Multi Level Marketing (MLM) is a business model or marketing strategy in which the distributors' income includes their own sales, and a percentage of the sales group they recruit, which is commonly known as their ‘downline’. Customers can also sign up as a distributor to sell the company’s product. Usually, the sign up fee will be the price paid to purchase the product.

For full disclosure, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with any multi-level marketing or direct sales companies, and that I don’t receive any compensation from the industry for my opinion on it.  I’m sharing this with you because after I wrote what is considered the most widely read, copied, and quoted MLM article in the history of the industry, I was accused of writing it to promote my own MLM business or the industry in general, which is not the case.
Multi-level marketing (simplified Chinese: 传销; traditional Chinese: 傳銷; pinyin: chuán xiāo) was first introduced to China by American, Taiwanese, and Japanese companies following the Chinese economic reform of 1978. This rise in multi-level marketing's popularity coincided with economic uncertainty and a new shift towards individual consumerism. Multi-level marketing was banned on the mainland by the government in 1998, citing social, economic, and taxation issues.[62] Further regulation "Prohibition of Chuanxiao" (where MLM is a type of Chuanxiao was enacted in 2005, clause 3 of Chapter 2 of the regulation states having downlines is illegal.[11] O'Regan wrote 'With this regulation China makes clear that while Direct Sales is permitted in the mainland, Multi-Level Marketing is not'.[10]

As with any business venture, it’s important to manage your expectations when signing on with an MLM. Marketing materials may sell you the idea of making good money without leaving your house, but business ventures like these take time to deliver a return on investment. Not every sales agent will be making $100,000 per year right away or even five years down the line. Be realistic about how much you’re likely to sell and how much you’re likely to earn.
I think you showed how poor your research is when you tried to claim that MLM’s proper name is referral marketing. I guess Money Magazine got it wrong in 1987? or maybe USA Today did last year: ?
Hi JP. Good stuff all the way around, my man. Hey, I’ve been approached by Ariix, & didn’t know if have heard of them, and if so, a simple 👍 or 👎 will suffice, unless you’d like to elaborate, of course. One obvious concern I have is that (& can disclose this, since it’s of public record/knowledge per the list above), the current leadership in place at Ariix all came from USANA, and given the FBI/SEC became involved with USANA in ‘07, & Ariix opened in ‘11, well….I think you know from where I’m coming as it relates to anything you may be able to convey. Thx again, JP, for all of your efforts, & if you’d feel more comfortable in emailing me, obviously that would be perfectly fine! And apologies on this extremely verbose message!😳
The real selling point for MLMs is that distributors can make money in two different ways. The first is money made from commissions from direct selling to consumers. And the second way to make money with an MLM is from the commissions made from sales of distributors below you in the pyramid (these are sometimes referred to as recruits or downline distributors).

MLMs are successful because they provide tempting possibilities — the more you recruit, the more you sell, and the more you make. The possibility for income seems almost endless. However, only a few companies can make this dream a reality. So how do you spot the good ones from the bad ones? Look at the product. If the company has put time and money into creating a valuable product, they will put time and money into selling it.

OK here is the difference Steve. If you quit any of these MLM companies for a whole year, Continue buying product but help no one set up a shopping account, even 2 years, will you continue to get paid by the company? So Steve, as a Director with Melaleuca you helped 8 people total set up a shopping account. There is no Direct or multilevel sales in that, and if they shop you earn commission on their shopping. You will not know what they shop for and thats ok cause its private. Melaleuca is a Consumer direct Manufacturer that sells to the public the products that THEY THEMSELVES make. So by your standards then …Proctor and Gamble is an MLM also. Oh and yes, I took over a year off of inviting people to see what Melaleuca was, and still received my residual check every single month. It is against company policy to sell Melaleuca products.
Amway stresses that the main difference between a legitimate MLM business model and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM is focused on selling products, not recruiting more salespeople. In a legitimate MLM, it should be possible to make money by simply selling products directly to customers. With that main criterion in mind, here are some other ways to identify product-based pyramid schemes: