Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

Start Believing in Artists, not the Music Industry

A few months ago, while driving home from the in-laws, we heard Normcast episode 119, a German podcast full of nice little fragments, pieces of music and other fun stuff. In this episode, Norman played Matthew Ebel's song "Everybody Needs a Robot" (lyrics, YouTube video) and, being the geek that I am, I liked it a lot.

Goodby Planet Earth Album CoverI asked Norman whether the song was podsafe, it turned out it was not, so I asked Matt directly for permission to use his song in a podcast. He kindly agreed and so we played it during HELDENFunk episode 22 around September 2008. As a way of saying "Thanks!" I bought Matt's latest album "Goodbye Planet Earth" off of CDBaby.com, a website where independent artists such as Matt can publish their own CDs without the need of a traditional record company.

Later, during an event called "Mission Future", which was part of Ars Electronica 2008, I watched a presentation from Pim Betist about a cool new website called "Sellaband". Sellaband is a crowdfunding website that brings musicians together with their fans (called "Believers") and help them raise real money ($50,000) to record an album in a high-quality studio, with professional producers and market it using a real distribution chain.

Now, the two powers have collied: Matt recently joined Sellaband and he's on his way to financing his next album there!

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is the biggest shift in the entertainment industry since the introduction of recordable media.

Think of it: Now artists can create their own CDs, all by themselves, from writing the lyrics, writing the music, producing demos, connecting with fans, raising funds, managing production and selling their work, all without a single mention of what was formerly known as "the recording industry". While the RIAA and their likes are still behaving like little kids who have lost their toys, music artists have started to take control over their carreers and simply optimized away unnecessary intermediaries out of the equation.

Beer and Coffee Album CoverSo how does this work? A little bit like owning stock, but with more fun and better "dividends": The $50,000 budget that is needed to produce an artist's album is split into 5,000 "parts", at $10 each. For as little as $10 (1 part), you can become a "Believer" in an artist that is listed on Sellaband. Being a Believer gives you the right to receive a limited edition of that artist's album, once it is recorded. Think of it: This is cheaper than most regular CDs, so there's nothing to lose here. Actually, this is just where the fun starts: Each part entitles its owner to 0,01% of the album's revenue. So if you have a good "nose" for finding successful artists, you can even get some money back out of your investment! You can own more than one part and the more parts you buy, the nicer the perks become. From "Believer" (1 part) to "Promoter" (2 parts), "Publisher" (5 parts and you start earning publishing revenue), "V.I.P." (10), "Crew" (50), "Music Angel" (100) all the way to "Executive Producer" (1000 parts, free trip to the studio baby!). Check out the full "what's in it for me" list.

Back to Matt: His music is a modern version of songwriter-style piano rock. A little bit like Billy Joel, maybe with some Elton John thrown in, but with a modern twist: He likes to add loops, electronic sounds or samples into his songs to add to the atmosphere without them becoming distracting. The lyrics are insightful, full of life, spirit, humor and a little irony. Check out his bio for a much better description of him and his music.

But Matt is more than that: He is a leading example of how an artist can connect to his audience using Web 2.0: He has his own paid subscription service, sells his music online on iTunes, CDBaby and MySpace, including online merchandise on Spreadshirt.com, he blogs, has over 100 videos on YouTube and you can follow him on Twitter. His concert calendar is online and if you can't make it to one of his shows, you can watch him online on UStream. To me he's simply the Piano Man 2.0.

And now you can enjoy a part of his next album, too! Check out his profile on Sellaband.com and feel free to invest in his work.

BTW, Sellaband is a social network, too: You can check out my profile and add me as your friend there, too. Then we can together check out other great artist and change the way the music industry works, just by Believing in the artists we like.

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