August | The Playbook

The thinking, principles, and experiments behind August.


Preface

The following words capture an ongoing compilation of strategies that establish the foundation of August and expound upon the vision, product, and corporate structure that will ultimately drive its growth.

This document represents a constant and daily evolution of words as my personal understanding of this world of media and the people that it revolves around is deepened.

The root of this understanding and the premise behind my ideas comes forth from the thousands upon thousands of conversations and discussions with both artists and consumers, along with countless hours of research and prototypes, that has spanned the past six years of my life.

The reason you are reading this is because I want you to present me reasons why August wouldn’t work, or unforeseen problems that could potentially arise, based upon your personal beliefs and experiences as an artist and consumer of media.

Lastly, for those of you who aren’t particular about novels, of which this certainly is, only read what you feel is relevant and captivating, especially in light of my dreadful ability to write.

It is on that note that I leave you to my words…


Vision

The world of media will forever change when any artist is able to sell 100 million copies of their work—all by themselves.

The vision of August is to make this future a reality by building the network and technology that will enable any artist—filmmakers, writers, musicians, photographers, designers, etc—to reach the world with their work, and ultimately, sell 100 million copies of it — all by themselves.

Within the current market landscape for media, the only opportunity for an artist to achieve mainstream success is through labels, studios, publishers, agencies, etc — a system that remains a necessary evil for artists to succeed.

While this system can, in certain cases, be efficient and profitable, it doesn’t operate in the interest of artists, and furthermore, requires an artist to sacrifice their freedom, control, and ownership over their work and their identity in exchange for their slot within the system.

This directly impacts artists ability to create and thrive, while inhibiting consumers ability to access and discover the world’s artistic media.

We fundamentally believe that every great, talented artist should be known and accessible to everyone throughout the world without any inhibitions.

The mission of August is to replace these traditional systems of resources with technology driven by an open, trusted network that provides artists with a superior option to achieve mainstream success and exposure while giving consumers a more reliable channel to access new media.

August believes that this vision will be achieved by building sustainable relationships around media between those that create it and consume it.

Hypothesis

August’s vision is rooted in the hypothesis that the world of media hinges upon the relationships around media between those that create it and those that consume it. It is only through these relational dynamics that an artist can maximize the potential value of their work.

This relationship is composed of two layers; the social layer, proceeded by the financial layer. Both layers generate intrinsic social (meaningful influence) and financial (sustainable profit) value for an artist.

Without this relationship, artists would be creating media for themselves, whereas consumers wouldn’t have anything to consume. Only with this relationship are artists and consumers able to come together around their love for artistry, and translate it into an emotionally rewarding experience that is mutually meaningful and sustainable to what they value most.

August believes that IF it is able to successfully establish this social layer of the relationship around digital media—audio, video, imagery, and text—between those that create it and consume it, and do so in a way that gives artists the ability to capture the social value that their media creates, then a foundation will be laid like no other for the development and growth of the financial layer.

The timing for this opportunity is now because the relationships currently in the status quo are scattered across a myriad of different places where they are fragmented and disconnected, leaving artists unable to capture the vast majority of value that their media creates.

August holds that the key to disrupting the status quo, and in turn, ushering in a new vision for the future, will be through the natural and human dynamics of the relationships around media between artists and consumers.

The underlying principles that frame these dynamics are simple: what does an artist and a consumer value most? The answer to this question of core values is most aptly seen by the problems that they face.


Opportunity

The first step to building this social layer begins by solving artist’s and consumer’s most pressing problem.

For an artist, this problem is distribution, while for a consumer, it is simple discovery.

Distribution

Every artist, no matter their talent or success, faces a constantly daunting question: “how do I reach the world with my work?”

A simple question, without such a simple answer.

The reality is that an artist is limited to only two viable options for the distribution of their media.

First is through a label, studio, publisher, agency, etc — the system, as previously discussed. While this choice is the most efficient and profitable, it comes at a steep price that every artist regrets in one way or another.

The second, most subscribed to option is the internet, and the world that populates it through networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, etc. While this choice consists of billions of users, it lacks the necessary distribution to reach them.

Once an artist uploads their media, they must immediately market it in the hope that it is shared, or else it idly sits on their profile since they have no established channels of distribution that actively reach consumers.

