Creator DAOs Early Guide - April 2021
Looking back at an old and unreleased post I wrote in April 2021
I wrote this piece a year ago right in the middle of bull market craze. It’s fun to see how part of it already aged.
Visuals by @nicogsworld
In today's piece I'll share as many insights as possible at the intersection of community building and creator DAOs. All that hopefully in plain english and following this outline:
What's a Creator DAO?
Examples - The First Generation
How can a DAO help you as a creator?
How to start DAOing it?
Case Study - Disclosure
1. What is a Creator DAO?
A "Creator DAO" is an organized version of a creator's community enabled by technology. Its a - new - way for creators to collaborate with their fans or peers and turn them into key stakeholders by granting them some degree of ownership (tokens) and agency (governance power) over portions of their creative project.
DAOs are organizations embracing 2020+ internet culture.
Like any org they have: an ownership structure, workspaces, an org chart... But in the form of tokens, Discord chats and a stakeholder network.
Why "Decentralized Autonomous Organizations"? We've inherited the acronym from early descriptions of Bitcoin and Ethereum. These archetypal DAOs are peer to peer networks where collaboration is organized by an algorithm.
Although they descend from this philosophy, Creator DAOs are social networks, not computer networks. They are much more reliant on humans to lead and coordinate.
Building a Creator DAO today is similar to buidling a fan club or creator collective. After some time and depending on your community's goals, ownership can be distributed using tokens and operations can be gradually automated leveraging collaboration technology.
Case Study - The First Generation
The most advanced forms of creator DAOs today are sophisticated Discord chats leveraging experience, roles, memberships in parallel to social tokens and NFTs to coordinate and incentvize community contributions.
Contributions from community members can take the form of capital (subscriptions, tokens) but also active participation for example as ****a community coordinator or moderator.
The first generation of Creator DAOs emerged in 2020. Some examples are: Digital Artist Coin Artist, Musician RAC, Artist Connie Digital, CryptoArtist Osinachi, Musician Harrison First, CryptoArtist Skull and collective MetaFactory. They have experimented with tokens, liquidity mining programs, various types of community activities and events over a very broad range of use cases.
Contrary to traditional social platforms a DAO is a social environment that your community owns. It is controlled, organized and owned by you and your community for its specific needs. This is an innovation made possible by crypto and all the Web3 tools built on top.
Here are my 3 pillars for a Creator DAO ↴
Emotional bond ⟹ through their creations the creator/collcetive and its community creates an emotional link. This is nurtured through sharing content, art, interacting on social platforms.
Economic bond ⟹ thanks to NFTs and Social Tokens, creators can now transfer part of their ownership and responsibilities to their most engaged supporters. Creators and fans are aligned financially and emotionally and become co-creators. That's a major evolution over the first generation of monetization tools for creators.
Collaboration tools ⟹ tie that together with a set of Web2 and Web3 coordination tools: Discord, Telegram or some other daily communication tool for a start. Then more sophisticated tools like shared treasury and governance process to make decisions.
If you're excited at the idea of working closely together with your community then building a DAO might be the next best step for you. Here is why 👇
2. Where Can Creators Leverage DAOs?
DAOs are all about teaming up with your community in the right places. From ideation to promotion.
If Web2 lets creators communicate with their communities 24/7 through social platforms. Web3 lets creators use tokens to distribute ownership to their community members and turn them into co-creators. Blurring the line between users, fans, employees or investors.
As Mason puts it in economic terms:
"The Community Economy – enabled by cryptonetworks and social tokens – incentivizes enthusiasts and early followers to use their underutilized skills and assets to support a community or individual.". Put another way, fans who are inspired by your creations but were passive until now will be able to become creators in their turn. That's a massive value unlock for the whole of society. - The Social Token Bible By Mason Nystrom
How does that translate concretely? Highly engaged community members can become co-creators and become inputs in your creative process. Most importantly they can support you through crowdfund or simply by purchasing your NFTs directly. They can support you on social media and amplify your voice. Some will even step up and help you manage and structure your community further.
All Creators have specific needs but here are a couple examples to help you think things through for yourself.
