San Diego–based Webceleb, a dot-com startup that went live in March, bills itself as a “social marketplace where you can get paid to download music.” Cofounder Scott Fetters says that the price of a song from the Webceleb library is one dollar, which also entitles the listener to something he calls a “slice.” A slice is a percentage of downloads that pays cash dividends. “As a slice holder,” he says, “if other fans purchase the same song, you can make your initial dollar back.”
Slice holders, he says, can do a couple of things with the money they earn. “They can buy more songs, they can buy concert tickets, or they can actually cash out when [their account balance] reaches $20.” He explains the split: a straight 50 percent of all transactions goes to the artist; 40 percent goes to slice holders paid out on a schedule of descending values based on numbers of purchases; 10 percent is retained by Webceleb as a platform transaction fee.
With over 22,000 users, Fetters says that Webceleb was created as a marketing tool for musicians within a coverage area that for now includes San Diego and Los Angeles. He says that of the 2000 artists on Webceleb, 50 to 60 percent of them are local. “Webceleb is free for every band to sign up. The system has been built to give emerging artists a community to distribute music directly to fans by posting as much original music through the site’s uploader as they see fit.”
He says the focus of the website is to discover music, buy music, and get rewarded. “That’s when the full package comes into play.” The full package includes live shows but with a twist. “We reverse engineer the show by booking the venue and securing the date, but we have no idea who will perform.” Webceleb picks the genre, but fans themselves book the shows through advance ticket sales.
“It’s an open fan-booking model,” he says, but participating bands can sell tickets as well. “We set benchmarks so artists know how many tickets they must sell to be guaranteed a spot.” Buying tickets for a band that fails to generate enough ticket sales to meet the minimum is risk-free, he says. “You get a full refund.”
For now, Webceleb is booking Sound Wave at the Wave House in Mission Beach. “They’ve given us a local-music showcase that we’re branding as the ‘Best Of.’”
Scott Fetters was living in Colorado when he and his two business partners (one a college friend named Alex Rolek; and Justen Palmer, a pro poker player turned computer programmer) joined forces at a concert in Las Vegas and decided to create a business catering to the independent musician.
The partners are working with invested capital at present, much of it their own, but Webceleb has been generating cash flow since the launch of the website. “We’re beginning to cover our company’s overhead now,” says Fetters, “and we expect to be making money in the next six to nine months.”