In these times of uncertainty in the music industry, illegal downloads, print media reshuffling and an ever-changing media landscape, the answer to the question – “How are musicians, artists and content creators going to make a living?” is as perplexing as ever.
One possible solution to the conundrum has come from an extremely unlikely source. Peter Sunde, the co-founder of The Pirate Bay – the most notorious Bittorrent site that is often-pointed as an example of blatant copyright infringement, has turned his attention to something much more noble. Imagine if paying your favourite artists was as easy as pressing a “Like” button.
Flattr is Sunde’s latest idea is just that, a social microdonation system which is aimed at rewarding content creators for the work they are producing. The idea is simple enough. Musicians, writers, film-makers, creatives and anyone making original content can install a Flattr button on their site. If the consumer of an article, a piece of music or any other media likes what they are engaging with, then a quick click of the Flattr button marks that person as a recipient of a percentage of the monthly credit that the person has committed to Flattr per month.
So say, you sign up to Flattr, choose €5 per month and “Flattr” 20 pages in a month, then that €5 is divided up equally amongst those 20 sites (after Flattr’s 10% cut) whether they are blog posts, music, video, a photo gallery or anything else that can be seen on the web. In two months, the site registered 46,056 users and shared €114,057 through the system. Sunde has said he wants Flattr to “encourage people to share money as well as content”.
Sunde has clearly learnt from his famous grapples with movie studios while running The Pirate Bay to come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is cut out the middleman and ensure the creator gets some financial remuneration.
To do this though, Sunde must push Flattr towards ubiquity. Within the last year, the Facebook “Like” button has become commonplace and latest figures suggest internet users click that button 65 million times a day. Flattr will be hoping that rather than social kudos, people will give a small amount of cash as a thank you instead. In return, the Flattr user gets the satisfaction of leaving a small tip in the virtual jar for something they enjoyed. At the very least, Flattr is attempting to provide a solution for content creators beyond paywalls and banner ads.