I feel a rant coming on...yep, a wicked rant is threatening to burst the old medulla oblongata and I better puke it out before some brain shrapnel shatters the window and knocks the paperboy off of his bike! This goes out to all the aspiring artists out there in cyberland who think that a self-produced gar(b)ageband recording will get their picture on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. Take the needle out! It's probably not gonna happen.
Sellaband is a fantastic idea...raise $50K and make a professional level recording of your songs. The concept is eloquent in its simplicity. The plan is obviously aimed at artists who: 1. Do not have the financial backing of a major label (unsigned), 2. Desire to maintain artistic control in a business where financial investment is frequently infected with "a great idea for the chorus." and 3. Artists in a genre not necessarily in the cross-hairs of the mainstream music buying constituency. Sellaband, like the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, says to throngs of independent artists and those who believe in those artists, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." (free of the fetid stench surrounding the recycling dump that the music industry has allowed itself to become)
Think of it... artists can post representative examples of their music on the web, the public invests in the artist based upon belief in the artist's potential to make professional recordings, and, with patience and hard work, a high quality version of the artist's vision may see the light of day. Elegant and functional as an iPod. But, humans being human, even something this uncomplicated can get bogged down in a morass of "what ifs."
It's getting difficult to go into the supermarket without being accosted by chiselers. My favorite is the teen-aged candy salesman who offers overpriced boxes of four-year-old peanut brittle remnants. I have actually offered to buy the entire inventory on condition that the miscreant eat the crap while I watch, and not puke for at least thirty minutes...no takers yet. Then I ask, "Who gets the cash?" "Well, If I sell enough candy, I can go to summer camp and don't have to get involved with gangs." Oh... I get it. This kid's proclivity for gang affiliation can only be curtailed by sacrificing my teeth to a five dollar handful of candy factory scraps swept up by the late shift. "What are you, on glue?" I ask, "So If you don't go to camp, you'll join a gang?" And he answers, "Well, I don't want to...but..."
At that point, I become the kid's worst nightmare and give him some fatherly advice. I point to the newspaper dispenser next to the supermarket entryway. "See those?" I ask, pointing at the papers. "See all that black stuff on the paper? Those are words, and if you take your young ass to school you can learn how they work...they mean things. When you learn how to read, you can go to the laundromat and find a newspaper for free. Look at the biggest part with all the small words on it. That is called the classified ads. It is rammed full of something called 'JOBS'. Go and get one. As long as they still print that part of the paper, it means that there are more jobs than there are crap-candy salesmen trying to scare me with some bullshit about staying out of gangs...lazy bastard!"
You see, the kid is a liar. He wants me to give him five dollars for a box of crap that claims to be fresh from Auntie Helga's candy kitchen on the premise that this transaction will have a positive effect on his future. A gross misrepresentation of the product followed by a gross misrepresentation of the business plan. Bullshit on top of bullshit.
Here is my interpretation of the Sellaband transaction. I listen to an mp3 demo, decide that there is potential, buy a share at ten bucks, the artist goes on to raise fifty grand, and makes a professional recording of the music I believed in by virtue of the mp3. If, after reaching the $50K mark, the artists decides that he wants to spend the budget on promoting the original demo versions, or on touring so that he can sell his demos side-stage, I have to feel that I've been lied to. I didn't invest in a box of crap to send a kid to summer camp. If an artist were to say out front, "Look, I've already made my recordings and I just want the money to buy a van so I can drive along the highway and sell my peanut brittle at rest stops," well, then I have the choice to invest in a van for this artist or a recording for another. I've written about the value of a professional studio experience before, but my position also concerns the very integrity of the business transaction between artist and believer.
There is a link on the Sellaband site to the Sellaband Club area where one will find various playlists compiled by members of the community. One of my favorites is called "Songs with Hit Potential." Notice the wording? It doesn't say "Recordings", it says "Songs." I interpret this to mean that the compiler of this playlist feels that the songs on this list could be made into hit records. If the recordings were radio ready, they might be hit records now. But they aren't. The idea of spending $50K trying to get an mp3 on the radio is absurd. Without a top-notch recording, promotion is a moot point.
As always, I will accompany this rant with a discalaimer. Yes, There are artists capable of producing their own music. and yes, I may be as full of shit as the next guy. But if you are a highly talented and creative musical artist with limited experience, limited funds, and limited knowledge of the many ways to completely fuck yourself in this business...AND you have Sellaband staring you in the face with the perfect plan...Wake up and smell the music.