Interview with Eric Victorino from the Limousines

Record labels have been a necessary evil in the world of music for nearly 100 years. Artists feel like they put their hearts and soul into a project and the label rips them off for their art. They aren’t wrong in that, the labels do keep a lot of the money from albums and from touring, especially in the early stages of a musician’s career. That really isn’t disputable, it’s factual. Labels aren’t all evil, they’re trying to build a musician up so that they can go out and make millions for themselves and the label. However, in the internet age it has become possible for record labels, the middle man if you will, to be cut out of the equation.

Bands can now record an album in the comfort of their own homes or even rent studio time themselves, master and mix the album and throw it up digitally. All of this can be done for under $10,000. If you want to put it out on CD that gets to be a little more pricey. Radiohead famously did this when they paid to make their own record, In Rainbows and then offered it up at a pay-what-you-want rate. Now, the Limousines are trying something different and controversial. They’re using funding website Kickstarter to raise money from fans to make their album. It’s controversial, because instead of earning the money themselves, while subverting the label system, they’re asking fans to donate to their cause.

I found this to be a shameful way to go about making a record and registered my complaint on Twitter. When lead singer Eric Victorino took issue with my statements he agreed to an impromptu interview. Here is that interview in its entirety:

Matt: So I guess my issue is as an investor I would expect to get a return back on my investment. I wonder about the ethical implications that go along with asking for money from fans while they recoup no return for their investment. I strain to find an analogy to this circumstance of giving money while a band profits. Now I understand the dynamics of a label profiting, but again the consumer knows what it is they’re getting.

Eric: Ok so that’s the beginning of an interview? What we’re doing on Kickstarter has nothing to do with investments. These are donations. While that may seem an issue of semantics to you, I’m happy to clarify what’s going on so that you can understand why. Today you might look at a band reaching out to their fans for funding as “begging” and “disgraceful”, a year or two from now you’ll be wondering why it took so long to catch on.

Here’s what a fan gets when they get involved in our campaign. It’s not a return on their investment, it’s a thank you gift, and at the very lowest levels, it’s a chance to pre-order an album from a band they already know they like. If I were on the other side of this, a fan of The Limousines, I would love to be a part of helping them find another way to release their music if I knew they’d been burned by record labels in the past. I would love to get my name in the credits of the album package, proof that I was in on the ground floor. If I had the money I would love to have my favorite band play at my house or write me a letter. I’d love to have the chance to own clothes and props used in their music videos.

You said something to me on twitter like, “At least with a record label the fans know what they’re paying for.”

You think so? You think fans know how their 10 bucks breaks down when they go and buy their favorite band’s CD at a store? Maybe you don’t know either, so let me break it down for you.

Retail Price of a CD: $10

Retailer bought CD from Distribution Company: $6

Retailer keeps: $4

Distribution Company Bought CD from Label: $4

Distribution Company keeps: $2

Label has $4 from sale of CD.

Apply that against what is owed by the band. Much of which could be travel, food, telecom, hotels and rental costs of label employees traveling, sometimes traveling to meet new bands they might want to sign. Maybe the band has a bunch of debt from borrowing gas money from the label. Either way, if all that debt is paid off, which it rarely is but let’s say for argument’s sake the band has broken even.

The label gives $0.80 of the money it made from that one CD being sold at retail to the band. The band takes that 80 cents and gives managers and lawyers 20 cents. The band now has 60 cents (from an album sold, not a single song). The band has, let’s just say two members instead of 4 or 6…Payday! Thirty cents each! No, wait now, let’s not forget about taxes. So I, a band member, have now made 17 cents from the sale of my album at a store.

“At least with a record label the fans know what they’re paying for.”

I think if they knew that they might be open to ways they could actually help their favorite bands, don’t you? With our Kickstarter campaign you can pay 10 dollars to reserve yourself a copy of our next album. Out of that 10 dollars, do you know how much money each band member will make, even after the costs of mass producing the CDs? It’s more than 17 cents.

You’re hung up on the idea of a stuffy business person who wants to know what his yield is gonna be with a nice diverse portfolio. That’s not what this is about. If we raise enough money to do this without a record label getting involved, we won’t have anyone telling us our dreams aren’t possible. We won’t have anyone but ourselves to blame for our failures. We’ll have our friends and fans to thank for every inch of ground we gain. We will own the rights to our music.

I don’t know how your music career has gone, must have been pretty fantastic so far for you to be supportive of record labels, but ours hasn’t gone so smoothly. We don’t like the fact that people we hardly know, people who barely tried when our lives were in their hands, still own the controlling rights to our album for another 13.5 years. That hurts. I’m sure when you signed your really great contract and went on to sell 10 million records and recouped all your expenses, it left you feeling like labels are the only legitimate route. More poser to you, superstar, you got lucky.

I’m in a little independent band. I have $14 in my bank account. I love to make music and I’m fortunate enough to have people all over the world who’d like me to continue making music. I think selling out is quitting music for a cushy desk job. I think rock n’ roll is about doing what you want to do the way you want to do it, not selling ownership of your art to a company who’ll try their best to package and market you to the largest audience possible.

To say I’m begging anyone is an insult. To say what we’ve done here is a disgrace? We’ve made a direct bond and partnership with our fans, we’re all in it together and we’re all going to get exactly what we expect and want. Nobody is being lied to, nobody is being taken advantage of, and no one is doing anything that goes against their principles. You want to talk about what’s “not very rock ‘n roll”? I think someone calling me out in public for what we’re doing, meanwhile defending the traditional music business practice of exploiting and abusing artists – man… rock n’ roll is fuckin’ dead.

