Lancaster, PA natives, This or The Apocalypse are just one of several metal bands to turn to crowdfunding in the last few months (e.g. Protest the Hero and Austrian Death Machine), but unlike most campaigns, ToTA isn’t asking fans to help contribute towards a new album (they just put out a masterpiece, Dead Years, a few months ago), they’re asking fans to help them blow up their van, and to help them afford a new one since the current one is completely beyond repair. With a headlining tour in North America very soon, and a European tour coming up right after, the band is already in debt from paying for the US tour and airfare to Europe, and can’t afford to purchase a new touring vehicle on their own.
In return for contributing, fans get perks, including access to an online documentary covering the band and their life on the road, custom-signed artwork, a shout-out on Twitter or other social media from the band, and more, like a music lesson from any member of the band (via Skype), dinner with the band, custom TOTA jackets, being on the guest list for life, having vocalist Ricky Armellino record and produce your band’s next single, and getting to hit the road and tour with the band. The campaign has been going for several weeks now and has only 8 days left, with some $5,000+ raised of their $10,000 goal. I got the chance to catch up with Armellino about the campaign and his views on the potential of crowdfunding for rising bands like This or The Apocalypse.
With your van being completely FUBAR, what is your plan if you just fall a little short of your funding goal?
By all means we’re going to fulfill our plans, just might need to cut some corners here and there. We took on a pretty big project with the videos and all of that, but we think we’ll be able to do something pretty cool with them.
What made you turn to crowdfunding? Was it because of the success of other metal bands using this type of approach?
Partially, yeah. We just got hit with a couple things at once: flights to Europe (over $6k), towing our broken vehicle home and getting all the parts we needed off of it, buying the new vehicle and getting it ready for tour, paying off all of our merch debts, it all added up to about the amount all of us have made, personally, in the past 3 years collectively. We were kind of posed with the option of focusing on doing our US tour or our European tour and then it was like, ‘Wait. So we’re talking about canceling a tour? There has got to be a better way to do this.’ I was iffy on it but the dudes in my band and our management all agreed it would be the best approach.
How did you think up the idea to blow up the van? How have fans responded?
Well we put a thought up about it on our Facebook and it was one of our most commented posts, so the reaction has been pretty legit. When it went up, some people kind of came at us like it was this unheard of horror that we were doing it. Particularly, one band I’m a fan of totally ran their mouth about us. Meanwhile, it’s become almost commonplace in every other genre because of the way music is going. Kids are sending us messages all day that they want us to come to X area or Y area and then they’re going to freak out when we can’t make it out on a tour and tell everyone that we are sell-outs for canceling. All the meanwhile, they’re going to download the CD or just listen to the songs on Spotify or YouTube. No offense to our fans, by any means. It’s just the reality of the situation. A few people said things like “WHY DON’T YOU USE ALL THE MONEY YOU MAKE ON TOUR, ROCK STARS?”. Well, here’s the thing. Touring still costs money. Like, a lot. And not in that sense of “we could be making more at home” like some people will throw at everyone. We drove straight out to CA and straight back with a couple shows in between for our last tour and came home in the negatives. It’s a labor of love. If kids love live music they’re going to have to realize that dudes making $6k a year tops won’t be able to dish out twice that when something goes wrong.
You’ve hit over $5,000 raised so far, yet I’m seeing that only 81 fans have contributed. Averaged out, that’s more than 60 bucks per person—does this come as a surprise? Conversely, why do you think more fans have not contributed?
I think it’s incredible as it is. I’m happy. I just don’t think that a lot of our fans have the money to spend on this type of thing and that’s fine. I don’t blame them, I couldn’t right now.
Do you think these types of campaigns could eventually make record labels irrelevant? Could you envision doing your next album purely from crowdfunding?
Haven’t entertained that idea but I do think this is going to change things in the music business a little bit, but not completely. Labels have already stepped away from touring for the most part. It’s the band’s job to pay for the vehicle, the gas bills, the merch, the booking fees, everything. It’s not the label’s. So this hasn’t taken them out of the equation. Our old bass player just released the full length for his new band Bells and all he had to say to me about it was, “never again.” To be a musician you already have to be a social network marketing wizard, in charge of your own artwork, writing new material, rehearsing, working a job on the side to pay for your hobby doing music, doing your finances, promoting your shows, communicating with all the people on your team. Sean and his girlfriend ended up constantly on the phone with distributors, packing albums, printing them, sending out albums, doing PR. That’s the label’s job and it’s not a small one. I think a lot of people have the impression that a label is like, “Hey, I sign you! Now you big! Now you make me money!” However, if you’re going to simply release the album digitally, that makes it seem a bit more possible. We don’t want to simply release a digital album yet so I don’t know if that would be an option for us.