Record Companies are officially imploding. Ask anyone at Roadrunner Europe. Record sales have been cannibalised by Internet piracy and free streaming. Labels are scurrying to stay afloat, and “getting signed” isn’t the lifelong dream anymore. Heck, getting signed to a label really doesn’t mean much these days anyway. Crowd funding is the new shit. Ask the guys at Protest the Hero. No really.
Okay, I know I sound absurdly cynical, but let’s take a step back to put things into perspective here. The last BIG band was Linkin Park. There have been successful bands after, but no one even came close to their level of success. When I mean big, I mean Metallica big. Becoming a regular topic of discussion on VH1 big. Having your song be the theme to the Transformers movie franchise big. Getting regularly referenced in pop culture big. Having your singer (literally) torn apart in Saw VII big. In comparison, the top (record) selling metal acts of today, have still remained leaders of a niche market at best. The closest Avenged Sevenfold ever came to pop culture was a bunch of A7X posters on the wall of McLaren’s Pub on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The closest Slipknot ever came to pop culture was probably getting blamed for some idiot going on a shooting spree. Okay, Cannibal Corpse did get featured in Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994), but 1994 was a very long time ago.
Now I don’t mean to say I hate Linkin Park. I actually was a big fan up until 2007’s Minutes To Midnight, but I heard Iron Maiden for the first time after that, and well we all know what happens after you listen to Iron Maiden for the first time. (For the record, my poison of choice was the title track to 2003’s Dance of Death).
Anyway, after that absurdly long detour, let’s get back to the point. Modern bands, be it rock or metal, have basically been forced to accept the new truth, that selling albums for a living, is not a financially viable business plan. The album, is now just a collection of songs for you to play live. Your live performances are just an excuse to get your fans together to buy obscenely overpriced merchandise, and maybe play a few songs in the background. Your merchandise, is now your bread and butter, provided you haven’t signed it away to your label (if you have one). Music, as a vocation to get rich and live comfortably, is a very very poorly thought out choice, unless of course you’re Kanye West.
More and more modern bands, especially in metal and other “heavier” sub genres have taken to crowd funding, to finance their new album. To grossly over-simplify the term, crowd-funding is when you propose a project (Musical or otherwise) and appeal to your fan base to help you fund said project. The fans in turn, get a variety of rewards/benefits which would generally not be open to the general public after the project goes live (in this case, after the album releases). The rewards can vary wildly, from Bloodshot Dawn drawing you into their artwork, to Tim Lambesis tattooing your name on his behind. Now even though it’s way too early to call crowd funding the future of recorded audio, it’s still a pretty good bridge to carry artists over, until the next big trend comes along to try and revive the rock/metal music industry. Mostly the metal music industry.
In our next installment, we dig deeper into crowd funding and its consequences. We also look at some of the biggest crowd funding success stories in recent times.