Artis Futura was born after a series of frustrating events.
As an artist, the last few years have been less than ideal. On the other hand, they have given me time and opportunity to try new things, new approaches to build a better future through the internet. In the process, I encountered some serious obstacles that made growing online and monetizing my music much more difficult than it should be. So I naively decided that artists deserved better and took a first step towards a potentially more just future.
Here are some of the obstacles I had the “joy” of tripping over… and the beginning of a solution.
1. My online practice manual
The shutdown because of Covid 19 has finally given me the opportunity to focus on an educational project I’ve wanted to do for years: “A Practice Guide for Violin and Viola.”
These are not video lessons, but a series of videos aimed at improving the quality of the student’s practice. I do not believe that a video can replace a competent teacher, ever. My goal was simply to make practice easier and more effective.
Anyway, this article is not about my recordings, but the experience of recording and publishing these videos has a lot to do with why I started Artis Futura.
Recording and publishing is easy, but then I made the mistake of creating my own website on WordPress. To say it was an unpleasant experience is an understatement. It was a frustrating process and after you get your site name, your web hosting, your video hosting, you then have to start looking for themes, plugins, and more plugins to make those plugins work. And then the eternal reminders to update, and plugins that work fine, but not when you’re also using other plugins. Do you see where I’m going with this? I accidentally ended up with an extra part-time job…
On top of that, most plugins cost a little or a lot if you really want enjoy their most useful features. I totally understand why, but now my second job has become a financial liability and my passion for my practice manual has quickly dulled.
2. Zoom and alternatives
Like almost every music teacher, I found myself on Zoom or Skype to continue my profession. Some days it was okay, most days it wasn’t. I remember one particular lesson on dynamics with a hard working student. Skype, my usual means of communication, wasn’t working, so I ended up on Zoom. It’s hard to describe how difficult it is to teach dynamics when you have to judge solely based on what you can see about bow speed and point of contact.
(For those of you who don’t play a bowed instrument: the faster the bow moves, the greater the sound produced. The closer you play to the bridge, the more weight you can use. The reverse is also true, of course! The quality and intensity of the sound you produce depends on the balances between weight, contact point and bow speed).
I felt so sorry for my student after this lesson. What I listened to could in no way be described as a sound that a violin can produce, and dynamics were completely absent. (Yes, we tried the Original Sound option, without much success).
It turns out that it is possible to have a good alternative, so I found some developers with the right experience about a year ago and we got to work. The Artis video calling app has a pretty good dynamic and sound (Yes, I’m biased, but some users agree with me).
3. Online teaching platforms
There are many good online education platforms out there, no doubt about it. Each one has its own philosophy and costs/commissions. When I first started researching online education platforms, I couldn’t believe the commissions that some of them charged. After funding a year of development out of my own pocket, I now understand why…
However, I think part of the problem is offering free profiles with all the bells and whistles. Yes, I offer free profiles too, but the built-in monetization features and the video calling app (these are the features that cost money to develop and run) are only available to paid subscribers. I think if you are a serious professional and want a professional service, you need to invest at least a little in yourself. If something is free, you become the product…
I have opted for what I believe is an affordable monthly payment to cover ongoing costs (data storage, maintenance, security, development, etc.) and a small commission (2% on the teacher’s side and 1% on the student’s side) which should cover operating costs (data transfer costs, server rental, email notifications, etc.).
Unlike my competitors, Artis Futura does not have an exclusivity clause. I have chosen not to limit anyone’s ability to monetize the platform. If you want to use a free profile and communicate with your potential students through your social media links or email instead of booking through the platform, you are welcome to do so! If you have a subscription, teach in person, and get paid in cash instead, feel free to do so. You won’t be violating any of the platform’s terms and conditions.
Another problem artists face is the fragmentation between our online social interactions with our followers and the platforms on which we can actually convert those followers into customers. We have to sort of build a fan base using half a dozen different sites. Then we’re supposed to convince them to follow us on a bunch of other sites in hopes that they’ll bother to sign up for them so we can pay for the artwork or service we’re selling.
Often we need different platforms to be able to monetize different aspects of our art.
Managing a lot of different accounts on different platforms is a huge waste of time. All this work knowing full well that only a fraction of our followers will be willing to sign up on additional sites to support our future as artists.
Artis Futura doesn’t have all the answers by any means, but I am looking for solutions. I hope that by communicating with professional artists, I can develop a platform that can unify the social and financial aspects of our online lives. For now, I have taken a first step in a direction that I believe can make a difference for many artists: education.
For now, only musician profiles are available, but I’ll include other art forms, hopefully, before the next school year begins. I am still designing the registration requirements for each art form so that I can provide potential students with effective search results through the right filters.
For now, the profiles are still very simple and straightforward, but I hope that over time I will provide enough layout flexibility that you can create your own websites within the platform. This will eliminate the need for expensive plugins for essential functionality such as subscriptions, ticketing for live and online events, advertising, sales, SEO, etc. With your support (constructive criticism, ideas, paid subscriptions, etc.), I am convinced we can stop being a product and become creators again…