Sellaband, The $50,000 Question

Ah, the 50K question…seems I’ve stepped on a few toes with my last post so let me start by saying that I have no problem with any artist getting their hands on any amount of cash and making any type of recording they are able to in order to make this a more perfect world. Peace brothers and sisters, Peace.

However, I still firmly believe that the former standardized goal of $50,000 on Sellaband’s crowd sourcing music website had more in its favor than otherwise and here’s why I think this is the case:

First of all, some people seem to think that 50K is a lot of money. This is an erroneous assumption when it comes to producing, manufacturing and shipping a recording project. Let me try to put this in perspective as compared with the recordings one is accustomed to hearing in the mainstream media.

50K equals about one month of studio time at LA book rates. Very few hit albums are completed in such a short time frame.

50K will buy you the services of maybe four actual session players (musicians who make their living playing in the studio) for about ten days if you call in a few bigtime favors.

50K represents about one tenth the cash that would guarantee mainstream media placement. Think I’m joking? Here’s a challenge, give me $500K and I’ll get any Sellaband recording placed…and you can pick the artist.

Because of these factors, writing, producing, recording, manufacturing and attempting to promote a project for 50K is already an absurdity. Those who believe 50K to be excessive cite legendary productions or recordings that have achieved cult status which were accomplished on the cheap but most of these are exceptional artists who obviously knew what they were about. That is not at all to say that such an artist does not exist on Sellaband, but a system of standards should exist to serve the needs of a broad cross section of users and not the odd exception.

If I were to put into one sentence my first impression of Sellaband as it was when I first became involved, it would be this:

Sellaband provides previously unknown or unsigned artists an opportunity to interact with experienced producers in a professional environment for what may be their only opportunity at a real world studio experience.

What an artist makes of this opportunity is completely another matter. Perhaps all a band wants is a professional level recording which can be sold at club gigs, weddings and parties. Or a more career minded artist with eyes toward landing distribution on a higher level may wisely choose to record two to four examples of their very best material at the best possible quality that can be had for the budget.The reality that Sellaband does not have the resources to promote its own products renders any related discussion a futile exercise in wishful thinking. As my dear sweet grandmother liked to say, “Wish into one hand and shit in the other. Then tell me which one fills up first.”

Regardless of the motive, withholding cash from the production budget with thoughts of funding promotion is a mistake on two counts. First, the entire 50K wouldn’t serve to promote a whore house in prison. It just isn’t enough money to make anything meaningful happen. Second, for the more serious artist aiming at placement with a major, the production will require every cent of the budget if the recording has any hope at all of comparing favorably with the competition.

Finally, for the artist who has never “been there” so to speak, getting a chance to work on original material in a professional environment can be the culmination of hopes and dreams that once lived only in the realm of fantasy. If one takes the expensive idea of promotion off the menu and concentrates fully on the music, the process itself will be worth the tab. And if all you ever wanted to do was get into a studio and record your music for real, why would you sell yourself short? Why would you want to be in a hurry? Why wouldn’t you use every last dollar of that budget to buy yourself the fulfillment of those frustrating years twiddling at the old 4-track portastudio? Why wouldn’t you suck every drop of goodness out of that time and force them to drag you out of there with your fingernails clinging to the control room door jamb?

There are businessmen who drool when they think of the two weeks they will spend at an exclusive fantasy sports camp, a cushy African safari or an extreme but well-appointed sojourn among the Amazonian tribes. There are celebrities and rich bastards who have become addicted to a yearly stint in a luxury rehab facility. These experiences cost a ton of cash and the people who indulge themselves do so without much thought for the expense. Think about it. with the 50K budget model, musicians can avail themselves of an intense, real world recording experience…and the resulting product is not only debt free, but nobody gets hurt!

I know it’s a stupid question, but why would anyone sell themselves short just to get it done faster? Feel free to comment…this ought to be good. I can already hear the tomatoes smacking my computer screen.

6 Responses to “Sellaband, The $50,000 Question”

  • Pieps

    50 is just a figure Pete , just as 5 or 250 :-) … I would go a lot further and start with :

    1) buy the Abbey Road Studio

    HAVE FUN !!! ♪♫♪♫♫ yours Pieps ♪♫♪♫♫

  • I think the problem with SAB is: people HAVE been getting hurt. In spite of Pieps constantly telling people to have fun and his frequently hilarious comments (buy Abbey Road Studio…. I laughed out loud), no one searches out everything on the internet related to SAB with the intention of posting something negative unless they’ve been hurt.

    So SAB’s problem isn’t really the business model, it’s business practice. My personal experience with the personalities involved has generally been positive. In my 10 month involvement, I’ve talked to Johann V twice, Adam 4 or 5 times and I’ve never had any problems. However, the site change fiasco was personally embarrasing to me, because I had been telling my friends, family and fans (both of them) what a cool thing SAB is. Then the site tanks. That’s when I went to Kickstarter to fund my current project. (I have 14 days to go in a video funding drive there right now: go to to see it.)

    Why would I come back? I had believers and friends on SAB and I didn’t want to let them down. SAB brought in some new talent that looked very promising. And they changed the business model which very much fit with my philosophy. 50K doesn’t sound like much to people in your level of the business. I can dig that. But the question is: what does it sound like to my fans?

    Also, while 10-20K might not be enough to compete with major labels. It is quite enough to compete at my level of the business and have a chance to pay back my believerss.

    My point is: it is true that SAB needs a business model that makes sense, but more importantly they need to stop making enemies. They should remember: “First, do no harm.”

  • Pieps

    For 50K of high end gear , I promise you a new song every month for 5 years … and you may use them , duplicate them , whatever you want . And downloads will be both ; MP3’s and and WAV. … no restrictions on quality 😀 😀 😀 .
    And I guarantee ; No studio , No producer , No A&R manager , No revenues … just everything for ME and MY MUSIC !!! And it will be so f*cking exclusive also , cause I promise to do absolutely No promotion 😀 😀 😀 .

  • While Sellaband lowers the bar, the French website MyMajorCompany highers it.
    Which one will be successful on the long run?

    I still think there is something else to be invented to “save” the music business, if it really has to be saved.

    I wish you a very happy new year, Pete.

  • Casper

    Good post Pete, i’ve made some calculations and I can say that we are already far over the 50K budget in cash and invested ‘working hours/time’ to release that ‘Lille’ album Travelling Girl.

  • Pieps

    Calculations … good that you mention it Casper :-) .

    @ Pete , I’ve send you for over 2k of cracked software last years … your (b)ass is mine on my upcoming 5 ( Free downloads ) CD’s .

    ♪♫♪♫♫♫ yours Pieps ♪♫♪♫♫♫