Proponents For Change – Allegaeon Lift The Lid On The Real Life Of Touring
21st April 2017, 13:00
Posted by Tristan
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The hardships of being a band are all too familiar a story in the world of Metal. Almost expected to bare the brunt of it, young bands find it incredibly hard not only to to tour but to actually be able to make a living in the modern day. Making the idea of “breaking through” an ideal that can sometimes not even be a possibility. Thinking laterally, one Tim Charles of Ne Obliviscaris may have the answer all bands are searching for. Hailing from Australia and on the indie label Season of Mist the band were suffering the financial woes of being a band in 2016 / 2017. Launching the idea of Patreon, Charles thought up the idea of a true engagement with fans. Understanding their needs and the band’s both parties work together in ensuring both coexist peacefully. However before that the band have returned from their most recent of travels. 

We just got back from 70,000 Tons of Metal, which was completely unexpected and very short notice. We call it Boat SARS hahaha! When you’re in a confined space, just like on tour with three thousand other people, as soon as you’re out of that environment everybody gets sick haha! I’m dealing with that right now! That was an awesome experience. You get to hang out with people from all over the world that love Metal. 

Everybody plays two sets. Our first set, we played at 5:30am which people stayed up for! I think we had about 100 – 150 people who stayed up or woke up early to watch us! Then the second set we overloaded the venue and they were moshing out in the hallway of the cruise ship.

However this hard graft wasn’t for nothing. First being introduced to Allegaeon through their 2012 release Formshifter, immediately there was something not quite in the leagues of ordinary the band had to offer. Aside from the intimidating technicality put forward the idea of the songwriting and the craftmanship behind it was one inspiring awe. Since then the band have unveiled two ripping albums, not getting the attention they deserve I might add, leading to their status as the underdog of Metal Blade. Celebrating their thirty fifth anniversary this year the company put together a tour featuring some of its homegrown big hitters in the form of Whitechapel, Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore and Allegaeon.

It’s incredibly humbling and it feels really, really good. We’ve been working really hard on it. It almost feels like a reward for all of the work that we have been putting in. Cattle Decap has been a major influence on us, the longevity of that band has been completely awesome. The amount of respect we have for everyone on this tour is pretty awesome. I think we’re really trying to go out and be seen as peers with people, that we belong there! Because we really haven’t done that many support slots and this is an important one for us.

We don’t really know. Right now we’re in talks with trying to go to Europe. September is being thrown around. We’ve had this discussion many times haha! Our hopes aren’t too up right now but we’re trying our damnedest to get there on this record. It’s been four Records. This is my ten year anniversary being in this band. The UK is a second for me, my dad is from London so to go to the UK at least would be a dream come true for me to play. To share my music with a country that is very important to me would be awesome!

We knew that Cory was quitting because he couldn’t afford to do it anymore. It was getting really close that way for Riley too and you know these are guys that we value in this band! What they bring to this band is incalculable. We tried doing a lot of other things. We tried to get a business loan but we got turned down for it. We were kind of getting buried in debt. We really needed to do something. Completely drastic to try to save what we have! There was a lot of misinformation about what we did. It wasn’t like the end of the band as we know it. I’m never going to stop doing Allegaeon this is what I spent my whole life working on.
We had to do something to try and stem that off. We saw a TED talks thing? Tim Charles from Ne Obliviscaris presented his whole Patreon business plan in a town meeting where he explained it. Some of the things, we as a metal community have just gotten used to. The suffering aspect being a metal musician has. The whole mentality that this is just how it is. We’re not that highly thought of in the vast scheme of music. It’s become a suffering in the right of passage.

Of course there are arguments that bands are in need of this road “initiation” of sorts. Understanding the ropes of being a touring band, particularly in the smaller spectrum of Metal bands, it is incredibly tough to make ends meet, let alone look at actually being able to profit off of the band that you are in. Expanding on the Patreon campaign Greg assures us that it doesn’t have to be and most importantly shouldn’t have to be this level of hardship for a modern day touring band.

There is something to be said for it. It definitely builds character. It almost came off this kind of sick joke that this is just how we are expected to live. Living on McDonald’s every day. Your health suffers, your relationships at home suffer. Ultimately you’re doing it because you love it. You don’t give a shit about the money until you’re having a hard time living. You have to take care of your priorities. Seeing that thing from Ne Obliviscaris, we did the maths and I earn less than 3 cents a day doing Allegaeon. Sweatshop workers make more! They have a place to live as well! I know that’s a horrible likening to it. I’m not a sweat shop worker I love doing this. It came down to self worth, saying “Hey man, I work really hard at this.” 

Having heard the word of Patreon being thrown around, it stems from the brainchild of one Tim Charles of Ne Obliviscaris. Finding themselves in a similar situation to the boys in Allegaeon the band were beginning to question whether or not they would be a viable source of income. Taking things back to the simplest form of communication, simply put Patreon is the fans actually enabling a band to remain viable. Various different monthly contributions amount to various different exclusive perks. Ranging from exclusive updates with the band to always having a ticket to their show when the band is in town. The perks may differ from band to band but the principle is unifying.

