How a punk-inspired collective beat the streaming giants at their own game

Ampled, a small arts start-up founded by a group of musicians, designers, and software engineers, appears to be building an alternative way forward. Following in the footsteps of crowdsourcing platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter, Ampled uses the horizontality of the internet to bypass industry gatekeepers, allowing artists to gain direct financial support from fans who pay money to see exclusive content.Ampled’s truly radical potential, however, comes from its co-op structure. The company incorporated in 2018 as a worker and artist-owned collective, which means that unlike Patreon, Ampled’s artists have financial and decision-making power within the company. This forestalls some of the issues that Patreon has encountered with their Creators, who argue that Patreon is more interested in supporting individuals with large existing followings than smaller-scale independent artists.

More importantly, however, Ampled’s co-op model allows for an escape from the resistance-to-appropriation cycle that Hebdige saw as unavoidable. As part of a co-op, artists and members become part of a community where democratic decision-making and radical transparency are standard operating procedure — everything from the organization’s financials to its website structure is online and open for members to debate. This focus on long-term sustainability and community represent a conscious turn away from the (capitalist) internet’s focus on immediacy and viral content, and start-up culture’s tendency towards quick exits.

This model also takes on the venture capital industry, which often forces early-stage companies to cede large stakes in their company in order to obtain the capital they need to survive. This allows financial investors to steer potentially sustainable companies towards less sustainable practices in order to guarantee that such firms receive the maximum ROI. Ampled instead partnered with CUNY Law School to draw up term sheets based for revenue-based financing, which returns a percentage of top-line revenue to investors in place of partial ownership over the company. Their terms also allow investors to recall their loans if Ampled does not deliver on its stated social mission. This means that investors are buying in to the community as well as the business, and that co-op members have an incentive to stay committed to Ampled’s collective ethos.

Source: How a punk-inspired collective beat the streaming giants at their own game

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