The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project NEW!

Critical Mass: AIR

Entered in Arts & Culture


The Critical Mass: Artist-In-Residence Program (CM:AIR) is a unique artist-agency collaboration. The goal–ushering in new industry standards for partnering with artists, by first opening dialogue about artist-brand exploitation. Founded by artist Shantell Martin and Critical Mass, CM:AIR is a bold new initiative to enact rapid industry-wide change by offering tangible support to artists. As beacons of creativity they bring agencies an invaluable perspective, and therefore should be respected and collaborated with fairly. The unfortunate reality is that all too often the creative potential for these relationships gets bogged down in unfair contracts or power imbalances.


CM:AIR is designed to support artists with tools, resources, and opportunities while building up the infrastructure for a transparent and equitable collaboration model. CM:AIR’s first focus area seeks to address artist-brand exploitation by exploring equity in contract negotiations, intellectual property, and modeling new norms for creative collaboration. The program was founded with longevity in mind, so artists for years to come can partner with our agency to help educate wider audiences about artist rights issues while continuing to build upon the successful foundation created by Shantell and Critical Mass. 

CM:AIR is built upon three guiding principles: transparency, velocity, and nutrition. 
Transparency: Our industry operates in a haze that obstructs creative quality. CM:AIR aims to open the dialogue and use this platform to explore ways to increase the clarity and trust in partnership negotiations between artists and brands. 
Velocity: Defining how we will shift artist-agency relationships over time, CM:AIR Volume One focuses on artist’s rights: equity, contract negotiations, and intellectual property.
Nutrition: Holding space for both artists and agencies, we launched a more collaborative process. What we do programmatically feeds back to the industry, feeds back to brands, and most vital, feeds back to the artist.


After launching a Webby Award nominated site, CM:AIR kicked things off with an Artist Roundtable, featuring industry luminaries that span a wide array of creative backgrounds. The creatives sparked conversation about how to create real change for future generations of artists. The roundtable had over 3100 impressions on LinkedIn and more than 875 viewers tuned in on LinkedIn and YouTube. CM:AIR also interviewed five artists to understand their biggest challenges when working with brands. The interviews acted as an artist-to-artist safe space to freely express their thoughts and be transparent in their experiences. From personal experience and testimonies, CM and Shantell partnered to design the "AIR Map". A functional art piece, acting as a roadmap for artists working with brands and businesses. The pieces display CM:AIR’s principle of nutrition, by mapping out how what artists do programmatically feeds back to the industry, brands, and (most vitally) young artists entering this space. This map was launched at the South By South West (SXSW) in March 2022, where they invited CM:AIR to speak on a main stage about the program. Val Carlson, CM Global CCO, hosted a panel about NFT's for emerging artists with Shantell and other industry professionals at SXSW for over 100 attendees. We'll be continuing the conversation and the next iteration of CM:AIR with the creative industry at the Fast Company Innovation Festival. Bringing artist exploitation to light at big industry events is only the first phase for CM:AIR on the road to tangible change.


Video for Critical Mass: AIR

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Critical Mass


Entry Credits