How To Record, Promote And Finance Your Music Talent: SellaBand
To succeed as a recording artist or band these days it is essential to promote your music online. But breaking your way into the recording industry is far from easy. Luckily there is a service that helps you to do just that by tapping into the phenomenon of crowdsourcing.
''Crowdsourcing is a neologism for a business model in which a company or institution takes a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsources it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call over the Internet.''
Sellaband taps into the crowdsourcing model by turning the fans and listeners of bands into their product evangelists, asking them to invest in a band or artist they take a shine to, and take the word to the streets.
Browsing the Sellaband website listeners are asked to invest $10 or more towards the $50,000 needed for the band to record and distribute their music. They are also encouraged to spread the word to their friends and online contacts, to propel their chosen artists towards their recording opportunity.
But what's in it for them?
Well, besides the warm fuzzy feeling of helping talented musicians achieve their dream and the limited edition CD of the final recording there is a perhaps even more interesting opportunity to make some money on the side. Every single investor, or 'believer' that backs a successful band will take home a small cut of the profits made by them.
For the recording artists themselves, not only do they get to record and distribute their music with professional recording industry support and guidance, they also get to take a 50% cut of all ad-revenues made from the free downloads of their music.
Sellaband - Overview
Sellaband is the latest in a recent line of projects and services tapping into the power of open-sourcing creative endeavors. In recent times we have seen open-source filmmaking, photo-journalism, news reporting and even shopping, and that's before you consider the much longer established principles behind the free software and open-source software movements.
Crowdsourcing is hot, and Sellaband has neatly fused this idea of active, participatory audiences to the popularity of social network services like MySpace, along with the all important addition of monetization.
As with MySpace artists create their own profile page with a photograph, messages to their fans, and a prominently placed music-player offering up sample mp3s of their work.
The big difference is that in addition to these social networking features, strong emphasis is also placed on the visitors ability to buy one or more $10 'parts' towards helping their chosen artist raise their $50,000 target. Contributors are displayed on a chart, with the biggest investor at the top.
In addition, eye-catching buttons prompt the user to buy or 'gift' a part, interact with the artist, or help to promote their work with an embeddable web banner. Then, to put the whole thing in perspective the current status of the artist is displayed in a simple visualization, letting potential investors know how far along their prospect is in achieving their end goal.
It's a simple idea that rests on a mixture of good-will and self-interest. Back a winner and there is a chance that you could see a return on your investment that goes beyond benevolence alone. But even if your artist doesn't bring in a great deal of cash from the advertising displayed around their free music downloads, you still get the satisfaction of helping to launch the 'next big thing', together with a limited edition CD.
In short artists get to record their work without paying a penny and then take 50% of all revenues generated by their music, investors (known here as 'believers') get themselves a CD and their portion of a revenue-split with the band, and casual browsers get to download the resulting music for free. Everyone's a winner.
Crowdsourcing Your First Album
As a would-be recording artist there is obviously plenty to gain and very little to lose by signing up for a Sellaband account. By supplying some photos, text, and three sample tracks of your your music you are given the chance to turn your following, and more people besides, into business partners that will fund your recording venture.
The $50,000 target
The goal of $50,000 set by Sellaband has been decided upon as a reasonable sum of money to supply top quality A&R managers, studios and producers, and 60% of the funds raised are spent on these all-important things.
The remaining 40% is spent on printing and distributing limited edition CDs that will be sent out to the 'believers' that invested in the recording venture in the first place. The expenses look something like this:
Terms and Conditions
So where's the catch? Perhaps surprisingly, the terms and conditions seem very fair.
There is no commitment to stay with the service right up until the point of your reaching the $50,000 target. If you change your mind at $49,999 - for some insane reason - you are free to leave, and your backers will duly have their money refunded to them. Once you meet the $50,000 target you are however obliged to fulfill your recording commitment, but that doesn't seem like such a terrible burden and I can't see many people wanting to back out at that point.
The terms have been written in a simple and easy-to-digest way that shouldn't confuse anyone into agreeing to something that they don't understand. Once you have made your recording, you get a cut of ad revenues made from the Sellaband Download Portal based on your market share and split equally with Sellaband and the 'believers' that funded your venture.
From there, Sellaband gets to own your album master for 12 months, after which it is released to you. Publishing rights of the songs recorded are divided 60% in your favor, with 30% going to Sellaband and 10% to the production team.
All-in-all this is a far better deal than you are ever likely to see from a record company, and doesn't seem to place too many restrictions on your work or future as a recording artist.
Your Sellaband Presence
Key to your success in the Sellaband venture is going to be promoting yourself via your profile and any other means necessary. While Sellaband does run various competitions, and promote artists from within the website, you are basically on your own when it comes to getting the word out about your music, and getting people involved. In short, then, it is up to you to find 5000 people willing to invest $10 each in your dream, or 2500 willing to put up $20, and so on.
Obviously, in addition to drumming up a following on the live circuit and social networking services like MySpace, it makes sense to take advantage of the promotional opportunities available from the Sellaband website.
Your profile has several easy-to-access features that include:
- An information bulletin displaying background information about who you are, with outbound links to your website and social networking service pages
- A micro-blog in which you can jot down your latest news and thoughts
- A list of shows on your touring agenda
- Photos of yourselves or the venues that you play at
- Video from sharing sites such as YouTube
All of these features are instantly accessible with a tabbed interface that makes it easy for site visitors to scan through your thoughts, link and media files. While this won't automatically guarantee you crowdsourcing success, it will nevertheless help your cause.
