British band turns to Internet to raise funds

By | July 2, 2007 at 2:06 PM

A British band has funded its first album entirely via a new Web site which allows up-and-coming acts to bypass record labels and gives fans the chance to buy into their success.

Gilkicker, a four-man guitar band from the southern English city of Portsmouth, raised the 15,000 pounds ($30,000) they needed to make their debut album within 10 days of new music site www.slicethepie.com going live.

“We told a few people on Myspace and told a few friends to look and told them they could invest in us,” said Sam McCarthy, the band’s 25-year-old singer and guitarist.

“It was mainly friendly fans we know, and we managed to get about 1,000 of them. They put in 15 pounds for a ‘backstage pass’ — my dad bought five or so,” he told Reuters.

The minimum pledge has been revised to 10 pounds, which buys the investor a copy of the album and the right to purchase a “contract” which can then be traded on the site.

Pop bands like Marillion have successfully appealed directly to fans for funds online before, but Slicethepie offers a neutral arena for new talent and allows people who invest in bands and trade contracts as on a stock market.

“We see our ourselves as an enabler,” said the site’s CEO David Courtier-Dutton.

“In terms of the way we do it, we are not only getting the bands financed but also enabling fans to share in the revenues and trade in and out of the bands. There is nothing remotely like it anywhere else in the world.”

INTERNET CHANGING MUSIC

The site, and Gilkicker’s early breakthrough, are the latest examples of how the Internet is opening up music to fans by bypassing labels and their scouts.

The world’s major record companies have struggled to harness digital sales and are concerned about illegal downloads, which the industry estimates totaled 20 billion in 2005.

“The music industry has been struggling to work out where it should go next,” Courtier-Dutton told Reuters.

“The whole Slicethepie model came about because there are millions of bands and fans and only a handful of people in the middle who decide who will play and who will listen.

“We turn every music fan into a record label.”

Many bands have benefited, with acts like Lily Allen building an Internet following and the Arctic Monkeys rising to prominence through fans sharing song files online.

Record labels are still seen as crucial to a band’s success, particularly if they want to make it big, but McCarthy said Slicethepie was still an attractive starting point.

Gilkicker’s first single, “That Day,” went on sale online on Monday, and the album is expected later in the year.

“It is a great deal for bands,” McCarthy said.

“You can release your album without a record deal and keep all your own publishing and copyright rights. If we sold a million albums, we would make four times what we would if we had a record deal.”

Courtier-Dutton said Slicethepie earns two pounds for every album sold by bands using the site over a two year period.

Unknown artists can advance to the showcase stage, where they can raise funds, by uploading tracks which are reviewed by the fan community. Established acts can bypass the scout room.

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