Protest The Hero Makes Label Obsolete With Fan Funded Album

Ruprect —  January 28, 2013 — 16 Comments


Everyone knows that record sales have been steadily on the decline for quite some time now.  Many bands spend their short lived careers in the shackles of debt.

The Canadian Metal group Protest The Hero have opted to pre-fund their next outing completely from fan based donations. What’s particularly interesting about this is that they operate on a much smaller scale than other groups who have implemented similar tactics, and yet within the first day of taking donations they exceeded their goal of $125,000.

Could this really be a viable option for “working class” bands looking ahead? Check out the link here to see their promo for this operation. I’m willing to bet that by the time this article is published they will have pushed WAY beyond their initial goal.


Note: Brandon forced me to use the over bearing title.



Ruprect once went carless to chase his guitar tone obsession. This same mindless pursuit of tone has led him to an equally brilliant chase of mega recording glory. He assists Brandon Drury, the super human who runs RecordingReview, and when Ruprect shakes or rolls over Brandon allows him to give his opinion to the world.

16 responses to Protest The Hero Makes Label Obsolete With Fan Funded Album

  1. I still think it’s a long battle before this can become standard procedure for bands. It seems this only works for bands who have already used labels as a catapult to get to where they are. It will be nice when bands can completely bypass the label thing from the beginning. Not that it can’t happen now, but I think it’s hard to do.

  2. It seems this only works for bands who have already used labels as a catapult to get to where they are.

    Yeah, that’s the one major shortcoming I see. Protest The Hero needed a label to be Protest The Hero and not “Come check out my Facebook page, guys!”

    The minor shortcoming I’m interested in is after 32 post-label bands use this technique, will the novelty of giving dwindle? This video was well-done and it does illustrate the situation well. However, in 2 years will such a technique be generating blogs like this one. I doubt it.

    Either way, this band just made enough cash to record at an insanely expensive studio (I presume it’s expensive) and still pay each member of the band an Burger King assistant manager salary without playing a gig. THAT is cool.

    Proof of concept is worth something, but I foresee the South Park episode where all the bands are asking for, “Change? Change?” and I don’t mean an Obama poster.


  3. “It seems this only works for bands who have already used labels as a catapult to get to where they are.”
    I’m not so sure about that – some friends of mine ran a fundit campaign 2 years ago and raised €5000 to go record their album in Black Box in France (once home to Iain Burgess until he passed away). I know that’s on a much smaller scale than the amount PTH are trying to raise, but it still shows it can be done. And they didn’t have much of a label push behind them (apart from a pretty small indy label here in Ireland).
    This of course begs the question: what the hell do PTH need $125000 for?! Are they getting CLA to mix it maybe?

  4. Do you want to hear something totally absurd. This video made by my fellow Canadians can’t even be played in Canada!! I just clicked on it to play it and got some crazy message about it not being available due to liscensing…..friggin crazy!!!!

  5. I heard about this from a band I’m recording in a couple weeks. It’s definitely getting people excited. I’m releasing a single this week for my own band and we are going the “download by donation” route so people can pay whatever they want for the songs (even if that means paying nothing).

    Some of the guys met Dave Grohl in Toronto a while back and he told them the key to success these days is viral internet marketing – if you can do something different and exciting you will make it. Sounds like PTH definitely figured out a good one.

  6. John Schlitt already did this last year. See John Schlitt ‘The Greater Cause’. He offered perks for higher donation amounts. Killer cd IMO.

  7. The surest way for a band to gain popularity and recognition is I think the same traditional method that’s been used forever: Gigs, gigs, and more gigs… and gigs at all the right places.
    So many bands today think all they need to do is make a nice, slick sounding album, upload it on the internet for people purchase, and hello fame and fortune.

  8. This is nothing new or surprising, and as Brandon says, when a band ‘breaks’ it using nothing but fan funding and social media THEN it’ll be time to write a blog article.

    PTH formed in 99, releasing their debut record around 2001/2002, and benefited from label support through the development stages of their career. During that time they were fortunate to not suffer from the current drought of physical sales and rampant piracy; they also undoubtedly had a strong, supportive fanbase early on due to label support, touring and promotion. They reaped the benefits from the 70-year-strong traditional label/distribution/promotion/broadcast matrix.