When interacting daily with your community, you learn about what they like and what drives them. You get their input and energy to support your creative process. Building a DAO means extending these conversations to a group, creating an even richer and more lively dialogue around your creations and bubbling up major insights. You may even create stuff altogether.
NFTs and social tokens are a way to monetize ownership in your creator journey. Not only do tokens align your supporters with your success but they also align your supporters with each other. Money collected through tokens or subscriptions can be collectively pooled and managed in a treasury. This opens up possibilities for creators and their communities to undertake more ambitious projects by sharing risk.
But funding isn't the only way for your community members to help. The talent of your 1% fiercest supporters can also be channeled into your daily operations and strategy planning. You main focus as the initiator of the DAO is to gradually gather a core team of contributors who will be able to help your run its daily operations.
The type of tooling and operations you'll adopt should be specific to you and your community. It will take time to see what type of contributions and roles your fans naturally take on in your community. Finding DAO literate friends to figure this out can help.
Last but not least there are so many talented creators but few manage to make a living off their creations. Attention remains the main hurdle and going from 0 to 1 on is extremely difficult. On the contrary creators who manage to team up with their community on socials can do very well. The same way PFP collections become viral on Twitter.
3. How To DAO With Web3
Now that we've scratched the surface of what Creator DAOs can DO let's get to the hard part: what it takes to build one. Yep, while tooling and token price are often hyped in current DAO experiments the long term success of your DAO - like any organization - relies on the quality of the people who engage.
In addition to my personal insights I'll use quotes from an interview with Jordan Butterworth. Jordan is a volunteer moderator in the Disclosure Discord contributing 6 hours of his time daily.
How did you start to help the Disclosure guys with their Discord? At first this was just as a Twitch moderator, and with time and effort I was eventually given moderator status on the Discord, and again with more effort and continued involvement I was given admin here. - Jordan Butterworth
Key concepts ➩ Signal, visibility, identity, status, attention
This attraction phase happens on social platforms. It's all about attracting the right people to your DAO.
Your creations -more broadly your content- are your first leverage to signal what you and your community are about.
Your second leverage is the community itself, i.e. you and the first few people who join you. People will want to join your community because they identify to the people who are in. In Web3 PFPs have become the ultimate status signalling tool.
In the early days and through your journey you'll need to understand what your typical "community member persona" is. What value are your most engaged followers looking for? The point here is to understand what could be emphasized as the collective identity and value prop of your community.
Key concepts ➩ Community member persona, curation, participation > capital
Having people who care and genuinely participate is the most precious thing for your community. A "high quality" member is one who is intrinsically motivated by your projects**. Over time** you'll map categories of stakeholders and learn to recognize contributors like Jordan among all other types*.*
I think it is worth noting this community started out being quite heavily music focused, fans of Disclosure and of music production in general. With time it became more eclectic. I think right now we have a variety of people who engage here, the bulk of them being musicians, producers, engineers, industry people, fans, video editors etc. We also have a wave of new members who have a big interest into cryptocurrency and NFTs. - Jordan B.
In the early days curation of new members can happen organically through a natural process of getting to know each other. In the longer run though as communities grow to 100+ members curation can become more of a challenge. There are a number of filters you can implement to recruit people with the right motivations. Most large communities in crypto have implemented curation systems.
FWB is a tokenized community which counts hundeds of members has implemented a member curation system called Slow New Friends. Holding the $FWB token now is one prerequisite to enter a selection process hosted by a committee. I take this as a sign that financial alignment through token ownership is not a sufficient filter for membership.
key words ➩ community activities, multiplayer, many-to-many, momentum, organizing
A successful community is a "many-to-many" social environment. The first step to building a DAO is to turn the experience from a single player experience into a multiplayer one (see image 1).
For example from a Twitch livestream to a multiparty conversation:
What type of interactions do Howard and Guy have in here? In the beginning the interactions were usually through Twitch, so in a streamer to chat capacity, however since the beginning of the year we now run voice Q&As that Guy holds through Discord, also general announcements and conversations about Disclosure related news, we've also held learning sessions about NFTs and cryptocurrency. - Jordan
Find the right activity. The thing that resonates with your peers. There are many examples of communities in Web3 and beyond which have leveraged NFT curation, gaming, music production, business courses to get people together. The choice of the activity depends on your community member persona, your core identity and goals. Some may emerge by themselves.
