Touring is the coolest thing in the world. I’m writing this on tour, and I ardently think every musician should at the very least give it a shot. I’m traveling the East Coast playing shows almost every day, and I’m having the time of my life. There’s been a lot of talk particularly in the DIY community about whether your band is ready to tour or not, but I’m not here to talk about that. A band’s readiness to tour is something they need to make an informed decision about on their own. I’m here to help inform that decision by saying you or your band should not crowd fund a tour.
Don’t get me wrong, I think crowd funding can be incredibly helpful for bands to make music. Crowd funding gives fans of bands a chance to get more involved in the process of making music that’s something beyond just buying a CD or a shirt. Sharan Paul wrote a great article about the pros and cons of Kickstarter, one that I highly suggest you read. I used Indiegogo to finish making my EP and received overwhelming support. However, crowd funding a tour instead of an album is a completely different beast that should not even be approached.
This is not about breaking the “punk rules” or anything of the sort. This is about being smart, and crowd funding a tour is not smart at all. There are all sorts of fees to consider when setting your goal. Platforms have to take a percentage of the money pledged in order to sustain themselves, and with Kickstarter in particular, Amazon charges fees as well in order to store the pledged amount in an Amazon account. If some of the pledge rewards are CDs or shirts, sending those out before the tour starts subtracts from the wares you sell to keep yourself rolling on the road. You can raise the goal to accommodate for the expected amount of merchandise to be sent to pledgers (which can also add up in shipping charges), but that makes it more difficult to reach. Perhaps most important is Kickstarter’s is [in]famous catch: the funds are not received if the goal is not reached within the allotted time. If your band doesn’t get to that goal it needs within the time limit, you are left with nothing before your tour.
Of course, other platforms offer funding options in which you get to keep whatever money is earned within the allotted time, but if that’s what happens with your crowd fund, you and your band are faced with two possibilities. 1) You simply set your goal too high, or more likely 2) your band is shooting for an endeavor too big that you are not ready for. If you haven’t toured before, then it’s very likely no one outside of your town knows your music, so the demand is nonexistent. Early tours are about forging your own path and creating a demand for the next tour(s). You start small for a week or so to get your name out there and slowly lengthen the the distance you tour with each trip.
At that point, it’ll be easier to do anything as a band. The more places you take your music, the more people will want to hear it and perhaps donate to some other crowd funding project you might pursue later. But if you want to tour, you have to invest yourself into it completely. Do it yourself. It’ll pay off.