Mike Cabaniss on ArtByte:
“A fan in the US tipped a guitar player in Bahrain”
Mike Cabaniss is the founder of ArtByte, a network that seeks to create a system of monetary support for artists and the arts with cryptocurrency. The organization has five potential income channels, including tips, grants and awards from the ArtByte Foundation, mining income, and direct sales. The organization was launched in 2014 and uses proprietary digital coins and wallets to compensate its backers.
Cabaniss is an entrepreneur with 35+ years in senior management in multiple industries, including IT regulatory compliance, IT management, software development, IT security, and product marketing. He is also an avid photographer. He explained his system to Block Tribune.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: You’ve been in business since 2014, and had some fits and starts with development. What did you learn about the cryptocurrency community in that time?
MIKE CABANISS: Crypto has been dominated by promises of “technological improvements” that will “change the world and replace bitcoin.” Very seldom have they delivered. ArtByte took a different path, announcing our features as we launched them, not before. As I look back three years to our beginning, should we have played the hype game as well? I think not. ArtByte is continuing to grow the way bitcoin grew in the beginning, growing slowly in recognition and price. In fact, ArtByte hit an all-time high in USD valuation this week. After bitcoin’s price flew in 2013 (its fourth year in existence), beginning with Dogecoin, investors have been on hundreds of alt-coins, all hyped as the bitcoin killer. The prevailing pump and dump pattern has led to losses of millions of dollars for investors too late to the party on any given coin.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Technology has been perceived largely as a bad friend to the creative community, cannibalizing existing revenue streams. What is different about ArtByte? How does it differ from others attempting to support artists via the blockchain?
CABANISS: The difference is that ArtByte was developed by a non-profit corporation strictly to benefit artists and art fans. Everything we did was designed to make the whole idea of a digital currency simple and easy to understand for the creative community. You look at our main website, you see no talk of algorithms, proof-of-work, staking, blockchains, etc. For example, look at how we explain digital currency. The fact that we are focused on the art community exclusively has made the community more comfortable.
The second part of your question has to do with how the blockchain is being touted as a magic new way to protect the provenance of a work of art and protect digital rights. Although we crypto-geeks are in love with that idea, to artists, the blockchain is merely a database application. Does the ordinary computer user today, much less artists, really care what the database runs, MySQL, Oracle, MS SQL, blockchain? That is why five companies have tried to bring the blockchain as database to market for artists and all have failed.
ArtByte is a simple Bitcoin 1.0 application designed to help indie artists with their number one concern, making a living from their art.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What interested you in creating ArtByte, beyond your photography skills?
CABANISS: At the time I had moved to NYC for my photography career and met so many incredibly talented artists, the vast number struggling to pay their bills and few even got paid for their work. I thought if we could bring the benefits inherent in digital currencies to these artists of all types, we could really make a difference in their lives and allow more creatives to continue with their work. Look at our habits of tipping some types of artists and not others. We are used to tipping musicians, for example, but imagine seeing an Off-Off-Broadway play. We wouldn’t walk up to an actor afterwards and say, “Great job, here is five bucks.” But we can find them on Twitter the next morning and tip them with ArtByte and it will be much appreciated.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: The biggest hurdle faced by any artist is attention. Does ArtByte provide any avenue for that, beyond receiving a digital token?
CABANISS: What ArtByte brings is a chance for any artist to be recognized and supported by fans anywhere in the world. Just over the last week, I have seen dancers in Greece, actors in Australia, musicians in Pakistan, photographers in Canada, models in Russia, etc. all tipped by their fans on Twitter. That kind of support is not possible without digital currency.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Does cryptocurrency have to get to the point where it’s in common use before a site like ArtByte can really fly?
CABANISS: Cryptocurrency is gaining in recognition everyday. Our biggest challenge is simply getting the word out to artists & fans around the world.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What artistic community has been the toughest to penetrate, and why?
CABANISS: Musicians have been the toughest. They have become hardened in the digital age by illegal music downloads, or being paid only a fraction of the proceeds when their music is downloaded on a paid site. When we say that we have a music download site that pays them 100% of proceeds, costs nothing to join, and that there are no fees ever, it sounds too good to be true. But they are slowly coming around.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: You’ve recently instituted a block explorer and updated some other facets of the site. Has that impacted traffic and sign-ups?
CABANISS: The explorer has made not difference at all. It was something the crypto-space investors and miners wanted because every other currency had one. So we gave them one. But to our everyday users (artists and art fans), they don’t know what an explorer is.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: It seems like you’ve had some back-and-forth with the cryptocurrency community. Have you reached a sort of détente?
CABANISS: We have believed from the beginning, that only those currencies that have a community of real, everyday users will create long-term value. So we focused on making ArtByte simple to use and understand for our target community. Ninety-nine percent of alt-coins were created, touting some new “amazing” technology that was believed to draw users to the coin and replace bitcoin. Real users neither understand or care about underlying technology. They care that the application is easy to use, reliable and secure. For example, as a laptop user, do you care if the underlying code of new Windows software is written in C# and the .net framework, or that MAC OS is based on Linux, written in C? No, you choose the one you like to use. The biggest weakness in blockchain is the community’s belief that if we build it they will come.
Our gains in the crypto community are coming simply from the fact that we have been here three years (on May 1) and continue to grow steadily. So some in the crypto-community are beginning to believe our story.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Who is your biggest success story, and why?
CABANISS: That’s a tough one. There have been thousands of small success stories. And I know of a few artists who also understood crypto and found ArtByte early and mined ArtByte from the beginning, I am sure they have made a good deal of money, but that is not the type of success story we are seeking. My favorite success story is when a fan in the US tipped a guitar player in Bahrain. The musician has Muscular Dystrophy and still pursues her music, sings and writing songs. We received a nice tweet from her thanking the fan and the ArtByte foundation. Without ArtByte, how else could that have happened?