British progressive rock band Marillion are a pioneer in crowdfunding for music and are once again looking to their fans for help, this time to act as proxy insurance underwriters for their upcoming tour .
Long before Radiohead used crowdfunding to release 2007s In the rainbows, Marillion was innovating here. In 1997, they asked fans to help them organize a North American tour, and then in 2001, since they did not have a record company contract, they invited fans to pre-order their next album, Anoraknophobia, using the money from these advance orders to pay for registration and manufacturing.
Live music faces a crisis of confidence from Covid. No insurance company will allow tours to purchase a policy that will cover them in the event of cancellation due to the pandemic. What is called “communicable disease coverage” excludes the coronavirus and its variants. This means that the artists, who all depend heavily on live income, have to take a huge bet down the road, because if any of the band or team members are positive for Covid, the whole operation comes to a halt. and they can lose astounding results. sums of money.
There are some measures in place to help, but they don’t go any further. In the UK, for example, there is a new government-backed insurance scheme with a budget of £ 750million ($ 1 billion) to cover cancellation costs if government measures Covid ( so-called UK Civil Authority restrictions) mean an event, such as a music festival, cannot legally take place. The most obvious example is if an area, or even the whole country, enters new lockdown restrictions and public gatherings are banned.
The UK Government’s Live Events Reinsurance Program offers a lifeline to events, but not to individual tours. That’s what underlies Marillion’s move here before heading off on their 10-date The Light At The End Of The Tunnel UK tour in November.
The band say they have already made an initial investment of £ 150,000 ($ 204,000) in the tour and could risk losing everything – and more – if even a member of the band or their crew were positive for Covid. “The tour would be canceled, but the group would have to honor payments for lighting, trucks, tour buses and crew,” they said on their website. “It would be on top of not receiving any money for the remaining concerts that had not been played.”
Their solution is to set up a program called Lightsavers where donations from fans can provide a financial buffer. “We ask our fans to pledge money which will be kept in escrow and if everything goes without Covid, it will be returned to them at the end of the tour”, explains Lucy Jordache, the group’s manager, on the blog about it. . “But if we have to cancel, then their money will be used to pay for the inevitable expenses of the group.”
All fans who donate, whether or not the money is needed for the band, will receive rewards determined by the size of their financial commitment, such as appearing their name on the tour schedule or downloading a spectacle to visit it. There are a number of pledge levels, ranging from £ 25 ($ 34) to £ 250 ($ 340), with the first two levels already sold out.
The fallout from last year’s canceled events is still being felt. SXSW is now suing the Federal Insurance Company for failing to cover legal costs relating to an ongoing class action lawsuit. He is being sued by attendees seeking refunds following the cancellation of last year’s event in Austin, Texas. SXSW said it purchased a million dollar policy from the company in 2019, but was told that policy did not cover participant reimbursements.
The ignominious and damaging collapse of PledgeMusic in 2019 shows just how tricky and risky crowdfunding can be, whereby, even if a project appears to be fully funded, other factors can cause it to collapse, leaving fans and fans alike. acting badly out of pocket.
Marillion has a solid background in crowdfunding and an incredibly loyal following who understand how it all works. Without a government safety net for their tour, they out of necessity found an alternative.
But not all bands are able to turn to fans to help them buy an entire tour. The acts which undoubtedly need it the most are left with few alternatives: do not book any visits at all; book a visit and pray that no one tests positive for Covid; or ask fans, in case of cancellation, to keep their tickets for a postponed date and not to request a refund from the ticketing company.
Neither option is ideal.
“It’s like Radiohead again – a great solution once you’ve built a massive fanbase but still no solution for 99% of bands and artists”, so one independent artist put it to me. said about Lightsavers. “It’s great that Marillion is highlighting the finances of it all, but the rest of us are screwed.”