Analyzing membership standards

Membership is

  • Commitment
  • Contribution
  • Continuity
  • Community

Membership is a recognition by the co-op that an individual has demonstrated a commitment to bring value to the co-op.

Types of value

Unmeasurable, individual, input-based | potential value

  • pledging to build the co-op or use its services
  • engagement on forum
  • sharing ideas for features
  • promoting the co-op and its artists

Measurable, individual, input-based | potential value

  • money spent by a user to purchase credits on the player
  • time spent on forum
  • number of posts on forum
  • number of posts read on forum
  • number of songs uploaded :white_check_mark: current artist-member standard
  • number of minutes of music uploaded
  • number of playlists created

Hard to measure, individual, input-based | potential value

  • hours of labor contributed to co-op projects :white_check_mark: current worker-member standard
  • hours of labor contributed via independent projects
  • testing software
  • teaching

Unmeasurable, individual, output-based | potential value

  • delivering a feature for the player
  • completing an Epic or other work project
  • caring for people
  • building relationships
  • offering feedback or amendments to other’s ideas

Measurable, individual, output-based | guaranteed value

  • buying supporter shares
  • making a yearly donation :white_check_mark: current listener-member standard
  • amount of credits an artist has earned on Player
  • amount of credits a listener has spent listening
  • number of plays by other users on playlists you’ve created

Accountability mechanisms

  • A new worker-member must receive majority approval of existing worker-members (governance process)
  • A new listener-member must be approved by the board to confirm provisional membership (rubber stamp)
  • A new artist-member must be approved by the board to confirm provisional membership (rubber stamp)

If a membership standard leans toward unmeasurable and input-based, it needs a human accountability process. For this reason, this type of membership can only be granted to people who can be known personally by those providing the accountability. This means that these types of values should only be used for Worker-Member group, a group expected to be much smaller than the others.

If a membership standard is measurable and output-based, it does not necessarily need a personal, human accountability process.

Dividends

A related issue is the determination of dividends. A co-op’s dividends tend to be paid out proportionally to a member’s contributions to the co-op, whether through their production, consumption, labor, etc.

The less measurable our standards are for contribution, the harder it will be to work out these proportions, leading to burdensome administration and arbitrary outcomes.

Current membership standards

Our current membership standards have glitches. And few of them are measurable in a way that guarantees value for the co-op.

Many artists don’t release music every year, so our current “upload a song every year” rule doesn’t work for them at all. Meanwhile, their previous year’s album could be doing great on Resonate, but they lose membership anyway.

Our rules seem to arbitrarly reward or punish different players. Why are only Listeners expected to pay a yearly fee when they are already spending money on the platform? Why do paid workers have to contribute more labor hours than volunteers? Why does an artist who uploads one song per year (which perhaps gets zero plays) get the same vote as an artist who uploaded their whole catalog?

Money shouldn’t be the only kind of contribution we recognize. Nevertheless, I feel it would be more egalitarian to make contributing money a fall-back membership option for everyone at the co-op, rather than it being arbitrarily put upon Listener-Members.

I’d make it standard for all to contribute, say, 20 EUR a year (with 15 EUR and 10 EUR pricing tiers for countries with less powerful currencies).

However, there would also be various ways you could earn membership each year to save yourself the standard membership fee. For example:

  • Are you an artist and your plays generated enough revenue that you automatically “earned” membership in 2021? Awesome!

  • But what if 2022 hits and you don’t get enough plays? Well, you can contribute money then. Great. You still pitched in.

What I do think we should be able to get Resonate folks to agree on is that we want a co-operative where (1) a person is able to contribute in a variety of ways and where (2) a person should be able to retain membership each year by making a contribution which is practical to them at that time.

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It’s the issue of the membership share to the member that legally anchors membership… In exchange for money, €1 plus the subscription, OR a ‘contribution’ and a waived subscription.

Makes sense to simplify and build solidarity by having ‘membership’ and then recognise a variety of different contributions in operational policy, rather than ‘hard code’ classes into the rulebook imho.

I realize after you highlighting it that buying supporter shares could maybe be a way someone earns a repeat membership, but never the initial membership. Caus they have to be a member to buy them!

I don’t think purchase of supporter shares itself earns membership. First they renew, then they can buy more supporter shares. If they buy a lot of them, maybe we could award a ‘lifetime membership’ as a matter of membership policy?

We can award supporter shares in lieu of payment for work, contributions or other services rendered.

If we make a surplus, they are withdrawable and can pay interest. More importantly, they signify we value what the member has brought to our community. We need a policy so that we can be seen to be consistent and fair in the allocation.

We are a multi-stakeholder coop. But that does not mean we need different membership ‘classes’. Let’s have simple solidarity: Just members. Recognise that different folks bring a variety of skills, influence and capability to the co-op. We can recognise that, collectively, without ‘hard coding’ it into a rulebook.

I like this. Nice and simple. Then we issue various flexible ‘vouchers’ to offset the membership fee, in return for member contributions of different types.