Matt: I’m all for breaking away from the traditional model, it is inherently broken and if you were paying for this album yourself, like you said you did the first time, “We released our first full length album, Get Sharp on our own label back in 2010.”, then it wouldn’t be an ethical issue. However, what you’re doing is going to your fans and saying, “Give us your money, we’ll give you a CD and we will profit from it.” Why not use your own money? Why not take out a loan yourself and put faith in your own talents recouping your own money? Why go to the fans and say, “give us your money so we don’t have to give that money to the labels.” What you fail to mention in your breakdown is money received from touring, merchandise and signing bonuses. I’m well aware that artists make about 10% off an album, which I don’t agree with, but that’s something that can be negotiated in a contract. That’s where that 20% for a lawyer/manager comes into play. The fans will give their money, because they want to be a part of something and you, as a band, will gladly take that money, put out an album and say thank you in the liner notes. Again I’m not against you, if you were doing this on your own instead of shilling from the fans then I’d have no problem with it. In fact, when Radiohead did the same thing and released their album at a pay-what-you-want rate it was applauded industry wise and yet it hasn’t become a thing.

You say it has nothing to do with investments, but it really does. These fans are investing in you; they are giving their money so that you can subvert the record companies and make more money yourself. This isn’t, as the Owl put it, “Your story of leaving your record label strikes a similar note to stories of soldiers refusing to return to duty. Do you consider yourself to be a music industry conscientious objector and refusenik?” You guys are making music not avoiding death and your intent is to profit from it without putting out your own money. I find your cause of breaking away from the labels and doing it on your own to be admirable, but the way you’re going about it to be disingenuous.

Eric: Singing bonuses! Haha what fucking decade are you living in, man? How many record deals have you had? How many have been what you wanted them to be? I’ve had three in my lifetime and I think I deserve to try a different route. Do you know how much money a band that isn’t huge makes on tour? Sometimes nothing…the nightly guarantee usually isn’t even enough to buy gas, feed and pay your crew, pay your insurance, pay your taxes, pay for hotels, pay for equipment and hopefully have enough to be able to afford a phone or computer to keep in touch with people back home. What other job do you know of, that isn’t the fucking Peace Corp, where you leave home for months on end, essentially working 24 hours a day and come home with nothing? That’s what touring in a band that isn’t famous is like. Would you do that? I would. I have. And I will continue to do so, because I love making and performing music and I love meeting the people who enjoy the music. The fact that you keep using words like “Gaming our fans for money” like you’re accusing us of scamming people makes me fucking sick. Nobody who’s participated in our Kickstarter project feels ripped off. Everyone knows they’re not buying something or making an investment. You have the most bizarre view of the relationship between bands and record labels if you think that coming out of this thing with a finished album and the money we need to promote it ourselves, the way we want to, with no interference, and hopefully even have enough to go on tour without having to borrow money from a label who owns our music. It’s just mind boggling to me. I can’t believe I’ve let you piss me off. It’s like if a dumb old dog barked at me and I took it personally enough to go on an email rant against him…

Matt: Yes, people know what they’re paying for, no one is being lied to, but you stand to make quite a bit of money just as Amanda Palmer did. I’m not saying that doing it yourself is wrong, but why go to the fans? Why not do it yourself and stand on your own feet and accomplish it yourself? Do you not feel the slightest bit of embarrassment going to fans and saying give us money so we can make our art and sell it to Toyota or Honda or Tide or Kraft and make money? We can get airplay because we have powerful friends that out of the goodness of their hearts want us to succeed like Aaron Axelson at Live 105? So we can say your name in our liner notes as we line our pockets with your donations? As such do people get a tax deduction from this “donation” as you call it? That’s slightly rhetorical, because you’re not a non/not for profit agency, you’re a band that is trying to subvert the labels (good) while taking money from people and keeping the profits for yourself (bad). How is that art? You can say I’m ignorant until you’re blue in the face, but am I ignorant for putting my faith in someone who is going to make money while all I get out of it is a cd? OK maybe a cd with my name in it. So there’s my name along with 1000 other people who donated their wages that they earned from working so you don’t have to? How am I ignorant because I think you should make your own money to create your own art?

Eric: OK. I should make my own money to make my art. So every band should just be a hobby until they make enough money to make more money? Bands don’t get good unless they have time to, they don’t write good songs when they have to work 40 hours a week to make their rent. That’s when a label comes in, hopefully gives them the money they need to focus on making music, but more often than not they give a band just enough to pay for a producer and an overpriced studio. The band no longer owns their music. Most bands trade lifetime ownership of their art to a record company for less than we’re going to raise in this campaign.

We want to make this thing and own it ourselves and our fans want to help us make that happen. You seem to have a problem with that and I can’t change your mind. If you want to run around telling everyone who has donated to us that we’re scamming them somehow, go for it. See how well that goes for you. We’ve been honest with everyone about what we are raising money to do. If you have a problem with the whole concept of Kickstarter, then I’m afraid you’re going to be pretty uncomfortable in the future when things like this become the new normal. I have been ripped off all my life by this business and if I can find a way to make the music I want to make without a company standing in my way, I’m going to do it, regardless of what some bitter stranger on the internet has to say.