The real problem in this is that the audiences they are so often marketing to within these networks don’t actually care about them or their work.

These platforms and the users that inhabit them are focused on consumers, and the media they and their friends create—not artists or their media, less alone their relationships around it.

People use Facebook to socialize with friends; YouTube & Vimeo to search for specific videos; Twitter to hear what their world is saying; Tumblr to browse miscellaneous forms of entertainment; Instagram to see what their friends are doing; and Pinterest for the wish list of things they love; etc.

This is all evidenced by the ocean of personal content that populates these networks, leaving artists and their media lost amongst vast seas of status updates, cat videos, selfies, memes, etc.

The underlying impact this distribution problem has on artist’s is that being discovered via the internet is like winning the lottery; it rarely ever happens.

Discovery

For a consumer, the answer they look for to their perpetual question is simple: “where and how can I endlessly discover the world’s most creative media from the world’s most talented artists?”

No matter who you are or where you’re from, the discovery of remarkable works of art is a desire that is relentlessly sought day after day.

There is nothing quite like the moments when you uncover that one piece of media that captures your imagination— whether it be an addictive song, a stunning photograph, a moving compilation of words, an inspiring film, etc.

When those moments occur, they are treasured, loved, and when the right opportunity is presented, always shared with those around us.

For each of us, this discovery is rare, few, and far between. It only occurs randomly, and in most cases, accidentally.

While we appreciate these moments, we always yearn for more. We crave the ability to somehow tap directly into the world of true artistic creativity, free from the vast oceans of consumer content, that gives us the chance to experience this discovery constantly and consistently; more so than the futile discovery we currently experience that requires us to fuse together dozens of various places in the hope of finding these rare moments.

August solves this distribution and discovery problem by creating one product experience for both artists and consumers that gives them the distribution and discovery they value so highly, and in the process, establishes their social relationships around media in a meaningful and sustainable way.


Product

August is an experience for artists to distribute their media to a global audience focused on uncovering their work; and for consumers to discover the world’s most artistic media from the world’s most talented artists.

This product experience is achieved through four definitive elements: Channels, Sharing, Identities, and Conversations.

Channels

The bottom line for artists is that they need more than just a place to upload and publish their media. They need a network that actively, reliably, and directly distributes their work to people who actually care to discover it.

August is first and foremost a platform that gives artists the distribution they need to reach a global audience of consumers focused purely and solely on discovering them and their work.

A user’s Stream where they can discover media from the artists and friends they follow through three distinct distribution channels.

August delivers this distribution through three distinct, direct, and exclusive channels called Published, Shared, and Personal.

The Published channel distributes only artist-created media whose value to the world is limitless.

The Shared channel distributes only artist-created media that has been personally recommended and shared by a user’s social circle of friends.

The Personal channel distributes only personal media created by artists or consumers whose value is limited to their respective social circles of friends and followers.

This distribution structure distinguishing artist’s and consumer’s media in a clear and accessible way allows any user to open August and be immediately immersed into the constant discovery of the world’s most artistic media from the world’s most talented artists.

It creates an experience similar to that of a magazine, blog, newspaper, TV/ radio station where people can engage in curated streams of ‘quality’ media with the credible expectation and hope of discovering something great.

When a user opens August, even for the first time without any prior knowledge or connections, they are tapping into direct channels of curated media from remarkably talented artists that they actually want to discover.

The result gives artists the distribution they need to reach consumers in an active, direct, and reliable way, while giving consumers a simple, pure, and naturally relevant way to discover the media they want to experience.

Ensuring that these levels of distribution and discovery occur within these channels is made possible by two very specific methods of publishing.

An example of an artist’s profile displaying all three distribution channels.

First is based on profiles. While there is one profile design for both artists and consumers, their access to publish media to these three distribution channels that make up their profile is limited.

Consumers are given access to only the Shared channel where they can share the Published media they discover; and the Personal channel where they can upload the media they capture and create.

Artists, on the other hand, receive both the Shared and Personal channels, along with the Published channel where they can upload only their most remarkable works of art.

By default, everyone is a consumer. However, to use August as an artist and receive access to the Published channel as seen in the example of Rachel Reinert, you must receive an invitation from an already approved artist, such as Rachel.

