Sellaband, The Collaboration Project

collaboration projWithout taking a sneak peek at the dictionary, it seems fairly obvious that a preliminary dissection of the word “collaboration” would reveal its meaning to be Together (co) Work (labor), or Work Together…Co–Labor.  Collaboration in music is not a new concept. Musical history is rich with the work of powerful collaborations. But given the independent nature of the average musician, I sometimes wonder how the first collaboration may have occurred.

Picture Lorp the Cro-Magnon pounding a bison femur against the cave wall to get at the marrow. He slams the bone twice and licks the point of impact, repeating the exercise over and over.. His brother Lerp, tired from the hunt, his belly full and beard sticky with bison liver is trying to sleep off his primordial food buzz. Lorp’s boom boom, lick…boom boom, lick… is driving Lerp crazy. Finally, frustrated by Lorp’s incessant bone-pounding din, he crashes his stone hatchet across last week’s rib-cage and shout’s “Hey man!” Lorp answers, violently slamming the bone against the cave wall and shouting back, “Oh, leave me alone!” And so, back and forth they go, boom boom, crash….boom boom, crash…and shouting back and forth, “Hey man!” (boom boom, crash) “Leave me alone!”

After four or five repetitions of their rhythmic exchange, Larpa and Harpa, female prisoners from the previous week’s raid on the cave up-river, began to twitch and move their limbs in a decidedly lascivious manner. Lorp and Lerp, having forgotten the original intent of their outburst are hypnotized by the movements of the girls and continue for two minutes, twenty-five seconds and then do a slow fade…voila! And so, beginning as a domestic argument, the first musical collaboration preceded David Bowie’s hit by 50,000 years.

Musical collaborations can run the gamut, from the typical composer/lyricist model to the “We Are The World” brand of collaborative recordings. There was a time when many studios and/or labels had pools of musicians, writers, producers and performers who wrote, played, produced and performed on each other’s albums, Motown, the LA Wrecking Crew, The Section and Stax being some of the more prominent examples.

In the current musical climate, anyone with a computer and some ideas can be a producer. Software has replaced the studio as well as the studio musician and ambitious songwriters and performers are self-producing their way onto the internet in hopes of claiming their share of the brass ring of fame. Of these websites, Sellaband is unique in giving unsigned artists the opportunity to actually collaborate with professional producers, musicians and studios in perpetrating as professional a product as $50,000 can furnish.

One of the more unique artist profiles on Sellaband belongs not to a band or solo artist but to a group of individuals known as “The Collaboration Project.” It all started when  Dutch Sellaband artist Casper put his idea into writing:

“Everybody who wants to collaborate with me/us to record a collaboration CD, after reaching the 50K on this profile page will keep his/her own copyrights and definitly have the opportunity to sing or play on that future CD. I sincerely hope that it will become a successful project with a minimum of 10 joining artists/musicians.”

The Collaboration ProjectThe group now consists of 63 singers, songwriters, musicians and producers who are working together in an effort to raise the $50,000 budget to produce and promote their own album. They come from all corners of the world and are connected only by the internet and their common goal. Also among the ranks are fans and investors with expertise in non-musical fields such as management, promotion, web design, marketing and other aspects of artist support. Similar to what developed during the golden years of hitmaking in Detroit, LA, New York, Nashville and Memphis, but different in that The Collaboration Project has embraced the tools of the internet in creating a hit factory of their own under the umbrella of Sellaband. A collaboration as geographically widespread would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Martin WassmanEvery project with any hope of success must have leadership and organization. “We Are The World” had Quincy. The Collaboration Project is managed by a lover of music and musicians with the screen name “MaWa.” During my production of the SolidTube album, Mawa handled the band’s financial affairs and I grew to respect not only his attention to detail and honesty but also his respect for musicians and his strong desire to help unsigned artists bring their music to the public. Within the Sellaband community there are quite a few vocal critics and MaWa has often been criticised for being too critical (a bit of irony in there somewhere). But where most critics say “That sucks!” Mawa follows with logical reasons why “that sucks” and rounds out his criticisms with ways and means for that which sucks to be rectified. With this project, MaWa is putting theory into practice and there are high hopes that he and the project will be successful.

It is impossible in this space to discuss every artist associated with the project and unfair to single out just a handful. I would urge you to log on to their page and listen to the music and follow the artist links to learn about the diverse group. For myself, one of the most endearing qualities of this group is the diversity of languages. One of the more prolific producers is an extremely gifted guitarist from Poland. I told him once via chat that I thought he played the shit out of his guitar. I subsequently had to explain that, yes, this was a good thing. I found this exchange, while irresistibly charming, to be illustrative of my own idiomatic ignorance.

Another interesting development has been that, as I listen to the collaborations in comparison to the work of the individual artists, I find the results to be more than alternate vocal takes or guest solos. The work truly seems to draw the best from all parties involved and the collaborative songs are not just rehashed mixes of unfinished song fragments but fresh work from individuals who seem to draw inspiration from the process and from each other.