You seem content in your belief that bands are better off with record labels than doing it the way we are. My advice to you is simple. Start a band; put half your life into honing your craft. Hope you’ll get lucky with longshot after longshot. Invest every penny of your own into your future, forgo college and job security to sleep in a van through a few Texas summers. Play shows to empty rooms. Play shows to full rooms, then empty again, and wonder if you’re wasting your time. Jeopardize and complicate every loving relationship you’ve had for decades, all in a feeble but noble attempt to live the life of your dreams. Eventually, you could find out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, it’s lonely, it’s emotionally draining, there’s always some asshole waiting for the right time to say the wrong thing that just crushes your spirit. You’ll watch everyone you grew up with buying houses and driving fancy cars. You’ll hope someone buys a T-Shirt so you might have enough cash to buy a gas station burrito. But at least you’re proud of yourself for trying so hard. It feels good when someone tells you a song you wrote saved their life or just makes them smile. They might ask for an autograph. Who knows?  Maybe eventually you’ll meet the right people, maybe you shake the right hand, and maybe you’ll sign a record deal. Call me one year after all that happens, when you know what the fuck you’re talking about. Then maybe our conversation will be a little more light-hearted.

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31 thoughts on “Interview with Eric Victorino from the Limousines

  1. I’ve been watching this whole thing unfold on Twitter, and as someone that has donated to 6 or 7 Kickstarter campaigns for musicians, I am all about donating to bands who want to go about funding a record and tour this way. You’re often getting more than just the music out of it. Have you looked at what some bands offer for donations? Signed merch. Handwritten lyrics. Behind the scenes DVDs. Home-cooked meals. Unique fan-band experiences. Hell, one band I supported wrote a song incorporating the names of people who donated over a certain amount. As a music fan, that stuff is PRICELESS to me, and well worth the investment of $25 or $50 bucks – plus, I am able to say that I helped support an artist or project.

    And so what if the band makes money off of it? How is that different from any other company or start up with investors. The return I get out of it doesn’t have to be monetary for me to be satisfied. Knowing that my favorite band gets to walk away with a little more money in their pocket to make a living, feed their families, buy a new tour van, or yes, even record a new album is enough to make it worth my while.

    • I don’t agree with funding a start-up either unless I get a return on my investment. You pay $25 get an autographed cd from a band that you like, but let’s face it, this band is not like Springsteen or Mumford and Sons or even Grouplove. They are a flash in the pan that is gaming the system at the expense of their fans. It’s your money if you choose to give it away after you’ve worked so hard for it then that’s on you, but as for me I feel that the money I have earned, worked hard for is worth something to me. I don;t feel that giving it to someone who chooses NOT to earn their money is worth my blood, sweat and tears. If they really wanted to “feed their families” as you so adroitly put it, then they would get up off their couch and get a job. He sardonically says that he shouldn’t have to get a real job so that he can focus on his craft, but what about all those artists that do exactly that. What about guys that actually work to get where they are instead of those that beg for money from fans? Why is it that they ask for $30k and are now over $35k & that is okay with people? Why couldn’t they have just made the album on their computer and in their house? They are blatantly ripping off their fans & while I respect and admire your love of music and the arts this is a slippery slope towards musical welfare.

      • First of all, I should have clarified that I don’t know a single song of The Limousines. I had never even heard of them until I saw your tweet. Didn’t even look to see what they were asking. I’m defending the model, not the band.

        The fact of the matter is that the music industry as we have known it is over. The record label, as we know it, is dead. Hell, the SUPER ARTIST as we know it is dead. There will never be another Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, etc. (And can we agree that Mumford does not belong in the same category as Springsteen – they’ve been on the scene for less than 5 years, Springsteen’s been doing it for 40 years.) There are way too many artists competing for essentially the same sized audience as they always have been. And now, there are more channels to be heard than ever before.

        Music fans today want to be connected with the artists they love. Many of them want to be considered part of a community. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m closing in on 40 and the difference between me and a 25 year old fan is huge. I still get starstruck. But younger fans? They have serious expectations. The Internet and social media have made fans feel entitled to being a part of their artists lives. There’s a whole different discussion there on whether that is creating a demystifying precedent (I’ve had that conversation with people in the industry, too).

        The fan-funding model takes what is happening via the Internet and social media and parlays it into a way for the artist to make music AND create a unique experience for their fans. It’s a win-win. And I see it as an investment. While we may never have another Springsteen, we might have another Mumford – we WILL have another Mumford – and how cool for me to say that I was in on the ground floor? Last week I had dinner with an artist whose record I funded on Kickstarter. I gave the band $50. I got a signed album and a signed poster. But the intangibles are worth so much more to me.

        “Get up off the couch and get a job…” Hm. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement. A lot of artists I know work day jobs and play music by night. They use what little vacation they have to tour. They work to fund the tour van. The gas (have you tried driving a six-passenger van on a 12-city tour recently? Not cheap, I’m sure). The t-shirts. The things that fans expect. And they still have to make car payments, mortgage payments, etc. I’m not saying that there aren’t some artists that are lazy and don’t deserve the love and adoration of their fans. But I think that the majority of artists know that they’re not going to be the next Mumford. They just want to make music and live a good life, just like the rest of us.

        Is $30K excessive to make a record? Maybe. Like I said, I don’t know the band or what sort of resources they would need, haven’t even looked at the Kickstarter. Most of the bands I’ve supported have asked for $2,000 or $3,000 dollars – literally, what it would cost them to book studio time and press a CD. Some have asked for more. But in the end, what it boils down to for me is that this is MY way of supporting the arts and the things that I love and find important.

