Introducing August - Can it Solve One of the Greatest Challenges Facing Artists?

Introducing August - Can it Solve One of the Greatest Challenges Facing Artists?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve no doubt seen some occasional teaser images from various artists announcing their addition to the August network. While the team has been relatively mum about the details behind August, their vision is simple yet ambitious. If they are successful, it could prove to be one of the most powerful and beneficial platforms for artists to date.

“The world of media will forever change when any artist is able to sell 100 million copies of their work—all by themselves.” - this is the fundamental principle underlying August’s vision and the goal that drives them forward. The aim of August is to go beyond the intrinsic value that artists typically extract from existing social media platforms and produce real financial benefits by solving the distribution challenge that plagues all artists today. While August’s platform still operates on the principle of a producer-consumer relationship, the details underlying it are quite different. Its aim is to make this relationship stronger and more meaningful.

One of the first steps taken by August is the removal of personal content such as cat photos, memes, selfies, etc. and placing the focus on high quality artistic material. This ensures that an artists hard work isn’t lost in the sea of noise that exists across various social networks today. As Sean Wing - one of August’s co-founders - has aptly put it, the situation has gotten to the point where “being discovered via the internet is like winning the lottery”.

This aforementioned noise not only causes problems for artists but for content consumers as well. Consumers struggle in today’s existing platforms to find high quality, inspiring content that matches their personal tastes and leaves them yearning for more. This common goal between artists and consumers creates a sustainable relationship that keeps both parties coming back.

The product itself is divided into four distinct elements: Channels, Sharing, Identities, and Conversations.

Channels

Channels are at the core of content distribution in August and are further divided into Published, Shared and Personal streams. This division will allow consumers to receive curated content from a variety of sources and degrees of personalization while providing high quality content immediately upon sign-up. This is important as it allows artists to get their work seen by a wide audience and simultaneously overcomes the onboarding challenges that users typically face when adopting a new platform. These channels are populated by two sets of profiles, an artist profile and a consumer profile. Consumers have access to the Shared channel by giving them the ability to share artist content to it, or the Personal channel to share the content they themselves create. Artists on the other hand are given access to all three, and most notably the Published channel where they can share high quality works for art. To ensure that the content populating the Published channel remains of the highest caliber, artists can only join August by invitation from a pre-existing artist with a limit on the number invitations they can send. Both artists and consumers are provided with different tools for media publication. Consumer content will be populated via a mobile platform - since this is where the majority of user content originates - similar to what Instagram offers. Artists on the other hand generate content through a variety of tools and will instead have a web based interface from which to publish their work.

Sharing

Although likes are personally gratifying, they hold little lasting value for an artist and rarely translate into income. August is designed to extract more value from user interactions by restricting them to two operations for the media they consume: sharing to the shared stream or another social media platform, or saving them for later in their August library. This helps artists achieve a snowball effect for their content, not only within August but also across the internet. To encourage sharing, August makes it easy for consumers to “measure their degree of influence over a piece of Published media in a quantifiable and emotionally rewarding way”. This plays off our desires to be the first to discover a particular artist or piece of content and is a powerful motivator for sharing.

Identities

User Identities work at both the artist and consumer levels. While artists build an identity based on the content they create, be it photos, video, audio or text, consumers build identities based on the content they share. This is gratifying for users and “allows any consumer to build an audience of millions who recognize and appreciate their unique tastes in media” of any form. Consumers can thus become powerful influencers much like larger media outlets (magazines, radio and tv stations) are today.

 

Conversations

August’s transparency over influence and sharing are just one of the elements that help to create more personal and meaningful Conversations. An artist can easily find their most influential followers and personally reach out to them. These conversations will be less transactional and more lasting through the addition of a visual timeline of the relationships formed. These timelines will not only encompass spoken conversations, but also interactions with the artist’s media creating a more durable and intangible exchange.  

As you can see, the potential that August has is unlimited and the benefits to both the artist and consumer are extremely compelling. It’s expected that August’s user base will be comprised of 1% artists and 99% consumers and will grow organically through the existing base of impressive featured artists and the social sharing that will occur. August will be launching shortly with a gradual rollout to featured artists, and then growing outward from there. During my conversations with Sean Wing - August’s co-founder - it’s clear that the team is extremely passionate about what they're building and determined to change the face of media distribution as we know it. Only time will tell whether they will be successful but I’m certainly encouraged by what I’ve seen and heard, and happy to be one of their featured artists. If this has peaked your curiosity, visit http://www.agst.co/ to request an invitation and follow their Facebook page at August Corporation

You can connect with me using the links below.

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25 Comments

Spy Black's picture

No cat photos? Count me out...

This idea of a site like this rubs me the wrong way. Who decides what is art? Who decides what is good art? Some of the most noted artists in history have pushed the boundaries of the definition of art. I doubt Andy Warhol or Barbara Krueger would make the cut. I could go on because my college thesis was about the definition of art and how people will love anything they are told is "good" but I'll stop being a negative Nancy. I'm sure some people will love this but I find it counter productive to creativity.

