Musicians, not just record labels, are facing major issues: Small-time acts may find audiences through MySpace and other music sites, but they still need to make money to survive — and it’s not clear how to make money unless you’re a top star with the ability to draw in large concert crowds (and sell lots of t-shirts).
To try to help out as-yet-unknown stars, a few sites are creating ways for users to fund the work of their favorite acts. A notable one is Amsterdam-based Sellaband, which lets its users buy a “part” of a musical work for at least $10 — once a musician’s total funding reaches $50,000, the company hooks them up with a record studio and producers (see screenshot of sample band So What‘s profile on the site).
The fans’ money is used to fund production. The fan gets a free CD when the goal is reached, or gets their money back. Meanwhile, musicians get a third of all advertising revenue from their profile, 60 percent of proceeds from any album sales, and full rights to the album one year after it is released.
So far, the company has had 18 artists pass the $50,000 mark. Its musicians have received close to $2 million in user investments.
Sellaband has partnered with Amazon’s music sales site, indie music distribution service The Orchard, and the beer company Heineken, and it has just raised $5 million in a round led by Prime Technology Ventures.