Flicking the Switch: A Perspective on Crowdfunding Music

Picture this. A cramped-up pub with guitar amps and wires running all around the stage. A band is doing their sound-check while the crowd indifferently paces around talking to each other taking a swig or two of the odd beer. It is what follows after this small window of time that usually makes or breaks a band’s performance. Do you play your wailing guitar solo? Or do you play it safe and decide to do a run-through of one of your well known songs?

Decisions, decisions. In the short run, these things seem inconsequential. But in the long run, I have come to realize that it’s these small dynamics of stage presence and confidence that dictate a band’s success or the lack of it.

The scene at your average gig
The scene at your average gig

Andy Warhol, a famous visual artist, once said, ”Everyone has their 15 minutes of fame” and it is up to nobody else but the artist to make it count. In today’s music industry where bands break up, new alliances are formed and changes happen at the drop of a hat, it is important for a band to be able to sustain their audience long enough. When bands do something that inspires awe in the audience or suddenly put themselves in the spotlight, I like to call that moment ‘Flicking the Switch’. It could be a giant guitar chord. It could be a bass drop. It is where the magic happens, the moment you finally manage to capture the crowd. ‘Flicking the Switch’ is not only important from a musician’s point of view but it is also taken as a measure of how ‘good’ a band is in the scene nowadays.

Clearly, it is essential to orchestrate and put on a show for an artist to be marketable and interesting, to ‘Flick the Switch’. The music is only part of the whole picture. Test your audience too long, and it loses interest. The scene is rife with artists trying to come up with new concepts to keep their audience engaged. It is in the midst of this background that the concept of crowd-funding has taken center stage internationally and more importantly, locally as well.

Stage presence matters. Period.

Crowd-funding, as a concept similar to microfinance, had been floating around for several hundreds of years before its first popular emergence in 1997 when a British rock band funded their reunion tour through online donations from fans. Artists/musicians put up promotional material for an upcoming project they are working on and invite people to invest small donations in exchange for goodies and incentives.

However, the concept of crowd-funding seems to still be in testing waters in India. There has been the odd successful campaign here and there like Headbanger’s Kitchen (a heavy metal cooking show), DIY DAY (a music festival) and a number of gigs organized by ennui.bomb in the past.

More recently, Skyharbor came out with a campaign to crowd-fund their upcoming second album on Pledge Music and their announcement has already invited tremendous response and feedback with 25% of their target goal already being achieved within a few days. Their plan is to enlist the help of legendary Australian producer Forrester Savell for the mixing of this album, and the brilliant animator Jess Cope of Owl House Studios for a beautiful animated music video for a very special piece off the album. You can contribute to their album right here. Clearly, on an international scale, crowd-funding seems to be getting more ludicrous by the day.

Coming back to the local scene, two crowd-funding projects in the works are Bangalore Open Air and Control Alt Delete The Metal Chapter which seem to be showing a lot of promise and potential.

The good thing about crowd-funding getting more popular is of course the large amount of publicity and buzz it seems to be generating in online forums like Facebook and Twitter. Something that is bound to have more positive consequences than negative say, for example more Indian crowd-funding websites popping up like Wishberry and TheHotStart. And of course, there is a trickle-down effect. Good business breeds more business and more avenues opening up. However, before we hail and praise it as the future, let us take a step back and examine it a bit more critically.

Bangalore Open Air is marked to be the biggest metal festival in Asia this year
Bangalore Open Air is marked to be the biggest metal festival in Asia this year

While crowd-funding is a bandwagon everybody is quite eager to jump onto, it seems that a lot more emphasis is given to the presentation and the introduction of the concept as it ends up being the selling point, the USP of the product involved. The concept of the ‘elevator pitch’, something that was earlier confined to a very few places has ended up playing a much bigger part than it traditionally had. While a good introduction video, a proper brief and a purpose is always seen as a bonus point by prospective investors, it is not always a sure-shot sign of the project’s success.

There is also the issue smaller bands and lesser-known musicians face while approaching the concept. While comparatively bigger establishments find it easy to get an audience and support, the same cannot be said about bands that are still trying to establish themselves. And there is always a much better chance of people funding better-known artists than musicians that are more ‘indie’, something that can be a huge roadblock in terms of its future for truly independent musicians.

That being said, it is not very different from the concept of internet sensations becoming famous overnight and having their lives changed all because of a few million hits on Youtube. As with most trends that start off on the internet, there is bound to be an eventual decline sooner or later. Or maybe not. Only time can tell.

Artwork for Control Alt Delete: The Metal Chapter Credits - Aaquib Wani
Credits – Aaquib Wani

– Supernova

 

 

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