Cubee: A Record Label for 3D Printing Designers

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Israel-based Cubee has launched what it calls a “record label” for 3D designers, “CubeeRecords.” The firm describes it as “the first-ever record label for 3D printing designers, a full talent representation suite aimed at maximizing intellectual property monetization for 3D printing designers.” Licensees will access 3D files, while artists can profit from their work.

“The idea behind CubeeRecords came after over two years of 3D printing design commercialization. We were shocked by the 3D printing ecosystem’s staggering inability to properly compensate designers for their work. We already had the infrastructure to support the distribution, sales, marketing and manufacturing of 3D products, so strengthening the bond with designers under a record label model made perfect sense. The Commercial licensing business model is based on the licensee’s commercial success, we’ve worked very hard on aligning the interest of Cubee, the Designers and the Licensees to incentivise everyone to work together in making the platform sustainable,” said Cubee CEO Uriah Meadan.

Besides the file marketplace and label, the company also offers marketing assets, technical support, business advisory, and a global peer-community of business owners. The company aims to build brands and ensure their long-term success by powering designers to a better future. However, concerns arise as to whether emulating the record industry is a beneficial model for designers.

“We started licensing our products from the beginning, but providing proper support for my designs is extremely complex and time consuming. Till now, I’ve been doing it without a proper royalty system and without monitoring the distribution. Cubee manages everything from sales funnel to access control, to licensee due diligence and copyright enforcement. With their support system for my commercial licenses I can focus on creating even better products,” Ales Boem of Boem Brand stated. 

Criticisms and Concerns Regarding the Record Label Model

The record industry’s history may raise red flags for some. Previously, around five percent of record sales went to artists, with predatory accounting practices reducing the artist’s share significantly. An artist may get $0.50 cents off a $20 CD purchase, with the average working musician making $5,000 a year in revenue while album sales account for little. Only two percent of artists on Spotify made over $2,000 from streaming in 2020. 50 to 90 percent of anything an artist generates in revenues are given to record labels. Record labels are often seen as exploitative and monopolistic, depressing wages for artists and restricting availability and variety for consumers. Emulating them may not serve the 3D printing industry or its artists.

Existing Models in the Design World and 3D Printing

However, the design world offers a different model. Thousands of design labels give royalties to designers over their sold goods. They promote long-term success, providing marketing, PR, organizing shows, helping design and launch products. Typically, they give designers around a 20% off the top of gross profits, but there are various licensing possibilities.

These “record labels” for 3D designers span across a range of companies, each with its unique history and contributions:

  • Vitra: Despite its late entry into the field… in 1957, it’s made a significant impact .
  • Knoll: Another relative latecomer to the “record label for 3D designers” game, Knoll is a part of MillerKnoll, a $4 billion revenue label for designers that has been engaging with designers like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Marc Newson, and Eero Saarinen since 1938. Alone, Knoll generates a revenue of $1.2 billion,
  • Thonet: This firm, managed by the sixth and fifth generations of the Thonet family, was founded in 1819. Known for creating Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair in 1920, it has established itself as a successful “record label for 3D designers.”

On the more recent side of the spectrum, several companies have emerged as labels for 3D designers, with distinct approaches:

  • Materialise’s MGX brand: Launched in 2004, Materialise’s MGX brand has collaborated with renowned designers, including Patrick Jouin, Ross Lovegrove, and Arik Levy. In the case of its work with Janne Kyttanen, it has sold tens of thousands of lamps.
  • Freedom of Creation (FOC): Founded by Janne Kyttanen in 2000 and later sold to 3D Systems, FOC engaged in nurturing young talents, offering technical training, PR, promotion, and career guidance.
  • i.materialise: A part of Materialise, they initiated a program in 2011 to nurture and ensure the success of young 3D printing designers, similar to what Shapeways did in 2008.
  • Gantri: Established in 2016, Gantri focuses on assisting a select group of designers in promoting, designing, and manufacturing products under their label.

These companies demonstrate the diverse approaches and models already being adopted within the industry, each contributing to the growth and support of 3D designers.

A Call for Historical Perspective and Critique

Look, let me be honest: as journalists, we’re inundated with PR nonsense day in and day out. Mostly, we take it with a grain of salt, ignoring the over-claims and spurious statements from firms. But there comes a point where I can’t just turn a blind eye, especially when it concerns an industry with tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year in the product and furniture sector.

The moment when PR claims become so garbled that they’re either sloppily made or an attempt to deliberately create a memory hole, I’m left with no choice but to vacuum up my discombobulated shards of self-respect and take a stand. It’s not about being mean; it’s about not doing our readers a disservice. People read us because they trust our instincts, experience, and analyses, and we can’t betray that trust.

I believe we have a right as an industry to preserve our collective institutional and cultural memory over what we’ve been doing and experiencing over the past decades. Understanding our history is crucial. We must learn why certain things worked and why they did not. Repeating the same mistakes isn’t an option.

I also can’t blithely ignore the many other examples of “record labels” for 3D printing designers that have existed. We’re not some copy-pasta PR release rewrite service. If we want to continue to be useful to you, we have to call out people periodically. Even with all the leeway in the world, I couldn’t be expected to ignore significant developments in our history, important designers, and crucial startups.

Cubee may very well add value, but only if it understands our past as well as our future. And so, with all due respect to the industry, I must stand up for what we’re subjected to, and also for myself. We are grateful for your trust and time, and we pledge to keep serving you with the integrity and insight you expect from us.

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