Microfinancing Musicians: How to Skip the Middleman and Pay the Artist

After exploring options for where musicians can sell their music online, I wanted to step into the shoes of the fans – the fans who would rather support their favorite artists and help them make more music by paying them directly as opposed to paying a label or music store.

I touched on it briefly in the 5 predictions for digital music trends post mentioning that “services like Slicethepie and Sellaband are paving the way for a more direct financial and emotional connection between creators and consumers”, but after discovering a few more services I think this topic warrants its own post. It’s one thing to buy a CD or iTunes single or a concert ticket. It’s another to just give money to the artist.

Here are the sites I’ve found (so far) that allow you to do so. They each operate a little differently. Some also allow you to make money while supporting the artist.

Sellaband
“You are the record company”
The Deal: The Believer picks an artist they like. Each artist issues 50,000 Parts at $10 each. Believers (fans) have to cumulatively raise $50,000 to get their Artist in the studio. Fans can withdraw their Parts and get their money back at any time up until they reach the 50K, at which point the Artist gets hooked up with a studio and an A&R person and the Partholders get to watch the magic happen. Advertising revenues and net profits from sales are split evenly between the Artist, the Believers, and Sellaband. And Believers can open a Shop to sell related products from their Artist and earn commission.

Slicethepie
“Help yourself to a piece of the music industry”
The deal: Every fan is a music label and can become “emotionally and financially involved at all levels of the music industry – scouting, breaking, investing in and influencing real artists” by sending them through the various stages of Slicethepie – Arenas, Scout Rooms, and Showcases. Fans listen to tracks, write reviews, vote for, and finance the artist by buying Backstage Passes, which give them exclusive access to the artist and the right to buy Contracts at a discount. Then, the Contracts (tradable on the Slicethepie Exchange) give investors a return over a 2 yr period.

CASH Music: A Coalition of Artists and Stake Holders
“A platform for engagement”
The deal: Not totally sure yet, as they are quite new, but in a nutshell it is “an open-source platform for the new, distributed music business” where artists and audiences can interact and support one another creatively. Projects are by invitation-only for now.

Calabash Music
“Tune Your World”
The deal: “Peer-to-peer microfinancing of new music projects.” Positioning themselves as “the leading international music download service and the world’s first fair trade music company”, they focus on international artists and even have a partnership with National Geographic, using Calabash’s catalog to access world music and put these artists in front of the 10 million monthly viewers of nationalgeographic.com. Pick an artist, make a minimum $15 sponsorship, and download advance copies of the artist’s recordings. Money is transferred to the musician once their goal is reached.

ArtistShare
“Where the fans are making it happen”
The deal: Around since 2003, ArtistShare is probably the oldest player in the field. In exchange for funding their favorite artists, fans receive “access to the creative process, LTD Edition recordings, VIP access to recording sessions and even credit listing on the CD.” Another cool feature is RadioShare, which allows radio stations to access music from ArtistShare.

As the music 2.0 movement continues to evolve, I will be watching with great interest to see which services become widely adopted and which trends prevail. Choose-your-price and pay-the-musician-directly are definitely two of the concepts I think will continue to gain popularity. And rest assured, among the many great features (including those that facilitate compensation for musicians) that will soon be available to MixMatchers, the ability to throw money in a tip jar to show some love for the artists you dig will be there.

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1 Response to “Microfinancing Musicians: How to Skip the Middleman and Pay the Artist”



  1. 1 Send John Brown’s Body on Tour (via The Hector Fund) « .Evolving Music. Trackback on July 27, 2009 at 1:03 pm

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