Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

March 03, 2008

Fans: The New Source of Music Cash Flow

As I said in a recent YouTube video clip, the music business these days is like the Wild West. No one knows exactly how things will shake loose. No one can truly predict the future. Therefore, the best way to proceed into this new frontier is to do what everyone else is doing: Making things up as they go along.

So have some fun with your marketing and career development!

One cool concept is the fan-funded model. Kristin Hersh and Scott Andrew, among others, have effectively asked their fans to help them fund their recording projects. But now there are entire web sites set up to help indie artists collect money from their fans. and are two such sites. This article by Eliot Van Buskirk spells out more details, but here are some interesting numbers:

Anyone can become an investor in a SellaBand artist by buying an advance copy of an album and a single share in the recording for $10. The site has raised more than $1.5 million from more than 25,000 investors. They've deposited an average of $50, but investments have run as high as $25,000.

Out of 6,500 bands, 14 have reached the $50,000 mark, which is when SellaBand helps find a studio and a big-name producer to record the album. (SellaBand artist Cubworld got paired with Gwen Stefani's producers.)

Slicethepie lets fans pay $10 for a share in the album and a free digital copy ... The site has raised $400,000 so far, while attracting 7,800 artists. Bands only get funded if Slicethepie's blind-listening reviewers -- who generate 10,000 reviews a day -- rate them in the top 2 percent of new artists. Reviewers are paid 2.5 cents per review, with bonus pay if they pick bands that prove popular.

I've been preaching the Focus on Fans sermon for years now. They are -- and have always been -- your greatest asset. Why not tap into your fans for financial support beyond buying CDs, concert tickets, and merchandise. Whether you use one of the sites above or not, allow your fans to play an even bigger part of your success story.

Welcome to the Wild and Wacky World of Music Business Change. Are you mixing it up and experimenting with different ways to get exposure and generate revenue? If not, you should be.

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of simply watching from the sidelines. Get busy ... and have some fun!


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posted by Bob Baker @ 1:22 PM   11 comments


At Mar 3, 2008, 5:38:00 PM, Anonymous Julian Moore said...

We put up our stuff on Slice The Pie for fun and got into the top 15 of 1000 acts. Now we need fans to vote for us! Contests are the stuff of bands and artists, it can never hurt to enter things as much for the publicity as anything. Like you say, why not have fun with it?

You can vote for us if you like at

Good blog, find lots of your stuff very useful


Julian Moore

At Mar 3, 2008, 8:10:00 PM, Anonymous Alan Starr said...

The big problem with those kinds of services, is that they are made by people who only think of making money upon the artists; just like the records companies are doing.
Now, there is no viable business model anymore for the music (CDs are selling less and less), and still it generates insane amounts of cash, so imagine if a website find some viable model, they might become as huge as youtube, myspace or even google. That's the big fantasy of the people creating these websites. ITunes or Myspace don't care about musicians, they just want to become the "place to be", which means they get control, which means they get the money. Yeah just like record companies.

I am sorry, but if I can get enough fans to gather $50000, I don't need any website's help to go to a studio, hire some producer and record a top-notch album. Even worse, anyone can record an album for less than $10000 nowadays, so any artist who is willing to make his living as a musician should be willing to invest those $10000, even if that means flipping burgers for a year.

What is totally wrong now in the business of music is that there are 2 models: The old one, with a few companies controlling a limited number of communication channels (radio and tv), imposing their rules, taking 90% of the money, and above all, brainwashing artists to make them believe that music is a world of rockstars (artists working for those big companies) and losers (without a label, you can't make a living out of your music).
In the new model, there is an unlimited number of communication channels (the internet), but no monetization process yet, a business model has to be invented.

Instead of inventing, record companies are trying to sue everybody who's listening to mp3s.
And other companies are trying to adapt the old business model to the new one, with a twist or two (instead of having a producer who invest money and people who buy the music, you ask to the fans to be both the producer who risks his money, and the guy who buy the record... That doesn't sound much like a progress to me).

FORGET the concept of album, record one song at a time, produce QUALITY music, and give it away, the whole internet is based upon the concept of 3-tier economy, you don't make money by selling your music, you give your music for free, which attracts people and you make money by other means(concerts, sponsors, advertising...)

We need to get off this brainwash, artists can play music and make a living out of it, but they need to stop relying on some big magical company who promise fame and fortune.

At Mar 4, 2008, 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Fun Jockey said...

In response to alan starr:

Duuuuuude! ADD strikes again. Thanks for the standard roller coaster of self-contradictory, less-than-half-baked, arguments.

The future IS you! Personally, I can't wait to download only one of your musical creations, then based on that, buy merchandise you recommend, and then go to your concert for which I'll be paying how much ($5?, $100?). Yep, why spend money on a whole album when I can go to a concert every night of the week, every week? Better build more venues!

Don't worry. With advances in surgery, someday they'll be able to remove that Playstation from the dark place in your bod.

At Mar 4, 2008, 1:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

alan starr: Flipping burgers for a year will pay for a $10000 album? Really?

Flipping burgers is a minumum wage job. I live in Washington state which has a pretty high minimum wage. If you worked all 52 weeks of the year, 40 hours each week, it would take about 2/3 of your gross pay to record that album.

In fine... Bzzzzt! Thanks for playing. Goodbye.

At Mar 5, 2008, 1:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anne Leighton said...

