery pilot project on the table with a local firm XpertVR.com. We have also been talking to one local editor about The Free Film Project. We’re also at the planning stages of our own podcast and we hope to use hyperaudio.io to make that better (that’s another project here on GFTW forum).

PLATFORM

We aren’t in a rush to be a crowdfunding/tech platform, even though that’s a big part of our longer term goal. The #1-4 ideas above form a fairly big development project. I’ve talked to about 5 devs and each one seems to point me in a different direction re: how to build it :tired_face:

A great UX is really important and we don’t want to launch something haphazard. It’s become clear that the professional way to go about this is to decide ourselves precisely how we want to build everything, wireframe it all, and work directly with competent developers to build it from the ground up. We’re looking forward to having more meetings with devs / agencies over the next few months.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Make better / more frequent use of Twitter
  • Facebook worth pursuing
  • Finally seeing (meagre) organic traffic
  • Adjust traffic goals to slow n’ steady month-over-month growth :expressionless:
  • Plan software ourselves in detail
  • Team is the focus (We’ll highlight team members better in the future. A Team page on our site is forthcoming.)

We’re still looking to hire one staff member in a part-time (possibly full-time) Ops+Editor role, but we haven’t pushed the idea. We’re not in a rush to hire a Staff Writer (as in our original roadmap), but we’d still do that if someone great showed that level of interest. It’s probably best to focus on building a larger and stronger freelance writing team right now. Please refer anyone you know who might be interested to this page!

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SEPT

Things are good. While we were not selected to receive any funding from GFTW, we hope to learn why so that we can improve future proposals. This doesn’t change much for us other than we’re rejigging a few things on our timeline to make an attempt at generating revenue and making our project more investible more quickly than we might have. (We’ve spent under $2,000 on the project so far but are now burning more like $1,500 per month.) We’ve hired an experienced Contributor Editor part-time. So far he’s great with content and with the writing team. This is freeing me up to move other things forward. Our focus continues to be the same as discussed originally on this thread, although instead of that idea of building something robust from the ground up, we’ll definitely run small scale tests to get a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t in terms of monetization. We’re committed to not monetizing via traditional ads. We did add Facebook (despite my disdain for it). We’re also working on a re-branding. Look for a lot of ideas this month on Culture Pledge on how independent artists can and will survive and thrive in the new digital economy. Onward and upward. Sal

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