Funded and Beyond: The Phenomenauts and crowd-funding issues.

I don’t know how much longer this trend of internet fundraising will continue, though I hope it becomes a stable and viable option for bands (specifically, those that I like.) With numerous Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and similar sites out there, there’s a lot of competition for your dollar.

The Phenomenauts, a band I enjoy, are looking to fund their fourth album. Instead of going the prefabricated platforms like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, they’re simply raising it themselves through their webstore.

I like that the Phenomenauts are “doing this themselves.” Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo take fees (anywhere from 9-12%) of the finished amount, meaning that if you reach your $5000 goal, up to $600 of that just goes for fees. So you really only raise 4,400. By eschewing these fees, 100% of everything they raise goes to funding the new album. I think that avoiding the common stream allows the band to not drown along with the rest of the creative projects begging for your funding.

However, my initial concerns with this fundraising are those mirrored by the growing criticism of Kickstarter/IndieGoGo/crowdfunding sites in general. I don’t think people understand that there’s a certain amount of risk in ‘funding,’ and they treat these sites as if they were ordering from Amazon. I think that’s what will ultimately doom these sites, specifically when one project/company raises a substantial amount of funding, only to fail to deliver any actual results. Because, if that happens, that money is gone. This is the issue that most, including myself, don’t fully grasp. It’s really, really easy to think that the twenty-five dollars I gave to DieMonsterDie was a ‘pre-order,’ but it was more of an investment. And that investment takes time to pay off.

Though it’s not totally related, read the Policing Amanda Palmer piece when she got some flak for asking musicians to perform for free after she raised over a million dollars to fund her latest artistic project. It showcases some of the problems both with an artist and its audience/consumer base when using fundraising sites.  I thought the Amanda Palmer brouhaha highlighted some idiocies on both sides of the equation: Ms. Palmer paying too much for some services and how the audience was kind of a mob of drooling imbeciles, reacting negatively to something that wasn’t related to the Kickstarter campaign at all.

To their merit, The Phenomenauts are framing that you are purchasing a product that allows them to ‘fund’ their record, but if there’s already a pre-set release date (July, according to the site) then this campaign might allow them to shoulder any production costs.

When I write this, only a mere week has gone by since they announced this campaign to the world. So I’m cutting them slack because they’re trying something new. At first, there was no no visual indicator as to how much has been raised but as due to a message posted on 2/26, they’ve raised $1,825 of the base $5,000 goal. Also – for a band that posts to facebook/twitter DAILY, I don’t worry that they won’t communicate their progress adequately. And The Phenomenauts aren’t really dicks – they’re not going to take you cash and not give you money. They’re not Animal Collective.

I highly encourage you to support the Phenomenauts. And I also encourage you to be very cautious when committing yourself to funding campaigns. But support Science and Honor, and get yourself the newest album from a great band.