'Generous' Is Trying to Make Pay-What-You-Can the Normal Way to Buy Online

With Generous, you can buy your records and screenprints, and feel good about it too.
November 20, 2015, 5:11pm
Image: Generous

The pay-what-you-can model should be familiar to anyone who's seen "PWYC" scrawled across Xeroxed zine fair posters. It's a great way show your favourite artists and creators how much their stuff means to you.

Now, a company called Generous is trying to take that mentality online, and on Friday launched a PWYC payments platform—with a literal sliding scale—for anyone who wants to sell their wares and give to charity at the same time.

Generous was founded by Jared Mees and Andrew Sloan from Portland-based record label Tender Loving Empire. Fittingly, then, the launch comes with a promotion that will see labels like Cascine and Polyvinyl using Generous to make sales on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a charity-focused day that comes after the capitalist orgy of Black Friday.

"One of the bands that they were working with started doing a pay-what-you-can thing on tour, and they started finding that people were more benevolent with their money," said Chris Hnat, a Generous spokesperson. "That's where the idea came from—the money is going to charity, like it would be going to a band on tour, selling T-shirts to get to the next show."

With Generous, you sign up, set a minimum price, and then embed Generous' slider onto your page like you would a Soundcloud link. Patrons can move the slider up to whatever they're willing to pay, and payments are handled inside the generous platform. As a bit of an added bonus, a portion of every sale goes to a charity of the seller's choosing. Basically, it's like the Humble Bundle but for everything instead of indie games.

In recent years, industry acts like Radiohead and digital platforms like Bandcamp have adopted the PWYC model to trade on the generosity of their fans. Pretty much every small-time band in any given city has a Bandcamp account, and Radiohead's campaign was widely hailed as a success, so clearly there's something to this whole thing.

Still, it's not clear that everyone will be using Generous with benevolent intentions. For example, the platform has been in use for a while already by comedian/pseudo-revolutionary Russell Brand on his web store, where he asks people to pay 65 euros for a hoodie—or a little less (the slider goes down to 60 euros)—or a lot more, since there's no upper limit on what people can pay.

In return for all their generosity, patrons can feel all warm and fuzzy for giving to the personal charity of Russell Brand, and some others of his choosing.

Clearly, not everyone is going to use Generous with the most DIY spirit in mind, but there's definitely the opportunity for many people to do so. Especially when doing PWYC is as easy as embedding a Soundcloud link.