Ne Obliviscaris have changed the game when it comes to squeezing blood from the particularly barren stone that is the modern music industry.
In the space of a few weeks, they’ve created a brand new revenue stream netting them almost $89K USD (that’s $118K Australian dollarydoos) a year and counting, thanks to a groundbreaking Patreon campaign model that engages fans to fund the band on an ongoing basis. And although it doesn’t quite amount to the equivalent of the Aussie minimum wage (yet), it’s a damn good start.
And it’s one that’s sent seismic ripples through the global music industry.
Speaking exclusively to Music Feeds, violinist and clean vocalist Tim Charles explained that the band hatched their Patreon scheme not just as a solution to the financial problems facing NeO (who lost a collective $60,000 on their last three international tours) but their peers across the entire music industry.
In particular, he said, the idea was inspired by vocalist CJ McMahon’s recent high-profile exit from Thy Art Is Murder, which the frontman blamed at the time on the huge financial toll that life in a touring band was taking on him.
“When [CJ] announced that, I mean, it really struck me that there were just thousands of Thy Art Is Murder fans flipping out over the reality that the band weren’t making any money. And I thought: isn’t it kind of ironic that the people who are responsible for financing the band that they love, are the ones in outcry that the band makes no money and there aren’t people financially supporting the band?” Charles said.
“But at the same time, it isn’t their fault, because these people love the band, and they wanted CJ in the band, they wanted the band to be supported. But the way that they’re consuming music – the way that the industry involves fans financially – wasn’t benefitting the band.
“So we basically from there came up with this fan membership system… and tried to work out a platform to make it work.”
A big thank you everyone so far who've supported our Patreon vision, it means the world https://t.co/ZdH1VjUx89
— Ne Obliviscaris (@NeObliviscaris3) March 13, 2016
And since the campaign began to pay off for NeO in a major way, Charles says the support they’ve received from other bands has been phenomenal.
As well as receiving public kudos from Aussie acts like Dead Letter Circus, Sleepmakeswaves and Caligula’s Horse – not to mention internationals like Devin Townsend and Opeth – NeO have been contacted “behind the scenes” by numerous other bands, and have even begun mentoring some of them on how to launch Patreon campaigns of their very own.
“When I saw that Northlane were selling a whole bunch of limited edition stuff to try and get more money and even they weren’t getting minimum wage – I thought… ‘Wouldn’t it be absolutely insane if Ne Obliviscaris ended up making minimum wage before Northlane?'” he said.
“And wouldn’t that be just a great example of how the system is broken? Because Northlane – they’re so much bigger than us, they’re an absolutely fantastic band, I love those guys – and they deserve not just to be making minimum wage. Those guys should be doing really really well because they’re at the absolute top of the industry in this country, and one of the best hardcore bands in the world, in my opinion.
“And in any other industry, if you’re one of the best in the world – a lawyer, or a doctor, or an accountant or whatever – people are making a lot of money. And here in the music industry, we’re just trying to make minimum wage. It’s absolutely crazy!”
And even crazier? He can’t name a single Australian metal band whose members currently make a living off their music.
“From our scene – the Australian metal scene – there’s no one really that makes a living off what they’re doing,” he said. “There are a few bands in the hardcore scene, like Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive… But even I – from what I know about the industry – I thought Northlane would be making more than what they do.”
He continued: “I actually tweeted the Northlane guys saying, ‘Hey, you should check out our Patreon thing, maybe this could help solve your problems as well’. And that’s something that I’m definitely talking to a few bands about behind the scenes and encouraging them to explore, and see if [they] can make it work.
“Because what I really want to happen more than anything else is change the way the music industry is for bands, to make it a fairer system for bands so that they can continue to make the music and the art that the fans and the public want.”
And from NeO’s results so far, it seems like that might actually be an achievable goal.
You can sign up to support Ne Obliviscaris’s Patreon campaign here, or else stay tuned for more from our chat with Tim Charles coming soon.
Watch: Ne Obliviscaris Patreon Video