Adapting to adversity in the modern music industry: this is a tale of the The Blackout’s successful Kickstarter campaign.
Some readers may be aware of The Blackout, a Welsh rock sextet, who have released a steady stream of consistently fun and well received
albums and EPs over the last ten years. Unfortunately, they recently found themselves between rock and a hard place after being dropped by their record label Cooking Vinyl and parting ways with their management over the course of the last two years.
The band willingly admits that they were in some serious debt because of this. After doing a huge tour of the UK playing some fantastic intimate venues, such as Coventry’s own Kasbah for really cheap ticket prices (incidentally still my favourite memory of the club so far) they found themselves roughly back at square one.
Instead of giving up and calling it a day, they resolved to make more new music via an internet fundraising campaign using Kickstarter. The campaign finished recently with the new EP, Wolves, arriving in the post in late October. The band offered a range of options, such as a £7 pledge which got you a signed copy of the EP, your name in the artwork of the EP, and a signed poster of the artwork. This is an option I chose, and, whilst £7 seems like a lot for 5 songs, my signed copy of the EP arrived recently and the songs are all absolute belters, and a lot of work clearly went into them. Being a part of the fundraiser and doing my part to help steady the future of a band I care about gave me a sense of satisfaction I wouldn’t have gotten by just simply torrenting the EP once it had come out.
Let this be a message to other bands that are really in it for the music and want to keep going and producing great music for as long as possible.
Other options included signed merchandise, ranging from iPhone covers to drum skins, all for reasonable pledge amounts. Of course, there are inherent risks in choosing to take part in any kind of internet fundraiser, and a certain level of judgement needs to be applied, but all in all it’s one of the more rewarding things I’ve done this year. It opens up a bigger debate about how bands and record labels could start to interact with the internet to combat torrenting, which has become so prevalent in recent years. I’m certainly no angel, but I always try to purchase music when I feel it’s affordable and of a suitable quality.
Throughout their Kickstarter campaign, various members of The Blackout emailed those who had pledged, and this involvement in the production process was really encouraging. I certainly feel that if more small-to-medium sized bands involved their fans in the production process, their record sales would increase. At the moment it is typical to simply preorder an album on good faith and hear little about it in the interim.
Obviously, signing items and offering relatively niche merch only works on a suitably small scale, and bigger bands may struggle with this, but by bringing bands who are already fantastic at interacting with fans at shows into the digital age, they could create a better experience all round and bring their fans even closer to them, to combat the distancing feel of torrenting music.
The positives of this can go further, with internet funding schemes such as Kickstarter being a good gateway for bands just starting up to reach out and try to take more of a hold in securing their own futures. Either way, The Blackout have proven that they have the fan base, creativity and longevity to keep going, even in the face of considerable adversity. Let this be a message to other bands that are really in it for the music and want to keep going and producing great music for as long as possible.