Middlemen

Principles. Not the high street clothes shop, or the fancy name for headmasters (that would actually be principals), but those damned foibles we all carry around with us and use to guide our thinking when faced with a new piece of information and are expected to act upon it. Principles can make you poor in cash but rich in spirit, or can leave you looking idiotic in the eyes of the people around you, but content in your own. Assumedly, this is their attraction – they gratify the individual who applies them, sometimes only in ways that the individual can appreciate.

I was looking at another of the many attempts to make something viable out of the post-apocalyptic marketing landscape in which music now finds itself. This time it’s slicethepie.com. Ostensibly, the arrangement is beneficial to all. STP hosts three of your tracks, which appear in a forum of some sort, awaiting a string of thirty good reviews from punters at the site. At that point your music gets the chance to appear in a special area called a ‘showcase’, where fans/investors/speculators/weirdos can buy a stake in the project. They can pledge as little as a pound, or as much as they want, towards getting the album made and marketed. On this investment, they will expect a return. They get to hold some sort of share in the act, which they can trade with other users, presumably at some point, for a monetary return. Once the amount of money raised reaches £15,000, the money is dispatched to the act, who then have six months in which to come up with a finished album. STP demand exclusive digital distribution rights on this, which they also charge for (their rates are comparable with other low-service distribution deals available).

Seems like a good idea, no? What a lovely, fair, low-risk way for a band to finance an album. It is, that’s true. I mentioned it to one of our artists, explained it, and was greeted with outrage. Thing is, Slicethepie take 25p on every album sold, plus ten percent of the money raised by investors. Like iTunes and digital distributors, they have put themselves in a position of profiteering from a service that asks almost nothing of them. True, the concept took a little time to think up, the site had to be created and marketed, but essentially, there is very little that they do in order to qualify for this large cut of income. Once again, the artists and the fans who want to help them, are being leeched by self-appointed intermediaries who expect to command a handsome return for minimal effort. It’s not a bad model, by any means, but the percentages are all wrong. So much rage and venom is being directed daily at musicians by the pro-filesharing community, much of it fuelled by resentment at what they perceive to be a segment of society that gets exceedingly rich for nothing more than indulging their hobby. Yet entities like Slicethepie create business models that are untested, spurious, and exist primarily to make their originators wealthy. There has to be some way to make and distribute music that is fair on everyone involved. This is not it. All we have against the idea is our principles. We could probably raise some cash with it, fund a record or two, perhaps do better than we’re doing right now, but as long as those percentages stay at those levels, we’ll stick by our principles, thank you very much.

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