It’s no secret that it’s hard to make a living as a metal musician in a small-to-medium-sized band. Although the effects of piracy and streaming services on record sales are widely debated, what is generally agreed upon is that there is just less money to be made in making music today than there was 15 years ago. Thankfully, Keep of Kalessin‘s Arnt “Obsidian C.” Grønbech has a plan to save musicians who just want to keep doing what they love: writing music and playing it live.
Record sales just aren’t what they used to be. Despite digital purchases increasing substantially over the last decade, record sale data seem to indicate that the halcyon days are long over.
On February 26th, Obsidian C. published a frank discussion on his personal blog of the financial landscape for touring metal bands.
In the 80’s and 90’s bands for the most part had 3 sources of income:
- Album sales
- Merchandise sales
- Concerts / Live performances
As merchandise is mostly sold on shows, it’s important to understand that the only residual income of these three was in fact the album sales. You recorded the album once, and had royalty checks for those albums two to four times a year….every year for as long as the label was able to sell albums.
This meant that when you took time off touring to enter the studio, you still had something generating money. This is the beauty of residual income. Residual income is the only type of income that can generate some kind of freedom in life as it is not determined by the time you put into it, but it’s a job that you do once and get paid for over and over again.
And this is what makes it so damn hard for artists nowadays. It’s because the residual income is gone.
The data shown above would seem to verify Obsidian’s opinions. Thankfully, rather than blaming the industry or the fans, Obsidian proposes a novel idea that can still allow artists to do what they love while also benefiting the fans. His solution: customized band cashback credit cards.
According to Obsidian, the card would work for both bands and fans.
We give you this card for free. All holders of this membership will recieve 20% off on any item in our webshop, concert tickets and merch as well as a free song when you sign up to our fanclub which is powered by Lyoness, the world’s biggest shopping community.
In addition to this, you can use this membership on about 400 000 shops worldwide. Especially in Poland, Austria, Italy and Estonia, the network of shops is beginning to be in great number. You can use this card on all Carrefour in Poland and get 5% cashback + shopping points on all your daily groceries which should be enough incentive on it’s own. But more than that, you know that every time you save money on shopping your daily needs of gas, groceries, clothes, music, web shopping and more…..you support the band!
At the time of writing this post there are almost 400 000 shops worldwide where you can use this membership to save money. We’re talking about big chains like Carrefour, Lidl, Sears, iHop, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Statoil, Shell, McDonalds and more. Many of them are still on giftcard solution, but more and more are moving over to the cashback card in the months to come. In addition to this there are more than 50 000 small and medium sized enterprises and the community is growing with a new SME every 10 minutes! As if this was not enough, you can save money on more than 5000 online shops worldwide incl. Nelly.com, Boozt,com, ,Platekompaniet.no, AliExpress.com, , Hotels.com and many, many more.
So, the fans gets a whole bunch of benefits like mentioned above and the bands start making residual money on their fans saving money! It’s brilliant! Instead of being stuck with making money only on music and merchandise, we can now tap into the whole household economy of our fans. But not by adding to their household, but by helping them SAVE money on their household!
This also means that when you have a good fanbase that is supportive of the band by choosing to save money, the band will start to have a very solid income stream because people need to shop their daily groceries every day, every week, every year, no matter if we release a new album, a shirt or go on tour.
You buy things you need everyday for a discounted price, and your favorite band gets a slight kickback from your purchases. On paper, the idea seems sound. But will it work? For financially savvy consumers, cashback plans are typically preferred to other credit cards because they offer tangible rewards. As long as you can use a credit card responsibly and remember to pay off your debt at the end of the month, you can build a sound credit score and get a little bonus on the side. I certainly wouldn’t mind rolling those extra $25 I generate from my cashback card every few months to a band of my choosing to help them out (and, let’s be honest, I was probably going to spend that money on music anyway). Seems like a win-win, right?
I can see a few problems with this: 1. Not everyone in the U.S. uses credit cards responsibly. The average American household has about $15,000 of credit card debt, and giving people new ways to accrue that debt may not be the best for the economy in the long term. 2. What would happen if every band issued one of these cards? Hypothetically, let’s say each of your top ten favorite bands offered a free cashback card. You’re realistically only going to use one or two of those cards, so the demand gets spread far too thin. More popular bands would likely benefit more, and ultimately the lowest tier of bands would remain broke, generating music as a labor of love rather than a labor of revenue. 3. Financial regulations in many countries may be prohibitively complicated to allow this plan to work for many bands.
I’m interested to see how the band’s 100 card pilot program works out. I think as a stopgap measure, it’s a decent idea. However, I think the best bands can hope for is a paradigm change that rewards musicians for their art.
If you’re interested in taking part in the band’s pilot program (and ideally live in Europe), you can sign up here. While you’re there, you should sign up for Keep of Kalessin’s fan club because you’ll be given free access to the upcoming EP Heaven of Sin, the followup to one of my favorite albums of 2015.
So what do you think? Is this is a viable plan? What band’s cashback card would you use? Let me know in the comments below.