Screenshots taken from Curensea.
Two Long Beach-based creatives and entrepreneurs are rethinking the way in which we value, view and share art on the Internet. Natalia Kochan and Sofia Chirico are out to turn likes into actual, usable currency for creatives who share their work online with Curensea, a website in beta just waiting for your participation.
Here’s how it works: purchase any number of Curensea coins, which are worth half a penny, then use them to “tip” creative posts any amount you see fit. Those receiving the tips can use their coins to continue spreading the wealth, or can “cash it out” into real money. Curensea processes payments securely through PayPal.
“Cashing it out” means that the user can choose to enable their account for payment, during which they’ll receive monthly payments from Curensea if they have $10 worth or more of tips in their wallet each month, explained Kochan. If they don’t, the tips roll over to the next month for payment.
Kochan and Chirico met five years ago while they were both attending the Beijing Film Academy. Kochan was studying cinematography and Chricio was studying Chinese, while the two found that they were both interested in art and economics. Kochan was obsessed with cryptocurrencies at the time, while Chirico was questioning the value of things. Curensea wouldn’t manifest as an actual project until years later, but the thought was planted in China.
“At the time I was thinking about how a lot of the prices of a lot of things don’t actually reflect their cost, or even value,” said Chirico. “[...]Which is actually an idea that is present in Curensea, because the whole flexible tipping model is part of the idea that the value of art is a subjective thing.”
“It’s different for everybody and so you have to give some kind of flexibility while at the same time providing an environment where there’s an understanding that there is value,” Chirico continued.
At the moment, Curensea boasts an international group of users producing and sharing a highly diverse pool of art, music and prose. What ties it all together are the similar problems that most of these creators face—the oftentimes required, yet perplexing role of having to be your own best advocate: a creative individual, but also someone savvy with selling and promoting their own work.
Curensea is like a collaboration, where both creators and promoters can work with each other to move the artists’ work out into the vast ocean of the Internet to be seen and heard, not to float idly by with the tides unnoticed. If a post that you shared is liked by any of your followers, you get to keep 10 percent of the tips from users who found the post through you.
A selection of work posted by users found on Curensea's Browse page.
“[...]If you’re a writer, you’re probably not a marketer,” said Kochan, looking back at her own goals to expose her written work to a larger audience. “And so I was trying to learn how to be your own brand[...], but then you have to put yourself in a box [where] you can’t be completely creatively free.”
“That’s another part of the idea of Curensea is there are curators who get the 10 percent for sharing things,” said Chirico. “Because there are people who are amazingly skilled at that and they build their entire profile sharing people’s work and introducing them to followers[...] and so we thought we should build something in where the curator’s work is also valued so it’s not 100 percent on the artist.”
Holland-born artist and skater Leon Karssen's Curensea profile.
Another feature of the site is the absence of a metric that most heavy social media users have grown accustomed to but can be a constant source of stress for many a creator aiming to grow their fan base. Curensea doesn’t show the number of likes, shares or followers associated with any post or profile, in an effort to create a “feel-good website” without “social media anxiety,” said Chirico. It’s all about facilitating genuine interest and support for the art and the artists.
“People are tipping on average about 10 to 20 cents,” said Kochan. “Like on Instagram, people have followings where they get 1,000 likes; if you get one thousand 10-to 20-cent tips, it adds up. And you keep all the rights to your work, you can put it wherever you want, it’s no-lose, it’s like why not?”
Long Beach-based band Bootleg Orchestra's Curensea profile.
There are no obligations, no ads, no news, no stats—just art, and the ability to appreciate it in a way that visually and monetarily supports the creator and the sharer. Meanwhile, the power of the site rests in the hands of its users and the number of users using the site at any given time. The more people using the site, the more tips and shares to be had. The site is also a work of art in itself, with Kochan and Chirico still open to users’ suggestions and comments as more and more creatives sign up.
“Art means different things to different people, money means different things to different people, and in the weird place between art and commerce, Curensea gives people creative freedom to express themselves,” said Kochan.
This article was updated on 10/24/16 at 5:31PM to note that Curensea uses PayPal as their payment processor, not Stripe.