I assure you, Andy Warhol and Barbara Krueger WOULD make the cut ;)

Barbara Kruger essentially makes memes. She is one of my personal favorites, so it's not an insult at all. But she was essentially making print memes before lolcats. One might reasonably argue that there isn't much difference in her work and some memes. I'd put down a chunk of money that if I started replicating some of Andy Warhol's ideas with a modern twist I'd be ripped to shreds.

Even if the community gets to "decide", what you end up seeing is a group of people with similar styles and tastes. There are certain looks and trends and that becomes the definition of good quality for the next several years until the next trend emerges. That's the nature of exclusive groups and that's ok. What rubs me the wrong way is a website and community determining by their own definition what is good art and telling consumers "this is what is good". If the group was exclusive by being published or winning certain awards or hitting a certain dollar amount or anything else, it probably wouldn't bug me.

Jennifer, August is in no way, shape, or form, evaluating or determining what is "good art" because you are right in everything you said. :) If you are an artist on August, then you post whatever you want. There are no mechanisms whatsoever that reviews or oversees what you post because that would just be plain ole stupid. Haha.

James Nedresky's picture

Ok, fine. Then who are the insiders, the inviter's? What are their qualifications? What are their show records? Their Gallery affiliations? Their curriculum vitae? This hasn't been addressed and ought to be. Otherwise, it's a club.

So how does one get invited? Who determines which artists are accepted?

Jennifer & James, there are no insiders. This isn't some elaborate or exclusive club made up of clicks from Jr. High. Haha. If you go to the site, anyone can request an invitation as either an artist or consumer.

As for the way the artists who will be on August when it launches discovered August was through the personal recommendation of one of their friends.

You may not believe this, but almost two years ago, I pitched this concept of August to only a few artists that I knew. They loved the idea, and said I had to share it with some of their friends who were artists as well that would be interested. So I did. And they proceeded to fall in love with the idea and recommended that I reach out to their friends as well.

The result has been thousands upon thousands of conversations that I have had with artists that ALL have been personally recommended by their friends or that I personally discovered and loved (i.e. my personal recommendation, haha).

It was seeing this community of artists that believed in August grow through these personal recommendations and invites that I realized that it would be awesome to apply this to the platform itself.

If artists were inviting both the artists who they were friends with AND the artists that they didn't know, but looked up to and wanted to see on August, all offline without a product to use, all through word-of-mouth and introductions to me, then if I built a way for them to invite these artists directly within the platform, then the community of artists on August would hopefully grow.

Furthermore, these artists who were inviting other artists were and are currently inviting other artists whose work I thought was incredible. I have discovered SO many amazing artists through all these recommendations and invites and it was then that I realized that August could legitimately grow a community of the world's most talented artists for consumers like me to discover.

Since at the end of the day, that I what I want to do is discover great media from incredible artists; media that I can't readily nor easily discover when I'm on Instagram scrolling through all my friends photos, or browsing Facebook for all the artists and status updates that my friends are sharing, etc etc.

The point is this: August isn't stating in anyway that is has a perfect mechanism that brings in every great artist in the world. All it is stating, and that I am saying here, is that August has grown through the personal recommendation of other artists, and we believe that August can and will continue to grow its community of artists in that way.

And these artists are vastly different in every way. I'd say at least 60/70% of the artists on August -- again, there are most than just photographers, but musicians, filmmakers, writers, illustrators, designers, painters, etc -- are ones you have never even heard of, who have small audiences but whose work is remarkable and talent evident.

So this isn't some JR. High Club. We aren't trying to make this some exclusive click for only the top echelon of artists. It is the complete opposite. August is for artists and their media to be discovered by the world; artists that you've never heard of before, but when you see their work, will be amazed and can't help but fall in love with who they are and what they create. And to build truly meaningful relationships with them in a way that you can't do anywhere else.

Lastly, I am sure there will be a plethora of problems within all this that I haven't yet figured out, or discovered, or solved, which is why I appreciate all the feedback, ideas, comments, etc that I can get so that nothing slips through the cracks (so please fill free to email me sean[at]agst[dot]co). But inevitably, things will. But I'm human, and far from a genius, so go figure. Haha.

I will say this though: If you aren't invited by an artist, you can upload your work directly within August when it releases for it to be reviewed by August to make sure it isn't porn, stolen work, selfies, etc (again, we are not in any way policing whether it is "art" or not because that isn't our call, and the way the experience in August is built is that the media people love and personally recommend will rise to to the top, no matter what type of art it is). It isn't perfect, but quite frankly, that was the best we could come up with. :)

James Nedresky's picture

Fine, but you sidestepped the question. Artists(?) inviting artists is a social media-type sham. It simply eliminates the cat video stuff and the selfies. Big deal? I think not. This has absolutely nothing to do with problems that "plague" artists and is just another consumer oriented, and somewhat crowd-sourced site to distract attention from those trying to make any kind of mark in the art world. To me, and only to me, it seems not much more than a platform that, if everything really goes well, and lots of people get talking about it, that it stands a chance of being purchased by some mega-giant. Sorry for the bum rap of a comment. For those that I have offended with my comments, please accept my apologies in advance, and, "thank you for your reply", in advance.

