White Lung and Allegaeon in Conversation Over Crowdfunding
Last Friday, White Lung vocalist Mish Barber-Way wrote an open letter for CLRVYNT taking Denver melodeath band Allegaeon to task for their Patreon crowdfunding page, dubbing the four-piece — amongst other things — "officially the laziest, most pathetic, sub-human beta males in America." After the piece was published, Allegaeon vocalist Riley McShane reached out to Barber-Way and they privately discussed the matter in detail. Eventually, both agreed to make the debate public, the results of which appear in the following interview. Although not everything is included in this article, they touched on many topics that were discussed previously on the phone.
Mish Barber-Way: Let's start the way we started on the phone. Prove me wrong. Why was crowdfunding the only option for you guys? Why am I wrong to be such a raging C-U-N-T? (Which I was, and apologize for now — but for the people who weren’t there for our long phone call, let’s go on.)
Riley McShane: Well, around the July period of time, we were looking at a real financial crisis. We had accumulated a huge amount of debt and were throwing ideas at the wall trying to figure out what the best method to get it under control was. A few ideas stuck, but our first course of action was to apply for a business loan through our personal bank. We figured that, with a season of tours coming up, we'd be able to finance that debt before the interest rate got out of control. Unfortunately, we got denied for that loan due to the individual members of Allegaeon, LLC not having stable enough credit to justify the risk involved in loaning us the $10,000 we were asking for. It's kind of a funny catch-22 in the sense that the only reason we have shitty credit as individuals is because the time we're obligated to dedicate to touring has prevented us to hold down consistent work with substantial enough income to stabilize our credit.
After we were denied the loan, we contacted our record label to ask for an advance in the form of tour support, but they were unable at the time to manage that extra finance. End of summer / early fall is a very busy time for touring bands, so I think that we were just a little bit late to the punch in asking them for the advance.
At this point, things were starting to get a little bit hairy for us. Our debt and three tours were staring us in the face, so it was back to the drawing board. Right around this time, the violinist for an Australian band Ne Obliviscaris published a video on YouTube of a TED Talk-style presentation he had given on Patreon and the potential benefits of having one as mid-to-low level touring band.
Ne Obliviscaris had started their Patreon account in the spring of 2016, but not much attention was paid to it by the media. There was a similar controversy surrounding the idea when they launched theirs, but on a bit of a smaller scale.
MBW: After you explained this to me, I still wanted to slap you, but being bound to contracts with record labels and managers really tugs at my heartstrings. I also know you love what you do and you don't want to give it up. It's your life and your choice to fix the problem you have found yourself in with the manner you all see fit. That being said, one thing that I think set off critics like me was this: All the press that I read said, "Band threatens to break up if you don't pay their salary"; this is just clickbait. Then I watched your video, and you all seemed so cheeky and unappreciative, like it was some big joke. Now, I had no prior knowledge of your personalities or the band, and just thought you all didn't want to have day jobs and wanted your fans to make sure you could get 50K a year without having to grow up. And I had been on an airplane all day, had some wine, and you know ... wrote that thing. I will definitely admit I was projecting. And for that, I apologize.
RM: You know, from that perspective, I totally understand your frustration as a hard-working musician. It's unfortunate that the situation was extrapolated in such a negative way, but we in no way meant for the campaign video to come across that way. Allegaeon has always been a band rooted in humor and levity, so, thinking that preexisting fans were going to comprise the bulk of the people viewing that video. We tried to keep a light-hearted demeanor intact. In retrospect, presenting such a serious issue in such a comedic light was probably not the best idea, and for that we have been chastised.
MBW: Totally. And in retrospect, using the descriptor "dickless" was probably too harsh. I was writing in the rudest fashion possible.
RM: Y'know, there is so much unnecessary beef that gets started on the internet. When I saw that the end of your article offered a civilized route to an open discourse on the topic, I had to jump at the bit. And you were way more than receptive to hearing me out, and kind about it to boot. I truly appreciate your maintenance of an open mind on the subject, as well as your understanding of my explanation.
MBW: I respect you so much for that, which is why I put it out there. I think we all should debate, discuss! I don't think I'm right about everything. There's no shame in being wrong. No one is willing to talk to people they think they oppose. They just hide behind a screen. I had no idea this stupid thing would even reach you all, and I should have known it would go beyond a few Facebook walls, but I was being incredibly naive. You know that us being nice is gonna make the trolls mad. You should probably have started by calling me a "nasty woman.”
