L.A. experimental rock band Marriages are in a bind. It seems their place was flooded and what wasn't lost to the flood was robbed by suspected gang members. So they've taken to crowd funding to try help cover the cost of their legal dispute with their landlord and help with their move.
This is sad for a few reasons.
It's a sorry reflection of the music industry when a band can't earn enough for selling their music, or t-shirts or touring to put enough away for unforeseen circumstances (or renters insurance, for that matter) without having to resort to crowd sourcing their fans, (after, one assumed asking immediate friends and family for help.)
The second issue is reflected in the sharp turn their Facebook comments took from being supportive to questioning their motives. One commenter asks "If you did not have a fan base to exploit who would you be asking to pay for these costs? "
While some of the criticism on Marriage's Facebook page is starting to turn snarky, I understand it. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are godsends to struggling artists. But when it comes to musicians it has always been about the music.
It's easy to fund something like my buddy Tess Alexandria's music because I know I reap the benefit of hearing her amazing voice with the recording equipment i helped finance. Same goes for a new tour bus, or mounting a tour.
But there's something else I get out of it: perks. I've been conditioned by the likes of Kickstarter to see what the perk is for my contribution. Amanda Palmer and Graveface Records, two very disparate examples, had perks attached to their fundraising efforts. This is the norm.
When a band asks me to help out with legal fees in a domestic law suit because the landlord allegedly allowed gang members to steal their home contents or something it's harder to open the wallet because it's not the norm, and really, it shouldn't be. And when Marriages mention that the money raised will also help with the cost of their moving to a new place? We're now talking grey area.
For a band (a talented band, I might add) to act like a charity case when they're able bodied people who tour regularly and can work (day jobs) regularly, is it really up to fans to fix the issue, for zero in return? Case in point, should I decide to pony up a thousand dollars to help Marriages move and pay their lawyer, the description under their perk is "That's a lot of money. Let us know if you want a special song or something. Thank you immensely."
The owner of Graveface Records, who went through a very similar flood/lawsuit situation thing didn't even have a thousand dollar donation level. But at the $500 level, I would get ten vinyl test pressings that come in stenciled jackets.
As a reward for funding musicians I've received a written post card from the road tour, a T-shirt, an exclusive download, and an Mp3 of someone's record. It's always been about the music. That's always been the fun of it. Getting a little something in return.
Understand, it totally sucks to lose all your shit. Bands have their gear stolen on tours all the time. And I feel bad for Marriages. But in a cloud-based economy when every band including yours has a bandcamp page, offering up an mp3 for the trouble wouldn't take that much effort, would it?
I hope both Marriages and Graveface achieve their goals. They are going through serious hard times, made harder by the public that no longer wants to pay for music and yet insists they receive as much as possible of it all the time. But when a lot of musicians out there of all economic levels are feeling the burn and having trouble paying the rent, if you decide to go hit up your fans for dosh, it still should be music first, rent second.