The second method that ensures the quality of media distributed within these channels is the process in which the media is uploaded.

Since the vast majority of consumer media is created through mobile devices, uploading media within August to the Personal channel can only be done via the mobile application.

You can capture your picture, for example, through your iPhones’ camera, edit it with filters from VSCO or Litely, crop it with frames from Whitagram, and finally, upload it to August through your Personal channel just as you would anywhere else.

For artists, on the other hand, their works of art are primarily created through Red/Canon/Nikon/etc cameras, recording studios, typewriters, etc and edited via their desktop computers with programs like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, Microsoft Word, etc.

Thus, the upload of media to the Published channel can only be done via the web—specifically, a web-based library built exclusively for artists.

The result of these publishing methods ensures that the distribution and discovery of media conducted through, and experienced on, August is relevant, reliable, and above all, exactly what you, the user, wants.

Sharing

The power that drives the distribution and fuels the discovery of media on August is sharing. While cliche, it is the one element that matters most to artists when they distribute media, and to consumers when they discover it.

In the status quo, the sharing of media has been rapidly replaced with innumerable “hearts”, “likes”, and “comments” that do nothing for an artist, outside of displaying the social proof that people “like” it.

These trivial interactions are built for consumer media, and serve people quite well when they want to show their approval, with the occasional witty response, for a friend’s latte picture, selfie, meme, status update, etc.

Yet it does nothing for an artist.

What artists need is for consumers to share their media because that is by far the most effective way for them to reach the world in a meaningful way.

On the other hand, sharing plays a vital role for consumer’s discovery of media. There is nothing more rewarding for a person then a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend, influencer, or sheer acquaintance regarding a movie, song, book, photograph, design, etc that they should experience.

Furthermore, our natural desire when we discover a piece of media we love is to be the first one to share it with our friends. However, this desire has been lost in the status quo.

August recognizes this need, and is set on reviving it by giving users a compelling opportunity and reason to share the media they love.

A user has the ability to share a piece a media they’ve discovered across various other platforms. Including a personal message is optional.

This opportunity starts by giving users only two options to interact with a piece of Published media that they just discovered and loved. The first option is the ability to ‘save it for later’ via their August Library. The second option is to share it with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and/or through an email or text message.

These simple and limited options give a user the clear opportunity they need to acknowledge their love for a work of art in a way that benefits the artist, and in a way that gives them the chance to inspire their friends and family with something remarkable.

It also opens the door for artists to experience a ‘snowball effect’ with their media. Since users only option is to share media—and the media on August is the ‘sharing type’—artist’s Published media can go viral within mere hours as the rapidity of discovery and sharing exponentially increases throughout the network and across the internet.

August takes this a step further by giving users more than an opportunity, but a socially rewarding reason to share the media they love.

Displaying below this piece of published media from the photographer Sarah Ann Loreth is the influence of you, and your friends over it. When you click on ‘Global’, the user’s with the most influence across the network are displayed.

There is a thought that creeps into our heads every once in awhile when we notice an artist or a piece of media that we discovered ages ago is now popular and viral.

We realize that we were one of the first few to discover them, or it, before anyone else. Yet we have no way to quantify it, or see the part that we actually played in making that artist or piece of media ‘popular’ since we were, after all, the first ones to share it with our family and friends.

August takes this to heart by implementing a system that tracks your influence over a piece of media based upon the number of people you influenced to share and re-share it.

The result gives users the ability to not only measure their influence over a piece of Published media in a quantifiable and emotionally rewarding way, but the spotlight as the one who influenced their friends, or the world, with this great work of art.

On top of that, it allows users to witness in real-time the impact of their relationships with the artists they love.

As for the artist, watching your audience put their names behind your work in a way that spreads it around the world couldn’t be any more rewarding.

This level of sharing that August implements within its experience amplifies the distribution and discovery of media in ways that attain directly to the basic desires that artists and consumers are constantly striving to achieve.

Identities

Every social network from Facebook to Pinterest serves its users in both a utilitarian and an emotional way.

For example, Twitter is a great utility to share in 140 characters whatever is on your mind, while Instagram is a great utility to simply share your photos.

