COLUMN: Aaron Osborne (I Exist) continues its column series where we give musicians freedom to offer a unique, personal and individual voice.

Today, I Exist guitarist Aaron Osborne offers the April entry in his monthly column.

The musician gives his opinion on the currently in vogue concept of crowdfunding camaigns.

“Corruption Scheme”

At this point, I have now written around five to seven opening sentences to this column, and I cant decide which one of the fallen sentences is the funniest, or the wittiest, so I am scrapping them for this – I think crowd funding, when relating to the releasing of musical works, sucks, and it just seems super lazy.

Crowd funding as an online tool has been around for a number of years now, yet as far as I am aware has only really crept into the metal/hardcore/punk world (or as far as I have seen it) over the last few years. This cutting edge and novel way of gaining funds for your band’s musical (or other) costs has taken the world by storm, from ageing, well respected (and in some circumstances GREAT) bands to people who seem to have no idea what they are doing. People are getting lots of money from their fans for the promise of a new album, DVD, tour, or whatever the hell they seem to be too poor to pay for themselves.

From the more mature side of the spectrum a lot of older bands, or bands that have been around for a while, they seem to be using this tool as a way to “Do things ourselves, our own way, with no one telling us what to do!” or to “Give the fans what they really want, not what the record labels want us to produce, after being screwed over so many times by our labels!” and the younger folk seem to basically just be using it as they don’t know how to produce finances for themselves, or seemingly be aware that if you have a job, you can then use the money you earn to pay for things. (Don’t get me wrong, maybe the older people don’t understand this concept either, I’m just going off what I’ve seen more frequently, I apologise to any younger bands who are already jaded by the music industry and its evil record labels) Now, I have problems with both these examples, which I could go on about for DAYS, but for now I am just going to go on with why I think this epidemic sucks. Maybe I’ll address old people claiming they know what all their fans want and young people not understanding employment another time further – oh and how record labels are evil pricks…maybe.

Crowd funding campaigns generally come with gifts or rewards (that YOU pay for, the best kind of gift…) for donating a certain amount of money to the cause. These can range from just a copy of the album/DVD/tour ticket to extravagant packages including in some ridiculous circumstances “prizes” like getting to have dinner with the band, or as far as being credited as a producer or even playing on the album. I am well aware that if people feel so inclined, it is well within their right to give their hard earned cash to pay for the opportunity to have a three course meal with some of metal’s skint artists but to me the problem isn’t the “prizes” it is the initial product.

With all of these bands or artists, the initial product is what they need the money for and the costs surrounding it, such as recording an album, producing a DVD or collecting funds for an upcoming tour. The fans, who are bank rolling this product have no possible way to contribute to the progress or influence the end outcome at all, they are (in some cases) contributing thousands upon thousands of dollars to something, that could end up being the biggest pile of garbage ever, with no option to influence the work at all. Now, some people would argue that if every fan had their say with how a band made their music it would negate the purpose of letting the band do what they want in the first place, but if they want freedom and they want the option to have total control, why beg for the hand out? You go now from owing record labels (who we all know are evil pricks and make you do whatever they want) to owing your fans an album/DVD/tour that is AMAZING because it doesn’t have those constraints…and is everyone able to provide this for each contributor, and their individual tastes? I doubt it.

As far as I can tell from what I have seen and heard, if you are at a point in which you have no one to help you out financially to produce a product and you can’t afford to produce it at all yourself, you either need to work harder to get that money, or what you are doing isn’t working and MAYBE those ‘evil’ record labels were right, and you need some serious guidance when producing your art. For YEARS now, outstanding works of musical art have been created with nothing but shitty instruments, tape machines and the ability to convert the recordings to a listenable format, with seriously low money. How did these bands start out? With $60,000 each for an album? Or did they bust their asses to write the best songs that they could, then played a bunch of shows and sold a handful of shirts so that they could pay for it? I realise that at a certain point, to produce a product of a professional quality you are going to need more funds, and this is generally where record labels come into play, but if YOU are making the decision to go without that assistance, why is it then someone else’s responsibility to pay for it, instead of your own. You want to keep your band going? Then work hard and make it so.

As for the younger contingent of my complaints, don’t turn to the internet to beg for money when you’re starting out, even terrible bands and musicians can make something of themselves if they try hard enough and people listen. This has nothing to do with my experience in playing in bands either; it’s something that everyone can observe. Music can be terrible and be successful, or it can be amazing and be successful, it’s up to you to create it, and for people to consume it. Don’t ask people to give you their hard earned cash just so you can muck around and not have to work yourself. If the effort and energy is there, it could happen, and if it really doesn’t work out, or the labels wont give you the time of day, maybe its time to reassess and try again. Just don’t be lazy, please.

Who knows, maybe I am wrong, and the general public love the idea, as bands are making big bucks everyday off their art that their fans paid for upfront. But for me, this route seems horribly lazy and it seems like a way for a band to do whatever they want with a lot of money, that they didn’t earn, with no regard for their fans desires and really their own goals at heart. If you took the time to create a page, film an exciting video and put together and enormous list of things you need to get your artwork out there, you haven’t been spending enough time making your artwork good enough to pay for itself or for someone who actively works in this field to pay for it for you…as far as I can tell.

-Aaron Osborne

Do you agree, disagree or maybe just have additional thoughts? Let Aaron (KYS username: AaronOsborne) know in the comments below.

I Exist play Break The Ice 2014.

3 Responses to “COLUMN: Aaron Osborne (I Exist)”

  1. SteveC

    It’s become increasingly difficult to fund music releases these days as sales are down. There are plenty of bands who do it despite the fact that the finances don’t add up. I don’t see any problem with them getting a helping hand from willing fans who choose to get involved. Record labels are not, and never ever were, about the music. They are about making money, so it’s disingenuous to suggest any band needs help with their ‘art’ from a record label.

  2. brendan

    The music industry works in three ways. Borrow money from a bank, a record label, or your fans. Either way you’ll be paying it back and often with interest. At least this medium is semi creative.

  3. AaronOsborne

    Thanks for your opinions dudes!

    Steve – Again, as I tried to make clear in the column, my shot isn’t at people wanting to give bands money, it’s their money and they can do whatever they want with it. My beef is with the product itself and transparency in regards to what the bands actually do with the money. Who knows what they are spending it on, and how much they are getting out of peoples cash. In regards to record labels – I think you’ll find that there are a large number of independent record labels out there that lose a ton of money releasing stuff for bands, because they like the music or want to be involved with the scene and help bands out. Everyone knows stories of big record labels screwing people around, but in the metal/hardcore/punk world, there are a lot of avenues for assistance that are far more ‘about the music’ than you would expect.

    Brendan – but how do they intend on paying back the fans who contributed? The fans aren’t getting a percentage of record sales, or claiming interest on a loan, they receive their hard copy (album, DVD, ticket to show etc) and whatever “prize” they chose to purchase (again which is fully up to them!) and that is the end of their commitment – aside from a liner note in the album, financially the band is still benefiting enormously from their donation and have the possibility to make money, tour off it, re print it forever, while the person only really gets their tangible piece and its done. Some people may be happy with that, and that’s awesome for them. I just think its slightly unfair – and a way a band can capitalise on their fans without much regard for repayment.

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