Interview – SellaBand

SellaBand is a fan-funding website that allows artists to raise many to finance their albums, whilst maintaining exclusive rights to their own work. M3 got in touch with Community & Jr. Project Manager Maxi Kobold to learn about fan-funding, it’s pros and cons, and whether it’s a viable option for the future of music distribution…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Maxi Kobold – SellaBand has an office in Munich and the headquarter is located in Berlin. I am working at the Office in Berlin as a Community and Junior Product Manager together with my colleague Malte, who is the Artist and Product Manager.

I finshed my studies at the Humboldt University with the topics Music and Media this spring. Before, I did a trainee for a media saleswoman. Further, I passed through several internships. For example, I worked at an indie label, a media agency, an event agency and worked as a freelancer for a local radio station.

What is SellaBand and how does it work?
SellaBand is the pioneer in the field of Crowdfunding. Since its launch in August 2006, SellaBand has coordinated recording sessions for more than 80 Artists or acts who had their albums funded by their Fans. Over $ 4,000,000 have been invested in independent bands via www.SellaBand.com. With SellaBand, Artists retain complete ownership of the works created and have the flexibility to determine which incentives they will offer their Fans who fund them. SellaBand’s fan funding engine also allows Artists the freedom to enter into deals with any label, management company, or publisher and there are no advances to pay back. Artists maintain control over their career and have 100% freedom to create the music that they want to create. SellaBand can also be utilized by management companies, record labels, publishers, sponsors and media companies to fund projects for their own Artists while also building the core fan base required to launch an Artist or take them to the next stage of their career.

What would you say are the advantages and/or disadvantages the fan funding approach has over the traditional, top-down record company funding method?
First of all, I am positive that Crowdfunding is the way for Artists to gain money on their own to produce their albums. An advantage is definitely that Crowdfunding is based on Fans or we call it Believers. Fans are the important tool for musicans to be successful. Without Fans an Artist has no community and therefore none who is buying CDs or visit their shows. Fans are having and taking the main role in the structure of Crowdfunding.

Another advantage due to Crowdfunding is that Fans and Artists can communicate direct with each other. As evidence, an Artist can update his Fans with a Blog or Wall-Post or can even send personal messages. On the other hand a Believer can easily get in touch with the Artist. Due to the incentives an Artist offers to his Believers, an emotional relationship between the Artist and the Believer exists.

Also, if an album is released with the help of Fans, an Artist has already many Fans who are interested in his project and are willing to support him. A community already exists – the Fans or Believers are close to the Artist right from the beginning of a project. In case an Artist produces his album with a traditional major label, a community can exist but has not.

Do you think the internet has made it easier to adhere to the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ethos? If so, do you think this will enable the DIY approach to flourish even further, or do you think it could harm it through an oversaturation of bands?
In general you can observe that the internet has made it a lot easier for bands to promote their music, put out their records and organize gigs on their own. So…Yes the internet is a clear enrichment for the DIY-movement, especially for musicians. And maybe it turns out that there is a further development within the DIY spirit through the internet. These days you can find a lot of creative and lateral thinking people out there.
But on the other hand the DIY ethos combined with the internet brings up a lot of Artists, who (and I say this without any offence) do not play for keeps and as a result these musicians will fail. It is the first rule to stand behind what you’re doing, no matter what. This will take a lot of your time, a lot of your power and it takes guts to pull it through, but in the end it’ll pay off.

Do you think fan funding could be the future of financing projects?
Yes, I am convinced that fan funding is the future of financing projetcs. We on SellaBand were already able to help more than 80 Artists to complete their fundings to produce thereupon their albums. Regards the revenue share I am not quite sure. I can imagine that for some bands and their Believers it really can work out fine. But you never know how the future will be.

Looking at the music industry, do you think fan funding is just as viable for amateurs and unknown bands as it is for famous bands and already established acts?
In my opinion there are two sides of the same coin… On one side you can say that Crowdfunding is a reliable opportunity to gain money for their first single, EP or debut-album. In addition to that, unknown Artists can build up a fan-base, who is involved from the very first moment of the band history.

On the other side Crowdfunding is a perfect tool for famous bands to pursue new ways of fan-involvement and to connect with their Fans. This creates a special reason to buy the bands new material and CDs, which has been partly co-created by the fan-base.

Which fan-funding campaigns would you say have been your biggest successes?
Aly Cook: The Artist out of New Zealand funded already € 20.000 for a CD, including a Bonus DVD. Right now Aly Cook is raising money for her second album. Her Song “Midnight Sun” is at #14 of the Australian Country Music Airplay charts.

Ellie Williams: The singer-songwriter already succeeded with two fundings at SellaBand: the first project reached $ 50.000, which she used for her debut album. Her second funding, Ellie Williams just achieved a couple of weeks ago, she raised € 4.000 for the promotion and touring expenses of the album.

Hind: Within only 11 days the Dutch singer Hind raised € 40,000 to record her album “Crosspop” and later on a marketing budget of € 24,000 to promote the record. In the week of its release in November 2010 the album entered the Dutch official charts at position #8.

Jonathan Davis: The frontman and singer of KoЯn funded a DVD and Blu-ray production of his legendary concert with the Simply Fuckin’ Amazings in London. The SellaBand DVD was an exclusive and highly limited present to his hardcore Fans worldwide and got to the public sale in autumn 2011.

Public Enemy: The Hip Hop icons achieved the highest funding sum ever on SellaBand: $ 75,000. Chuck D said: “We wanted to try a completely new way to operate our music career.”

Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
I suggest there is still some money left in record sales. The biggest turnover is coming from record sales and physical sales are still the biggest part, but digital and Merch/Touring/Sponsorships are very important. BUT: if you don´t have any record sales artist and label will not earn money via touring etc. So, maybe the function of classic record sales is different and becomes more and more marketing value. But music and career still starts with an record/single/EP.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I am convinced that the internet causes the base for many record stores. But they are still record stores left and people still buying their Vinyls and CDs there. Yes, I think because of the internet many record shops had to close. The reason is not that people don’t wanna buy music anymore. It is rather that buying CDs and Vinyl via Internet is much easier and in most cases cheaper. Further the User has a bigger selection of music in the internet.

Music is no longer a rare good – you can have million songs in your pocket – how easy is this? The result is: the value of music is dercreasing. Record stores are still important: Amazon is a record store and is very important – the way of transaction is just different.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
It is a pitty that Germany does not support the ACTA resultion. But the SOPA is in progress. The most important thing is Facebook. How can a Social Community claim rights on any picture, movie if the user is uploading content which not belongs to him? If this is the future music and culture will no longer exist, because if nobody pays nobody will finance and realize cultural products. Music is so important for human beings – music is the language of the world and we at Sellaband are really hoping that a model like ours is part of the new music economics while respecting the act of creating music culture.

For more information about SellaBand, you can visit their official website.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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