        And to address Joe’s point below, I just read an article recently about the fact that Kickstarter doesn’t necessarily have a way to make sure that rewards are paid out once they are funded. The Kickstarter representative said something along the lines of, “I guess we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it.” So there are definitely some gaps in the model – it’s not perfect.

      • The fundamental flaw in your argument is that you’re saying crowd-funding is just begging for hand outs. Most of these album funding projects are basically pre-orders. I.e., you get something for your money. That’s not a charity, it’s not begging, and it’s certainly not “ripping off your fans”. Besides, these bands aren’t hoping for random donations from people floating around in cyberspace – it’s primarily their fans that would spend money on them anyway.

        These days you’re not going to get signed unless you already have an established fan base and successful albums sales. What’s the point? Why not cut out the greedy middle man and do it this way? As long as these campaigns are set up with reasonable cost vs. reward, I consider it a legitimate route to fund a new record.

        And so what if they get more money than their stated project goal? That just means they have to provide that many more CD’s, posters, memorabilia, etc. to those that ordered them. I really don’t see a problem with that.

      • But Matt you’re getting something for your money. It’s a pre-order. How is there anything wrong with that? Before Kickstart people still pre-ordered things. Hardly anything has changed. I’m still spending $20, I’m still getting a CD. On my end, nothing is different at all.

        Also, your point about start-ups in the comment above is moot because start-ups get funding. There is a system in place right now that will pump money into a start-up if it has a good product. That literally does. not. exist. for bands right now. That is not something a band – even a really good one – can guarantee will ever happen. You say to put faith in your own music and take out a loan but no amount of faith in your music changes the fact that the money just isn’t out there right now. And the money that is out there certainly isn’t going to bands – or record labels for that matter. It’s going to the Googles, Apples and Spotify’s of the world who are charging people for access to a plethora of free material.

        If a group of fans choose to generate $30,000+ for an artist doesn’t that say something? Shouldn’t I take that as a sign that this band is maybe worth something and worth paying attention to? Isn’t having that in place worthwhile in a world of DJ’s that only play what pop record labels tell them to and a world where you have to wade through thousands of awful bands to find just one good one?

        Also, I find it insulting that you would say “Go get a job”. Most artists do have jobs and most of those ones are never going to attract the attention of a major record label because the amount of time it takes to do that is simply unreal. As a musician I applaud any artist willing to make that sacrifice and as a fan I hope that musicians will continue to turn to the people who really care. I don’t know about you but I’m willing to throw down $20 on a pre-order to keep good music in my ears rather than in the artists bedroom because someone told them they should just go get a job.

    • How so, Jon? Do you find that giving money away for writing is the same as giving money away for music? Why shouldn’t the band be held to the same standard that the rest of us are held to. What is the difference in them doing what they’re doing than me going out and saying I need money because I want to write a book on my own and want all the profits, but don’t want to do any of the work? Who paid for you to start Vinyl District, Jon? How many handouts did you receive that you didn’t have to pay back?

      • why not? if you have fans who believe in your writings and by helping you they feel like patrons for a day, because they contribute to the creation of something beautiful in this world, just allow them do it.
        it’s way more direct and ethical than those artists who are given grants or public funds by the bureaucratic system, because the bureaucrats aren’t spending their own money, they are spending our money.
        I feel like you don’t show a great consideration for the art and artists in general, if you say such things like “Why shouldn’t the band be held to the same standard that the rest of us are held to”.
        to me artists create something that make this world a better place to live in, if you don’t think so, I understand why you are saying that.

      • Without going off on a tangent of points you’ve either already made or are well aware of, I agree one hundred percent. But people will certainly do as they please with their money. Would I? Think not.

  2. This doesn’t seem like much of an argument. I loved, not liked, a handful of songs off of the last Limousines release. It is not a huge issue for me if I pay my $10 upfront and they get paid more (after all, they made the music) or after a label releases it. My “investment” nets me the same CD either way. If Kick starter makes it more likely that bands I like will be able to focus on and make more music in the future than the traditional model then I’m for it. If their music and following is enough for them to make some money in the process then more power to them. I don’t think anyone contributing is getting duped and, guess what? If you do not want to contribute, don’t. You can still by the CD, the songs, see them live, buy a T-shirt, etc. AFTER the CD comes out. Just like you always have.

    On another note, I liked the interview. Interesting reading. Makes it entirely likely I’ll pony up my ten bucks for the next Limousines CD through Kick starter. I just ask that they make sure it kicks ass. If it doesn’t, I guess I have a personal choice to make on the CD they make after that.

  3. It seems to me this is a way to gauge realistic interest and support behind your project. If 2,000 people are really willing to pay $10 to pre-order your album, then it’s deserving of a $20,000 budget. Assuming Kickstarter has a legally binding way to make sure the “rewards” are paid out, I’m happy to support an artist this way. It may save many from going $100,000 in debt, when their project really shouldn’t have a $100,000 budget.

    As a former small record label owner, I’ve gone into personal debt to fund albums. The risk under the old record label structure has never been placed on the artist. And if you want every artist to go into massive debt just to get their album out, it will only serve to hurt music. There will be less art being made. The defining factor in whether an album gets released will not be talent, it will be the artist’s financial stability. Don’t worry, the Black Eyed Peas will be fine.

