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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
The site where fans fund new bands
French singer Clemence is the latest to raise $50,000 on Sellaband
Ambitious musicians and bands seeking to get an album recorded are turning to a new website which allows them to appeal direct to their fans to finance them in return for a slice of any profits should they make it big.

So far, four artists on the website Sellaband have received $50,000 from fans chipping in pay for a proper recording session.

The site works through artists making a profile and uploading three tracks for fans to listen to. The fans then become "believers" and buy "parts" for $10.

"Once 5,000 parts have been sold, we have $50,000 and we invest all that money into producing an album," Sellaband's founder, Pim Betist, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.

"Once that album is done, we give away a selection of the music on the website, and we sell the album from the website."

New model

All advertising revenues from the Sellaband site are split evenly between the artists, believers and the site.

How much a fan may make back on their $10 "part" is currently unknown, as none of the albums have yet been completed ready for release, Mr Betist added, although he did say that each CD sold through a profile page would get the artist $1.

Sellaband homepage
The site is designed to let users explore new bands for themselves
"It's a new business model," he added. "At this point, $700,000 has been invested - of which four artists have used their $50,000.

"They're in the studios now; we are producing their albums. Once their records start selling, we will have some figures to give you. We don't know what's going to happen."

Martin Quaegebeur of Rocabo Management Company, which represents recording artists, said the site was a "very good idea" - although pointed out that it is just one of a surging number of outlets available to bands in the digital world.

"Every band needs a MySpace account, a Flickr account, a YouTube account, a page on Last FM - and then a new question arises of their own website," he added.

"We have been investing in websites for the last 10 years, and I must admit at this moment, bands are struggling with the idea of which content they need where."

Need for labels

But digital pundit Bill Thompson said that while many people would like to think Sellaband could spell the end of the record companies - which he said are very unpopular, in particular in the online world - it was unlikely this would actually be the case.

"Record companies haven't adopted online practices very efficiently, they've been very slow to provide digital music distribution - but I don't think Sellaband on its own is going to bring them down," he said.

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"What Sellaband does do, very effectively, is give aspiring artists and bands a chance at making a good record which they can then try to push themselves."

And he added that one of the reasons major labels would still be around was because they have the clout to enable the artists themselves to make the leap from Sellaband to mainstream success.

"There's going to come a point where you don't just want your fans to be selling your CDs down the shops - you're going to want a large organisation to take over, to spend a lot of money on you, and to market you more effectively," he said.

"I suspect a lot of record companies will be looking at the bands that do well, that rise up the Sellaband listings, and see them as prime candidates for a more formal deal."

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