However, the reason why users continue to actively use Twitter, Instagram, and every other social network is the emotional reward they experience when hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people recognize and appreciate the words they are saying and the pictures they are sharing.

These followers are what brings users back day-after-day to use the utility these networks provide.

What these networks have done is carve out a niche in the lives of people where users can build their identity around something they love, and in the process amass the recognition and appreciation of millions.

This is precisely what August has done through the identities it builds around the media artists and consumers create and fall in love with.

For artists, the utility that August provides them is the distribution of their media to a global audience of consumers focused solely on discovering it.

The use of this utilitarian aspect of August allows artists to showcase a complete picture of who they are without conflicting or convoluting their professional and personal sides, or limiting themselves to only one creative medium such as photography, music, film, or literature.

The complete identity of photographer Dean Bradshaw on August

August encompasses all four digital mediums—audio, video, imagery, and text—into three distinct distributions channels—Published, Shared, and Personal—that form one complete identity around an artist and their media.

This complete identity gives an artist the ability and the opportunity to share their unique world of artistic creativity — both their personal and professional sides in one profile—with consumers in a way they have never previously experienced.

It also allows artists to leverage all their various avenues of creation into one identity that absorbs and amplifies their influence as writers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, designers, painters, etc.

The result is a powerful audience of followers who recognize and appreciate every facet of an artist’s creativity under one complete and true identity.

For consumers, on the other hand, the utility that August supplies them is the access and experience to discover the world’s most creative media from the world’s most talented artists.

When this discovery is employed, an identity is passively assembled around the user’s unique tastes in media based on their personal recommendations.

See, when a person falls in love with a piece of media they just discovered, their natural reaction is to share it with friends.

We do this because our human nature reveals that we want to be the first one to share something great with the people we care about, whether it be a restaurant or a piece of media.

This nature also reveals that when we do share something we love with our friends, our reputation is forged amongst them.

If people like what we personally recommend, they will see us as someone with impeccable taste, and admire us accordingly.

On August, this unique taste is cultivated to a user’s profile by automatically organizing the media they share to other networks into a curated stream where anyone can follow the media they love and personally recommend.

As this curated stream of media grows, along with the audience following it, so will user’s influence as tastemakers of the media they love to discover.

Whether their tastes range from country music, landscape photography, short stories, and sport films, to electronic music, fine art photography, poems, and fashion films, a user’s profile can, and will, encompass it all.

The result is an identity that allows any consumer to build an audience of millions who recognize and appreciate their unique tastes in media.

The apex of this identity is reached when consumers can make and break emerging artists to the same extent as magazines, blogs, TV/radio stations, and celebrities by influencing their followers with the media they love.

Conversations

The relationships that form around media are comprised of interactions between those that create it and those that consume it.

When you think about it, the relationships that you build with consumers or artists starts with the very first moment that you discover each other.

A recent list of the relationships you have with artists and consumers.

From there, this relationship grows through the mutual interactions you engage in, just as any relationship between two people.

Since August is focusing first and foremost on establishing the social layer of this relationship, these interactions take the form of sharing, following, saving, liking, messaging, and above all, simply experiencing the media.

These social interactions that we all engage in, whether they be offline or online, sets the stage for any future interactions we may engage in within the financial layer of the relationship, such as purchasing media, buying tickets, licensing work, acquiring talent, signing sponsorships, booking venues, etc etc etc.

In the status quo, however, these social interactions are static because they are scattered, fragmented, and disconnected from the people behind them.

The problem with this is that the real, meaningful conversations that these interactions create within the relationship are lost.

August realizes this and organizes these otherwise idle and miscellaneous interactions into a visual timeline of user’s relationships, whether they be artist-to-artist, artist-to-consumer, or consumer-to-consumer.

This simple timeline gives these interactions and the relationship they form context in such a way that conversations can unfold between users around the media they create and discover in an authentic and genuine manner.

Within August, these conversations can materialize in many ways.

A conversation between You & David composed of a visual timeline of your mutual interactions.

For example, as previously mentioned before, when you share a piece of media you love, your impact on it is tracked so that you, and everyone else, can see the number of people you influenced to share that piece of media.

In a scenario like this, where you may become one of the biggest influencers of a piece of media, an artist who otherwise knows nothing about you, can view every interaction that you have engaged in with their media, bringing context and clarity to their relationship with you.

