Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An update on Member:Ship and New York

A short while ago Yellow Yellow launched Member:Ship our person-to-person membership card sharing scheme that allows anyone to rent out their membership of, say, a museum or gallery to a stranger. The person renting access to the museum or gallery gets deeply discounted entry and the person renting recoups the cost of their membership.

In that post we anticipated that some of the old world thinking prevalent in industries (like museums and galleries), that are literally stuck in the past, might clash with the way the world works today. Old 'laws' and 'contracts' tend to clash with the new way of doing things.

We were shocked to learn that the Museum of Modern Art in New York had the gall to create fake profiles on Member:Ship pretending to be legitimate card renters. They used those profiles to rent cards from MoMA members and then, having got the names of the MoMA members using Member:Ship, cancelled their membership for 'breach of contract'.

At Yellow Yellow we condemn this underhand behavior. To make up for it we have bought new MoMA memberships for all those listers affected and introduced a new photo-id requirements for renters. Anyone wishing to rent someone else's membership card must now upload a government-issued photo-id to prove that they are who they say they are before renting someone else's membership card to surreptitiously use.

But truth be told we love MoMA and museums and galleries. We never set out to hurt them and so we commissioned a survey of museum revenue to understand the interplay between membership and other spending in museums.

Here's what we found.

Museum members spend more in museum shops and restaurants the people who pay for tickets. So, in fact, Member:Ship is actually better for museums than asking people to pay an entry fee. By bringing more people in the door of MoMA (and elsewhere) we are increasing spending inside the museums themselves. A win for everyone. Sure, the museum is missing out on the entry fee, but we believe they'll find that over 5 years they are making up for that by selling trinkets and sandwiches. And that Member:Ship will drive innovation in those areas.

And another thing.

We truly believe at Yellow Yellow that Member:Ship will be a force for cultural change and exchange. Where visitors to New York (and elsewhere) might be put off by the entry fee to MoMA etc.,. with Member:Ship they'll visit them all and see the wonderful cultural offerings that New York has ready to serve up. We'll literally be making the world a better place... one visitor at a time.

To bring that point home, I met with the Executive Vice President of MoMA Membership to discuss how Member:Ship could work with MoMA. She was obviously concerned about what we were doing and I took the time (about two hours) to fully explain our business model and how it helps MoMA with vital 'foot traffic'. She replied by describing me as a 'lamprey' (where do these people find these words?).

After Googling on my iPhone 5s I realized that she thought of Yellow Yellow as a parasitic eel that bores into the flesh of fish and sucks their blood. I replied that we were "Way more than a parasite". Yellow Yellow is more like those birds that eat the food between the teeth of hippos. Sure they're parasites, but they're performing a service for the hippos and making their lives (or at least their teeth which is just as important) way better.

For some reason, she didn't like MoMA being compared to a hippo and we agreed to disagree.

On reflection, we've decided to introduce two new Member:Ship services to show how much we care about the museum, gallery and other stuff sector: Give:Back and Private:Label.

With Give:Back we'll be returning 10% of all profits made on membership card rental to the museum, gallery or other thing involved. We expect to start giving back in about 2024 when Yellow Yellow becomes profitable.

Until then there's Private:Label which allows any museum or gallery (or whatever) to sign up for a private Member:Ship site and take control of the exchange of their membership cards. Yellow Yellow will share rental revenue with the museum in a 70:30 split (a generous 30% for the museum) so that each rental transaction helps the museum itself. Museums interested in joining Private:Label should call our Enterprise Major Account Line to discuss their specific needs and our sign up fee pricing (starts at $10,000 a month for smaller institutions).

Brad Bradstone
Museum Lover
NYC Resident
(CEO Yellow Yellow)

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