kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

SellaBand: Musicians and Users Together At Last?

Whilst in London a friend drew my attention to a web operation called SellaBand. What piqued my interest is its similarity to the model for cultural financing proposed by Bruce Schneier and John Kelsey some years ago in an essay called The Street Performers Protocol, which was one of the texts which inspired me to explore the construction of alternatives to the outmoded copyright culture. They began from the desire to find a method for financing cultural production which would not rely on restricting the downstream distribution of the works, and thus have no need for digital rights management or tracking of user behaviour. Their schematic was modelled on the trust management in cryptographic networks: a musician would release some tunes to publicize her music, and then ask for specified amount of money in fan contributed in return for the eventual release of the the rest of her work. These donations would be held by a trusted third party, who would hold the money in escrow until the musician delivered on her promise to release the rest of the album. At that point the cash would be released and the music made available without copyright or technological restrictions of any type.

SellaBand signs up bands to receive ‘investments’ and allows their fans to finance them. When the amunt of money invested in a given band reaches 50,000, they provide a producer, studio and A&R personnel to make an album. Each of the original fan investors receives a physical copy of the music. The music is made available for free download but generates advertising revenue, and copies of the album are sold at concerts and in other situations. But here is the kicker: the revenues from advertising and CD sales are shared between the band, SellaBand and the fan investors. In addition no further shares in the band are sold once the 50,000 threshold has been attained, so the number of people receiving a cut will always be limited.

Anpother nice element to the scheme is that the groups partiipating are not contracted exclusively to sellaband, so if they get offered before or after recording the album they can decide to take it and leave without complication. Likewise their fan investors can decide to reallocate their investment to another band at any point up until the 50,000 figure has been reached. I have to say that I like this admixture of gratuity, non-exclusive deals for musicians and the mobilization of the viral marketing of an ardent fan-base. Two of the bands on the SellaBand slate have already made their 50,000, Nemesea and Cubworld, and the site has taken in 500,000 in investments since opening in August last year. This seems like a reasonable approach to the new techno-cultural environment and let’s hope that it strengthens as a tendecy as the Majors continue to fight a losing battle attempting to repeal history, and persecute a lot of music and film lovers on the way.


March 7, 2007 - Posted by | /, music, social cooperation, technology

1 Comment »

  1. I love the concept as well but it would be more compelling if the believers shared in the sales revenue from the album. I understand that will address this – demo testing is on YouTube.



    Comment by Robert Ogilvy | March 15, 2007 | Reply

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