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Headbangers Brawl: How much support does a band deserve from fans?

Posted by on November 4, 2016

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It’s an undeniable fact that the music industry will never be the same as it was fifteen years ago, and five years from now, it could be in a totally different place. Bands barely make any income doing what they do, and touring is expensive. The one thing that keeps everything afloat is simple, the passion and love for music. One big difference between five years ago and now is that crowdfunding is a lot more prevalent than it was then. Earlier this week, Allegaeon set up a crowdfunding page, not because their van broke down or because someone in the band needs medical help. but essentially to stay together. They’ve got over 200 people supporting them already, so some of their fans are in a giving mood, but others, like Krieg’s Neill Jameson urged the band to just break up. We posed a somewhat similar question a few years back after Tim Lambesis launched a crowdfunding page for Austrian Death Machine, but three years ago is an eternity in metal, so where do you stand on crowdfunding now?

 

Bram: I think it’s a little disingenuous of Allegaeon to launch a crowdfunding page one month after their album came out. Are things really that bad? Metal Blade can’t give them any tour support or proceeds from album that’s sold better than any of their previous ones? That being said, if they’ve got fans willing to support them by throwing them a few bucks every month, who are we to complain about it? Used to be if you liked a band, you’d buy their CD the first week. That still happens, but more are likely to stream these days, so if they want to support a band and they’re not touring anywhere near them, it’s a fine other option. I’m probably not about to open my wallet for a band unless they’ve got a premium that I’m really psyched about.

Reading the comments on the Decibel piece shows that most people are missing the point. Neill Jameson is a professional troller. Some people make money writing snarky, opinionated articles and others get it by setting up a Patreon page – everyone’s got a side hustle. It’s pretty interesting that Allegaeony chose Patreon, as most of the musicians that have used that platform so far are YouTube stars like Rob Scallon. I think this just goes to show that crowdfunding isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and neither is the controversy about it.

 

Zenae: Within the last five years I have either been both skeptical of and supportive of crowdfunding sites. I mean how many T-shirts are we going to ask for paying a certain amount every month for one band? I have seen artists have success with it for Independently releasing an album, payment for stolen gear, and Ne Obliviscaris doing the same thing as Allegaeon in order to afford being a touring band (which for those that have seen them, you WANT them to constantly tour).

I do like the idea for the support to be up to the fans, but not everyone has a certain amount of money to shed each and every month. How many bands are going to do this? Say we spend $5 for each band we love, that could lead to spending roughly an extra $500-$5,000 or so each month. So when do we draw the line?

I think this has to do with the constant shift in the music industry where no one, and I mean no one, is making that much money. There is nothing wrong with members in the industry to want to make a reasonable salary, so why not try? Downloads and free streaming have been a huge damper for band revenue. While perhaps increasing a band’s exposure, it’s losing them money. I cannot give an absolute solution because I have also seen people take complete advantage of this, asking people to help them afford equipment, Traveling fees, and helping out with their credit debt etc. What I can say is, Ne Obliviscaris’ approach was quite inspiring and I think if Allegaeon wants to do the same thing, I say do it and good luck.

Whether Allegaeon succeeds in this or not is irrelevant, however, what boiled me a bit was a post on Decibel’s site that insulted the band from beginning to end. I have respect for Decibel magazine, I was surprised hat they even published it. It was overly harsh (for something that is rather common nowadays) and insulting to a band that has a devoted following. There was nothing offensive nor threatening with Allegaeon’s campaign and aside from a few light-hearted jokes here and there, it was straightforward and to the point. I especially agreed with this part, “With 105k+ followers on Facebook alone, if a mere 4.77% of that audience donated a meager $5.00/mo. to Allegaeon, we would exceed that goal by about $3,405 per month.”

 

Chris: Allegaeon’s crowdfunding is through Patreon, a site that allows for continuous monthly contributions to be made to the band. I think this is a brilliant use of the crowdfunding mechanic, and I’m glad Allegaeon took this proactive step towards furthering their own livelihood as a band. This allows fans to take a more active role in keeping the band going, no matter how much or how little they can contribute. It also gives the band somewhat more consistent funding, rather than the sharp peaks and interminable valleys that go along with album release cycles.

 
As for those that are vilifying the band and telling them to just call it quits, I am baffled by their cynicism about reaching out to fans in this manner. The members of Allegaeon are trying to make a career and lifestyle out of something that they love to do – why the hell is that considered a bad thing? The metal genre is supposed to be symbolic of passion and perseverance, and I can’t think of a greater example of those two things than Allegaeon exploring new ways to stay afloat. If cosplayers and YouTube personalities can use Patreon to keep their dream careers alive, why can’t bands do the same?
 
 

Dan: This is the digital equivalent of letting your brother crash on your couch until his band “makes it.” While typical crowdfunding campaigns usually climax with the release of a product like an album or a film, this is just asking to support their lifestyle. And while there are perks (18, in fact) there is really no guarantee on your investment on a band that already lost a member mere weeks after releasing an album.

 
This isn’t a particularly new invention, art patrons have been around since art itself. Thelonious Monk was aided by Baroness Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter, kings & popes supported painters, and the cautionary tale of Sunset Boulevard.  But these millionaires who felt little sting to their wallets – asking metal-heads to support you, no matter how diffused the costs, just seems almost backhanded. 
 
I don’t want to say that a free market should decide if a band lives or dies but if Propenent for Sentience doesn’t perform well enough to necessitate a new album then perhaps it is time to move on. It is true that the music industry is suffering and bands are looking anywhere they can for income now that no one buys albums anymore but Allegaeon’s campaign, specifically, sounds ill-considered and rings a little hollow.  Essentially, they want you to pay a monthly fee to be in their fan club.

 

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Categorised in: Columns, Headbangers Brawl