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Natalie Axton
Natalie Axton

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Web Monetization for the Arts β€” Grant Report #2

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Project Update

Web Monetization for the Arts concluded in January 2023 with the successful delivery of our education and outreach materials. We created a course explaining Web Monetization that was specifically tailored to classical musicians, independent performing artists, and small performing arts organizations in the United States.

The course was informed by an audience-specific survey that questioned artists about their digital content strategies, their knowledge of Web Monetization and technical skill level. The survey revealed that there is a lot of interest in monetizing digital content and that artists do not have a lot of experience with technical skills like editing HTML or installing WordPress plugins. We had a very high rate of survey respondents signing up to receive our educational materials.

Our education materials was delivered as a text-based course. It was written to explain Web Monetization in its simplest terms and to demonstrate how artists can get started with Web Monetization using their existing content and known content platforms like YouTube and Free Music Archive. Unfortunately, we did not receive feedback on our educational materials.

Progress on objectives

Key activities

Our project was focused on education and outreach.

The project was two-part. The first part involved listening to performing artists and arts organizations. We built a survey and asked thirty questions about artists' digital content strategies and understanding of Web Monetization. We were very keen to know how many of them maintain their own websites and what channels they use for distributing original content, among other things.

Survey respondents were asked to give their email addresses if they wanted to receive educational materials about Web Monetization. Forty eight percent of survey respondents elected to receive the emails.

These educational materials formed the second part of our project, a series of articles about Web Monetization tailored to the classical music and small performing arts organizations in the United States. It was delivered via email and comprises a text-based course.

The survey responses helped us understand where our audience was on a technical level and what their concerns were regarding digital content. We were not surprised to learn that our audience is non-technical. Sixty eight percent of our respondents stated they have never heard of micropayments. Eighty one percent stated they have never heard of a payment pointer. Only 7 percent stated that they have ever changed HTML code on a web page. Only 5 percent stated they had ever installed a WordPress plugin.

I wrote the course as a series of eleven articles. Seven of them explain Web Monetization and how to get started with it as a creator. One is a glossary of terms. Two of them serve as introductions to the Web Monetization for the Arts project.

As the writer, my job was to provide context and point of view suitable for our audience. My aim was to explain how the component pieces of Web Monetization -- ILP-enabled digital wallet, payment pointer, Coil -- are acquired and how they can be used to easily convert existing content channels into Web Monetized content. Matt Mankins served as fact-checker and editor. His guidance kept the language simple and relatable. Cage Ames served as our copyeditor.

Many of our survey respondents use YouTube. So getting them set up with Web Monetized YouTube channels via Coil was a priority. The Free Music Archive was another platform that our audience understood, and this seemed to be one of the easiest ways for them to get started.

Matt Mankins and I are the co-founders of Monetized, a tool for creators to sell and paywall online content. Monetized allows users to gate content using Web Monetization. I created a page on Monetized for those following our course to test their skills. If they had become Web Monetization members through Coil, they would be allowed to see the page I created on Monetized. If they had not, they would be directed to Coil in order to become members.

The course was delivered by email, using Substack. You can find it archived here. We set up a series of Zoom sessions as Q and As. We had a few signups for the sessions, but unfortunately no one attended.

Since our audience for this course is non-technical, I strove to use simple language and to include screenshots when possible to visually explain the processes of setting up an Uphold account, joining Coil, etc. I included links to the videos made by Artist Rescue Trust in several of the lessons.

Unfortunately we saw a declining open rate for the emails. It's possible that I created too many lessons. The material might simply have been too much to learn.

Communications and marketing

Our aim was to share the published course with media and to distribute it along other publication channels. Given the news that Coil is shutting down, we do not feel that it is helpful to publicize the course at this time.

What’s next?

Our job now is to watch how the Web Monetization ecosystem evolves and to see how a post-Coil Web Mon world can work for this nonprofit arts community. We hope to be able to update our course for the post-Coil Web Monetization world in the future.

Web Monetization for the Arts will continue to communicate informally with nonprofit performing artists and arts organizations about their digital content strategies and monetization plans. We all work in the arts and therefore hear from musicians and artists on a weekly basis. We would like to keep the Web Monetization conversation going, and if possible, to bring in some artists rights advocates working in our space.

What community support would benefit your project?

We'd love to hear from anyone else working with classical musicians and nonprofit artists.

Additional comments

Since the course is archived on Raft Magazine, an arts journalism project I direct, I asked Raft readers if they would be open to paying $5 a month in exchange for access to nonprofit arts content. I received one very thoughtful response that it depended on what kind of arts content the site hosted. I suppose that's a fair question.

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