Crowdsourcing and financing music: Sellaband

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by: Stefan Kolle

We've heard about crowdsourcing loans, fundraising, pharmaceutical development and several other commendable initiatives – but this one is new I think – Sellaband, is crowdsourcing the financing for recording CD's of unsigned bands.Simply said, Sellaband allows bands to set up their profiles including streaming songs, and then stimulates the site-members to become 'believers' and buy shares ('parts')in this bands new CD. At $10 each share entitles the believer to a copy of the CD and a share of all revenue generated through selling CD's at shows and in online stores, advertising generated on the site through free downloads of the music, etc.

This german/dutch startup is run by some ex-record company execs, and seems to have the support of some good names in A&R, producers and studios. Initially there were some concerns about various legal elements, but these seem to have been answered sufficiently. Obviously there is and will be some worry about signing away rights, but generally speaking I think this beats the alternative – namely not being signed and not producing a CD…. And believe me, the contracts by the recording industry look a lot ( A LOT) worse.

As the site has only been launched August 15th, without a massive marketing budget, I think it's quite impressive that so far over 2000 parts have been sold, with the topranking band at $7530. As the participating bands will start mobilizing their fan bases (through MySpace etc) hopefully this should take off quite nicely.

Personally I think there might be a glitch in the system as each part comes with a physical CD. Where I can see the interest for a rabid fan of a band to get 10 copies to give (or sell) to his friends, a user like me who is in it to discover some new music, likes the idea of supporting young bands and just in time for his midlife crisis smells the opportunity to associate himself with sex & drugs & rock 'n roll, it's actually a disincentive. I suggested to them to unbundle the parts beyond the first one, and make it a choice. For instance make part 2+ count as two shares, as there is no cost associated.

Interesting factoid is that at this moment Heineken seems to be the only advertiser on the site. Looking at my post of yesterday, it's certainly no coincidence – Heineken have placed themselves very firmly as a supporter of music, including independents. The Heineken Music Hall is one of the main music venues in Amsterdam, and through Heineken Music a plethora of activity and sponsoring is deployed worldwide. Sellaband seems to be a perfect extension into the community based music movement.

There's some wonderful extensions you could do with Sellaband:
– Earning parts through certain activities with promotional partners (think 'sign up 5 new members for Coke Studios and you get real money making shares in promising bands'
– Giving parts away in retail cross promotions ('buy this guitar/iPod/stereo, and…')
– Bundle them with concert tickets of established artists (some of which would surely have the heart to sponsor their younger brethren 🙂 )
– Idols for Bands (whoever sells the most parts during the show wins – but everyone is a winner as they all move a lot closer towards their goal)

And who knows, maybe this system could also work for movies?

As may have become blatantly obvious above – I love this initiative, and hope it succeeds. It's one of the harbingers of the new music industry that is slowly starting to emerge through services like Garageband, MySpace launched artists like the Arctic Monkeys and Gnarls Barkely, and podcasting initiatives.

Update: at least one filmrelated initiative is already underway: A Swarm of Angels