    It’s hard to cap a budget on an album, touring, etc. Say you start with a $20,000 loan. You press your album, you book a modest tour, and develop some fans. You still want more exposure, magazine writeups (publicist), greater distribution… you are a long way from competing with the multi-million dollar budgets of major labels. So no small-time artist is taking profit and running. They are trying to build. Any progress they make can be put right back into the next step of their growth. Under that model, the artist can easily stay in the hole forever. With Kickstarter, they can grow realistically, and projects can be funded based on talent/interest rather than deep pocketbooks.

  4. If fans let their favourite artist to “rip the money” from them, then I think it is OK. Fans are not forced or obligated to do anything. They do as they will…
    I would not mind if my favourite artist give up making album after I donated to the case. It was my decision to support something I have hopes for, so it is my own responsibility for money I donated…

  5. Here\’s the catch with Kickstarter though. In a way, you DO have to earn that money through fan loyalty. If you\’ve never written a book before and you start a Kickstarter asking for 2 grand to write a book, who\’s going to donate? Nobody, because nobody cares about some guy writing a book.

    Victorino, through his work in Strata and the Limousines, has earned a fanbase with a lot of hard work. Now he\’s asking for some amount to fund an album. If he doesn\’t get the amount he needs, the project doesn\’t get funded, and everybody keeps their money. To make this project happen, he needs to have garnered enough fan loyalty to get that right amount.

    I know a guy who recently ran a Kickstarter project to get his band in the studio for their third album. Not only has he been on a label, he\’s put out two albums, gotten a minor radio hit, and built a strong fanbase. Know how much money he\’s got to show for it? Diddily squat. Know how many jobs he and the rest of the band had to work on the side just to pay off their debt to the label? At least one, two for some of the guys. He came out and plain and simple said, \”Listen, a third album\’s just never going to happen unless our fans chip in. We\’ve played by the system\’s rules, we\’ve churned out music, we\’re working our asses off for every penny, and now we just don\’t have enough pennies to keep recording music. Now we\’ll ride off into the sunset if we have to, but we want to give the fans a chance to get a little more music from us.\” He ended up getting the album funded.

    How can you have anything against that? Seriously? He did everything in his power to make it on his own, and he outright admitted he never wanted to ask his fans for a dime in response. But it came down to either giving up the dream, or getting some help, and sure enough, he and his band get to keep doing what they love because they earned a fanbase and that fanbase respects them enough to hand over a few bucks.

    I just can’t understand this selfish notion that so many people like yourself have Matt. You earned every dollar of yours, you\’re right, and no one has the right to take it from you. But are you so selfish and so proud that to give five or ten bucks graciously to someone who\’s even giving you something in return, is just absurd? I think to criticize an artist like Victorino for turning to his fans for help, and is giving back to them in response, is just outrageous. He\’s not taking the money and running, and none of the bands that are on Kickstarter are. They are accepting the donations of their loving fans, and with those donations are giving back to them.

    I\’m gonna stop rambling now, because I could go on for days, but I\’ll just say I agree with Victorino 100%, and you really come off as just a selfish and ignorant individual both in the interview and in your comments section.

  6. This is so simple I don’t understand why you don’t see it. I’m a huge fan of the band. I’ve been listening to them since the first minute Eric released clips over Myspace of them. I bought the first album a couple days before it was officially released, when Eric dropped a couple copies off at a local music store and tweeted about it.

    Why WOULDN’T I drop a few bucks into the Kickstarter? I don’t feel cheated at all. I’m buying the album the minute I can, and it’s going to cost 8-10 bucks when I do. Why not pay the same exact amount now, actually get more than I would have the other way and directly help the band while doing it. It’s just common sense. You talk about how it’s wrong of him to do this. I think it’s wrong of you to stick your hand out and act like you deserve money for throwing into the Kickstarter fund. You didn’t help make the record, all you did was give DONATIONS to a band and now you think it’s wrong that you “only” get the album in return? I mean… That’s the whole reason to listen to a band. The music. I’m not listening to the band to get money. I’m glad if they can make any money at all off of their music. I’m plenty happy that i’m helping them and getting the album in return. That should be enough for anyone.

  7. To state that, “you should make your own money to create your own art,” is ignorant of a long tradition of patrons of the arts. Crowdfunding is patronage of the arts in the internet age. It is not unethical to ask for help. It is not unethical to ask for money. A kickstarter campaign is a form of cooperation, in this case between two musicians and their loving fans.
    You ask, “why go to the fans?” Who better to petition for funding than the people who benefit most from the art you produce. This is Eric’s point precisely. He would much rather solicit money from the people who love and consume his art, than from record label agents who only wish to exploit him.

  8. This could only be considered a rip-off if they never release the CD funded by Kickstarter. Otherwise, it’s fan’s pre-ordering an album. So simple.

    On that note, as an indie, I’ve always financed my own albums. I never had a second job, and felt that the music should fund itself. So I would not produce the album until I had the money to do it. Production costs: singers/rappers (I don’t sing), and outsourcing mixing (when I could afford it), mastering (always), about $2500; manufacturing the 1000 CDs, about $3500 (researched best packaging for label-quality appearance and shipping costs) . Everything — all instruments, production, etc. done by me in self-financed home studio. All album design, and press kits, stickers, etc etc done by me. All mailings to radio stations, writers, music supervisors, fans, done by me. (Mailing was expensive, 2 to 3 dollars per, and I’d send out hundreds). I got good press, high-profile song placements, and eventually, a grammy award winner covering one of my songs.

