The Business

Crowdfunding is for the lazy?

A couple days ago, Colorado tech-death metallers Allegaeon successfully raised over $7,000 via IndieGogo to fix their van and get a new equipment trailer for their upcoming tour.  This made them the latest in a long line of metal bands (and specifically Metal Blade bands) who have relied on fans to fund their endeavors.

Naturally, like most good things in metal, a vocal opposition against crowdfunding has also flared up. Specifically, critics say it’s lazy and encourages bands to not bother getting “good enough for a record label” because, apparently, your music only should be released if the notoriously backward-minded record industry endorses it.

This attitude has made metal bands somewhat ashamed of “begging” for money from their fans, as Allegaeon apologetically acknowledged in their IndieGogo pitch video:


But is crowdfunding really a horrible thing for music?
Or is it just the latest thing that scares industry vets because it’s “new” and different?

One of the biggest complaints from artists in the increasingly cost-cutting music biz is that they can’t get enough money from their record label.  As a signed artist, a label advance usually is your primary means of financing your next album, tour, etc.  Without sufficient funds, you risk being caught in “record label purgatory” where your band is effectively paralyzed from creating or releasing any new material.

The solution?  Look to your fans instead of your label to further your career.
After all, it’s not like you’re trying to “buy respect” — you already have made the fans!

A few weeks ago, the frontman of the Black Dahlia Murder posted a lengthy rant about how his band had a million “Like’s” on Facebook, but most of those fans still pirated his albums.  He continued to scold fans by explaining how, without selling albums, Metal Blade Records wouldn’t pay attention to the band due to the perceived lack of demand — but then went on to “wholeheartedly agree” that this was a “completely archaic model.”

So, why does he still insist that we support such an exploitative model?
Especially since his band doesn’t even need to rely on it.

If Black Dahlia decided to do another album and tour, (without a label) they could easily raise $250,000 or even $500,000 on their own if each of their million Facebook fans donated an average of 25-50¢ each. They could give the album away to donors for free and still have plenty left to cover road expenses for a tour, even without show guarantees. (which they would obviously receive)  Do you honestly think promoters wouldn’t let Black Dahlia play because they “didn’t sell albums?”

"We've got a million fans, but how will we show that we're in demand?!"
“We’ve got a million fans — but how will we ever get money?!”

On the flip side, Mark Hunter of Chimaira recently organized a successful IndieGogo campaign for his band’s next album, raising over twice the amount of money they asked for. (and his band only has about ¼ the Facebook fans as Black Dahlia!)

Afterward, Mark defended the campaign in an interview with Gun Shy Assassin when asked about crowdfunding’s potential for fraud:

Like all things in life, a few bad apples can spoil a bunch.  But that doesn’t mean apples aren’t still awesome and can help sustain life.  The music world is evolving while removing old paradigms at rapid rates.  New methods have to be explored.

We have always been a band that experiments with and embraces the latest technology. When the band started in 1998, we used Napster and other digital outlets that, at the time, were unknown by the masses and considered taboo to the conservative.  Part of our reasoning behind the campaign was to experiment with and embrace a new ideology. Navigating the terrain of the music world these days is not as formulaic as it once was; creativity is necessary.

Chimaira aren’t alone, as countless other artists have successfully crowdfunded endeavors that a label would not cover — whether it’s new gear or a new album/tour.  And just like the once-shunned digital music stores that Mark mentioned, these practices inevitably will become mainstream in the music biz.

These are Chimaira’s “GIMME ALL YOUR MONEY!” faces.
Luckily, they no longer have to use them thanks to the wonders of crowdfunding.

Metal bands in 2013 have access to an unprecedented number of resources and connections (for recordingbooking tours, etc.) that previously were restricted only to industry elites.  Soon enough, bands will realize they can sustain better without the antiquated business model of the Old Guard.

So, why not start now?
Stop worrying about a label, and go straight to your fans!

  • Musicians Support

    Hello, I wanted to ask if you have any advice on getting the word out for a campaign that is a nonprofit charity aimed at helping musicians and music education? As we are not a band but a charity that supports bands, music students and music programs. Any advice would be truly appreciated.
    Thank you,

  • Victor M. Ruiz

    I was gung ho about this when Kickstarter, Pledgemusic and Indigogo, and a few others first came on the scene. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years with all of these services, and I have recently soured on them. Case in point not funding Chimaira or Austrian Death Machine. Reason being is that in the last year, two years, bands have started becoming slothish with the deliver of material, and seem to be pissed when you bring it up. I realize that some of these campaigns are for side projects, but that doesn’t mean a fan should have to wait an extra year or more (there is a documentary I funded three years ago that still hasn’t been completed) to receive what they helped a band fund. It is also a slap in the face to send a trinket along when you have made your fans wait two years to receive a CD. I realize these are extreme cases, and that not everyone does this, but it makes you not want to support others.

    On the flip side you have bands that are utterly insane for their asking price for a pledge. Seriously you need $70,000 for the recording of an album? Are you hiring an orchestra, or some big name producer that ultimately in the eyes of your fans will not impact whether they back a project or not? The other thing is seeing certain bands want an arm and a leg for some of the “rewards”. Seriously $45 for a signed CD and download? $2000 for an autographed $99 guitar? That sours you to the process as well. Also, saying something is limited to your funders, and then finding the same material on iTunes, or in the band store for less on some occasions sours you to crowdfunding.

    Great idea, some really cool projects and end results, but the sites themselves need to make the bands more accountable. They need to make sure things are delivered in a certain amount of time. I realize that a band isn’t going to turn a album over the next day, but if the estimated delivery is January 2013 the band should have a four to six month window from their estimated date to deliver or return the money. No excuse for taking years to deliver something. I would imagine most professional bands have most of their material worked out before hitting the studio, but again, taking two years to deliver something makes me wonder!