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These are the main benefits I still see to the multi-class model:

  • Class resolutions in practice could actually be a cool way for a stakeholder group to take focused democratic action on an issue which uniquely affects them
  • Counterbalancing voting power of stakeholder groups seems good because otherwise some stakeholders will always be powerless minority groups. For example, I don’t anticipate there to ever be more than 150 worker members compared to the thousands in other stakeholder groups. (counterbalancing votes has never been done in practice though)
  • Formally recognizing that different stakeholders have different needs and contribute in unique ways (although these will overlap for many individuals who “multi-class”)
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I think I am cynical about arbitrary and theoretical assumptions about competing interests, when the principles of the co-op are rooted in solidarity and common purpose.

For example:

If listeners are the primary economic support for the platform then is it so bad that they have a strong influence… aka voice of the customer?

I would not assume there that they have purely selfish interests at heart and would always vote at the expense of artists and workers, they care too about artists and workers. Why would they join otherwise?

Artists and workers, by virtue of their social power / voice, and presence in the co-operative channels, have considerable influence and everyday power.

Not everything is put to a co-operative vote every day - The voice of the executive team, experts/advisors should also weigh in on day to day decisions.

The board should at least have an artists rep, a workers rep and a general members rep. They stand for election. A nominations committee checks out their bona fides as artist / worker / member. Everyone votes.

Personal view only. Trust the members.

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I like this convo. It’s fun to riff back and forth. Alright, here’s a pitch for a different membership model, keeping with our current classes:

Everyone arriving at Resonate is encouraged to contribute 15 EUR to immediately join the co-op. 10 EUR and 5 EUR tiers are offered to folks from countries with less powerful currencies. The membership type granted is Listener-Member, whether you are an artist, label, worker, whatever; recognizing that everyone is a listener. This amount autobills annually.

Any Listener-Members’ membership is renewed automatically by spending 15 EUR worth of credits in a year.

To earn Artist-Membership, you need to receive at least one earnings payout (threshold set at 15 EUR) a year from Resonate. Whether running a label or your own artist page, you are recognized as an Artist-Member. If you have active Artist-Membership, you won’t be autobilled for Listener-Membership.

Anyone can seek Worker-Membership after 6 months of engagement or 80 hours of contribution, whichever comes first. They cannot become a Worker-Member unless approved by majority vote of Worker-Members. This process will be more personal and deliberative, which is possible due to the small class size. Yearly work expectations to retain membership will be decided by Worker-Members.

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I’d like to add that expecting each Artist-Member to earn 15 EUR a year on Resonate is a good thing. We want artists to make money! We also want to incentivize them promoting that their stuff is on Resonate. Accepting the idea that they couldn’t earn 15 EUR a year would mean we’re failing at our core concept anyway.

Ampled requires artist members to earn something like $30 a month!

15 EUR is still a wildly low threshold. If an artist is earning 15 EUR a year, that means that the co-op is setting their membership fee at ~6.5 EUR vs the 15 EUR fee for listeners.

Hahaha it’s the barista in me when I say that the customer is not always right. If customers at a coffeeshop could unilaterally decide the menu, it would probably sink the institution. I worked at a cafe where the manager kept adding customers’ custom drinks to the menu; it became harder and harder to make drinks, everything was so complicated. And as mere employees, we couldn’t say no.

I hear what you’re saying though.

Nothing is unilateral. We talk to each other in a multi stakeholder co-operative. If there’s no sense of trust or community, folks will vote with their feet. I think artists are interested in what people want to listen to.

In the UK we had coffee shops that sold us BAD instant coffee for years and years and never asked… And then they all went bust when folks realised they DID have a choice.

Let’s keep talking to each other and not have unnecessary bureaucracy or complex voting until we actually need it.

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Ha! Gosh, what a disaster. This sounds terrible! Glad you slapped those baristas around. For shame!

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We’d have to model that financially, of course, but yes, some discount on membership as a reward for active listening is a great idea!

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I love the idea too that if you were a standard listener, not yet signed up for membership, that you’d be offered membership upon spending 15 EUR of credits. At that point you’d register for annual billing. Great way to bring those folks into our circle.

I’m not at all convinced the basic structure of our multi-stakeholder design is a problem.

Artists speak through their work. Their work is why there are listeners here.

The social relations expressed as a quality of time contributed in the coop (one’s labor) is categorically different between Artist, Listener and Worker members.

The interests of Artists, Listeners and Workers and their modes of expression in relation to their interests are different. Their respective socialization and trust networks are different.

The co-op as a whole will be strongest by maintaining strong, pluralistic protocols among disctinct interest groups and disciplines while navigating their strategic points of interaction.

Without the trust of artists, there are no listeners.

To be honest, I believe we are missing powerful artist voice. Partly this is a natural consequence of our not being ready for sustainable volumes. Fortunately we have powerful and experienced artist advocates performing the role of proxy for them until the coop can be of material service.

We are much closer now than in the spring.

I believe it would be very unfortunate to restructure governance to diminish the voice of the producing members before we have even begun to demonstrate our viability and relevance in material support of their work.

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I’d like to move this topic to General. Any objections? Nothing in it seems to require a private category and it’s a very interesting convo

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No objection from me.

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