• iu

idea #08: artist co-op

economies of scale + employee owned

This one's more of a hunch...and I have no idea something like this exists but...

It's hard to make a living as an artist or designer.

The independent nature makes finding exponential growth nearly impossible, and as an artist, you need to start from zero to build a brand and find your market. Not to mention it's pretty difficult to predict income streams.

Switching wavelengths - a few months ago, we went to REI to pick up some new hiking shoes. As some may know, REI is a co-op run by customers and workers. Those who sign up and pay $20 get a lifetime membership, and basically you get hooked up with discounts, access to events, and receive a member 'dividend' every year based on what you spend. They've been running 80+ years so I'd say it's a pretty successful model.

Switching back - so what would a similar model look like for artists and designers?

This could operate as a collective, where independent artists come together and each would own a portion of the business based upon some combination of reputation x revenue x production quantity x network x co-op job.

The main upside would be economies of scale - not just in negotiating with suppliers, but in marketing, brand building, networking, collaboration across the collective, and commanding a presence for exhibitions and other events. It would also help diversify and expand globally (eventually).

Then, all operating profits of the co-op would be distributed back to all the artists on a regular basis.

Now, there are some quasi-collective type things out there like Society 6 ("artists", now thats heavy quotes there, upload their work, and anytime a print or something is purchased, you get a commission). But I would classify this as borderline exploitive, and makes it ever more difficult to establish a brand.

As a co-op, you could recreate the same supply chain with much better margins with higher quality, professional work.

Last benefit - the artists in the co-op could be composed of your traditional artists, graphic designers, UI/UX or similar, to cross-pollinate and really break into different channels of art and design. Would be closer to your typical design agency to some degree, but remember, everyone is an owner and shares in the profits. I've also seen some more entrepreneurial models where design agencies deliver their services in exchange for equity - now that's innovation!


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