A downline distributor is a recruited distributor from whom the sponsor (the one who recruited them) gains commissions. Every compensation plan involves recruiting other distributors to help sell the company’s product. Some compensation plans provide higher commissions for recruiting successful distributors (quality over quantity). Other plans only focus on simply hiring more distributors (quantity over quality). Overall, downline distributors help sponsors gain extra commissions.
A good network marketing company rewards leadership, just like any structured business. Most businesses have a pyramid structure where the people at the top, ie. CEOs, SVPs, VPs, are the highest paid people in the company. The unique opportunity you have with a Network Marketing business is that you START at the top of your business, and your income will be dependent on how large of a team you build “below” you.
MLM itself is a legitimate business strategy. However the subject of ethics can be rather vulnerable. The pyramid scheme, unlike MLM, is clearly a scam. In a pyramid structure, a member pays a fee to join. A portion of the money will then be remitted back to them when they bring a new member into the scheme. No products are involved in this scheme, simply get more people to dump in money for your chance to make more money.
MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China. In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses. Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.