RM: "This Patreon ... it's gonna be great. It's gonna be a great Patreon and it's gonna be huge. Doing this ... It's a huge deal and we are going to take this internet to huge, great places with it." Better? Really, though, I'm glad that we could talk about this the way we have. It's a rarity to settle things like this anymore.
MBW: One thing that came up was that people called me a hypocrite for scolding you when my band has received Factor grants. Factor grants are artist grants that Canadian musicians can apply for once they meet a certain criteria. What Americans don't understand is that Factor grants are funded by private radio licenses; in other words, the people who profit from Canadian music. That money is there for Canadian artists to apply for. They do not fund our career or subsidize having to work side jobs. Furthermore, I pay taxes in both Canada and America. My Canadian taxes are astronomically higher than what I do pay in America. I will continue to pay the Canadian government out as long as the band exists, even though I do not live in that country. Essentially, I'm paying back my "loan." I don't think people realize that Canadian "funding" is by no means just free money.
RM: Respectfully disagree, but OK. The way I see it, applying for a Factor grant and starting a Patreon are one and the same. Both, stated simply, are the utilization of the tools provided to us as musicians to support ourselves in the business we have chosen.
You did, however, bring up an interesting point. I've seen a lot of statements along the lines of "asking for handouts" or "getting our fans money for free." That is the last thing we want. We know that everyone works hard for their money, and if they choose to subscribe to Allegaeon's Patreon with some of that money, we want to do everything we can to make sure that they get a service or product from us equal to the rate at which they have subscribed.
MBW: Which is basically what we would have called in the '90s a “fan club.”
RM: Pretty much! Had we marketed it as such, maybe we could have avoided a lot of this backlash. But we wanted to be honest and straightforward with our preexisting fans about our financial situation and the reasoning behind starting this campaign. Turns out that may have not been the best idea, or at least our presentation of said information may have not been executed as professionally as possible, but keeping the people that support us out of the dark is something we all value.
MBW: I'm trying to figure out why crowdfunding makes people annoyed. I know you guys weren't exactly gung ho to do it.
RM: Not at all. It was definitely a last resort. I think that the negative connotation of crowdfunding comes from the oversaturation of it being used to frivolous ends. While our usage of it being deemed frivolous is debatable, it doesn't quite compare to examples like, "Hey everyone, I crashed my car and got a DUI. Help me pay off all these expenses because you're my friends."
MBW: I guess the bottom line is that, if you put yourself out there, the critics will bite. As we both know.
RM: Oh yeah. We in no way expected to come out of this unscathed by the media, but some of the things being said about us are completely unfounded, or in some cases flat-out lies.
MBW: But I could also make the argument that your crowdfunding is the same as the DUI guy because it's about life choices and not uncontrollable circumstances. Your band isn't in trouble because of a hurricane. What would you argue to that?
RM: I understand that perspective, and that's why we opted for the subscription-based model of crowdfunding where we can offer fans something in return, as opposed to a Kickstarter or GoFundMe where we would have been asking for a one-time lump sum to get us out of debt. Now THAT would have been asking for a handout. Our addressing of our financial situation was not meant to be used as leverage or a "threat to break up," but simply a statement of the fact that we are struggling hard to stay afloat and that the conventional methods of support, while greatly appreciated, have not been enough to keep us out of debt.
MBW: I understand that now. But you get how it was portrayed in the media. Now, to close off, let's address the outside opinions. Because ever since I let my rage fly, the metal world has had stuff to say on behalf of both of us. I dished out some mean talk, so I have to take it. However, what I think it is funny is that all these other think-pieces spawn as reactions to what your band did, what myself and others wrote in response, yet you and I have already resolved our issues. They have no idea we had talked or reconciled and found common ground amongst our differences. Just like I had no idea of your intentions, nor did anyone else who criticized your band. So, what’s the lesson?
RM: The lesson, I think, is that if you give someone the benefit of the doubt and both parties are able to converse as mature adults, you can turn a field of shit into a field of flowers. Also, smoke crack and hail Satan.
MBW: I could not agree more. Minus the crack. Thank you, Riley.
RM: Thank you, Mish.