Can you “crowdsource” a record album?

(cross-posted from my Globe and Mail blog)

The answer to that question appears to be “yes,” although there are a number of other questions raised in the process. A site called, which has been up and running for almost a year, has now helped seven musicians raise enough money to make a professional-quality CD, by giving them the tools to set up a site where fans can donate money to the cause. It works like this: An artist uploads music to the site, and fans — known as “believers” — can effectively buy shares in the future CD for $10 each.

When the artist raises $50,000 (U.S.), Sellaband helps them find a producer, studio time and the other things they need to make a CD — and everyone who donated gets a free copy, as well as a share in the revenue from downloads of the music, and from sales of the CD. The site, which is based in Holland, was created by Johan Vosmeijer (a former Sony BMG executive), Pim Betist and Dagmar Heijmans.

After just six months, the site had more than 2,700 bands and musicians signed up, according to a post at TechCrunch, and now has about 4,000. The latest artist to hit the $50,000 mark is Australian singer Mandyleigh Storm (yes, she says that’s her real name), whose Sellaband page is here.

Jeff Howe, who wrote a piece for Wired magazine about the phenomenon of “crowdsourcing” (and is now working on a book about the same topic) wrote about Sellaband after they launched, and wondered whether the deal made sense for artists, since it appeared that the site owned the artist’s works and had control over who produced the album as well — but an update on his blog with comments from one of the Sellaband founders makes it clear that this is not the case. The money is held in escrow (although Sellaband earns interest on it), and the artist gets to choose who the producer is, and retains the performance and distribution rights. Sellaband takes 40 per cent of the publishing rights.

Eamonn Forde, writing for The Guardian’s music blog, says that he doesn’t see much merit in the Sellaband model, in part because the site is helping artists make CDs, and the industry is moving away from CDs to downloads — and even a $50,000 investment isn’t enough to get traction for a new CD without the backing of a major label. In a comment on his post, one of Sellaband’s founders disagrees, saying: “Once believers and artists have raised their budget, both parties are happy [even] with the worst-case scenario. Believers get their CD for 5 pounds and artists get to record it with professionals. On top of this both parties might be able to make some money.”

This Bloomberg story has some more details about Sellaband and its model and so does this story from The Guardian. A digital media site called Master New Media also has a good overview.