    So. Sales of CDs would eventually cover the production costs etc. Digital sales would push me past manufacturing costs. Other revenue– mechanicals from soundtrack inclusion or artist’s covering my work, or licensing fees/royalties, is where I “made” money. I got there faster when I stopped releasing CDs and just did digital (but that limits your audience and sales options.)

    But you know when I really made a profit? When I stopped releasing music.

    When I didn’t have the 10K+ costs per year of releasing music (not even including computer, software, instrument purchases/upgrades), I actually had no problems paying for things. My time spent on making/releasing/promoting music — and the promoting was taking up more and more and more time– dropped to maybe 20 or 30 hours a week instead of 60-80… so I was working less and actually “making” money. It was nice.

    The worst was seeing a massive increase in revenueless ownership of my songs — I saw tens of thousands of unpaid-for downloads; hundreds of thousands of youtube views of some of my tracks, hundreds of thousands of Lastfm, Pandora, etc. etc streams, and all increasing…. but with digital revenue dropping. Despite more time promoting. So I went from releasing albums to releasing digital only EPs to doing a couple of digital singles to seeing the future: continuing expenses, more hours needed to be noticed, with decreasing revenue (Cloud, here we come.) I realized that I could not afford to release more music. It felt like I was working for the tens of thousands of people who loved the music, but felt they shouldn’t contribute (buy) it.

    I started making music for pure reasons (putting out creative works for people to enjoy). I stopped for pure reasons: if the increasing number of ‘fans’ (those listening to the music) increasing felt that music had no value (meaning they’d listen to it repeatedly but not pay for it) why release it? And why make it?

    Ironically, 3 or 4 years after the last song I ever wrote (for the above reasons) was when the grammy-award winner mentioned above covered one of the songs I’d released on my own album earlier– so I knew I had some “skillz”.

    So Kickstarter is a good thing: people actually contributing to have art made. Fans actually walking the walk. Fans showing that music has value.

    (Would I use Kickstarter? If some fan contacted me and said they wanted to hear more and set up a Kickstarter, and there was enough contributions (i’d say 8-10k), I would probably make some more music. But I know this for sure: if more of the illegal downloads of my previous albums had been actually paid for, I would definitely have contiued to put music out in to the world –because I could have afforded to.)

  9. Saying that fan funded projects are shameful is absurd. A fan can choose to donate or not donate, and also choose how much. How is it shameful to offer consumers a chiloicr? All are aware that if they do choose to donate, that they are funding a project and not buying a finished product. Some of you need a reminder of how albums were sold years ago. You bought a whole CD, and maybe heard 1 song on the radio. So from a label lovers point of view, the arguement of paying for something before you know what you’re getting, is moot and hypocritical. I can choose to participate or not, I have a choice, and there’s nothing shameful about that.

  10. wow – found this from a tweet from @IndieToolz – so glad I read it and the comments. I’m also someone who has “contributed” to Kickstarter campaigns that I want to see succeed, and I have gotten “something” in return. I’ve never heard of The Limousines before now, but I applaud them and I applaud Eric not backing down.

    I will also say that I respect your opinion, Matt, in that it is YOUR opinion and you are entitled to it. I disagree with it, but that’s okay. I can take my money and do what I want with it and you can take your money and do what you want with it. I also “get” what you’re saying, I just think that you are seeing it all wrong. You see it as begging and a handout when I see it as investing in something I believe in. You say that an investment requires a return. I say that Kickstarter campaigns DO give a return on the investment. The fact that YOU believe the “value” is not really there does not make it a fact, just like the perceived value that *I* have doesn’t make it a fact.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective beauty. Fans (the beholders) that believe in the beauty can give their money for the art after the fact or before – their choice. If they choose to support the creation of the art then so be it.

    Again, I’m not saying you’re “wrong” for having the opinion – I’m just saying I disagree with it. I’m also thinking you’ve probably helped Eric more than you’ve hurt him… ;-)

  11. So, maybe instead of supporting hard working artists, I’ll give my hard earned money to a multi-millionaire running for president of this country so he can go ahead and do what ever it is that defines his agenda and the agenda of those donating big bucks to his cause so that he can totally disregard the needs of his constituency, his country and his fellow Americans! And he won’t have to spend any of his (hard earned?) millions (which were payed to him by his fans & supporters along his climb up the political ladder?).
    Oh, and he has pretty good health care he doesn’t pay for to go along with a lifelong stipend to live off of.
    How is this not outrageous? At least if I give my money to this candidate I will do so expecting not to receive that which I have been promised.
    At least I have a choice.

  12. Nothing wrong with using kickstarter and other crowdfunding if you can. Businesses are using it…artists use it…so take advantage of the opportunities that are out there…and ultimately that will help get your music’s message out there.

  13. I’m truly dumbfounded by this interview. Most of the points I could make have already been made, but I’ll throw in my two cents and personal experience:

    Having been on the receiving and giving end of a Kickstarter, I cannot see, in any regard, a negative side to people CHOOSING of their own free will, to give money to a band they LIKE. I say this as a supporter myself, and as someone who has asked for donations via a kickstarter.

    When I donated $20 bucks to a local bands kickstarter I got a CD, a note from the band saying thank you, stickers, and the thought that I helped make a bands recording process a success. There was no back alley gun-point coercion into spending my money on this band. What I got as a gift in return, was, at industry market value, close to, if not more than, the $20 I spent to support a kick ass band that in my eyes works VERY hard, and was trying to get more music out into the world. To suggest that I am being taken advantage of by total cads, and musical bounders, because I wanted to spend exactly the same amount of money I would spend on a new CD , so this group could give me more and finish their CD, is laughable at the very best.

