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Micropayments by Flattr

Flattr logoAnother micropayment system - Flattr appeared on February 2010. It was founded by ex-PirateBay Peter Sunde and entrepreneur Linus Olson. The main idea is to give people the possibility to say “Thank You!” for any thing they like on the internet with 1-2 or even a fraction of a cent by simply pressing a button. The “thing” can be a single blog post, a song, a photo, a whole web site – any piece of creative work. Much like the “Like” button on Facebook but supported with money.

In order to thank people this way you have to register with Flattr and upload minimum 2EUR to your account. Each time you press the Flattr button on a web page a fraction of this amount will be transferred to the author of the thing you like. In order to get your own Flattr button you have to register with flattr and upload … - exactly the same way because Flattr doesn't discriminate between creators and consumers of content. In modern life we are both the same time. Then you register your content in your account and get the button code. Details are explained on Flattr web site.

Flattr catalog structure

All things already registered on Flattr are available for discovering in the catalog. On the 15-th of July it contains 17907 things. They are divided into 6 sections:

  • Written text 81.3% (14469)
  • Images 5.8% (1031)
  • Audio 4.9% (866)
  • Video 2.7% (487)
  • Software 2.1% (370)
  • The rest 3.3% (584)

Let's have a closer look at Audio section. It numbers 866 things. Each day 10 more audio things are registered on the average. As told before, a thing can be either a single creative work or a bunch of them. Both tactics are used now by Flattr participants (we at SE decided to register the whole site). Please, bear this in mind looking at how things fall apart in Audio section:

Structure of Audio section of Flattr catalog

  • Podcasts 65.1% (564)
  • Indie/Recognized musicians 21.8/0.5% (189/4)
  • Web radio 5.3% (46)
  • Music blogs 2.1% (18)
  • Net labels 1.6% (14)
  • Videocasts <1% (9)
  • Non-audio <1% (7)
  • Music pieces with unclear authoring <1% (6)
  • Artist aggregators <1% (5)
  • About Audio <1% (3)
  • Audio books <1% (1)

Predominance of podcasts, covering various topics from love stories to software engineering, seems a bit surprising. Top 10 most flattered things are also podcasts. But if we think of podcasting as a next step in personal blogging and a very convenient form of “broadcasting” both for program authors and listeners, those figures become more understandable. Conventional radio is trying to be more convenient for listeners and listeners convert their blog posts into podcasts.

Indie musicians, Net labels and Aggregators (offering web space and services to artists) is another big group which benefit from Flattr micropayments. Almost all musicians published their works under Creative Commons licences. Among recognized musicians are:

  • Carbon Based Lifeforms
  • Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes
  • Pandemonium
  • Ian Simmonds

Only first two of them have Flattr buttons on their official web sites. Carbon Based Lifeforms accompanied donation buttons with the following: “If you downloaded our music on p2p or otherwise and still want to pay us, feel free to donate”. Now with Flattr button it is extremely easy to do this. Ian Simmonds and Pandemonium don't mention Flattr on their official web sites, so the question - who will receive microdonations for them – is open. Seems like the only solution for such uncertain situations is using Flattr buttons on official web sites or other places reliably controlled by authors.

Web radios presented in Flattr catalog mostly rotate music under CC licenses by indie-artists. One discovery is worth to mention – SceneSat Radio playing “the best music from every corner of the scene and related stuff” as they say about themselves. We could add that streaming content has surprisingly good artistic and technical quality (professional pre-processing, four streams: aac+ vbr@48, mp3 cbr@128, aac+ vbr@128, mp3 cbr@320), not to say that the station has very convenient way to say “Thank You!” with Flattr button.

Six things point to music pieces which are difficult to understand whom they belong to and who will receive the revenue. Eighteen things are from music blogs. They raise the question - is it ethical to ask for donations for discovering new music and promoting artists? Well … why not?! Presence of Videocasts and ordinary blog posts (16 in total) in Audio section looks like mistake. Three things belong to web resources devoted to Audio itself as a technology (SE – one of them). While numbers of things submitted to Audio section changes rapidly and when you read this article actual figures will differ from those above, the structure of submissions will stay actual for longer time as it changes more slowly if at all.

At the moment Flattr is still closed beta – you need invitation to join. Hope when it goes public there will be substantial increase in content submissions which will help Flattr to get critical mass – a key factor of any micropayment service success. By the way, we have three more invitations; drop us a line if you need one.

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Audio-Transparency Initiative