Fan-Financed Tours, Albums: A Good Thing?

by Michael Popke

The so-called “post-modern” rock quartet Sun Domingo may not boast the same name recognition as Marillion and Spock’s Beard. But like its progressive brethren, this Atlanta band — which played support at the first North American Marillion Weekend in Montreal in 2009 — is counting on the legions of new fans it has made in the past few years to help finance its future.

I enjoyed Sun Domingo’s Live in Montreal-Marillion Weekend 09 CD so much (like all good live albums, it crescendos with a series of magical moments) that I felt compelled to join the band’s mailing list. Thus, I received an announcement Monday about an upcoming tour:

“The band will be touring in 2011 to support the album, but we need our fans help! We are hoping to get our fans involved in our touring process. In short, it is not cheap to fly 4 guys and equipment from the US to Europe and travel around for a month. So we are asking our fans to give what they can towards our tour in exchange for some really cool SD gifts!”

Then there is a link to a page explaining that Sun Domingo hopes to raise $5,000 in one month, “so in March we can go back on the road … through Europe and America.” Incentive packages include signed tour posters, CDs and concert tickets.

Sun Domingo will be touring in support of Songs for End Times, slated to drop in March on Holland’s Glassville Records — a label founded by Rob Palmen, who manages Riverside, Pineapple Thief, Paatos and the Flower Kings. What’s more, Adrian Belew plays guitar on “For Only You,” a track on the forthcoming album.

The practice of soliciting financial support from fans is bound to become more common, as bands (especially ones with cult but not mainstream followings) find it increasingly challenging to bring their music to their fans — be it live or through new recordings. Marillion has done this for years in the form of album pre-orders before a single note of music has been recorded, and Spock’s Beard did the same thing for its best post-Neal Morse album, last year’s X.

Sure, we can lament this bleak turn of events and long for the good ol’ days of seemingly endless label support and monster record sales. But consider the even bleaker alternative.

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