    And to give some perspective from someone who has run a successful kickstarter, I’ll explain it like this: after it was a success, no one emailed me saying “Wow Dude..I totally take back what I “invested”..I feel so ripped off. How could you trick me into spending money on a band I actually like!!”. The day I get emails from fans explaining how we are musical highway robbers because we asked for donations, so we could then supply a brand new album to our fans, who choose to support us because they believe in what we do, is the day I will give up music. Looks like I’ll be sticking with music.

  14. Let’s take this out of the context of the music industry for a moment. Say I buy a bracelet from an Etsy store, the artist who I buy this from does not have a “proper job” (since you clearly don’t consider creative industries as work), they work from the spare room in their house, the materials to make said bracelet cost maybe £20 and it takes them 4 hours to make. If they pay themselves the national minimum wage for the UK, that’d be £24.32 for the time, plus £20 for materials and maybe £15 on bits like electric for tools, tax, postage and listing fees, that brings us to £59.32. Now let’s say they sell this bracelet to me for £100, making themselves £40.68, and they then use some of that profit to buy more materials and make themselves more money. Have I then been ripped off because they didn’t give me more than what I originally paid for, even though they used my money to help make it?

    Back to Kickstarter. I have donated money and in return for that I am not only getting new music from a band I love, but also one of a kind things that they have taken their time to think of as a thanks for investing in them. In the simplest terms, I part with money, I receive products/service in return. How in any way, shape, or form, is that begging?

    I was lucky enough to chat with Eric briefly about their plans to do this a few weeks before it happened, and it isn’t just a case of “Damn the man. Save The Limousines!” It’s been genuinely thought through by artists who love what they do, and who they do it for, and want to do what is best for both of those things whilst still being able to eat and keep a roof over their heads. If you don’t agree with it, then fine, no one is forcing you to part with your money, just as no one is forcing me to part with mine.

  15. Meh, who cares how people spend their money. Some want to buy clothes for their dog, some may collect rocks they think have magical powers, others to a band that means something to them.

    I am not going to insult you for your opinion. You feel that integrity of the band gets called into this. I disagree with the shot at their integrity, you are correct they could have put their personal finances on the line, they could have been another nickel in the record labels slot machine trying to hit jackpot. Why would they? Why not try something different? Why not try something that could help them be a success? Why not let them be in control? If it was me I would have changed directions also. I would think that it is apparent what I am doing isn’t working, let me go another route. Let me be in control.

    Back to people spending their money. Some people think their name in liner notes is great, or they like the idea of have some sort of memorabilia from the band, or maybe they feel connected to the success of the band. This is their return on their money. Maybe it is not for you, it is not for me either. With that being said, I like this idea. Why not push the industry to evolve? I might even do something similar for a different industry.

    Thanks for your opinion. Good luck to you. Good luck to the limousines. Great idea.

    Please forgive typos and poor grammar. Wrote this on my phone.

  16. Sorry Matt, fans are getting something out of their donation, which is most importantly the MUSIC! If the kickstarter campaign didn’t work, then there’s a probability the band who’s music I like may not continue on. So as a fan I have a choice. I can donate to their campaign and get more music from the band I like, which in turn is the same as me buying the album from a label. The only difference is that there’s options to get even more stuff from the band depending on how much I choose to donate. It’s about BELIEF in the things I care about and WANTING to contribute to it. For the $50 I donated, I get more music from a band I like and respect, I get a listening party with the band, and I get recognition from the band.

    Maybe you should read the Lefsetz Letter: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/ Bob Lefsetz is always talking about how bands and artists need to tackle the DIY model to succeed in today’s music industry. He applauds bands that get themselves known by bonding with their fans as that is the basis to make it big these days.

    As a local promoter and band manager, I can tell you that making connections with your fans is the most important thing you can do. Fans want to feel close to the artist/band they love and getting music early, getting into liner notes, getting personalized gear from the band, all of that matters. Fans want to feel like they are friends with the band. This is why Kickstarter campaigns work. It allows the fans to contribute to something they love, and get “special” recognition for doing that. With Kickstarter, I’m spending the same amount of money, but the band gets more from it, as they should in my opinion, and I get some extras from being a donator. Hearing music early is something that excites fans. Getting autographed items excites fans.

  17. I find this interview very interesting. I own a recordcompany and work with a lot of bands and musicians. I think prefunding a CD thru your fanbase is a really good way of being independent from a recordcompany and when this is a pre-order Kickstart it’s even better. Ofcourse you already need a fanbase to do so, imo why would people pre-order to a CD if they do not like the music of the band. So i’m actually voting in favor for the artist.

    Though i do not agree all arguments since it’s not all bad guys at the recordcompanies.
    Actually i was thinking like that before i started the recordcompany.
    But now i know howmuch i spend on recording for CD’s , mastering, Pressings and promotions (most of the budget!)

    We pick the artists we invest in very carefully, though musicians and singers are not always reliable and do not always seem to realise that making music professionally is actually work! work they have invested in for years by practising, writing and recording, work they will have to invest more time and thought in to get a bigger fanbase who’ll actually buy the CD’s and go to the gigs.

    If a band has a large fanbase ofcourse why need a recordcompany, just get pre-orders or invest your own money and Do it yourselve. (although this might be meaning your having less time to play and write music because you’re coping with recordcompany administration and businessmeetings etc.) So nothing wrong with both ways of doing it!

