How do you feel about Kickstarter projects for small, independent bands?
This is a topic I thought about a while back during the whole Amanda Palmer controversy and when a band I used to like, Circle Takes the Square, used Kickstarter to help get a record put out. Here's a link to someone complaining about the latter: Circle Takes the Square and Kickstarter.
I feel conflicted about these types of Kickstarter projects. On principle, I don't care how other people spend their money and if they want to contribute money to a band to get a record put out, more power to them. It circumvents record labels and puts most of the power and support onto the fans of particular bands. The fans are free to donate or not and therefore no one is hurt by the process against their free will.
On the other hand, as someone who was in metal/punk bands from around 2000-2009 before I started grad school, I think Kickstarter is a bit of a shortcut for the music community and younger bands. I'm not that old (almost 31), but I feel like the bands that were in my community (including my own) worked hard to play local, independent shows in their hometown over their first year, put out a demo for a couple hundred dollars (of their own money) to build up interest, and then if they were truly a good band, some independent record label would offer to help put something out. Many bands even put out albums and records on their own, if they were convinced that they could make money back or at least come close to breaking even after some touring to support the release. It also helped if you had some merch like t-shirts, patches, pins, etc to sell while out on the road.
Of course, that last part is speculation because you could spend a few grand recording and pressing vinyl or making CDs, and maybe no one would buy your album. So the risk is on you to be sure that people actually like your band and are willing to cough up some money to support your record release. I knew a band where one of the main members spent over $10,000 of his own money to go to a well-known producer to help record an album and basically never made any of that money back because they broke up shortly thereafter so the interest just faded.
In the case of Kickstarter, if I were to start a new band now, I could maybe record a rough demo for free using a computer, play some shows, generate interest, and instead of finding a label that might be interested in the band or funding it all out of my own pocket, I could go to the public and ask them to take on the risk of funding an album's recording and publishing. If the fans of my band really liked what we were doing, it would reflect on how much funding we got and make the release of the album more of a communal effort. The great thing for me is that I can measure how much of a risk it would be to go ahead and record something because everyone else would be showing their support with their wallets and I wouldn't have to use my own bank account.
I suppose that last part is the issue I have with this concept. It seems like people are looking to reduce their own risk and put it on their fans. Maybe there's nothing wrong with that because no one is forced to contribute. However, coming from the DIY mindset of a local, independent music scene, I can't help but think that there's more value in hard work and doing it all on your own. Not all bands are destined to become popular because not all are that good. My friends' bands that had the popularity and talent to put their own money to record an album and go on tour had more confidence to make that money back (or come close to it) than the band that just sets a goal for $1,000- $5,000 and waits for the money to come in before starting the process. I'm also biased in that some of the stuff I listen to is pretty raw-sounding and unfiltered so that I'm sure they were recorded for what would be considered extremely low costs. Something just strikes me as excessive when a newly formed punk/hardcore/metal band is essentially asking for $10,000 to help put out on album or support their east coast tour when so many of us just did it on our own making gas money playing small shows along the way and crashing on the couches of people that were part of the same community.
Does that make me sound jaded or like the old man complaining about the "kids"? Is this kind of funding another way of remaining DIY, independent, etc?
I leave you all to write your own thoughts on this.