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Fans of Grey Eye Glances buy their piece of the rock

Inquirer Staff Writer

Usually, if you really like a band, you buy its CD.

But in the case of one troupe of local musicians, some fans have bought a piece of the band itself.

Grey Eye Glances, a combo of five rockers from the Philadelphia area, sold shares in recent months in a limited corporation to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to produce and promote its seventh, and latest, album, called A Little Voodoo.

"It just seemed to be the right thing to do," Grey Eye manager Bill Eib said this week. He described band members as "smart business people" who "came up with this idea, and it's quite impressive."

About 40 investors - most of them fans - put up between $4,000 and $20,000 each for the project. The total amount collected, the expected financial return, and other details of the deal are not being made public, those involved said.

The band leaves today on a promotional tour of radio stations from the Carolinas to Florida that will be paid for by the partnership.

Dwayne Keith, songwriter and keyboard player for Grey Eye Glances, said band members would get no income from the current album until the shareholders were repaid their initial investments. "The band sees nothing," he said, even though investors are already getting quarterly distributions from the album sales.

The band does get money from its performances and sales of past albums, he said.

Grey Eye Glances' music is in the "adult alternative" genre. Keith compared the music to that of artist Sarah McLachlan, or the band 10,000 Maniacs. Two albums the group recorded under the Mercury Records label, Eventide (1997) and Painted Pictures (1998), have sold almost 100,000 copies combined, Keith said.

Rather than being a band in search of a record label, Grey Eye Glances members said they opted out of the Mercury contract after Mercury was absorbed into Universal. "We realized that with things changing... the record companies were playing a smaller role in the business," said Keith, 34, of Blue Bell.

Record labels, according to manager Eib, "just throw everything against the wall, they pump a lot of money into you, and if you don't sell a certain number of records, you're done."

Other members of the group are vocalist Jennifer Nobel, 34, and bassist Eric O'Dell, 35, both of Cherry Hill; guitarist Brett Kull, 36, of West Point, Pa.; and drummer Paul Ramsey, 37, of Hatfield.

Rock-and-roll investments are not completely new. In 1997, David Bowie raised $55 million by selling 10-year bonds for which the collateral was future royalties from 25 of his pre-1990 albums. The Prudential Insurance Co. of America bought all the "Bowie bonds."

A year later, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, creators of the rhythm-and-blues hit "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," sold at least $10 million in similar royalty-backed bonds.

And at a Web site called the Hollywood Stock Exchange, visitors can make play-money investments in such acts as Limp Bizkit, Mariah Carey, and Alien Ant Farm. But the site is really collecting consumer data and market research.

This is not Grey Eye Glances' first unusual financing project, either. The band recently sold demos and live recordings via its Web site and at concerts to raise $50,000, now in an escrow account, so it can eventually buy the master recordings of the two Mercury CDs.

Provisions of the partnership, called Grey Album L.L.C., require the band to "keep all the spending within reason," bassist O'Dell said. "You can't be renting individual tour buses for each member at $35,000 a week... . So there's not going to be any abuse of corporate money."

"We don't stay in fancy hotels, and we don't get limoed around, and all the things that rock stars usually do," Keith said. "We stay in Red Roof Inns and drive a big van, and do our best."

All the shares have been sold. Owners can resell their shares, but the band has first rights on any such sale.

Jonathan Orenstein, a Marlton dentist, said he invested in the band because he had enjoyed its music ever since hearing the band perform at the Borders Books & Music in Marlton more than five years ago.

"If they do well," investor Orenstein said, "I would have no problem investing again. And if they just broke even, I would do it again because I love their sound."

Even if the CD flops, Orenstein would be unperturbed: "If nothing else, I just have a couple of very expensive CDs - but a [heck] of a story."


Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5026 or rkanaley@phillynews.com.

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