If you expect valuable media online, expect to start paying for it.

With the explosion of free content abundant on any channel, everything has gotten crowded. The hype machine of marketers has given us overflowing feeds of content streaming through Facebook, Instagram and other media sites on the web.

And we’re about to see the reprisal for how artists making quality media can deliver and capture value in return. But how? Can the arts find support in a digital world where copying bits is free?

See, it’s about finding the right model. And decades into the evolution of the internet, we’re seeing emerging methods for how this will shake out.

In most industries the value didn’t go away, it just moved. For musicians, value moved from CD sales to concert tours, VIP tickets, and sponsorship deals. For media sites, the attention was leveraged to host large-scale conferences and tradeshows. For example how Techcrunch has built out their "Disrupt" events in SF, NYC and London.

But most artists have had a hard time figuring out just where it’s moved.

And I’m not someone that believes that all arts should immediately get funded. We all do things in our lives that we don’t get paid for because we just enjoy doing them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate channels for finding revenue as someone giving value through their art.

There’s always a fearful question in the back of the mind of an artist today: “Will anyone pay for this?”

It’s the economics. Artists hate talking about the economics, they don’t want to mismatch incentives. I have a part of me that lives there too. This fear is based on truth; money can muddle art. But it also empowers it, when the right incentives are in place.

And so first we had advertising. Wordpress and the like. If you wanted to make money on the internet, you built traffic to a site and then pasted up banner ads by Google and start earning your fee.

Which turned into affiliates. These are still both very much in play, but also can to be seen as in-poor-taste. There’s a credibility loss that happens when your content is surrounded by ads served by a site you have no control over. If I’m getting sold pet food while I read about your life as a nomad…it doesn’t quite sit right.

But that was the past. Today, we’re seeing a host of new models for artists to share their work and consumers today will pay because there are still artists that move us so much that we want to support them.

What’s here NOW is the shift to a new value system for how we consume and purchase media. These new economic models support artists and creators directly, without much of the middlemen in the way.

Let’s look at today’s landscape:

Spontaneous support. Fundraisers, and ongoing contributions to artists and organizations that you just want to see continue. Think, Brain Pickings (individual), and Wikipedia (organization).

We pay one-off, or recurring, without expectation because we love what they provide.

Pay by stream count.

Tracked streams, tracked downloads, with a licensing model based on volume. Anyone today can put their music on Spotify and get funded based on quantity. Licensing isn’t new and is used in a variety of other forms of photo video and other art.

We pay ~$5–$15 ongoing, and we pay with our attention.

Pay by “Likes”

With Medium’s partner program. Members pay $5 to access exclusive writing from authors behind a paywall. You’re paid based on engagement, such as reads and “claps.”

We pay ~$5–$15 and we pay with our attention and engagement ("Claps").

Pay by Patronage.

We pay to support content production and to connect with artists (and the community).

Pay by Advertising.

Youtube, Forbes, many media outlets. These companies are still using the ad-based model and a hybrid of subscription and advertising. The problem here is there’s sometimes an issue with incentives, especially in news-related media having a conflict. It’s also less clear to readers what was paid for and by whom. Youtuber’s get paid through their ad-network based on view counts.

We pay with our attention and our data.

Pay per thing.

Buying something isn’t new, but pre-ordering it en masse is Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites allow consumers to both support and receive a product. You can hit a spectrum of support vs. solidified price points of an end-product.

We purchase products, but there’s a feeling of support and early access baked in.

So you see we’re in an exciting time. Many models are being tested for how we economically support and purchase quality media. If I had to bet, we’re going to see more.

Many of these models are win-win: as consumers, we get an artist focused on delivering on their value promise. We get to feel more connected directly to the artist and the communities.

And for the artist, we’re finally seeing a viable business model in play. Each one with its own tweak. So, I’m curious to see which models find the most resonance between these different players.

But one thing is for sure: if you want great media, you’re going to have to pay.

And that’s something to be happy about.

xx David

Death to Stock

The Death to Stock Business model is an interesting mix here. I suppose we've been testing our own concept because we're similar to patronage, but also function as a fund and platform. Every month our members pay a subscription for exclusive media, and we use those funds to hire talented artists around the world to produce media in return for their membership.

What else? What models am I missing here?

Kickstarter just launched a new platform called https://drip.kickstarter.com meant to take on Patreon's market share.

P.P.P.S It looks more like a test than a full-on effort. They removed "backer counts" on their site, probably because they were so low. When I checked it was maybe 5-9 backers per project.

P.P.P.P.S if you want to see how Patreon members are doing financially, check out https://graphtreon.com