Reaching the $50,000 goal and completing a professionally produced album has as many purposes as there are artists attempting the feat. For some, the album will be an end in itself, a product to be sold side-stage at live shows. Others may see it as a stepping stone to showcase their talents and seek more lucrative deals outside of Sellaband. The final product of The Collaboration Project will serve as many needs as there are artists. Some will add the album to their fan table, others will use the album to hone their production skills for bigger things to come and for some it may well represent the best work of their careers.

I’m certain that the finished product will be an interesting combination of styles and genre. But will the album be as cohesive as a single artist’s collection? Will there be a unifying theme? Will a thread of familiarity connect the various tracks? Can such an album make money? Who knows…and really, at this point who cares? The project justifies itself on the merits of the motives and efforts of the participants. Works of art are being created across national, cultural and linguistic borders. People who would not know each other if they crashed cars in the parking lot are singing, playing and producing together as if under one roof. The production of music is accomplishing what political heads of state find impossible to bring about, international cooperation of purpose for the greater good.

All of the participants are talented and ably gifted in their own right. Some have, and many more will release Sellaband sponsored albums under their own names. But I think I can speak for all of them in saying that this album will have a very important place in their hearts as it should in the hearts of the Sellaband members who choose to support the project. This is not Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Madonna, Bono etal assembled at the old A&M studio in response to Quincy’s phone call. This is a bunch of talented unknowns coming together because a music lover with a penchant for stirring things up thought it might be a cool idea. Congratulations to Mawa and to the 63 (so far) others who are making this happen. That other thing was cool, but I think an appropriate name for The Collaboration Project might be “We Are The REAL World.”

8 Responses to “Sellaband, The Collaboration Project”

  • Pete what a most enjoyable perception of the Collaboration Project. I dont profess to be a writer of distinction, I dont sing and I don’t play or read music. But I bring 50 years of music listening to the party and time on my hands to learn – oh and new eyes that are not clouded by whats classed as mainstream! For me the Collaboration Project is providing all concerned with something quite unique
    and that enthuses me to be involved.

    The Collaboration Project is in good hands of that there is no doubt. Inside twelve months I’ve met MaWa and Casper and heard nothing but good things of the master Polish strummer Kostek. I’ve also met the writer of this peice and enjoyed learning and listening to him over a beer, or was it two! :)

    Can I add anything to this review? I wouldn’t dare try :) Thanks for taking time out to compose these reviews Pete. “We Are The REAL World” – I like that :)
    Does that include me? :)


  • admin

    Yes Phil, it most definitely includes you! As to how many beers we chatted over, you will remember that we were in Austria at the time, where one beer is worth a keg of whatever this yellow swill in the states is masquerading as. So if it was two…and computing the weak dollar into the equation, I guess it was…a lot!

    Cheers! Pete

  • who is this charming laughing guy ? 😉

  • Pieps

    Cool blog Pete … I don’t have to tell you how I srand rowards collaborations 😉 .

    HAVE FUN !!! yours Pieps

  • Pieps

    stupid typos … I mean :
    Cool blog Pete … I don’t have to tell you how I stand towards collaborations 😉 .

    HAVE even more FUN !!! yours Pieps

  • Casper

    Hi Pete, thanks a lot for writing that nice review about our project.
    First let me introduce myself.
    I’m mainly a guitarplayer/songwriter/teacher/event organizer and the owner of a small home studio with rehearsing rooms for bands.
    My Motivation to start TCP:
    We first had another artist profile (Caya). Caya’s earnings on Sellaband were going much to slow for me. After one year I had reached 5 K so probably in approximately 10 years we would have a small chance to hit the 50K. Also didn’t have enough time to promote/manage this ‘Caya’ profile properly.
    I noticed that a lot of good artists/bands were having the same problem. So…Why not working together to get our music on CD? The idea was born.
    I decided to quit with the Caya Profile and started The Collaboration Project (TCP). I asked my friend MaWa to help me out as a profile captain and we’re managing TCP profile since March 2008. Mawa’s logistics input and organising skills are just great. His efforts and of course ‘The Artists Collab Songs’ and it’s artist’s made TCP what it is now. 5,5K in a matter of months and already 27 demo songs are figures to be proud of.
    Kostek and I are working as an inside TCP team to write, scout and produce new collabs. Kostek is a real skilled master producer. I’m glad to work with him. Owww I got to hurrie…pack my gear and drive to Poland again.


  • This collaboration sounds really cool. I want to watch it and I hope it is a real success. I don’t know why but the look of this blog is so cool!

  • TCP sounds like a really great opportunity for musicians around the world. Due to the prevalence of the WWW in our lives, TCP becomes a global collaboration in an infinite amount of styles. I think world musicians have been waiting for a project like this to come about for many years. I thank Casper for coming up with this ingenious idea and actually putting it into action.