The Patreon thing, when you boil it down it’s just really a modern day fan club. People that invest in the band, they get rewards and early access to things. We were very transparent on where it’s going to. It’s going to help us continue to survive and do this. A lot of people didn’t like that. A lot of people thought that it was a very entitlement attitude. If you’re not familiar with the band and you’re not familiar with our personalities then I can totally understand why it came off the way it did. It took on a life of its own from there and got really nasty. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. There was a lot of “Allegaeon hold their fans hostage!” completely horrible things. People trying to get clicks for their magazine. It has completely made our lives less stressful so that we have been able to go and do things. It’s enabled us to go, whatever tour comes down the pipe “Yes. We will do it” whereas before it was thinking well I don’t know. We’ve just come back from tour. I have to save up before we go out and do another one. Now it’s let’s go play to these people that want to see us. As hard of a trial it has been in the media. It’s been worth it in every sense of the word and we are incredibly grateful to the people who help us out on a monthly basis.

Perhaps not the smartest way to market themselves, for those who are not aware, the boys in Allegaeon have a wicked sense of humour. Bringing this into their Patreon proposal of course shows how the band really are but also had the backfiring notion of causing some pretty heated web headlines. Out for clickbait, zines posted the likes of “Allegaeon Just Want Your Money” to incite emotion towards something that was pretty obvious to everyone who watched the video. Particularly as the band reel off the stats of what it costs alone to fund even a tour. Making the very idea of touring a gamble when you don’t know if you’re even going to break even.

The way the crowd funding thing works, it’s a very short term thing. Short term, it only helps you in the short term. The key is to give back as much as you can to the people who are helping you out. That’s the way. Metal Blade said that they think that we took a bullet for a lot of bands. Bands will see this as a survival tool for the future. They’re saying we’re suffering so why don’t you have to suffer? My response to them is “You didn’t have to suffer.”

To be honest nothing else has changed apart from we don’t have to worry about paying rent. Still living on McDonalds haha! We’re still living in a van, no one is getting hotels… nothing has really changed. Other than the mental stress of how are we going to do this. It’s really just paying off debts, being way in over our head. Everybody that I have forwarded that video to the other bands are like, we should do this. I think really once you see the business plan and the way that Tim Charles presented it, it makes a lot of sense.
The people that get upset at it, they were probably never going to help us in the first place! I mean you’re pissed but it doesn’t really affect you or it doesn’t really affect me in any way. You’re giving fans more power than they have ever had before. They have more of a say in the staying power of a band. In the past when it was based on record sales and you had the record company that was going to give you tour support and you’re getting royalties and such. 
My royalty cheques I think has been about 500 bucks. That would pay one month of rent over ten years. It doesn’t transfer. It’s not a steady influx of income. I supplement it, I teach. I teach at a couple of places, I do some production work…That whole, “Get a job!” Dude, I’ve got like three.  We’re going to have to retool a lot of thoughts. Based on the reality of where everyone is and there is a lot of a sense of entitlement that music should be free. It’s not free to produce, it’s not free to create but it should be free.
It does take a toll! I’m not saying that I want to be a rockstar and have solid gold plated toilets or some shit but it would be nice to not have to worry about how I’m going to live for the next month.

Despite sounding as though this new idea might be scaring record labels, given the idea that fans will have a direct interaction with the band themselves, instead after reaching out to Metal Blade, the company offered its unconditional support. Even drumming up ideas that could support the band. Presenting a new and importantly unique experience for each and every fan. Something hardly expected and could even be an inkling into just what the situation is like for record labels. 

Metal Blade was 100% supportive and has been completely awesome about the whole thing. They were saying maybe we could press a special 7″ for the Patreon people before release. They’re completely supportive because the longer that their bands can stay around and be healthy, the better it is for their business! Their business is to make money off the record sales. The old school  “yeah we’ll give you tour support and all that” that’s all nice but that’s not really in their job description. Their money is made through music sales and record sales so they’re not going to be making any money if their bands are breaking up because it’s just too hard! If we can help ourselves by finding people that really want us to be around and really care for the band then they are going to try and do everything they can to help.

Allegaeon

Right now we’re in talks with Metal Blade for releasing an EP for them. It was going to be a covers EP. I talked to them about releasing “Animate” to just the Patreon people which was originally their idea. They were saying how would you feel about going in and recording a couple more other covers with the Allegaeon spin on it and then we would do an EP that we would release just for the Patreon people and eventually it would trickle out. There was some Dimmu thrown around and there were some really hardcore Metal bands and I kind of said “No, I don’t want to do that.” They’re already Metal you know what I mean? The Allegaeon spin on it I don’t think would make it that much more special than it already is so they’re all going to be out of the box things that you wouldn’t normally get. It’s going to sound like us but it’s definitely going to be songs that you would not expect us to do.

Setting the record straight, Allegaeon are a band simply like every other. Striving to make ends meet, the difficulty of being a touring band is now more prominent than ever. However it seems that help doesn’t seem a distant and fast fading hope. With both fans and record labels jumping on the idea of creating a unique experience that sustains the band just as much as it does the fans, many more could well be following in Allegaeon’s footsteps in the coming months making the band truly a proponent for change. 

Allegaeon’s brand new album Proponent of Sentience is out now via Metal Blade. Here is a link to their Patreon page.