The Industry Isn’t Good at Paying Artists. So I Invented ‘Copper…’

The following is a presentation given at SF Musictech Summit by Scott Fryxell, founder of a brand-new concept called Copper.  The technology is designed to tip any artist, from almost anywhere online.

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Basically I had to stay at a bunch of friends’ houses while I built the web app I’m going to show you.  And all these friends are artists: curators, graphic designers, some former bandmates, and each one of them sort of put me up while I went through this process.

And I think there’s this willingness within the arts community to support one another, even if what we’re building may not always end up having a clear path.  If you play music or have built anything from the ground up, you know you can’t do anything without your community.

So I was thinking about support on the internet a few years ago, and the internet does a pretty good job of getting the word out about the music you have and getting your name out in the world.  It solved that problem pretty good.

“But we haven’t done a good job figuring out how to pay artists. So I decided to make this product called Copper, which makes it super easy for artists and other folks who make creative content online to get support from their fans.”

Copper allows you to support any and everything online with a single click.  And by ‘support’ I mean ‘pay‘.

So here’s how Copper works with fans.  Sign up with Facebook, and you install a button in your browser.

So then you go about your normal interweebs business, but whenever you have that warm-and-fuzzy feeling, you can take it to the next level and tip any page on the web.  We do the hard work of finding and paying the authors.

So all your tips end up on your profile page…

And this sort of serves as a roving list of all the stuff that you find online that you like.  What’s unique about Copper is that 100 percent of the tip goes to the content creator.  We see ourselves as representing the fan, so we charge them a 10 percent fee.  It’s a genuine and no-bullshit way for content creators to connect with their fans and get support.

So there’s two ends of this.  After a fan’s tipped, we go out and we contact the content creator, and we begin the process of paying them.  So once they’re signed up, they have this profile page, where they can see what pages have been tipped, what we’ve paid them and what we owe them.  Standard stuff, you can also add a badge to if you want to put a Copper logo next to your content so people can pay you.

So this is what I do for a living, I find and pay authors.  And I’m trying to make it easy for artists and their fans to connect, and keep creators creating their work.  And what we want to do here is create a virtuous cycle.

“You can’t really buy a burrito with your Facebook Likes, but you can with Copper.  And what I like about it is that the fan is communicating how much they value their content. And that’s a powerful thing.”

Site at  Contact info here.

36 Responses

  1. Dacesita

    how about a site where I can open an account and put a “tip me” button near everything I do? Guess it’s Paypal…

    • Visitor

      Of course not — it is extremely important not to support Flattr!
      The company was started by one of the convicted criminals behind the Pirate Bay…

      • Logic Fail

        It’s extremely important for artists not to take money from criminals!
        I’m a convicted felon. I just purchased a Camper Van Beethoven album. Who is my money supporting?

        • FarePlay

          Convicted Criminal.
          We appreciate your restitution, buy all the music you like. Music can heal and enlighten people. that’s one of the reasons it has value.

    • visitor

      But it is nevertheless the same – even if you don’t like the guys that created Flattr, right?
      And Flattr is perfectly legal. Even if you don’t like the guys that set it up, right?

      • FarePlay

        Don’t think the guys from Flattr are buying a lot of David Lowery’s work, or anyones for that matter.
        And yeah, I’d probably not choose to do business with Flattr either.

        • WWTF?

          So where do you stand with say, Facebook and Sean Parker?

          • WWTF?

            Forget Myspace too. Timberlake played Sean Parker. Ahhhh Clinton co-funded The Haiti Relief Fund and he cheated on his wife. Ahhhh criminals everywhere!

      • Brian

        I believe with Flattr that each individual creates a personal pool of money which is then split, whereas with Copper each tip goes directly to the recipient.

  2. AnAmusedGeek

    ‘We do the hard work of finding and paying the authors.’
    Hmm – paying the authors is easy…
    But I’d love to hear more about ‘finding’ them??
    It sounds like you accept payments/tips for pages even before you know who the money should go to?
    I know its pedestrian, but having artists signup before you collect money on their behalf would prolly save a ton of headaches.

    BTW, I assume you can support pages with multiple artists/bands on them say like catalog or sampler pages?
    I’m going with the romantic notion that this is some app from frozen iceland rather then being taken :-)
    Good Luck!

  3. someguy

    So, it’s not a brand-new concept.
    While I in no way condone the Pirate Bay, why not use Flattr? I know it was founded by one of the Pirate Bay people, but it seems transparently to be doing the same thing Copper is.
    And how can Copper scale if it is taking in all this money (if it is successful) that it does not know where to pay on to?
    Seems to me that Flattr does it the right way round – creators sign up to Flattr and they place the button on their sites (or it appears as a browser add-on on Flattr-registered sites). That way Flattr knows where the money should go.
    And as for the Facebook thing, just why?

