Today over at AV Club Milwaukee, Matt writes about the latest local Milwaukee Kickstarter project, set up by local "Folk/fusion/psychobilly" act The Fatty Acids. The project pays for not only the pressing of their new CD, Leftover Monsterface, but it also partially bankrolls a 2011 tour that the band is planning:
- Our 2011 tour will take us from Milwaukee over to the West Coast, down and over to Texas, then back up to Chicago/MKE. It's going to cost over $3500, and we'd like to offset that just a little bit.
I'm not anti-Kickstarter necessarily (and i'm very much not anti-Fatty Acids, as they're great people and a great band), but occasionally the semantics involved with these campaigns make me uncomfortable. As an avenue for album presales, it's not a bad model; my friend Conan has done this twice now, for his Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence LP and for his band Victory & Associates' upcoming vinyl disc. As AV Club Milwaukee also reported recently, Milwaukee slack-rockers Sat. Nite Duets are doing the same.
Where i start having issues with making it all work in my head is when these campaigns expand beyond a physical purpose into things like "pay for our tour." The Scarring Party did this recently, and if we go back further, Margaret from Pezzettino ran a campaign (that she took a load of shit for) to pay for repairs to her car that stemmed from incessant touring.
The oft-tossed dismissive that Kickstarter is nothing more than "DIY pandhandling" doesn't really wash; after all, with most campaigns, the people who back the project get something for their money (and the best campaigns are the ones that get the most creative with the perks they throw in, like the Evan Gritzon coffee primer or Conan Neutron band bio writing services offered by Victory & Associates during the campaign for their These Things Are Facts album).
Still, there's something that feels unsavory about asking fans to bankroll a tour, and i'm not sure i can place my finger on what it is. Maybe it's the language on the site? The copy refers to "backers" and "pledges," words that imply an act of charity. Would things feel more legit if the different backing levels were presented as outright purchases? After all, IfIHadAHiFi just provided our live performance services to the Bottom Lounge and were paid in kind--money that's going to go toward our first tank of gas on tour. How's that different than sending someone a care package of records, t-shirts and stickers in exchange for some gas money? Does the change in emphasis from the product sold to what the money's spent on really make that much of a difference?
It could be that i feel like there's a bit of disconnect happening between the realities of touring and the act of bankrolling them. The existence of Kickstarter itself is an admission that being in a band (along with most other artistic endeavors) is a goddamn money pit. Records and CDs are expensive, and a band's first several tours rarely pay for themselves. However, speaking for myself, i feel like our first shit-eating, money-losing tours were character-building exercises that tested our resolve. How much did we really believe in our music? Enough to take it in the ass driving eight hours to play for four people and hope that tomorrow's show will make up the deficit in the gas tank? Would it have been the same risky-ass but rewarding, camaraderie-building experience if we had two grand sitting in the bank ready to cover the bad nights?
There's a voice in the back of my head that says that bands that don't willingly face the risk of losing their ass in the pursuit of their art aren't really bands at all. But then, maybe those bands just aren't as stupid as we are. Are the bands relying on Kickstarter to tour disconnected from the realities of the road, or is the road changing? I often think that the members of Black Flag would laugh at us using our Google maps to find the club, so who am i to talk?
This is a post written by someone whose mind isn't made up. So convince me one way or the other in the comments, won't you?