With the current COVID-19 crisis highlighting many musicians’ vulnerable financial positions, Ampled is helping fans support the musicians they love directly.
With popular streaming services paying artists fractions of a penny per stream, the landscape of today’s music industry has made it increasingly difficult for musicians to earn direct support from their listeners outside of touring and merch sales. According to a study by Citigroup, in 2017 artists received only 12% of all music industry revenue. Ampled—a New York City-based platform—hopes to change this landscape, working as an advocate for artists’ interests in a transparent and sustainable way.
Ampled was made to create direct community support for artists. Built on a cooperative business model, it aims to create a “constructive alternative to the conventional Silicon Valley startup model of venture capitalist ownership and misaligned interest.” Founders and contributors of the business committed themselves to “transparency, democratic governance, and broad-based user ownership.” Since its creation in 2018, their team of active contributors who have built the platform has grown from 3 to 14.
While most startups end up owned and controlled largely by venture capitalist investors, Ampled is instead owned by artists, workers, and community members. Each member has an equal share and an equal say in the business, democratizing ownership and putting the power back into the hands of the people. The concept is fairly simple: artists join for free and create a page on which they can share original content, which fans can then access by supporting artists on a pay-what-you-wish model starting at $3 per month. For musicians that create an artist page on Ampled, reaching 10 or more supporters through the platform results in co-ownership of the cooperative. Currently the site has 110 artist pages and counting, including artists such as Ziemba and Sondra Sun-Odeon.
Of course, building something so divergent from the norm hasn’t come without its challenges. Co-founder and worker-owner Austin Robey explained to AdHoc via email how a lack of information on starting a cooperative was a major hurdle, as this model is not typically taught in law or business schools. Additionally, building and launching a platform without the help of VC investment posed its own hardships. To overcome this, Robey says that folks at Ampled created investment terms with CUNY Law that don’t give investors any ownership or control.
For those interested in getting involved, there are many ways to join and become a contributor. In response to the current COVID-19 crisis, Ampled is waiving all artist membership dues for 2020 and artists will receive 100% of support through the platform.