the group for new music ensembles and composers is no more


Last year, I had gotten invited to a new music network on Facebook that had an international range and included both composers and performers. I joined, in large part because it was unusual to have so many new music performers and composers from all over the planet in one social network, and it was pretty clear that this could lead to many fruitful collaborations. Shortly after I joined the Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers, the main site admin asked if anyone had suggestions for how to create a non-Facebook network on the Web. I wasn’t sure I saw the need for two versions of the same network, although there are advantages to having it open to people who are not on Facebook, but I suggested Ning, which had easy, if sometimes cookie-cutter, templates for building free social networks. Of course, that led to the inevitable request “Can you go ahead and do it?” So I went ahead and created a Ning site that was to do much the same as the Facebook group.

The admin, however, started to get a bit weird-changiing color schemes to the point where everyone complained of it being unreadable, etc. After I made some fixes that were requested, the site’s other founder posted a pretty patronizing and insulting message on the network that made several people up and leave. And as I was about to quit myself, the two founders went AWOL, never to be heard from again. They left Facebook as well. So, here was an abandoned social network, one that had a few thousand members on Facebook and a new one on Ning that already had many dozens of participants. So I took both on, and enlisted my friends Mary Jane Leach and Steve Layton to help administer the Ning network.

It was a pretty self-sustaining network on Ning, reaching nearly 900 members. It wasn’t the most active network, but that was fine by me, and it did facilitate communication between performers and new music composers from a variety of countries.

Then Ning, despite something like $75 million in venture funding, announced earlier this year that it would cease support of all free networks as of July. The subscription fees were announced this past July and were prohibitive, at least to me. Very few folks came forward and offered to help with funding, and I didn’t feel it was right to have a few people help support a network when there were more than 870 others involved as well. So I just responded in the negative to a final plea from Ning to cough up some money and save the site.

It was a good run while it lasted, and I feel bad for many nonprofit causes that used Ning to enable them to do their charitable work-some of these are supposed to continue for free, but I doubt all of them will. And any music-related site will either have to pay or become extinct, just as the GNMEC site is now ending. I understand that Ning is a business and all businesses have to, at some point, earn a profit. But then something was wrong with their initial business model. And I also can’t understand where $75 million or thereabouts of venture funding went.

On Sep 3, 2010, at 1:05 PM, J Hull wrote:

Hey There,

As you know we made the final transition to our new plans Ning Mini, Ning Plus and Ning Pro on August 30th.  You’ve invested a lot in creating your Ning Network and we want to give you a final opportunity to pick a plan before your Ning Network is removed from the platform on September 6th.  Currently you’ll find that your Ning Network is frozen and inaccessible to you and your administrators, but you can lift this block by selecting a plan.  In case you are unfamiliar with our new plans, you can view all of the details on them at http://about.ning.com.

As a member of our Strategic Relationships Team, I wanted to personally reach out to offer you any help that I can provide. If you have any questions regarding moving over to one of our new plans please feel free to reach out to me at ———–  Once again you need to select a plan by September 6th so your network isn’t removed from the platform, so please act quickly!

Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Jonathan Hull

Director of Strategic Relationships

Thank you Jonathan. While I understand your business decision, I am dismayed at there being no further support for free sites despite $75 million of funding. I work at a startup where we’ve managed to still survive for several years in development on less than a third of your funding, and we’re building medical devices and running expensive clinical trials. So I don’t understand where all your funding went.

In any case, I have a network that has almost 900 members, but unless a majority were willing to fund it, it was not fair to collect money from some folks and have many others ride on their backs. I can also say that as someone who has been heavily involved in social networking for some time before it became “cool,” the easiest way to lose participants is to charge them. There’s a reason why FaceBook has many millions of members, and why to this day they do not charge users to participate in their social network.

So we cannot fund Ning’s new annual subscription fees for The Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers (http://newmusicensemblesandcomposers.ning.com/). This is a network that someone else started, abandoned, and I took on as a volunteer effort. I cannot fund it myself, nor can the great majority of its other members, so I suppose that it will be completely removed come September 6.

Interestingly, Ning had originally seemed to suggest that free networks would end in July, and it is now September, so I have a suspicion that The Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers is not the only one to balk at your new subscription fee requirements. I wish you good luck in your new business model which requires signing up other nonprofit networks to pay a yearly subscription fee, but am notifying you that my network will not be among them.
Warmly,

David Toub