Alternative Income Streams in the new Sharing Economy

Last week I was invited to and attended a mixer of sorts staged at the beautiful Glint Accelerator Mansion. In this gorgeous setting, the theme was simple. Share. We shared ideas, food, and a lot of drinks in addition to catching a glimpse of the documentary “One Couch At A Time”. We were also asked to bring something we no longer needed or wanted to share. I struggled with this. I typically get rid of things I don’t feel I need, and rather soon after feeling that I don’t need them. Besides usual desk trash (and I didn’t want to give someone something un-useful), I don’t have a lot of junk around. After searching high and low, I found it. A TI-83 Calculator lovingly tucked into a pink Hello Kitty bag. The calculator was a relic from high school, the bag was left over from Valentines Day. Perfect… Someone must need to do calculus, …right?

Wrong. My calculator remained in a pile on the floor, unused and unwanted, alongside a vibrator (not new), Katy’s wooden bead necklace, a copy of Microsoft Office, and other odd ball goods.

I realized something during that moment of awkwardness as people browsed through the items and looked for something they might like to take with them. I learned that without knowing who my market is, I can’t predict even in the broadest terms what their needs are vs. what needs they have met. That is a scary concept for me as I run a band and record things. I’m often faced with unreal expectations and very foreign situations. One must adapt and do the best they can. Above all, one must deliver a superior product. While that remains true, something else has become evident to me. This new sharing economy is full of pitfalls and unexplored terrain. A strong business must exploit all available income streams to remain viable.

A few months ago, I was involved in a conversation on Facebook. The original poster had stated that AVID was a bad company, mostly because of its pricing structure for current releases and updates. The poster asserted that public condemnation of the pricing structure and a formal complaint should be lodged by all users, which seemed similar to the campaign to get Bank of America not to impose a surcharge on debit cards. I simply asked, “Do you teach your trade to anyone? Did you know you can get a 80% discount on your upgrade if you are a qualified teacher?”

You might be asking yourself how this fits into the sharing economy and new revenue streams. I think it comes down to redefining what social sharing is. It’s not just giving away what is yours as download streams and getting increased sales in return. It’s also giving knowledge and instruction, and in turn, receiving discounted rates on your business tools. Working in trade. Bartering. Direct purchase tools like Square allow me to do business on-location without ceasing my social interaction with my client. This provides me with direct point-of-sale time with my target audience in which I can have a personal conversation and see what needs they have that are not being met. I can solve my sharing problem by better serving my audience.

Betterfly is another great example of an alternative income stream. Betterfly markets people who teach things to other people. Folks are allowed to teach, say, motorcycle repair, and then find me as an audio production instructor and use the money they earned teaching to pay me directly. This all happens seamlessly. This is a much clearer view of what I see as the new sharing economy, as opposed to the options available on Facebook. I see Facebook as a bigger platform for social giving than for sharing. Is there a difference between giving and sharing? Can you share what is not yours? Answers to these questions will define whether we see further deterioration of the arts and funding for the arts, or if we start a new, more enlightened phase of commerce and productivity through social sharing.

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