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While nobody knows how the media economy of the future will eventually work, it’s clear that independent producers will continue to struggle if Cruxy’s story is any indication. The site offered well-engineered tools for marketing, selling and distributing digital media in open, customer-friendly formats. And it’s going out of business.
Cruxy, where independent artists and producers could sell creative content, will be shutting down at the end of the month. “Cruxy is not needed or used by enough people for us to keep going,” co-founder Nathan Freitas wrote in his goodbye letter — entitled “the fat lady has uploaded her song.”
Cruxy was first envisioned back 2004 as something called “DigiPay” and then “OpenVision”, and then ultimately Cruxy, a crossroads of creativity and commerce. Cruxy is also a rock climbing term for a very difficult climbing problem to solve, like perhaps when you have to cling from your fingertips to a horizontal rock shelf and pull yourself up, sweating, planning and thinking the entire way. That’s a bit how the last four+ years have felt…and we are exhausted.
It’s bad news for the Cruxy community, and creators generally. Even with working technology and great ideals, it illustrates the difficulty in making content pay online if you’re not already a part of the existing system.
When reached by phone, however, Freitas seemed relatively upbeat. “In contrast to the world’s problems, it’s kind of a relief,” he said. When asked if what the site needed was a breakout hit, he admitted that the small team was focused on the technology and didn’t start looking for content partnerships until possibly too late.
While companies like Apple have proven that digital content can be sold in significant quantity online, the iTunes Store is still primarily about keeping people buying iPods, where Apple makes much larger margins. But basing a business exclusively on selling content hasn’t proven profitable yet. “A lot of people who’ve tried to do what we did have gone out of business.”
As for the technology, Freitas lamented, “I don’t want it to just go away.” There’s been some interest, he said, “But there’s strings with that.” In his letter, he pointed to some other places where Cruxy’s creators can sell media, including fellow Brooklyn-based startup Drop.io.
Clearly people will pay to download video and other content. Cruxy and the artists who posted work there did make some money, just not enough to make the business viable — leaving Freitas not particularly optimistic about digital media sales. “I don’t necessarily think it’s the best course anymore for creative content.”
And it doesn’t bode well for the prospects of people just looking to make “the small time” — earn a living creating motion pictures with niche appeal, without the marketing budget of a Hollywood studio.