Well, you typed a lot and I still don't understand. You should be able to summarize your business in one paragraph... your vision, what it does, how it works, and how it benefits users. It's too scattered. People tend to get so excited about an idea that they can't narrow down a vision to something that works. Take my advice as someone older, wiser, and an over paid business consultant. I'm giving you $15k in free advice you didn't ask for ;)

As an artist, how is this benefitting me? If my way of signing up is to get an invite from another user or from the site itself, that isn't helpful. I get that you need to be careful with your servers in the early days, and you want to avoid 87 pictures of someone's lunch with their cat, but it comes off as a clique. That's ok as long as you pitch it right - F/64 was one too. Now, as an artist, I might want to connect with other artists outside of my physical network. But my physical network would turn up their nose at something like this so that means I'd have to get an invite from someone I don't know somehow, or go through some process on the website that isn't explained well. Then what is the point in having artists and consumers on the same site? Who are the consumers?

As a consumer, why am I here? Am I looking for people to buy from? Am I looking for artists to follow that aren't on 800 other social media outlets? Why is the ratio of artists to consumers so small? I'm not getting a good "sample" of artists if 99% of users are consumers. How is this different than Flickr or Facebook or Pinterest or 500px where more are available to me? If "consumer" is used to mean industry professionals, then that needs to be clarified because that will attract a totally different group of both artists and consumers. And why do I care what a group of artists thinks about themselves?

In my opinion, you can have one or the other - an exclusive club of artists or a site for consumers to find artists that isn't self curated.

Spy Black's picture

...and he voted my joke down too. Highly suspect...

Mike Kelley's picture

What is the biggest problem facing artists and how is this going to solve it? I don't get it...

James Nedresky's picture

There are some very good concepts here. Yet the underlying premise of being invited by some insider is a bit "jr. high", like being permitted to join an exclusive club. It reinforces the age-old stereotype that says it's not always what you know, but who you know.

It's a common business model. Google uses various versions of it. It prevents a potential flood of new users from crashing the servers. But the rest of it seems very jr. high. My 9 year old is in a Pokemon club that only lets in the kids with the best cards. Same concept.

Anthony L's picture

User-base of 1% artists and 99% consumers?
Not sure why I would be on this platform as a consumer, especially when the content is curated by a specific community. Feels like a club.

Content is actually curated by consumers and artists alike -- what you love and want to personally recommend to your friends and followers -- not a specific community in anyway. :)

Ok, so say I go to your site and request an invitation. What happens then? Do you ever reject anyone?

We have not rejected anyone, although granted, the platform hasn't released yet, so here is our plan once we do.

When August releases, all the artists on August will be those that have been personally recommended by someone, and thus will have access to the Published Channel of their Profile to share their media. Everyone else, including those artists who have not been personally recommended by someone, will only have access to the Shared & Personal Channels of their Profile.

For those artists who are on August and want access to the Published Channel of their Profile, they can upload content from their portfolio to August where it will be reviewed to make sure it isn't stolen, porn, etc. Granted it isn't, they will be given access to their Published Channel and ready to rumble.

This method is purely to ensure that the media uploaded to the Publish Stream isn't illegal and is from an artist, and allows us to control our bandwidth, transcoding, and storage costs as we get off the ground.

As August scales, invites will be plentiful, so it won't be hard to get. Then the question on everyones mind will not be "how do I become an artist on August" but "how does August ensure the quality of content being discovered". Again, there will always be problems since nothing is perfect, but we are trying. ;)

James Nedresky's picture

Sean, please, you have big goals and some good ideas. But please, what are your credentials???? State them!

To be fair, some of the largest and most successful tech companies were founded by people with no credentials who are just smart and lucky. He's got some good ideas, it just needs some fine tuning. A PR person would be very helpful in writing the ad copy too.

James Nedresky's picture

Jennifer,
I agree. But talkiing about getting behind "art" that he or his associated contacts deem worthy, or at least more artistic than selfies is just not enough. If you are looking to address situations such as this, I do believe that you need a background composed of more than simply appreciation, or crowd-sourced approval.

Ralph Berrett's picture

I am not sure I see the great benefit here. One thing is the whole invite thing. It reminds me of the old joke. I sent the club a wire stating, "PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER". - Groucho Marx

I guess the big issue I see here how do reach new clients and what is the benefit here. The big question is the 99% a real number or an ideal?

Meggan Trobaugh's picture

I am excited for this platform. FB is pretty useless for me to find anyone new to follow. IG has brought me new artists of all mediums but finding them has always been a bit hit or miss. Pinterest used to be a great way to find new work to digest but now its hard to find any content that isn't how to decorate a mason jar. A platform some what dedicated to finding fellow creatives of ALL mediums? It can't be perfect, so as long as it's actually going to help connect me with other creatives? Sign me up.

Andre DF's picture

August seems to be trying to, among other things, bring the world of art back to the meritocracy so many of us wish to see. Will it be successful? Who knows. But I think it's a huge step in the right direction. Interested in seeing how it all works.

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