Sellaband, Thinning The Herd

gnuThere is an interesting thread on the Sellaband forum which asks the question, “Has SAB become Sella-JOKE?” The author is an artist who has decided that the SAB model is not his cup of tea and as this comes on the heels of a few other “Elvis has left the building” partings, a few thoughts come to mind. First off, there are now over 8000 artists on the Sellaband roster, all aiming at the goal of acquiring a recording/manufacturing budget of $50,000.00. In herd terminology, that is a lot of Wildebeest.

I was at one time musical director of a casino show in Nevada. Casinos mean gambling, or in polite chamber of commerce terms, gaming. My percussionist had a habit of putting the minimum bet of two dollars on a hand of Blackjack everyday on his way to the luncheon buffet. If he lost, he walked. But if he won, he would let it ride on the next hand. He never lost more than two dollars and more often than not, he would have lunch on the casino’s money. He never expected to get rich, all he was after was a free lunch and Blackjack served his purpose.

Our pianist became fascinated with the idea that he could put a small sum of money on the table and, the conditions being favorable, the dealer would return his investment with a huge profit margin…and all in a matter of moments, at the turn of a card. Unfortunately he expected more than just the cost of lunch, much more. In a very short time his fiscal routine consisted of collecting his paycheck, paying out most of it to the stage hands who had financed him the previous week, running to the tables with his latest foolproof system and rounding out the night with a visit backstage to borrow against his next paycheck. Through it all he never lost confidence. Well, he did have outbursts raging against a system that singled him out for personal ruin, but he always played the underdog with an ace up his sleeve. He was always on the very brink of “owning this shithouse” as he put it.

Casinos are very democratic. Virtually anyone can walk in and put money on the table, get a free drink and play as long as the fun-factor and the funds hold out. Dealers cheerfully give instruction to newbies in the basics and there are those more experienced types who can leave emotion behind and win their lunch money and sometimes a bit more. In other words, casinos are there for anyone who wants to take a shot. But are they for everybody? In considering my pals in the examples above, Just because something is readily available doesn’t always make it the best course of action.

SellabandSellaband, while it is there for anyone, is not for everyone. Any aspiring artist can establish a profile and test the waters. But as in any endeavor, the action is contingent upon what the player brings to the table. These assets are similar to those which labels once assessed in making signing decisions in the past. Does the artist have an existing fan base ready to support the artist by buying into his future? Does the artist create music that warrants the manufacture of 5000 CDs? And, in a bit of a twist on the concept of kissing the right asses, does the artist have an engaging online personality?

Of course, none of these things can be counted on to insure a successful run at raising a recording budget. An artist may have substantial support, be willing to pierce unmentionable body parts for promotional purposes and be an all around sweet person and well-loved by all. But if the music stinks he’ll just be a fun guy to have around. And conversely, in light of the quasi-personal contact now prevalent in the social networking world, an artist of immense musical talent and ability with the social skills of a cape buffalo will probably not do well.

Whenever party A wants to separate parties B,C,D etal from their money in exchange for a product, one fact remains constant. Party A had better have a product worth selling. It may be music, personality, an entertaining sales pitch or the possibility of return on investment. Whatever the combination, the exchange itself is rarely a matter of weighing a kilo of apples and paying at the door on the way out. The community of believers in Sellaband are not merely consumers. Considered as a single entity, they are in reality the new and many-celled A&R department and expect to be massaged a bit. Where at one time, a smart artist trying to get label attention might have researched where a label rep had lunch and sent over a bottle, An artist trying to generate interest among the 8000 plus bands on Sellaband might think it wise to treat his A&R reps or believers to an exclusive track, a few pictures or even a spectacle of entertaining self-mutilation.

The self-righteous artist may cry “Foul” at these tactics. Really? Bullshit! No label in the business of selling units will have any interest whatsoever in an artist, regardless of talent, without some assurance that they won’t be saddled with a warehouse full of unmarketable plastic. One can say “It’s all about the music” all they want, and even put the phrase to a catchy tune. But marketability is always and ever in the eyes of those called upon to provide the wherewithal whereby products are made available for the consumer. Pissing in the flower vase on the A&R desk is not a convincing selling point. All things being equal, sometimes being more interesting or just simply pleasant can prove marketability to a potential investor.

8000 artists! With the huge number of users on the internet every day it would seem that selling just 5000 CDs would be a walk in the park. And why not? Many aspiring artists are convinced that the whole world awaits their arrival on the international stage just as most gamblers are absolutely positive that financial security is just one card away. What’s the old saying? “Everybody wants to get to heaven but nobody wants to die.” The biggest difficulty in creating a persona that stands out from the crowd is that everyone has the same chance and it can be bloody hard work to be considered special if one has the good fortune to be considered at all.

Yes, it’s a big herd out there and a healthy herd has to be fast on its feet. A good thinning of the herd now and again is nature’s method of keeping it that way. It’s not always pleasant to watch, but not every Gnu gets to see the other side of the Serengeti.

9 Responses to “Sellaband, Thinning The Herd”

  • Gnu mark says he agrees with Big Gnu Pete. The only thing is that he also agrees with the people that like the music more than the tits.

    But he’s ok with it if people like the tits,they’re not his market anyway 😉

  • Nathan

    So I guess you are saying that Sellaband is a way for a band to make a record, but their songs won’t be hits unless the band takes charge and markets themselves in this new music industry.

    There are a lot of new internet companies catering to artists and musicians, but it’s still evolving and until then each artist has to work very hard to make a their name and songs known.

  • Cool blog Pete . The only thing I miss in it is the croc0dile … you know ; that mutant dino reptile , waiting in the pool 😉 .

    HAVE FUN !!! yours Pieps

  • There’s another reason why the author “left the building” according to his statement, but that’s another discussion.
    Anyway, it’s another cool posting from you Pete. Enjoyed reading it.

  • Gnus seem like interesting creatures. I’d like to meet one someday.
    Great read, Pete. Thanx for keeping them coming

  • Another winner Pete.
    The Cape Buffalo….now where´s that goddam vase?

  • Hi Pete, a very good article, I have always been a great believer in confidence and the ability to inspire confidence through ability and tenacity.
    I like the ones who can apply that with flexibility,ingenuety, and charm.
    They get my vote.
    Bests, Joe

  • Pete I thoroughly enjoy your cleansing brand of vinegar not to mention the fact that somehow you manage to tell it like it is without treading on any corns – a miracle? Or just charm?

    You may not realize quite how valuable that independence of spirit can be to artists when a storm is raging all around. I’ve enjoyed our Skype chats & hope we can have another one before long.

    Nothing to disagree with in this article & well written to boot.

  • great article, as always. What about what happens to the herd that manage to get to the other side of the crocodile infested river? SAB are only interested in facilitating the cd, not in promoting it.