  4. Jeff Robinson

    Does this have a browser limitiation, i.e. of only working with Google Chrome?

  5. Frankie

    You should take a look at – it already has a big community of musicians that play live for tips. It’s online busking at it’s purest form. Musicians stream live from their webcams – anywhere anytime. Viewers buy tokens which they use as tips. The musicians then get their tokens paid out through PayPal. I’ve talked to a number of musicians that are making a few hundred dollars a month on StreetJelly.

    • Clifton Printy

      I am a Musician, who has recorded albums been pirated, and legit, I have never ever made a significant amount of money anywhere until I joind street Jelly. I recorded an Electric blues album that is a contendor for anything I have ever seen With the Fabulous Bol On’s in like 2003, yet I still haven’t seen a significant amount of money. Since August of 2012, I have watched streetjelly grow, and am now becoming concerned with taxes as My payouts keep growing and growing. Top to payers for Clifton Printy= playing gigs and Online tipping as of today 207 dollars from Won’t work! If your a musician it is the only thing that will work.

  6. hippydog

    does anyone else see this concept as just another example of how fracked up the music industry has become.. :-(

    • Nigahiga

      I don’t know, it’s pretty messed up. If you have an 11-year old at home streaming every video nigahiga has ever created indiscriminately, you can see how if they had access to their mom’s credit card they’d be tipping him constantly. Lack of talent gets rewarded.

  7. ceebee

    “What’s unique about Copper is that 100 percent of the tip goes to the content creator. We see ourselves as representing the fan, so we charge them a 10 percent fee.”

    So that means 90% of the tip goes to the content creator. It’s good to be crystal clear about this stuff. You don’t want the first part of that quoted without the second or have people accusing you of false advertising because you said 100%.

    • Peter Bogdanoff

      Good point. However he’s counting on human nature to chip in the extra 10%.
      You’re generous and want to give $10. You see that there is an extra $1 being charged. So you can consider it a “sales tax” and pay it, or go back and lower you gift to $9 with an added 90 cents fee. I think most people will still do it if they feel motivated to do anything at all.

  8. Hypebot Hater

    So, here are some scenarios that showcase why will fail:
    1. Finding the artist – this can be near impossible, and there seems to be zero accountability as to what happens when copper can’t find the artist. And how does the artist account for this income in their accounting? YOu say your contact them via twitter/facebook/etc – so… you’re paying staff to hunt down an artist to get them the $4 that someone tips them?
    2. the unauthorized artist example – users on an platform that post tracks that aren’t theirs, use unauthorized samples, etc – and then get tipped for it. or worse yet, actively promote copper as a means of payment for tracks they don’t have rights to. the process for accountability, again, looks to be zero.
    3. The browser-based functionality – as traffic shifts more to mobile, particularly for music, a browser based plugin doesn’t do much good. And what happens when your kid fires up the computer and “tips” an artist (or a non-rights holder)? Customer service can be a serious bitch.
    4. YOU’RE BANKING ON THE USERS ACTIVELY SEEKING OUT YOUR SERVICE. What’s more likely? a user finds an artist they like, then go to their website to purchase something in support, OR they hunt down a service that is (currently) virtually impossible to find via search (unless you know exactly what you’re searching for, the url, etc) to “tip” them?
    And i know, i know, your response here is that you’ll bank on the user signing up and then re-using the service multiple times (as evidenced by your weekly billing structure) to pay artists, creating your artist contact & signup cycle, additionally adding word of mouth/organic growth, blah blah blah – but, uh, that’s not something to bank on.

    • Not really

      The first point is incorrect. The artist has to registered with Copper to receive the money. Verification of bank account is essential. No artist registration, no payment to artist. Link would only show up if artist was registered and posted their badge next to their content. Pretty simple.

      • hypebot hater

        try again.
        “After a fan’s tipped, we go out and we contact the content creator, and we begin the process of paying them. So once they’re signed up, they have this profile page, where they can see what pages have been tipped, what we’ve paid them and what we owe them.”

  9. Darryl Ballantyne

    Anyone else remember Fairtunes, circa 1999?

    Everything old is new again…

    • Not Really Again

      Not the same thing at all. Fairtunes was designed to pay quid pro quo for a song. Copper is to simply to send a band/artist/anyone your money.

  10. WINJOW

    Sounds good Scott. I hope this is the beginning of the dichotomy shift. Brilliant to charge the fan 10% because the artist has already done the hard work of production and distribution. I hope it works.

  11. Your Site is down

    Well that did not last long – The site is down and not only down but showing code.

  12. Crocheted Gloves

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m improving myself. I certainly love reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the tips coming. I loved it!
    :) #$# :(

  13. Title Gloves

    Hello.This post was extremely remarkable, particularly because I was browsing for thoughts on this issue last Friday.

  14. Summer Scarves

    You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.