In the previous two years Lance had pitched Commonwealth, at length, only twice. He had struck out both times. The biggest difference between those attempts, and the one he was about to make was that this time he was pitching to artists. Creartors.
The two failed attempts were to people who made their livings off what artists create; industry people. Two members of the, “We’re so happy we can hardly count… oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?” caste. They didn’t care that artists are getting fucked. They were fat and happy.
Although they were very fat and happy themselves, his father, and his squeeze should be able to see the idea from the perspective of artists. So Lance was at ease, when he whispered, “I can’t do this with you sitting in my lap,” to Kitty, who got up and sat back in her own chair.
Madonna took note of what certainly looked to be a prodigious package in the shorts of her squeeze’s son. ‘Big boy!’ she thought to herself. Like Kitty, Madge liked big boys.
“Okay,” Lance said, “here it is. I’m not exactly breaking new ground with my idea. The foundation of Commonwealth is, in fact, a simple twist on an old idea; affiliate marketing”.
Pointing at his father, the clever boy said, “Let’s say you have launched a new book,” then pointing to Madonna, “or you a new album. Both are being sold on Amazon. I am a blogger. A critic. I have a somewhat substantial following. I have signed onto Amazon’s affiliate marketing program. I review your new offerings, and praise them both. I add a BUY NOW button to the reviews. One of my subscribers hits the BUY NOW buttons, and purchases both as downloads. Let’s lowball it and say the prices are both ten bucks.”
The reigning King and Queen smiled at the low prices, but said nothing. “I get fifty cents from the sale. Amazon gets three bucks. The rest goes to your label, and your house. They dispense your cut, according to your contract. Do you see anything wrong with this picture?”
Madge and Stephen stared at Lance silently. “Apparently not,” Lance smiled. “That’s how it always has been for the two of you, and you’ve gotten fat and happy off the system.”
Madonna feigned umbrage, “I am not fat!” The four of them chuckled, and Lance took note of the remarkably well preserved and maintained body of the woman who was well past the cougar stage of female life. He liked what he saw, and had to force himself back to his pitch.
“Here’s the problem. You created what was sold. I sold it. But the middlemen take $9.50 of the sale, despite the fact that they played no part in what you created, and I sold.”
Stephen beat Madonna to the punch, “But my publishing house did play a role, as did Madge’s label.”
“Yeah?” Lance laughed, “What did they do that you couldn’t do yourselves?” Before either of the elders in the room could interject, Lance said, “Even if you don’t have the technical skills, you could contract people who have those skills, without involving the people you sell your copyrigt to. And you would not have to give up your copyrigt to anyone, if you did so.”
“You’re rigt, we could,” said Madonna.
“That’s exactly what I did,” said Lance. “I wrote Die Laughing, a friend proofread it, gave it back to me, I did the interior design, another friend did the cover.”
“Sure,” said King, “but who markets it?”
“Yes! Therein lies the rub,” Lance said. “At the moment, only me. And that’s the problem. What I need is an army of people marketing my book.”
“From where does this army come,” Madonna asked.
Kitty smiled, and said, “I know.”
“Do you?” asked Lance.
“Yes, of course. The army comes from the Internet. Anyone with a website can join the Amazon affiliate program, or anyone else’s affiliate program.”
“So, why don’t they?” asked King.
“Two main reasons,” Lance said. “One, almost no one buys that way. They all flock to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Apple, and buy there. They’ve been conditioned to do so. The second reason is that the affiliate cut is so small that trying to sell is more trouble than it’s worth. Bad ROI.”
“So, how do we get out of this trap,” Kitty asked.
“By building Commonwealth. A whole new platform. Two membership categories. Creators, and sellers. Both free. I get a creators membership. All of us do. All of us, meaning every artist who works in the digital realm, and create things that can be downloaded.”
“And all sellers, which can be anyone who has a website, get their own membership accounts,” said Kitty, grinning. “I get it.”
“Yeah? Run with it,” Lance encouraged.
“I get a project page, on which I explain my game, as thoroughly as I think need to. The page goes live. Everybody who has registered an interest in selling games gets a notification that a new game is available.”
“Yes,” Lance confirmed. “You go, little Kitty cat.”
“Those who are interested contact me, and ask to test run it. If they like it, they tell me they want to sell it.” Looking at Madge, and the King of Horror, Kitty said, “Let’s say, for example, Rolling Stone wants to sell your new offerings to their readers. They come to you and ask what kinda deal you will offer them. Working on volume, not margin, because you can make a million copies of anything digital at no more cost than it takes to produce the first, you keep the price low. Let’s drop it to five bucks.”
The elders were aghast at the thought of such a low price, but were smart enough to not interrupt.
“Because you are who you are, with millions of fans, you tell Rolling Stone that they can have one dollar of every sale they make. The other four go to you. Not a label, not a publishing house. The money goes to you.”
“I like it,” said King. “Keep going.”
Kitty pointed to Lance, who picked it up. “Unlike the two of you, I am an unknown. No following. So, I have to give Rolling Stone a better deal. I give them four of the five bucks from every sale they make.”
“But how does that make things any better for you than under the current system,” asked Stephen.
“I know,” said Madonna.
“Take it away,” Lance said.
“Because it’s not just Rolling Stone. Anyone with a website can do this. You and I could have a million people selling our stuff directly to their followers. And they’re not only selling, they’re marketing for us.”
“Precisely,” said Lance. “And if I give them 80% of the haul, they are gonna market my book more than they are yours, because you’re only giving them 20%. Profit motive. It’s all about the money, money, money, everyone wants money, money, money.”
“It’s very interesting,” said Lance’s father. “What are the mechanics of it?”
“Simple. Same as any affiliate program. A purchase is made, Commonwealth sends the product, or a download code to the buyer. The money is split instantly, according to the contract between creator and seller.”
“And how does Commonwealth make money?” asked Stephen.
“We, if I may refer to Commonwealth as we,” said Kitty, “add a small service charge. So the buyer pays $5.50, instead of five bucks.”
“So, how do we, if I may refer to Commonwealth as we,” said King, get the buying public to break their habit of going to the big guys.”
Madonna knew the answer, “We don’t do business with the big guys. The fuckers won’t have anything to sell.”
“B I N G O,” said Lance. “We don’t need them. They need us. We just need each other. I can sell your stuff, you can sell my stuff.”
“Kevin Kelly,” Stephen said.
“Exactly,” said Lance.
“Who dat?” asked Madonna.
“He founded WIRED,” said Stephen. “In 1996, he wrote a famous piece in which he said, “Forget about the computer. Everything that can be done with a computer has been done with a computer. The real innovation is the network.”
“And he was dead rigt,” said Lance. “The real innovation is the network. But we’ve been using it all wrong when it comes to ecommerce. Commonwealth will correct that mistake. In the earliest stage of the web, and the advent and proliferation of digital art, millions of stores, sellers should have been created. But, instead, a handful of giants came to be.”
“And they’ve been fucking us ever since,” said Madonna. “And the buying public love them for it. They get damn near anything digital for free online. But with Commonwealth, we run the show.”
“What about pirating,” asked Kitty.
“That a very good question,” said Lance. “Maybe I can answer it over some food?”
“You wanna go down, or order up.”
“”Room service,” said Kitty. All agreed.