50K MUSIC MAG

flickr facebook twitter stumbleupon feed

The Rise Of Metal Music Crowdfunding In 2013

The end of the year is in sight. And Jonathan looks back at a year of Metal music crowdfunding. Published December 20 2013.

  by Jonathan

2013 was truly the year of crowdfunding, for better or worse, and while the rise in sourcing your project funding from the public is not exclusive to music, the growth of bands using the likes of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and the music specific PledgeMusic, has been a little overwhelming.

It’s proven to be a divisive subject with valid arguments being yelled from both sides of the garden fence. Should a band have the gall to ask for money from fans? Or is it just a more democratic process of releasing music without labels involved? Advocates will find solace and vindication in a number of successful campaigns that were run this year, namely Protest the Hero’s hugely successful IndieGoGo project to fund their fourth full-length Volition.

The Canadian techy metallers had been with Vagrant Records for years but had opted for independence for album number four, perhaps a nod to their DIY hardcore roots, but more so an acknowledgement of the “future” of the music industry. With a target of $125,000 (a hefty goal, regardless of band) in mind, fans could contribute to the funding with a number of more out-there incentives up for grabs, like a pizza party with the band. Of course, if they didn’t reach their goal, all the money would be refunded.

This concern didn’t even factor into the equation, they sourced the money in less than 24 hours and continued to generate a substantial surplus from their (as it would appear, quite generous) fans.

You can hold this up as a positive sign that crowdfunding in 2013 worked and that’s fine and dandy, but always take into consideration that Protest the Hero are an established band, they released three full-lengths prior, and toured with bands like Killswitch Engage and In Flames, so they had a fan base to call on for this project. One of the many pitfalls that crowdfunding can create is an inflated sense of accomplishment, which is why crowdfunding can fail for younger bands, as well as not-so-popular reunions like reformed nu metal band, Orgy.

To the surprise of some, Orgy are still knocking around and back in August, they pined for $100,000 from their fans for a new EP, along with touring costs, a music video, and “the framework” for establishing a label. Clearly the band was unaware of their sparse fan base upon the launch of their IndieGoGo campaign and fell a staggering $93,000 short of their goal.

But to move to something a little more contemporary, Lucas Mann, guitarist of Californian deathcore band Rings of Saturn attempted a solo album campaign, asking for $20,000, for what would essentially be an instrumental tech metal album, much like the sea of identikit djent and bedroom projects.

This relatively vast amount of money was simply out of Mann’s reach for a solo record, especially when it’s unlikely that such money would even be allocated for Rings of Saturn from their label to record an album. It was immediately apparent to fans and the IndieGoGo campaign failed in stunning fashion; and accusations of Rings of Saturn recording their records at half speed and then speeding it up in the mixing didn’t help his reputation either.

The failure of Orgy and Lucas Mann showed up one fatal misunderstanding of crowdfunding – it’s not a silver bullet. Protest the Hero, who still had criticism levelled against them, and other successes like Chimaira and death metal legends Obituary leveraged their fan bases with campaigns that were built on the bands’ previous relationships with fans.

The misunderstanding is that setting up a campaign will yield some easy money. Given the criticisms that crowdfunding faces, the really successful campaigns have to prove themselves as more than worthy of your cash before a note of music has been recorded and this is why established bands have succeeded more so.

Further proof lies in the campaign from German alt. rockers Die Happy, who celebrated their 20th anniversary with a PledgeMusic fund for a new record and music video with the basic incentives like copies of the record but also several collectors’ items that were clearly aimed at the noble fans that have been with the band throughout their 20 years. Their campaign was a success.

With all this talk of successes and failures, you would almost thing that crowdfunding success was out of reach for younger, lesser-known bands. However, Russia-by-way-of-Norway tech death metallers Defect Designer succeeded with a modest campaign of €1,500, for a record that will include guest musicians like Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier.

Also, with Lucas Mann’s project in mind, don’t feel like solo side projects are doomed to fail. Hannes Grossmann, of German prog metallers Obscura and tech metal trio Blotted Science, successfully crowdfunded his new solo record The Radial Covenant, gathering together €4,000 for the project that includes Jeff Loomis and Ron Jarzombek.

Let’s remember that crowdfunding, in the grand scheme of things, is still a new phenomenon and in the realm of music, it still has a lot of creases to iron out, meanwhile major labels may look at it as a fad that can be hopped on for now, like Universal attempting a campaign for a vinyl reissue of Nirvana’s Unplugged.

Crowdfunding can be called independent and DIY and it is to a great extent but bands are still looking for outside help. However, it is ‘investment’ from genuinely interested parties, ones that actually want this record to see the light of the day and with bands like Protest the Hero and Die Happy laying out effective ways of utilising the platform, expect to see even more bigger names look to crowdfunding in 2014.

More 50K MUSIC MAG stuff about