Why Digital Panhandling is Embarrassing and Dumb
It seems like every week brings a new announcement that washed up band X is doing a Kickstarter to raise funds for their new album/van repairs/singer’s gall bladder surgery. And for every one of those, there are 5 random, hopeless bands trying to scrape together a few pennies to record their EP that nobody will care about. My friends, enough is enough. Let’s talk about the sad reality of crowdfunding, or as I like to call it “digital panhandling.”
(Apologies to any of my friends in bands who have done crowdfunding campaigns, ur different and i’m totally not talking about u ehehehe ????)
It is narcissistic and delusional
For baby bands, it’s just embarrassing to crowdfund because it completely ignores market signals. A market signal is a seemingly innocuous thing that actually tells you something more substantial about a company– for example, if a company issues bonds then you can reasonably assume that they need capital for one reason or another. An example of a market signal in the music world would be that no labels are interested in financing your band’s album (hint: the signal here is that your band is not good).
For more established bands, the question usually isn’t a lack of demand. The cringey part is where they say something about how this will “allow them to create their art, free from the demands of a record label.” Which basically means, “give us your money so that we can do whatever we want and not have to answer to anyone” lol. It’s so fucking cheap to record these days that any established band should be able to pay for it out of their own pocket– and if they can’t, then they really fucked up because how can 4-5 adults not be able to come up with $5k?! Oh that’s right, they’re musicians- the same people who piss and moan about buying a new set of $25 bass strings when they’re in the studio.
The amounts they ask for are completely divorced from reality to the point where you wonder whether the band is incredibly greedy, or just stupid
It is absolutely baffling to me that bands ask for insanely large sums of money to record an album in an era where recording budgets are shrinking on a daily basis thanks to technology. It is entirely reasonable to record a full length with a relatively established producer/engineer for say $10k. Which doesn’t explain why bands ask for like $30k to record, and certainly doesn’t explain why fans give it to them. I get it, you want to support the artists you like… but giving a band $50-100k to record an album is straight up wasting your money. There is literally no way to spend $100k on recording a metal album in 2015!!!
Learn this one weird trick for massive crowdfunding success: be Christian!
Side note, I’ve noticed that the crowdfunding campaigns that raise exceptionally absurd amounts of money tend to be for Christian bands (eg $200,000 for a Christian ska band). I suggest that anyone in an unsigned band take advantage of this by writing vague lyrics that can be interpreted as Christian, but whenever anyone asks you about it, dodge the question and say something about how you are “Christians in a band, but not a Christian band.” This will allow you to capitalize on the big Kickstarter paydays without alienating the secular kids– this is a premium tip I usually charge for, but I’m giving it to you guys FREE because I care ????
You’re asking for investment without offering equity
This is by far my biggest objection to crowdfunding. It’s essentially taking advantage of your fans, asking them to assume all the risk of the project without letting them participate in the upside. And no, a voicemail message from the drummer or an autographed shower curtain doesn’t count– in the real world, when someone invests in a thing they become a shareholder. But in the music world where everything is broken, backward and dysfunctional, the band simply passes the digital hat around and asks for donations. If it does well, they pocket the profits. If it tanks, well who cares, it’s not their money. I don’t fault the bands here, because hey who doesn’t want free money with very few strings attached, I just find it insane that fans agree to this one-sided arrangement.
The bottom line
Friends, think twice before you crowdfund. If you’re a band, consider how smalltime and desperate it can make you look (and also that after fees and giving out the “prizes” you’re often left with a lot less than you think and that doing taxes for the money is a giant pain in the ass) and ask if you might not be better off just putting the shit on your credit cards. If you’re a fan, ask yourself why the band gets to keep all the profits off something they made with your money.
What do YOU think about digital panhandling?? A fair way for fans to support artists they love, or a one-sided relationship exploiting foolish metal fans who don’t know anything about money??? Would you pretend to be a Christian band just for that big Kickstarter payday????