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OpEd

A Sound Of Thunder Proves That Crowd Funding Can Be A Complete Success

You’ve heard the term or perhaps engaged in a pledge and it’s seems to be all the rage these days: “crowd funding.” Some people may view it as the band version of “panhandling,” but when you consider how much the music business has changed since the rise of the digital age in the face of internet file sharing, rampant illegal downloading and lagging world economies, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea, right? What better way for a fan to feel like he or she is part of the business then to strike up a good old-fashioned pledge drive. Over the last year, there have successes as well as disastrous failures, mediocre output and subpar notifications from smaller local bands and well known acts. But, is crowd funding something worthy of slapping down your hard earned cash in these bad economic times? You only need only look to one band that has risen above the rest, proving twice over that there is power in this medium: A Sound of Thunder. Its members (Nina Osegueda, Josh Schwartz, Jesse Keen and Chris Haren) are shining examples of what is right about crowd funding.

You probably don’t even know who they are, because despite the growing fanbase, there is a disturbing lack of coverage throughout the metal media. However, through the band’s crowd funding campaigns, I challenge anyone to find a higher quality return of investment in terms of the music output, the perk packages offered, the products created and the overall communication. The professionalism is unparalleled. Back in 2012, with recording and production costs mounting in the creation of the band’s third album “Time’s Arrow” (a conceptual release based on a story written by drummer Chris Haren), the band gave up trying to find label support and turned to Kickstarter – the most famous of the crowd sourcing sites. It was a test for support of independent music, to see how many fans would show real loyalty and in return receive some of the most creative products any metal fan could want. In addition to the standard pledge perk of a digital album or signed CD, the band took it much further – offering fans their names in the album credits, shirts, elaborate box sets with some of the highest quality items (shot glasses, wristband)…even allowing fans the opportunity to sing on the album (“Legion of Thunder”). The band commissioned artwork from Serbian artist Dusan Markovic for each version of the album (CD, boxset, vinyl). It was enough to entice the fanbase to give even more. Throughout the campaign, the word spread through social media sites like Facebook. Pledgers received updates on the progress of the album on a near daily basis: emails, video messages, song snippets – fans truly felt like part of the entire production. Above it all, the music that followed was high quality material, making “Time’s Arrow” one of the highlights of 2013 (see review here).

Propelled by the fans reaction and support, the band quickly began writing the follow up and within a few months after the release of “Time’s Arrow” in June, they returned to the studio to record the follow up: “The Lessor Key of Solomon” (expected in July of 2014). The band launched another Kickstarter campaign, offering even better perks (pledge layers including executive producer credits, slipcase books featuring high quality artwork and pledgers personally deciding cover songs to record song for them, as well as a la carte items like hockey jerseys and pint glasses). In less than five days, the band reached its target goal of $10,000 to complete the album. Fans didn’t stop there, as within a week of the campaign’s conclusion, pledges surpassed $18,000, blowing past the milestone that allows the band to tour the U.S. west coast for the first time. In a mass of social media sharing, the band and fans spread the word even more efficiency (aided by the band’s east coast tour) and within the last 24 hours the band exceeded its third and final milestone of $20,000, which allows the fans to choose songs for a special covers album, something that was unplanned in the beginning of the crusade. By the time it ended Monday evening, the band had reached a total of $23,275.00 from 271 backers, with many of the existing backers having increased their pledges in a total vow of support. It is an astonishing feat for this “no-name” act, proving the process does work and can be very successful. The keys to that success lie in more than just fan’s word of mouth, but in the quality of the music and the value of the merchandise in comparison to the pledge levels. It is a blueprint for any band trying to decide if it really can work.

For the fan weighing the risk/rewards on whether to participate in one of these campaigns, I would recommend carefully reading and inquiring as much as you can about a particular project. You will want to check out all the rules of the particular crowd funding site (Kickstarter, Indigogo, Pledge Music, etc) that a band has chosen to use. Make sure you understand your obligations as well as the bands. Consider these questions: Is it funded the day you make a pledge, or is there a minimum threshold the band needs to reach for your pledge to be charged? Are there perk packages offered that are worth the value of the pledge? Is this band trustworthy enough to follow through on its commitments? Try to learn more about the band and, if it’s possible, get to know the band members. Make sure you know how a band intends to communicate the progress of the project and at what point you can expect to see the end results, so you are fully up to date. Fans and bands can use the model that A Sound of Thunder has set forth as an example of how to launch and carry through. Compare and make your decisions based on quality and trust of the artist.

With the understanding that not every campaign is as successful and having first-hand experience that some bands have had disastrous campaigns and little oversight on funds collected (names omitted here), it’s easy to understand why fans could be cautious in choosing to engage. In addition, many younger fans simply do not have the cash flow to participate. If done properly, this is a means where bands and fans can unite in a way that makes the process of making music more engaging than ever before. With the overwhelming success of A Sound of Thunder, crowd funding really can be the wave of the future.

CROMCarl's avatar

Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.

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