SellaBand and the Reputations Exchange

Richard Florida blogs about a new Dutch music startup called SellaBand, a service that aims “[t]o unite Artists and Fans in an independent movement that aims to level the playing field in the global music industry.”

SellaBand tries to connect what they call “Believers” with aspiring musicians. As a Believer, you can invest money toward the costs of producing the first record of an aspiring band (either $50,000 or $100,000, depending on which tier the band is in). In return for this investment, Believers split the earnings of the albums they help finance 50/50 with the bands they help launch.

This service presents itself as a way of connecting fans to musicians without the mediation of big record labels, and to a degree it is just that. But with a few modifications it could become something very much like the model of the Reputations Exchange I describe in Pop Apocalypse.

After all, what you are doing here isn’t so much believing in your band as investing in them — though all finance is ultimately based on belief, that some version of the system will exist in the future, that some individual firm will pay dividends, whatever. Why not issue a share of band stock to every Believer? Why not allow that stock to be transferable or to become the core or basis for secondary markets? Why not turn SellaBand into something like an electronic band stock-market exchange?

Obviously, I present such schemes in a satirical light in my book — making fun of what I regard as the undeserved glamour of high finance, the absurdities inherent in its real-world shape — but the more I’ve gone around to book readings and had conversations with readers about these ideas, the more I am convinced that something like a stock market for reputations is inevitable, even in this era of burst bubbles and Wall Street (supposedly) in retreat.