I think when Alan Starr posted about "flipping burgers for a year," he meant "I'll do whatever it takes on my own to make my record happen." And he has a valid point as there are a million different ways to fund your album.

In part, my artist (Jann Klose) funded his album by using PBS as a role model. "If you donate something like 1000 dollars, I'll come do a show for you. 250 will get your name on the CD... 50 dollars will get you the new CD," and so on. He also earned money from music-making and his day job, plus family helped. We did negotiate for studio time at a great studio (Water Music, Hoboken) and a great producer, but they were all supportive of the artist.

In advance of pressing of the CD, different folks put in orders for it. That helped in a big way.

We're doing some new fundraising new for our radio campaign. (Anyone here want to donate? I'm asking everyone!) We're weighing options for working it regionally or nationally. It will be with Peter Hay of Twin Vision, and there are advantages of both. Peter's program for national includes an intensive three month push, and then 9 months of follow up as independent music tends to build. His focus is Triple AAA.

Advantages for regional is to start somewhere and within your budget. We can afford a regional campaign right now. But he tours intensively and the album is that good and our goal is really to have it heard by everyone that a national campaign feels very right. A national campaign is long term, and will give you clues as to where to book your artist in '09. When you book your artist, then you go after other formats--that's my job in this case. Getting the funds--I'm asking my family, my contacts outside of the music business (people in the music business don't have money), and I put away a savings for this, as well. I believe I have as much at stake in this artist and album and project as he does.

At Mar 5, 2008, 1:15:00 AM, Blogger Netvalar said...

I can't speak for Slice the Pie though from what I have heard form various musicians it has its good points and its bad points.

Before responding regarding Sellaband, I see both of these companies as 2 different directions for musicians to think about as they customize how they plan to succeed.

Now @Alan Starr

Pim Batist was thinking about how to help a musician friend of his when he came up with the basis behind Sellaband. You can learn more about the leaders of the company and read their mission statement at

Also once you look into Sellaband and Slice The Pie for that matter you will find that the business model is to share moneys with the musicians, fans, and a small share for themselves. On Sellaband the sales of each album release (both cds and digital) is split only between the artist and those fans who helped raise the 50k.

I agree if you could work out the means yourself to turn fans into 50k or even just 10k you could do all this yourself. However would you have the likes of investing $1,000 into your future along with promoting your music via the amazon vine program? Through Sellaband you get this investment once you have raised 30k and the promotions start once you raise 35k. That isn't even talking about other partnerships that come with Sellaband. With 1 music fan who has had a little over $2,000 credited to his account, thus meaning that more then that was paid out to musicians, Sellaband def is sticking to the theory that music fans can and should be a part of the music business.

Producers actually are paid for their work they don't invest in your album. Many Independant artists can get studio and producers for cheaper prices then labels but these still cost money. For that 10k what quality is the producer you work with. I know through Sellaband no less then 3 artists have worked with Tony Platt, Producer/Engineer for AC/DC, Man-O-War, and many others. (You can check out my blog for a short Q&A with Tony Platt

I do agree that a certain number of your songs should be free, for promo use only though. As one of the greatest musicians in 22 galaxies (I hope you have close to that confidence) your full music is worth alot more then $0.00. As time goes by more and more opp arise to sell and promote your music so don't stick to just 1 trick look at several.

I agree the days of signing with 1 company and hoping for fame are over. But Alan a clear and concise business layout that taps multiple streams of income and opp needs to be thought out. The future of the music industry is not 1 size fits all but the customzation of several options into a coherent fan interactive program. Without the help of your fans you are going to have a slooooooowwwwwww climb and may not even reach the goal.

Even ignoring the 2 companies listed in this post by Bob Baker there are so many ways to get your fans involved in your career that this is the thought you need to work on.

Record Label 2.0 (I write on that a bit form time to time) is not 1 company but the culmination of tools to turn fans into music participants, selling your merchandise, music, even promoting your band i.e. brand.

At Mar 5, 2008, 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Darren Nelsen said...

There's also Strayform, which I have used to raise money for a couple of my projects.

At Mar 6, 2008, 7:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting article


At Mar 11, 2008, 3:57:00 PM, Anonymous Loribella said...

About the new model for record companies being a culmination of your fans helping you promote, sell merchandise and raise funds, that's basically what a street team is and something that's been around for a while. I've always loved the idea and I think it's time for artists to take it to a higher level. A bunch of us music artists in my town are doing just that. We've started a local music artist's association and we're going to be experimenting with street teams in a big way to create the perfect model for ourselves. We'll let you know how it goes.

At May 28, 2008, 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous BobSlayer said...

Great post

Alan Starr - I think you have got it wrong... And I will tell you why I know that...

I manage Electric Eel Shock who for the last 6 years have toured in 30 countries around the world. We scraped together enough cash to record EES first albums ourselves. Things improved we started selling records. We have since recorded albums for large labels like Roadrunner.

And yet we have decided that we DO need Sellaband - the reason being is they let Electric Eel Shock keep control of their own music... They also enable us to run our own record label with the backing of a much larger company with some great music professionals who have put together deals that we as a band would not be able to do...

SellaBand is a truly sustainable model... Electric Eel Shock support it all the way

At May 28, 2008, 4:50:00 PM, Anonymous Bob SLayer said...

(incidentally Electric Eel Shock have raised nearly $30,000 in just over two weeks on Sellaband...)


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