We also run a weekly remix competition through Audius called "Market Mondays[...] then Guy (Disclosure) goes live on Twitch and chooses a winner!" - Jordan
Once you have figured out how to kickstart engagement, time to think how you can leverage tools to channel it.
A number of DAO templates have emerged over time, combining tools to unlock workflows like pooling capital and allocating it with votes, fractionalizing NFTs, bootstrapping token liquidity, splitting revenue to multiple contributors, using a token to gate access to a Discord or content pieces.
Possibilities are going to be infinite and new templates are created by the day. I don't think you should make this a priority too early as it'll create too much friction and get in the way of your real goals. On the contrary once you've started accruing momentum it'll become easy to iterate and find the right combination of tools to address naturally emerging use cases.
Momentum —→ Tooling
Key Concepts ➩ intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, frequency and density of interactions, relationships, partner and connect, iterate
DAOs are communities with distributed ownership and therefore involve a balance between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives. In my opinion intrinsic motivation is the bulk what'll make a great Creator DAO.
Intrinsic motivation >>> extrinsic incentives
There are a couple ways to foster intrinsic motivation. One is to have members create sustainable relationships with each other. Interaction after interaction the community will take a life of its own and become more and more autonomous. A good framework to think about this is to maximize the frequency and intensity of interactions.
What keeps people coming back? The general good feeling and vibe of the community, the collective effort to help and support each other, the relaxed environment and of course the love and support of Disclosure. - Jordan
Another way to foster intrinsic motivation is to empower people, let them step up and champion initiatives. Let them create their role and contributions in the community and inspire others in their turn.
We have a "Big Plum Energy" role (on Discord) that we use to recognise regulars of the community, people who show loyalty and support to the server. - Jordan
Now, while I'm not a big believer of financial incentives for Creator DAOs and think these are more fit for large and cold organizations like Ethereum, there are multiple other levers of extrinsic incentives like status, permissions, privileges. One straightforward way to display status in your DAO is through Discord roles or NFT badges as a reward for various contributions. You'll create priviledged relationships with your most active contributors anyways as they'll have more of your time and attention.
Obviously the novelty with Web3 is the ability to reward members with more ownership and create a virtuous ownership cycle. This makes some community members "co-founders" or "co-creators" and changes their persona and motivations. It's important to iterate and experiment gradually in a way that is aligned with your long term goals otherwise you'll simply mess the culture up and attract the wrong people.
NFTs are a fairly healthy way to distribute ownership as most often they also bear another kind of symbolic or artistic value.
When it comes social tokens they are especially delicate to handle and I consider them a very advanced piece of tooling. On the long term provide you with the ability to create your own community economy which is pretty promising.
The smartest way to start so far seems to be through a 'retroactive drops' like the one RAC has done a couple months ago.
Be aware that social tokens may involve a lot of psychological burden on the issuer and cannot be rolled back once they're out just like an IPO. They also have strong implications for your communitie's culture. This thread is a must read on the matter!
As with anything progressive iteration remains a safe bet when it comes to tokens. Here is an example timeline put together by Mason.
You probably get it by now: DAOs make sense if you're ready to build a community first. Doing so involves a lot of work and mental bandwidth besides your creation process. Similar to building any project, there is no stepping back before the community can organize and allocate its resources autonomously. For this reason growing a DAO might not be for everyone. As put by Li Jin, “Not every creator is a cult leader” and some will just stick to creating stuff on their own.
Internet communities all over the world are engaging more and more and all that is made possible by new technology. In the coming years we'll see communities self-organize, pool capital, vote collective decisions and fund new projects or coordinate promotions. But as always technology is only as good as the use you make of it.
As with all shiny new things the risk when building a DAO is to loose focus of the essential part: building a community that spreads and co-creates around its message and art.