A Cooperative, For-Profit Association of Audio Producers

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Another Kind of Unity Gain

"A cooperative is a business owned and controlled by the people who use its services. They finance and operate the business or service for their mutual benefit. By working together, they can reach an objective that would be unattainable if acting alone." - U.S. Department of Agriculture

This project was begun by members of what has come to be known as the "Big List" -- more specifically, the vs880 list, generously hosted by EMR Corporation (emr.net) of Phoenix, Arizona. The Big List's original focus was the Roland vs880 digital audio workstation, but in more than three years of existence, it has evolved into a global community of home-studio musicians and other independent recordists, many of whom have never owned or used a vs880. BigListen.com welcomes all home-studio musicians and independent audio producers, or anyone who is interested in recording, whatever gear or methods they use. The organizers of BigListen.com are committed to preserving and supporting the Big List as the community it has become, even as we strive to give it a better home in with more extensive features and services.

Here's what we've got in mind:

What if ...?

What if the Big List became its own Internet Service Provider? An ISP not only owned and controlled by its members, but also benefiting those members. An ISP that could offer not only conventional Internet access, but a home for our community in cyberspace, a platform from which to launch our music into the world. A shared server space for audio files. Not just artist home pages, but supplemental resources to help those artists get their music heard, their stories told. A place where we could collaborate, compare notes, chat, argue, webcast, or maybe even jam together online. And with that ISP, we could take a cooperative approach not only to marketing and distributing our audio products, but to acquiring the tools, supplies, and services we need to make those products. A community storefront where we could sell our CDs and distribute our mp3 files. And, as the Big List has always been, a place to hang out with like-minded - and not so like-minded - folks and learn a lot about recording and a lot of other stuff, too, on - and off-topic.

A Wealth of Resources

We've got a lot of talent, expertise and experience in our community, not just musicians, but lawyers, web designers, advertising experts, voiceover artists, accountants, programmers, you name it. We believe we can pool those resources for our common advantage, to better market our products and services as well as to more efficiently purchase the equipment and services we need to produce audio products.

Precedents

We would not be the first ISP owned and operated by a cooperative - there's already at least one of those, the Colorado Internet Cooperative Association: http://www.coop.net

Although the cooperative business model was originally developed for agriculture, it has been successfully adapted to a wide range of businesses.

The National Cooperative Business Association site at: http://www.cooperative.org offers background and other resources for and about cooperative businesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also provides many resources to cooperative businesses: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/csdir.htm and we have used some of those resources to prepare this proposal.

Organization

The BigListen.com Audio Cooperative would be a membership organization. Each member would have one vote, and the cooperative would pay members proportionally, according to what they contribute. Some profits might be reinvested into the cooperative, as appropriate, but the goal would be for as much of the proceeds as possible to be returned to individual members.

Goal

The cooperative's official goal is simple: To facilitate the sale, distribution and promotion of our products as well as acquisition of tools, materials and services necessary for the production of those products.

Beginning with that broad goal, we could establish the ISP and then work together to add features and services for and by members. While we have many ideas and suggestions about what those features and services might be, we will be dependent on members, not just to provide input and feedback, but to do the work and make the contributions necessary to develop all the possibilities the cooperative can offer.

Sources of Income

Initially, the cooperative would be funded by membership fees, which we hope would be reasonable and competitive with ISP access fees in general. One would not have to be a member to visit BigListen.com, but only members would share in the proceeds. In agricultural cooperatives, members contribute a percentage of their harvests to fund the organization. In our case, the cooperative might receive a percentage of each CD sold through its online storefront, for example.

Advertising - opt-in, permission marketing - would be another possible source of revenue. Just as other commercial sites do, our cooperative would focus on customized advertising messages. Such an approach would be facilitated by member surveys and other data collection to determine what messages might be most welcome, and most effective, to our community. More importantly, we could work with gear manufacturers and providers of audio-related services to lower not only their customer-acquisition costs, but costs to our members as well. As a cooperative owned and operated by its members, we will never violate the privacy of our members' demographic and musical profiles the way a purely commercial service almost certainly would.

What About the Big List?

The Big List itself would continue, as would other lists that might develop. While the cooperative as a whole would not concentrate on Roland or any particular company's products, those who want to maintain smaller groups focused on individual products or other topics would be encouraged to do so. BigListen.com could grow to include many audio-related communities, products and services, as well serving as sort of a chamber of commerce to provide resources to individual member-owned audio-related businesses.

What Next?

We've set up a list for further discussion, and if you're interested in participating, or even lurking, we invite you to join us there.

To subscribe to coop@biglisten.com , send a message to:

coop-add@biglisten.com

or visit http://biglisten.com

 

A Survey

We have prepared a survey to help us determine what features, services and products BigListen.com might offer to its members and others. Please take a moment to check out the survey. All responses will be kept confidential.

We thank you for considering this proposal, and we welcome your input.

BigListen.com Steering Committee

Merlin Zener, Noosa, Australia merlin@merlinzener.com

Claude Veziau, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada cveziau@ifreedom.com

Shredmistress Rynata Los Angeles, CA glamazon@wenet.net

Lew Sheen, Shirley, MA, USA, sheens@tiac.net

Ron Oslund, Ottawa, Canada reoslund@capitalnet.com

Jerry Galloway, Atlanta, Georgia, USA jerry@oneheartstudios.com

Janet Dagley Dagley, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA daeggadaegga@earthlink.net

Supporters (in order of affirmation)

R. Shawn Deveau Red Deer, Alberta, Canada  rdeveau@ccinet.ab.ca

Paul Olito, Thornton, NH, USA, polito@virtualstudiosystems.com

Michael Dagley Hoboken, New Jersey, USA daegga@earthlink.net

Gordon and Nancy Groff  Lancaster, Pennsylvania  gsgroff@mciworld.com

D J Dubya Waddington  Exeter RI USA Shadowcaster@ids.net

Bill Lieske Phoenix, Arizona U.S. of A. bill@emr.net

Al Evans, Austin, Texas, USA, al@tbtm.org

Brian McLeod, Miami, FL, USA, brian@pisces.com

Steve Thornbrugh, Tulsa, Okla., USA, thornbsb@bp.com

Keith Alan Mullin Quincy, IL USA keithalanmullin@hotmail.com

Luis "Tripi" Vicente, Bronx, NY, USA tripijb@tripirecords.com

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