Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sellaband...Year one

I have a twisted respect for annoying people...well, let me clarify that. I have a great deal of respect for people who are driven by perseverance. Whenever the Mormon missionaries show up at my doorstep with their clean haircuts, white shirts and ties, I invite them to lean their bikes against the fence and I listen to what they have to say. It takes courage to talk to strangers about your deepest beliefs, especially if you're a teenager fresh out of high school, and the stranger is in his underwear and offering beer and cigarettes on a Saturday morning.

I'm usually willing to give anyone a few moments of my time as long as they are sincere. I've sent many of these missionaries away with their heads shaking and questioning their own beliefs...but only because my sincerity rivals their own. There was only one occasion that I had had enough. There were two Jehovah's Witness ladies that just wouldn't see things my way...but they kept coming back. I had to respect that, but I had my fill. The next time they came to my front door, I greeted them in my socks...and nothing else. It seems that I had found the limit of their perseverance. After gathering their jawbones up from their shoes, they fled, never to darken my doorstep again.

Sellaband is celebrating its first year. The web-based alternative to conventional record labels now boasts over 4500 artists and just over one million dollars invested. Both reasons to celebrate...but now that the honeymoon is fading, it is time for the Sellaband community to take stock in what has been accomplished and to assess ways in which these initial milestones can be parlayed into real and substantial success for the artists, the investors, or "believers", and the label itself.

Everyone has experienced the first month or so of a new relationship. It's fresh and exciting, full of energy and discovery. But as the relationship develops, cute personal habits can become annoying, and one finds that they can no longer ignore the bad breath, farting, nose-picking and scab peeling that was once so very charming. Long term relationships require hard work. Communication and perseverance become more instrumental than the pre-coffee tumble in making the relationship a successful one for both parties.

It is difficult to sustain energy in almost any endeavor that requires a long timeframe. This is the area that will make or break the Sellaband community efforts. When a new artist posts music on the web site, the community of believers are quick to support the artist's efforts. The first rush of investment can be intoxicating. But raising $50,000.00 takes time by any standards and even the artists with 20 or 30 thousand under their belt will find that raising the last $10,000 will likely be more difficult than the first.

The answer lies in perseverance, not only on the part of the artists, but also the investors. It is critical for everyone in the Sellaband community that the system succeeds. But the nature of the "crowd-funding" business model requires something which many people find difficult. When I visit the pages of my favorite artists, I see many of the same believers. Many have become E-friends and I enjoy discussing musical ideas and exchanging holiday greetings with them. But for the system to succeed, everyone in the community must now take on the role of the missionary. We have to put on our white shirts and ties, hop on our bikes, and go talk to strangers.

I think that it would be fairly accurate to say that Sellaband shareholders fall into one of three distinct groups. There are the friends, fans and family who provide the first rush of investment. Out of this group there is a growing element of what I call travelers. Once they establish their favorite artist, they roam the profile pages and invest according to the opinions shared by friends and fellow believers. And then there are the hardcore investors who look at this system as a way to be involved in a business hitherto unapproachable.

From the ranks of these three groups, there must evolve a second generation of investment from those who are either sitting on the fence or perhaps have yet to hear of Sellaband. In order for the crowd funding model to sustain itself, those already involved must take advantage of the viral effect of personal communication. The most effective tool available to the current investors is sincerity. If investors wish to see their investments come to fruition, they must make Sellaband a topic for conversation. True belief is sustained with sincerity and perseverance...and true believers have a passion for evangelism.

I want Sellaband to succeed. The importance of a forum for new ideas and independent music unencumbered by the greed which characterizes the conventional record label's motives cannot be underestimated. Now that Sellaband has had a year to teethe and take its first steps, it is time to spit out the pacifier and begin the maturation that will define success. No true believer should be shy about sharing the least not unless someone answers the door dressed only in socks.


Walter M. said...

"No true believer should be shy about sharing the least not unless someone answers the door dressed only in socks."
Indeed and that counts also for the artists!

Talentscout said...

In my opinion there is also a fourth large group of believers. They come to SAB just to enjoy themselves: listening to music, buying a few parts to get nice CD's at a low price, working on their profiles & communicate with other believers and artists. I'm one of them and when it 's getting too serious ("It is critical for everyone in the Sellaband community that the system succeeds")I think I won 't visit the site as often as I do now.

GD Allan said...

A very well written article! Well said!!
Sellaband has provided me with the necessary encouragement and motivation to write 21 songs in the first half of 2007. I have never been so productive or motivated to play MY OWN music. I have formed a band, am in the process of planning a trip to Europe mid 2008 (with my family!) to play festivals and venues and started to place my music "out there" on other DRM free sites on the web. Already money is starting to trickle into our business account via downloads and CD sales.
Where else would I gain investment (over US$9000 so far) in my music to record an album? Nowhere. Feedback from listeners is immediate, access to information about touring and industry in other countries is accessible and I'm building a global network through my music.
For me Sellaband is not a site where I can gain notoriety and stardom, but a site where I have gained knowledge that kick starts my music career.
For me the learning curve has been incredible and I'm still discovering that I don't need major label support. I am practical about my networking and discerning in my approach to friendships and music making and realistic about what it takes to tour and play music for a living. It is a very exciting time.

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