Monkeybars gathers ideas that have been explored in various forms on the web but have never quite broken through into a major win:
Give Artists a Better Deal on Ecommerce Sales - All proceeds from content sales that are not earmarked by artists for fans go directly to artists.
Give Fans an Additional Reward for Involvement - Artists designate a percentage of proceeds to go to fans who are rewarded when their social shares lead to additional sales.
This combination of incentives ideally addresses the problem of the two-sided market by rewarding both parties that need to come to the table to make such a platform work. The difficulty for many companies exploring similar terrain has been getting fans to participate.
Sara Skinner Encourages Her Fans to Get Involved
In a discussion with Monkeybars CEO Steve Koskie, he described a promising vision of artists receiving a higher percentage of revenue as their fans promote them across social media platforms inspired by both art and money. Musicians and fans participate in Monkeybars for free and all proceeds for content sales are split between artists and fans.
Monkeybars has a social network element with accounts for both artists and fans, comments on posted media and profiles for fans showing their involvement on the site. Additional networking elements are being planned for the site.
Monkeybars is also developing a toolset for musicians that goes beyond ecommerce features to include the ability to send updates to social media platforms. Artists and fans can communicate through the site though artists don't receive email addresses through Monkeybars.
Beyond making sure that all participants are rewarded financially and are supported by a solid platform for artists and fans, Monkeybars is finding additional ways to promote artists that use the site. Currently they are in the midst of a Soundcheck campaign featuring 30 artists in 30 days. In addition to features on the site, Monkeybars is promoting the artists via a #30Artists30Days Twitter hashtag campaign, posts on their Facebook page and videos on their YouTube channel.
Here's where Monkeybars hits one of the difficulties of a two-sided market. Bands definitely appreciate being promoted but when the fans aren't yet there, the promotional element is rather limited. So Soundcheck is definitely the right thing to do but isn't yet at a stage of development to be as powerful an incentive to musicians as one would hope.
Monkeybars is also encouraging musicians by working with a variety of industry advisors as well as building on connections with major artists such as Timbaland and Akon whose own labels are early adopters of the platform.
Though we didn't dig deeply into two-sided market issues, Steve Koskie brings an earlier experience with Will.i.am creating Dipdive to the mix. He's seen the difficulties new networks and platforms face even with wildly popular artists involved.
By creating a platform that rewards both artists and fans, Monkeybars is off to a strong start. Now the trick is building a community with critical mass to achieve those elusive network effects that all websites and services need to make great ideas market successes.