Obviously of chief importance is the selection of three of your best tracks to be offered up to your profile visitors from an inline media player placed right at the top of the page. Ultimately, whatever else you add, it is going to be your music that makes or breaks a potential investment.
The Role Of Believers
As an investor or 'believer' your role within the Sellaband community goes beyond simply listening to music or putting down the occasional ten bucks to help musicians along. Once you buy your first $10 piece of a recording venture, you begin the process of helping to promote your chosen artist.
What's In It For You?
When you sign up as a believer (agreeing to your own set of terms and conditions) you can start creating your own profile, from which you can actively promote the work of the musicians you choose to support.
There is plenty of incentive to do so. The bigger the market-share of the artist you support, the more you stand to make in your split of their ad revenues, divided equally between the artist, Sellaband and believers, according to how many $10 parts they invested in their chosen act.
Furthermore, regular CDs of your artist's work will be sold online and by the artist at live performances. Sales of these CDs are divided 50-50 between the artist and their believers.
With this is mind, it makes sense to drum-up as much support for your artist as you can. The sooner they get into the recording studio, the sooner you can start profiting from their success.
Just as the artists can pull out of Sellaband at any time, so as a believer you can decide to either take your money back, or invest it in another artist right up until the point that the $50,000 threshold is reached.
If you change your mind after a month or two, and decide to back a different artist, that is totally up to you. Equally, if you decide that you don't want to take part at all anymore, you can reclaim anything you have invested.
Parts are sold in $10 increments, with the maximum single purchase being $500 worth. However, should you be feeling particularly generous, it is quite possible to invest anything up to the full $50,000 by making a number of purchases.
You are free to invest in and promote as many artists as you like, and will be listed as a believer on your chosen artist's page, with the biggest investor listed at the top of a chart, and so on downwards from there.
Obviously at the center of the Sellaband experience are the profiles of the artists and believers trying hard to promote their music and build towards their $50,000 target. However, the Sellaband website has some additional features besides.
The site is easy to navigate, with a simple menu that allows you to choose between an artist search, news, charts, your profile and an online merchandise shop. This is complemented by a number of rotating, Flash-driven image links promoting different parts of the site, and the most successful artists' profile pages.
The artist search is quite comprehensive, initially displaying artists in order of how much money they have raised, but giving you the opportunity to search by artist name, or browse by genre, the country the artist is based in or from, how recently they signed up and even a budget range from $0 to $50,000 should you wish to support artists depending on their current level of success.
News takes the form of the Sellaband Tribune, which is presented in the style of a newspaper, and covers stories about recent success stories, current competitions and Sellaband charts.
Charts give you a chance to follow artists by their current level of success, by how many believers they have attracted in a given week, and other such variables, and provide a quick way to find out what's hot on the site if you aren't sure where to begin, or want some good tips on where to invest your money.
In addition to these key menu features you can also make use of a web-based jukebox from the Sellaband homepage which will allow you to:
- Listen to all of the artists featured on the site
- Listen to the latest Sellaband charts
- Make your own playlists and wishlists
Sellaband is an original idea, and a potentially great way for bands or solo artists to get their work professionally recorded, and their presence broadcasted to the Sellaband community.
Rather than a competitor to MySpace, which has long been a popular destination for bands looking to promote their music and keep in touch with their audiences, Sellaband is in fact a welcome complement. While MySpace is great for getting the word out, Sellaband is about taking the relationship between artists and their fans to the next level - by turning them into business partners.
The goal of any artist featured on the site is to raise $50,000 to record and distribute their first album. Listeners investing in the artist or artists of their choice stand to gain from the experience in more ways than one.
By buying one or more of the $10 'parts' towards the ultimate $50,000 goal, fans guarantee themselves both a limited edition CD of the final recording, and a share in any profits made from the music by way of advertising revenues. As such, there is a real incentive for fans to become evangelists for their chosen artist, and entice others into making a similar investment.
Here is an opportunity for musicians to record and profit from their music, early adopters to see recognition for their investment, and everyday music listeners to access great music for free. Once a band has reached its $50,000 target and recorded their album, it is made freely available for the Sellaband community to listen to and download, supported by advertising. Ad revenues are then split between the artist, Sellaband, and those that put their money down to finance the recording.
While promoting your work as a musician is still going to be necessary if you are to stand a chance of success, Sellaband presents a very real way to tap into the crowdsourcing phenomenon and get your recording made and distributed. That, for me, is a very welcome alternative to hoping, praying and sending out your music to record-companies in the hope of making it big.
If you would like to read more about Sellaband, you might want to check out the following links:
- The Sellaband website
- A multilingual introduction to how Sellaband works
- Marshall Kirkpatrick of TechCrunch: Sellaband to crowdsource free music
- The Plugg asks Sellaband - is it worth the hype?
- Jeff Howe of Crowdsourcing writes an update on criticisms leveled at Sellaband
- Jeffrey Sykes at Assignment Zero gives some background on Sellaband
Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: "Promote Your Music: Crowdsourcing Meets The Recording Industry With Sellaband"
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