Monday, November 06, 2006

How To Invest In Music Bands

LONDON (Reuters) - There's no telling what a $10 investment in U2 in 1985 would be worth today, but a start-up Web site called Sellaband is offering music fans the chance to put their money behind artists they think can climb the charts.

The Amsterdam-based company allows fans -- or what Sellaband calls "believers" -- to invest in unsigned acts in $10 increments. Once an act reaches $50,000, it is given access to a recording studio and professional production, song-writing and marketing expertise.

"What's hoped is that this will offer musicians, especially those who have never been able to get deals, a chance to do something they've never done before, and give them some kind of competitive edge," said Adam Sieff, the former head of jazz for Sony Music UK and Europe, who will work with Sellaband artists.

"It's not going to be the only way, but in a business that's desperate for a new business model, it gives musicians another opportunity," Sieff said.

Investors will get a free copy of the CD, a cut of any CD sales and a share in the advertising revenue generated for the site, Sellaband keeps 40 percent of any music publishing revenue, but none of the recording proceeds.

"If our plan is to take out the middleman, we should not act as a middleman," said Johan Vosmeijer, Sellaband's managing director, and a former Sony BMG executive .

A female-fronted Dutch goth-rock band called Nemesea is on the verge of becoming the first to reach the financing target, after two fans began dueling for a bigger piece of the action.

"It took them nine weeks to get to $25,000 and two more to get to $45,000," Vosmeijer said.

He said he has already been approached by a handful of venture capital firms interested in buying Sellaband, but that he and his partner intend to keep it independent.

About 600 singers and bands listed on Sellaband have raised $150,000 from 3,000 investors since the site launched on August 15. Fans are allowed to withdraw their investment or move it to another artist any time before a group reaches the $50,000 mark.

All funds are held in escrow until the threshold is reached, and the interest generated from the accounts goes to Sellaband.

Recording veterans have signed up to work with Sellaband because they think it can fill a void left by the industry consolidation that is siphoning profits back to parent companies instead of using them to develop up-and-coming talent.

"I feel the music business model doesn't work any more," said Tony Platt, producer of AC/DC's "Back in Black," who has signed up to advise Sellaband artists.

"What Sellaband is doing is democratizing music," he said. "It's finding a way that artists don't have to go the route of having to sell millions and millions of records, and hopefully will show that there are other ways of financing music and getting it out to people."

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