Yesterday I received an email from Johann Vosmeijer, Sellaband's managing director. Props to Johann for a timely, thoughtful response to the concerns about his company that I, among many others, have been expressing. I'm posting his letter to me in its entirety below the jump, but here are a few of the most salient points:
1) First and foremost, Sellaband guarantees that the artist will receive the rights to his or her masters after the 12-month period expires. I had found Sellaband's language ambiguous on this point, and this greatly clarifies matters. Johan says his lawyers will "double-check" the specious phrasing. I'm happy to hear it. In fact, if I were a Sellaband artist, I'd insist on it.
2) Money invested by believers is put into an escrow account until the band reaches the $50,000 mark. In other words, Sellaband can't touch it.
3) Only the A&R person is assigned to the band. He or she will help the artists decide who they want to use as a producer, what studio they want to rent, who should mix the tracks, etc.
4) Johan justifies the 40 percent Sellaband takes of an artist's publishing income as a necessary expedient to keep Sellaband "free of charge for any artist to use," and points out this is an understandable trade off to make in exchange for artists and believers receiving two-thirds of the site's ad revenue. I'm still leery of this deal, frankly (it seems like a way to cheaply scoop up the publishing rights to a lot of compositions), but I'll take Johan at his word when he says that Sellaband will work as hard as any traditional publisher to exploit its catalogue. In that light, 40 percent doesn't seem so onerous. For those following the debate, I recommend reading Johan's letter, below: