Jesse von Doom On Developing CASH Music’s Non-Profit Indie Music Community: "We build for and with artists."


1-op_umFdRjT3Aw8lNXDDVTwHere Jesse von Doom outlines the goals of CASH music, an organization which makes free and open web tools available for performing artists, as well as running an educational site. As they move forward, they’re working to become an organization which is community run and funded.

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Guest post by Jesse von Doom of CASH Music on Medium

It starts with our people

Last fall CASH Music entered its tenth year of operation. (If you’re not familiar with our work, we make free and open web tools that help working musicians. We also publish an educational site called Watt. Read more here.) For the last three we’ve been incredibly fortunate to be funded by The Shuttleworth Foundation, but that was only a three year program. It’s time for us to find a new way forward.

Funding any organization is hard. Funding a nonprofit in a space dominated by well-heeled for-profit startups is something else entirely. We’re not a fit for most grant-based nonprofit funding, and we don’t have ownership or sales revenue to offer investors. (This part is on purpose.) Our strength lies in the people we support and the people who support us.

That community is everything to us. We build for and with artists, creating tools that allow musicians to connect directly to their fans with no one getting in the middle. We foster learning and sharing in the pieces we publish on Watt, with an eye toward connecting artists to new experiences and ideas. These connections are why we’re here and also how we’ll go forward. We’re building a new kind of organization around the people who have made this all possible: we’re starting the CASH Music Family.

Okay! What does that mean?

If our people are our strength then we want to put our people at the core of CASH Music. Being a nonprofit means we can’t be bought or sold. Nonprofits serve a core mission, not profit. So we built something that can’t simply be acquired and shuttered. But since nonprofits don’t have owners, we can’t work like a traditional co-op, either.

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We face two challenges: First, we want to become more community driven in our decision making. Second, funding for tools and education focused on the careers of working musicians will always be elusive. So we’ve decided to try something new: to become a community driven and community funded nonprofit organization. An unusual flavor of social enterprise based on something between co-op and fan club.

How does it work?

To keep access to all our work free, we’re all-in on a new model that puts community at the heart of what we do. We’re opening up the organization to members who make a monthly donation — they’ll get an ongoing curated collection of digital downloads and video debuts, exclusive merch and music for sale, and most importantly a say in our future with votes on things like new platform features, topics for Watt, and who should receive funding from the Revolving Fund. We’re calling this the CASH Music Family.

You can learn more and join at family.cashmusic.org.

All of this has been built on new functionality that will soon be live on the CASH Music Platform, letting anyone build a patronage-style subscription program for themselves. This brings us full circle to the very first CASH project, Kristin Hersh’s Strange Angels subscription. Her work has been made possible by her subscribers, and we hope the CASH Music Family can help us continue our work. We’re in this together, and make no mistake: we can’t do it without you.

Art brings us all together. Music unites to us and calls us to action. Musicians use their voices to speak for us. We all need to fight for them, together as a family.

For more details and a look at our outreach materials, here’s a look at the planning doc we made for our board.

When you’re ready, we’d love to welcome you to the Family.