The concept of using digital currencies as a means of tipping has entered a new phase with Cheers, a bitcoin-powered service that could create additional revenue streams for performing artists.
Cheers pairs a mobile platform that enables bitcoin tips to be sent to musicians with a social network structure that allows users to share information, send messages to friends and search for new artists to support.
The company’s co-founder Justin Womersley told CoinDesk that he believes Cheers could reinvigorate an industry that has seen falling revenues for performing artists.
Cheers, he says, offers a way for music-lovers to connect with artists in a way that is becoming more difficult in the era of digitised relationships:
“The streaming model, while great for the consumer, is not that great for the artist. And in addition, for the consumer, there’s a lack of an emotional connection between [them] and the artists they’re enjoying. From that side, we wanted to create a tool that really connected people in the digital age.”
Beyond music, the platform may one day see use as a way to reward and generate income for all kinds of artists, from filmmakers to bloggers to graphic designers.
Behind the concept
Cheers allows you to send money to musicians whether you’re watching them play at a local bar or you happened to catch one of their tracks on Facebook. Currently, the company is working on an iOS app that is expected to be available sometime in the next few weeks, Womersley said.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Cheers app is its ability to “listen” and recognize live music as it is being played. According to Womersley, Cheers leverages The Echo Nest, a music database that boasts more than 35 million known songs and artists and counts services like Spotify and the BBC among its customers.
After the app recognizes the song and identifies the artist, the user then has the chance to write a personalized message and donate bitcoin to the artist. Once complete, the user sends the ‘cheer’ and broadcasts this action to his or her network of friends.
Womersley added that Cheers will leverage the power of community to enhance the service. Artists who aren’t already included in the system can be crowdsourced by the Cheers community, who he said will act as information-gatherers for new and exciting artists.
Notably, the service doesn’t require an artist to sign up to receive any bitcoin tips that come their way. Cheers handles the outreach process, and by doing so aims to create an organic network of musicians brought together by grassroots efforts.
“We really want to use the community and let everyone contribute to what they want Cheers to be. Obviously we have a vision for what we want to build, but really, it’s the community that will help direct where we’ll go,” said Womersley.
He added that “more than one high-profile band” has got in touch with Cheers, and although he couldn’t share which bands have contacted the company, Womersley indicated that the level of enthusiasm surrounding the project is on the rise.
Ultimately, he said, Cheers is designed to eventually become a platform for people to tip all kinds of artists:
“Online there’s lots of creators. For a lot of the time, it’s difficult to monetize and grow your fans. So, what we really wanted to build was a way to easily reward people who make things that you love.”
Cheers opted to focus on music because of the strength of grassroots music communities throughout the world. Eventually, however, the goal is to cover all creators, “whether it’s a song or a blog post or a painting or a picture on Instagram, anything,” Womersley said.
He added that while development is focused on the Cheers app, integration with other services and platforms is also possible. He suggested that social networks like Facebook and Twitter could be leveraged to send cheers, as well as physical means to broadcast cheers during performances, showings and other artistic events.
Currently, the Cheers development team is not actively seeking investors; instead, the focus is on delivering a consumer-ready product, Womersley said.
A community of trust
Womersley acknowledged the concerns among some consumers about the risks of transacting in bitcoin. He stated that Cheers is placing a high priority on ensuring users that their money is being delivered to artists, saying:
“What’s really important is building trust with our customers. So, we’re really committed to keeping open and transparent about where your money is, what stage it is, if it’s gotten to the artist or not. We don’t want people to have any concern about tipping.”
He added that after two months, if a tip is unable to be delivered, Cheers will refund those tips to users at no cost. The platform doesn’t charge any transaction fees outside of the normal operating costs of the bitcoin network.
With its musical focus and creative use of social media capabilities, Cheers stands to impact the way that both consumers and artists engage with one another while potentially tackling a serious problem plaguing a once highly profitable industry.
Concert image via Shutterstock