Since every artist thrives upon their ability to build and cultivate meaningful relationships with their audience, this artist can accurately and effectively reach out to you with something as simple and personal as a “thank you for sharing my music”.

While it may be a short conversation, to you it is exceptionally substantial because it is private and personal between you and an artist you love.

As for the artist, it is just as important because they have just secured a loyal and passionate follower who just so happens to be quite influential.

At the end of the day, these meaningful social relationships are what creates a lasting and sustainable community around the work of an artist. And as consumers, it is what draws us closer and deeper into our love for them.

Now the systemized culmination of these Channels, Sharing, Identities, and Conversations form a product experience that is simple, meaningful, and based solely on the ways we naturally create and consume media.

It becomes a solution to the most pressing problem that both artists and consumers face, and does so in a way that attains to what they value most.

And IF it all actually works, then the result will be the establishment of the social layer of the relationship around media between those that create it and consume it in a way that gives artists the ability to capture the social value their media creates, and in the process, lays a foundation like no other for the development and growth of the financial layer of the relationship.


User Acquisition

Now the question that surfaces after reading this far is exactly how August plans to actually execute this product experience, especially since its success is predicated upon the distribution and discovery of great media.

To answer this question, August starts with the next generation of emerging artists, along with those who are highly-accomplished yet not mainstream, whose talent and artistic media is nothing short of incredible.

This begins with the community that August formed at its genesis, of artists who believed in its vision and the concepts driving it enough to engage in extensive one-on-one conversations.

These conversation established artists as the heart of August, and gave them the opportunity to refine the product experience into what it is today.

Over the course of these conversations, August resolved that it was building this platform solely for these artists to use, and ultimately, determine its real-world value to them and their work.

What started out as only a few dozen has rapidly grown into a community of over two thousand and counting of some of the world’s most talented artists, each of whom has contributed to its development through their involvement, conversations, and overall, commitment to use August.

When August is released, it will be to these artists who have committed to use it as the means to build and cultivate more meaningful relationships with their consumers by sharing their media through August to their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

If August lives up to, and exceeds, their expectations by successfully creating these relationships, then artists will continue to actively use it.

If August fails, then these artists will simply stop.

This is how August will launch its platform and determine its worth.

Now presuming that the former scenario occurs, August will grow this core community of artists by implementing an invitation-only system.

Since day one, this community has grown exclusively through artists personally recommending an average of two other artists whose talent they considered extraordinary, and who they believed would find as much value in the potential of August as they.

Once August is released and this potential realized, the rate at which these recommendation are made will increase exponentially through a select number of invitations that each artist receives that allows whomever they choose the ability to use August as an artist, whereas everyone else it limited to using it as a consumer (i.e. access to the Published distribution channel).

Not only does this give artists the means to easily share August will their fellow creatives, but allows them to shape the network by controlling the artists that join their community.

With this invite-only system in place, August should expect a steady growth of talented artists that populate the network with their great media.

When it comes to consumers, on the other hand, August estimates that they will make up 99% of its users, while the remaining 1% will consist of extraordinarily talented and accomplished artists.

August will reach these consumers through the artists they love, and through the media their friends share from the platform.

When an artist shares their media through August to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc, they will be doing so with the explicit goal of building a more intimate and meaningful relationship with their consumers.

For those consumers who are particularly notable fans of these artists, they will be eager to take advantage of this new experience that creates a completely new and personal relationship with the artists they love.

Furthermore, once these consumers become engaged with one artist, they are immediately immersed into the discovery of other artists whose media is just as captivating to their imaginations.

Consumers will also be drawn into August through the media their friends share from the platform.

August is naturally a viral-experience, which means that it becomes more valuable to a user the more friends they have within their social circle.

One way these users will attract their friends to August is through the media they share to them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

As these friends begin seeing the streams of great media that keep flowing from this place called August, they will hopefully be compelled to discover August for themselves by downloading the application.

When it comes to consumers, the one thing that will attract them to August will be the artistic media they can’t readily or easily discover anywhere else.

Once they are immersed into this discovery, it will be the experiences, relationships, conversations, and identities with the artists they love and the friends they care about that will ultimately make them active users.

… to be continued …… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

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