Think of all the ways technology has changed commerce. Most every city for example was littered with photo processing huts and with the advent of sites like ofoto, now part of Kodak and entire layer of businesses between the buyer and seller was wiped out. Likewise, mall owners have seen the pain caused by Amazon and other ecommerce sites. Craigslist crippled the newspaper classified business; Google has massacred all sorts of industries by sucking the life out of advertising profitability and moreover ravaging the direct mail industry.
New distribution models aren’t something we haven’t seen before the advent of the Internet. Think Herbalife, Amway and Tupperware - they all take advantage of a multilevel marketing/sales model allowing sales on a more personal basis.
But what happens if you take the best of live personal product sales and recommendations where an army of people are commissioned to sell a product and bring that to the web?
That is what a new company Monkeybars is trying to find out with the launch of a service which allows purchasing and recommending of various media with the ability to generate revenue if you recommend something which is subsequently purchased by others. It works much like a multilevel marketing model where you could recommend a song which gets re-recommended and so on and all the people get paid along the way. In a discussion this week with company CEO Tom Thimot he mentioned how amazing it would be from a financial perspective if you were the person who discovered a Justin Bieber.
From the perspective of the artist it is a no brainer to work with the site as it doesn’t take a cut of the proceeds – they just set aside a portion of the sales amount for the fans who recommend the content to their social network friends.
So the record labels/distributors are at the most risk with this model. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work with Monkeybars and your current distribution partners – you can.
My biggest concern was the quality of the recommendations – after all if you give someone an incentive to recommend something they could just push anything they find to make some extra cash. Thimot said if users do this, their followers would drop them and moreover they have to purchase the content before they can recommend it which is a safeguard against any insincere promoting.
Interestingly an unintended consequence of Monkeybars is people and even organizations who could take a vested interested in promoting media on their sites in places you might see Google ads today. Just like a manufacturer once dependent on distributors to sell products can now go direct via web ads, Monkeybars allows you to harness the power of devoted followers and those looking to make a career out of promoting your products
I tried the service myself and was able to find a new artist I liked. I think this is a solid idea and can potentially open up a new way of marketing for not only artists and their content producers but perhaps corporations with devoted fans who want to help give their referring customers a financial incentive to promote their products and services.
Middlemen have been cut out for many years – but Monkeybars shows me how social networking can be harnessed in new ways to remove all sorts of layers from current distribution models.