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Originally published November 28, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Page modified November 28, 2014 at 5:27 PM

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Rock band: own a piece of the ’Rÿche

Queensryche’s request to investors: Be part of our band; drone company relocates from California to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Seattle Times business staff


The hardest-rocking Eastside band of yesteryear, Queensrÿche, still plays ’80s-tinged heavy metal. And its logo, the love child of a vampire bat and an executioner’s ax, still looks medieval.

But the band has a very 21st-century proposition for investors.

The black-clad, longhair group is trying to raise $2 million by selling stakes in what its securities lawyer calls a “new holding company for all things Queensrÿche” that will receive the revenues from its tours, merchandising, album sales and digital downloads.

The stock deal Queensrÿche rolled out this month utilizes a provision of the 2013 JOBS Act that allows promoters to publicize a private stock placement, though only “accredited investors” — with net worth of $2 million, not counting a home — are eligible to invest.

David Bowie, of course, raised $50 million a couple of decades ago by selling bonds secured by future royalties on his music. But he didn’t sell equity in David Bowie Inc.

In the music world, “we think it’s the first,” says the band’s New York securities attorney, Marc LoPresti, “If it’s successful, which we expect it to be, we may do it again with other bands.”

The private placement’s rules prevent him from disclosing the band’s revenues or what stake each investor would get for the minimum $50,000 purchase, says LoPresti.

The offering has been written up by Billboard and by various heavy metal blogs. Not all have been enthusiastic.

“It’s hard to imagine that many people would want to purchase a stake in a band that just recently replaced their lead singer and can’t even by law play their most popular album (Operation Mindcrime) in its entirety,” wrote Metal Insider editor Bram Teitelman.

Indeed, Queensrÿche was in legal turmoil for almost two years after lead singer Geoff Tate split with three other original members and both groups claimed the name. Once that dispute was settled in April, the three who got to keep the Queensrÿche name — Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton — added singer Todd LaTorre and guitarist Parker Lundgren, and began planning the stock sale.

LoPresti says that although Queensrÿche is limited in how and when it performs some of its music, “the fans will still hear the songs they have come to know and love.”

LoPresti says the stock sale is a way of replacing a record label’s role in bankrolling and controlling a recording-and-touring effort.

“Traditionally, a band would not go into their personal pockets to do so. They would go to Capitol Records” or the like, which would dictate the project and give them an advance but “also take a huge swipe of the money,” he says. “By disintermediating the labels, we’re leaving more money on the table both for the band and people who invest.”

Since its debut in 1981, Queensrÿche has sold more than 30 million albums. As they say in the investment business, however, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Yet LoPresti can vouch for the band’s loyal fan base — he’s among them.

“I’m a perfect example. I’m in my early 40s, and I listened to them in high school and college,” he says, adding that Queensrÿche was key to “the soundtrack of my adolescence.” And he meets the $2 million investor threshold. “There’s a lot of people who fit that demographic,” he says.

Queensrÿche, which performs this Friday at Snoqualmie Casino, is at work on a new album.

Seizing on another 21st century mechanism, the band has offers on the Pledge Music website to enable fans to pre-order the music. There’s no minimum net worth for buying into that.

— Rami Grunbaum:

Fremont drone firm

A startup that aims to equip flying drones so they can be used to improve agricultural yields is relocating from California to Fremont and hiring a handful of software engineers.

MicaSense has developed a special camera that is attached to small drone aircraft and can sense crop condition below. This past week, the company announced it has raised $2 million in initial funding from French technology company Parrot. Founded by three aerial robotics experts who previously worked on military drones, MicaSense started out in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles.

Co-founder Gabriel Torres, who has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, said the company chose Seattle to expand for its “availability of good talent and the right technology capabilities.” He and another co-founder also have family ties to the state.

The company’s high-tech camera system, dubbed RedEdge, utilizes five tiny, lightweight cameras integrated into one unit, each preset to a different band of the light spectrum.

It can be attached to an array of commercially available small drones and is aimed at enabling “precision agriculture.”

MicaSense has developed software to process the satellite-quality imagery collected by the camera system so that the data can be compared across fields and over time.

Torres said the software transforms the imagery from “pretty pictures” to data that allows growers of high-yield crops such as fruit and vegetables to make scientific decisions.

Yang Quan Chen, an associate professor of engineering who directs a lab for developing drone systems at the University of California-Merced, said he has done small-scale testing of the MicaSense technology. He’s convinced the data collected will allow early detection of stresses to crops, including the effects of pests, fertilizer, lack of water, over-irrigation, excessive heat, or early frost.

Torres said there’s a substantial market in the agricultural sector, where low-cost unmanned drones can provide easy access to expansive fields and remote rural areas.

One looming hurdle is the question of pending federal regulations that will govern the use of drones for commercial purposes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering whether the widespread use of drones in applications such as farming, mining, construction, pipeline monitoring and nature conservation could pose a safety threat to manned aircraft.

Some pilots of commercial jets have already reported sightings of drones too close for comfort as they come in to land. The FAA is expected to issue its initial proposed drone rules by year-end. The rules will likely limit the height at which drones can fly, and may require operators to have pilot licenses.

— Dominic Gates:

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