Interviewing... SellABand

SellABand logo I talked about [1] SellABand [2] in the past, but I never covered it as I wanted to on this blog. So, I decided to interview Pim Betist from SellABand and leave you with the result...

For those who do not know, SellABand is a one-year-old web music service that can be considered a "Record Label 2.0". Read the begining of the interview to know more about it. Oh, and they are looking to Ruby coders so if you might be interested you should read this until the end!

Hi there, and thanks for letting me interview you... SellABand is already one year old, but lot's of out readers probably don't know about you, so what about starting by explaining what is SellABand?

SellABand is an online music platform where artist and fans can make music and money together. Artists make a profile for free by loading up their best three songs, their bio and some pictures. Music fans view the profile and listen to the music. When they believe in the artist they can become a "Believer" by buying parts. Each part costs $10. Once 5000 parts have been sold we have $50,000. We use this full budget to record an album with renowned producers in top studios. Once the album is done all believers receive a limited version of the album. All income generated from the album and the advertising on SellABand is divided equally between the artist, the believers and SellABand.

How did the idea of creating SellABand appear?

SellaBand comes from a love for music and a frustration about the fact that the same artists are being heard over and over on the radio. I would see a lot of live performances and notice how much talented artists are being unnoticed by the traditional music industry. I decided to give up my job and approach the right people to execute the business plan. I found Johan Vosmeijer and Dagmar Heijmans. Both experienced in the music industry. When they heard about my plans they gave up their jobs to launch this business and follow our dream: Bands and Fans in business together!

What do you think of the actual state of the music industry? What do you think SellABand can do to help it moving to the right direction?

The majors have been treating the web as a threat as opposed to capturing its opportunities. When Napster was founded the labels had a choice; embrace this development and create new business models or sue the new initiatives. I don't have to tell you for which one they choose. This approach cost them a lot of money. Music companies were focusing on numbers and laws in stead of on finding new talent. Additionally, the traditional business model is completely outdated and far too risky. Each new artist that is signed by a label requires a large investment before any money is made. Sales have been dropping with around 25% world wide. With less money being made, logically labels are betting on "safe horses" like Madonna and Justin Timberlake of whom we have heard so much already. RIAA (Record Industry Association America) figures have pointed out that music listeners are interested in new music. They are fed up with highly marketed super stars. My guess is that with this risk averse policy music sales will be dropping more in the future. Since labels aren't picking up new talent, there is a lot of unsigned artists out there. SellaBand makes it possible for music fans to discover these artists and help them make take their career to the next level. We like to see SellaBand as a trampoline. Artists choose themselves
how high they want to jump. After (and before) recording their album with us they are free to sign with a label. We have recently signed distribution deals with Rough trade in the Benelux and Proper in the UK so all SellaBand
albums will be sold in stores across the UK and the Benelux. Additionally sellaband artists are being invited for live performances all over the world. Nemesea for example (the first band 50K) has recently confirmed a tour in the UK. This way the more passive music lover can also enjoy the amazing new music that is being discovered on SellaBand.

How do you measure the SAB success so far?

5400 bands signed up. 1.3 million dollars has been invested. 9 artists have reached the 50K. 3 albums have been released. We have only been live for a little over a year. We (the management and the community) are very proud of these results.

We're seeing a lot more of this "Web 2.0" world that is more and more centered in user generated content and grabbing users' attention. SAB completely relies on User Generated Content and even "user contributed money". Aren't you afraid this is a bubble soon to burst?

I agree with you that are a lot of initiatives out there. In some of them I have a lot of trust. Fabchannel.com is a good example of web 2.0 initiative that I think will continue to grow in size and popularity. Other initiatives
I just don't get. 2nd life for example is an initiative that I have less faith in. Time will tell which initiatives will continue to prosper in the future. When it comes to SellaBand I am very confident that it is a
sustainable business model. The relationship of the artist with his or her fans is a unique one that is very difficult to break. Imagine seeing 50,000 dollars roll in on your account. Imagine realizing your dream because
thousands of music fans believe in you. Imagine seeing an artist you supported on MTV. All of this magic is happening and will happen a lot more for a very long time.

As an user of SAB almost since day one, first as an artist and then as a believer, I've been seeing the development of a very strong community, and lot's of things running around SAB. For instance, before SAB having an official forum, we already had forums for SAB... How did you made it happen? How do you see that?

When we started sellaband we had no idea that we would be surrounded by such an amazing group of music lovers. All "community initiatives" were literally initiated by the community. All we did was listen and try to serve the community in the best way possible. When it comes to offline initiatives I think we've done a great job. This summer we sold out legendary live venue paradiso in Amsterdam. Believers from over 22 countries flew in to Amsterdam to see the show. When it comes to online initiatives I think we can make a lot of improvements. One of our Believers "Rey Gamba" is an experienced programmer. He has been envolved behind the scenes for a while now. First he created club SellaBand which was a sandbox environment where we tested what extra features we could add to the site to make it more fun and sticky. We loved what he did so much that we asked him to join our team, which he did! We are very happy with the added value Rey Gamba will bring to our company.

With all the interaction you have with the SAB community, both artist and believers tend to flood you with new ideas. How do you face them? It seems to me that there's a kind of "sense" from the community that you're somewhat obliged to at least consider those suggestions...

I fully agree with you. We are a very transparent company and therefore get a lot of feedback from the community. We have used this input when we made our business plan for 2008. We published the complete plan in the tribune, our weekly news section. We are very conscious of the fact that it is the community of artists and believers who will take this company to the next level. Keeping that in mind we have to protect "the pillars" of our concept and realize that we cannot please everyone at all times.

We never heard again of "SellABand Presents..." CD's... Was it something you did to start launching 50K artists, or is it something we'll seen again?

SellaBand Part 1 and 2 were both a major success. I think the time is right for a part 3 soon.

Since this is a blog that usually talks not only about music but also about technological issues, can you give us some tech details about SAB?

We have chosen for the language Ruby. We are looking for programmers who can program in Ruby because we are building our own team.

Any final words you want to leave to our readers?

We've been nominated for the nima marketing award. This is Hollands most prestigious marketing prize. Tom Tom and Gsus won the year before us. Don't forget to vote for us here! http://www.nima.nl/marketing_jaarprijs

[1] - http://mindboosternoori.blogspot.com/2007/02/social-web-of-music.html
[2] - http://sellaband.com


  1. Anonymous10:50 PM

    and a fine idea it was too....

  2. Brilliant idea for musicians and fans. Time to cut the majors who are only interested in making money from bland artists out of the loop... Sellaband puts fans and bands together directly.

  3. Anonymous1:00 AM

    its also a money making ventureon their part - who are the "renowned producers" and what cut are they taking of the recording fund?
    most bands who are worth their weight have already got their unique recording technique and sound down ... the idea of recording with a sellaband sellected setup sounds bogus to me.
    they should pay the money to the artist and let them record where they like.

  4. SAB artists can choose their producers, and to have or not the advice of those from SAB. Also, SAB artists have full freedom to do the record the way they like (they just have to keep the expenses with the record in the 35K limit). So that's really a non-issue...