The Sponster name, logo, and the sponster monster are all just food for thought. They actually seem a little dated to me, but maybe that's not such a bad thing for a difficult new idea like this. Now here's some pages a user might see when they run this application (or sign into their web page).
First is a start page, what you'll see after you've gotten some sponsorships going. It will use RSS feeds or something geeky like that to update, and will show the latest news from the artists you sponsor. This is a common sort of thing these days, I think.
You can scroll up and down to see all the news in the real one. People can click the links to download new songs, or maybe play it within the ap. If they click on "read" for one of the Splogs, it will feed the thing into this ap. That might look something like this:
"Splogs". Aren't we all a little tired of these unique goofy names for things on the web? Still, it's the way things are done, it will seem fresh and (yawn) exciting. Now, suppose the sponsor wants to find out how much time he has left on a sponsorship? Managing sponsorships is done from a page called Your Artists or something like that. There might be some cool graphics (cooler than these) indicating how much time is remaining in the sponsorship, how generous it was, and also info on the type of sponsorship, such as the time period involved, and the level of sponsorship, if the artist provides different levels.
Click on an artist within that page, and it brings up an artist specific page. This expands on the information, showing the total term of your sponsorship and what you've received in exchange. This will either make you feel very good or maybe not so good about your decision to sponsor this artist.
(Hey! Where's MY 5-year T-shirt?) Now you need a way to see all your sponsorship payments in one place- there might be a pie chart snapshot of your current sponsorships, and maybe a line graph showing your total commitment over time. (notice the actual tagline on this one!)
OK, so you've thought about your budget, and maybe you've decided to let one of your sponsorships drop. Hopefully not the Steam Powered sponsorship, maybe that looser Campbell. So now you have the money to add a new one! Check out the list of Starving Artists that you've collected to see who you think is most deserving...
Exactly how do you collect these starving artists? How should I know? Maybe there's a link on sponsor-friendly artist's pages that automatically adds them to your list. This is all about look and feel right now, you techies will have to tell me how these things can be done!
Oh, right- artists can be all kinds- musos, writers, graphic arts. The point of this little demo is to show what it might look like. None of this stuff is actually new, but maybe seeing it laid out like this will make it more wonderful!
Also, here's some thoughts to go with the pictures... I haven't sketched out the artists side of the thing yet.
The Sponster Ap
What this is, is a way for sponsors to keep track of those artists they are sponsoring, and a way for artists to keep track of their sponsors. So really, it's at least two applications. Here's what each one does.
Starting with the artist's end, because that's the easiest. An artist needs a list of current sponsors. They need to track their contact information and the dates and level of their sponsorship.
Part of this would be mailing list management, if email is one of the forms of contact. Part of it would be an interface to a blog, or "splog" (which might be a sponsors-only blog). You might be able to send tweets via this ap. You'd update your tour calendar here. You'd keep track of public/exclusive releases and other promotions.
Another feature would be cumulative income tracking. This would be a simple graph of the income history, and a projection of the fall-off of current sponsorships. (There might be some "lifetime" sponsorships that would keep a certain baseline income coming) It would be nice to have show dates, special promotions, release dates and so on on this graph as well, to help gage the affects of these things.
On the sponsor end, it could be a little or a lot. It could be an ap that simply tracks who you are sponsoring, for how much, and for how long. This could be graphic-based, text based, or both.
You could launch this basic application whenever you were considering sponsoring someone new- perhaps it could alert you as to when your current sponsorships were ending, perhaps it could automatically transfer a sponsorship to a new artist (called "starvings", these are artists on a list that you are considering for sponsorship).
The sponsor's ap might track the number of listens, or downloads, or other factors (swag, concert attendance, number of blog posts or tweets by an artist) to help them decide if their sponsorship is worthwhile. It might have budget features to allow them to assign some limits to their total sponsoring.
Bringing the two aps together, it's possible that the sponsor's ap is a media player, or is tightly integrated with one. The artist will want to make some releases "excluuusives", or at least available to sponsors before they hit the general public, so there has to be a way to manage this. As previously mentioned, there might be a splog available only to sponsors. Advance ticket sales info, discount pricing, free stuff- all could be tied directly to the sponsors' ap, forming an exclusive communications channel.
While we're creating these perks for sponsors, we might include levels of sponsorship and related perks- a basic level gets you so many releases per year, the next level up gets you in the splog, the top level gets you advance/discount tickets, and so on.
Added another page to this demo, the "Add Artist" page. I imagine that an artist places the Sponster logo on their webpage somewhere. When a potential sponsor clicks on it, it takes them to this page. Here they can see what the artist is offering- perhaps a history too- and select a level of sponsorahip, or simply add that artist to their list of "Starvings" for future consideration.
Naturally, if a user selects to actually sponsor the artist, this takes them to their account page, or some payment method page. Again, that's all code that has been written a million times, and managing this should be no problem.
This morning, I'm thinking that this stuff should all be open source. I'd rather just see this software out there as a tool than try to make money from it. I'd be happy getting sponsors.
Also, there might be a "social networking" tie-in, where people can go to discuss their sponsorships. Pretty lame idea, but it had to be said...
So there it is, sponsorship, nice and neat. Works like this. A person hears about some artist- maybe they've downloaded a song file from one of those file sharing networks, maybe they've heard about them from a friend. Anyway, they find the artist's website, and they see this Sponster Monster logo, which by now they've become familliar with. It means that this artist is relying on their fans to sponsor their career, rather than the entertainment industry. It means they can keep the rights to their creations, and control of their lives.
Whatever... so this potential fan clicks on the Sponster Monster, and it takes them to the Add Artist page, where they can see what they'll get in return for their sponsorship. Maybe they love this artist, they're ready to support them, or maybe they want to have some more time to think about it, so they add them to their list of potential sponsorships, or starvings.
If they add the artist to their sponsorships, it means they are participating in something very new, yet very old. Artists before the advent of recorded music often relied on patronage, or sponsorships, for their livelyhood. The difference between then and now is that artists can reach many more patrons or sponsors, and because of this these sponsors or patrons can contribute at a much lower level than before. They don't need to be rich to help a composer or painter do their art.
Meanwhile, what does this mean to the artist? It means that, rather than finding the key to appeal to millions of fans, they can concentrate on creating works that are unique to themselves. They only need to connect with a few thousand sponsors at any given time. The arc of their career can be more of a steady rise, propelled by the spread of their reputation, rather than a rocket to riches fueled by mass media followed by a steep decline as the next phenomenon enters the marketplace.
It means an entirely different way to view their art and their career. Rather than becoming a brand, something to be marketed, something with a steady, factory-like output of "product", they can be actual people, whose creativity ebbs and flows naturally. They will be able to interact closely with their fans and sponsors, rather than hold themselves seperate and distant, as "the star".
The idea of the "piracy" of their work becomes a joke. Their work is freely shared as a form of advertising for their talents and abilities. The sales of units of their work is no longer the measure of sucess. Sucess is measured, instead, by the value that sponsors place on their continued work, as well as their gratitude for their existing body of work.
Is this a utopian idea? Only in a society conditioned to think in the terms established by marketers and ad agencies. In the real, human world of personal interactions, sponsorship makes more common sense than relying on selling millions of units at a tiny profit on each. How crazy is that? That only works for a few lucky lottery-winners. Sponsorship, on the other hand, is within the reach of all of us.