    We invest in talent, we coach them, we help them record and we develop them to fullfletched artists. We even teach them all fascettes of the musicbusiness because we think if they know enough about it they will do better doing what they do best!

    This all costs time and money and unfortunately you can not make a succes out of every band you invest in. That’s my risk of business but than i have to make sure i get my money back with some extra profit because i also work hard for it.

    At first i thought “well we’ll be nice and give the artist more of the royalties than the recordcompany” but this was not possible because of the amount of time and money we invest in the artist. Sometimes more than the artists themselves ! Also when i look at contracts of other companies as well as ours, i nowadays find them understandable whereas i used to say “it’s not fair” in the past. Knowing artist are not always committed and reliable in their way of acting. I could give tons of examples about this, but i think this reply is already much to long ;-)

    People just don’t alway realise how much work and money recordcompanies invest. Though i totally agree that crowdfunding is a really good way for bands on getting a nice CD pressed and if they can get enough money out of it to do their promotions and learn a lot about promotions, marketing and all other stuff that’s needed to make a bigger succes, they would not need a recordcompany. If you don’t need it , don’t use it. If you need it , use it (unless it’s drugs of boose!)

  18. Matt,
    dude… what’s the difference between giving $10 to a record store and giving $10 to a band, when all I get is a CD? There’s no difference, as both would make profit. If I buy a conventionally distributed CD, the label makes profit; if I buy from the band through Kickstarted, the band makes profit. I don’t personally give a damn about having my name on the CD on being mentioned by the band. I want that CD. And if I can give more money to the band rather than the label, well, I am more than happy. It’s always the same 10 bucks getting out of my wallet, but makes a BIG difference to the band. If they’re talented, they’ll make good music and show their talent at gigs. If they’re not, they’ll go back to the label who invests A LOT of money to turn a talentless idiot into a superstar (and if you turn on the radio or watch MTV, you’ll find there are lots of those superstar idiots.)

  19. Matt,

    I find it ironic that you quote one of my favourite lines from one of my favourite Sprignsteen songs in your blog banner, yet you seem to miss an essential element of it’s meaning.

    “We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school” – Bruce Springsteen.

    Does this lyric not imply that there is an intrinsic value (for those who connect or relate to it) in what is communicated (or mystically transmitted) in a song that goes far beyond the price of a CD?

    Have you even considered that many of the fans who are donating to Kickstarter campaigns have already received the “return on investment” (in advance) many times over. They have already experienced many hours of joy or had some epiphany or great sex or one of a host of other fond or poignant memories associated with that artist’s music.

    They’re motivation for donating may be deeply personal, silly or almost intangible so what?

    Even if it was only one such experience, from just one of the artists songs, it is obviously valuable enough to that individual to justify the amount they choose to donate, if not more!

    The may just view it as giving a little back to the artist?

    It may just make them feel good… and what’s wrong with that?

    The fact that they will receive at token reward and new material from an artist they like will be released is just a bonus.

    As someone else has already pointed out this is just patronage for the internet age…

    So if you want to crusade against shameful marketing practises, try starting with McDonald’s, Pharmaceutical Companies, or those selling bottled water or other singe use plastics and get of the Inide artist’s case.

  20. Rarely would I even comment on a blog post, but wow! Like others have said, all of my points have already been made. I feel honored to be involved in this project. I love the Limos and getting to be involved in the making of an album is a cool experience in and of itself. The fact that they are giving some really cool thank-you gifts just makes it that much better! And might I add that the Limos had one of the most fan interactive sets I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing/hearing. Obviously other Limo fans have felt that too. I mean look at the list of us who have been “duped” out of our last dollars to fund this scam! Was that sarcasm thick enough?

    It isn’t being sold as an “investment”. I view it as a way to show my support for artists I love. As fans, we do that with our money (buy albums, concert tix, and merch) and sharing the music with others. Is that not what this is? As far as investments go, that’s what I have a retirement fund for!

  21. After doing extensive research and reading on the subject, I can validate the value of “fan-funding” concerning artists and their fans especially in todays music industry and economy. I do understand the value for the fans to be directly involved with an artist they like.
    The things quite honestly that provoked my anger… and maybe a little problem/resolution points for you bands to keep this thing somewhat honorable and maintain some integrity.

    PROBLEM…
    As a promoter, I have on average about 3-6 Kickstarter campaigns that come across my desk or that are shoved in my face DAILY. 90% of the artists are artists I do not recognize and have never heard of asking me to fund their albums or tours.

    SOLUTION…
    Artists need to focus on their FANS if they are going to have a Kickstarter. Mass sharing and posting links trying to get more attention (and money) crosses the line from fan-funding to out-right begging. So do the WORK to establish fans first. And then, yes, if you want to appeal to those fans directly, that is between you and them, and more power to both if it produces positive results.

    PROBLEM…
    The campaigns are too selfish. I don’t see a lot of “pay it forward” happening with these campaigns.

    SOLUTION…

    How about stating if you go $1000 over your goal that the extra money (or at least some of it) will be donated to a very worthwhile charity? Or passed along to someone less fortunate? It’s great to be able to fund something you are doing but if you end up with extra hell, kick it back to someone ELSE that needs assistance. That whole karma thing ;)

    That said, now that I have done the research and reading, I can admit that Kickstarter has value. I still think it needs work in it’s use and application. But I am not as against it today as I was yesterday, because I DO want music to thrive and to stay relevant and who am I to begrudge a direct link between artists and their fans? Just remember artists, do the work and get the fans first. That is all.

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