    Sure, they may not have had $260,000 upfront capital (as of 29th of January) to spend immediately but I bet their labels and the larger infrastructure supporting them effectively fronted just as much, if not more, to produce, distribute, market and retail their albums over the years — with no guarantee of success for the label or requirement for the band to repay any advances. You hear bands complain that they’re earning so little from sales, but you never hear them then saying “oh but we won’t pay any interest on the advance the label’s given us – and they spent five grand just pressing the album and currently have a huge liability in stock sitting in the warehouse ready to ship to stores”.

    For indie labels, releasing an album from a new artist (or even some established artists) these days is almost like betting the farm. (Or at least, a couple of fields, the barn and one of the tractors – I should know, I work at one.) The days of huge advances upfront are gone because artists stopped submitting through the label process, and many fans stopped buying music. The big labels would give advances to new artists through the A&R process, with the knowledge that 10% or 15% (if lucky) would recoup – ultimately subsidising the endless gamble by the label to discover and develop new artists. Millions of dollars are written off by labels as part of the A&R process, have you ever heard of a label sending bailiffs round to unrecouped artists to get their money back?

    Just this week I was reading about how Led Zeppelin were advanced a groundbreaking six figure advance by Atlantic when they first signed, and you don’t even want to know how much Madonna demanded when she did her most recent ten-year $120 million deal. Why so high? Aside from the crazy advances for new albums, because her team are savvy negotiators, they understand the business aspects of the contract to negotiate the contract. Naive musicians thinking that royalties are calculated on 100% of gross are the reason for so many complaints about the music industry.

    What I find a little distasteful is the seeming lack of respect for their former labels shown by Protest the Hero, it lacks tact. The first thing on their indiegogo page?

    Protest the Hero NEW ALBUM
    We have completed all of our obligations to record labels. It’s time to go it alone and take control of our careers. It’s now or never!

    They were in control of their careers when they chose to sign to their first label… And their second label… They inked the contracts. They agreed to the terms. If they were unhappy with them, they should have bartered harder. Fundamentally all labels are businesses, they can’t survive on good intentions but some artists have real problems understanding the dichotomy between their utopian vision of fame and success… And keeping the lights on and bills paid at the label whilst they fund production, release, promotion and distribution of their creative works with no promise of a return on their investment.

    I have little sympathy for artists who now decry labels as the root cause of all their problems — although the Internet lets new artists neatly circumvent the label model entirely, the whole system always acted as a filter for talent and quality. Some deals were terrible and some labels exploited talent but there are artists who’ve abused the support of labels to leapfrog themselves into circumstances where they go self-published using the foundation of label support and fan base to bolster their subsequent independent career.

    And the other problem? Although we can all hear excellent music in a couple of clicks, nowadays we’re awash with shit music. This really peaked with MySpace and it’s not improved much since then; the good artists struggle to get heard amongst the noise unless they strike it lucky by being ‘on trend’ and get heard by an A&R guy at a label with some money left.

    And the labels? Well, they’ve almost all disappeared because there’s no point running your business when artists consider it fine to do it all themselves… Then wonder why they’re not building their careers three years later or earning enough to get by from digital sales. The most hilarious thing is when we receive fully-finished, commercially replicated CDs from artists who all say in their cover letters that they’re looking “to take their career/music/project to the next level” and are looking for label support. What’s wrong, didn’t controlling your own career without the shackles of a label work out so well?

    I’m really cynical about the whole crowdfunded-DIY-rosetinted-selfreleased-utopia some people are proclaiming as the new music economy. Labels need to evolve, and the good ones are, but artists need to accept that being on a label is still an exceptionally useful (and often necessary) thing to do, and there are things a label has experience and knowledge in – and can support their artists as a result. The industry as a whole is still largely geared towards the established label-distribution-publishing setup. It’s no coincidence that the biggest radio stations in the UK still only playlist about 5% truly indie music, with the other 40 or so songs all coming from the majors and affiliated ‘indie’ labels. (This probably holds true for the US too.)

  9. Ginger Wildheart has been doing this for the last year or so and has funded 2 large projects through Similarly to these guys though, he is a major and indie label refugee. I hope that the example being made by artists like this encourages unknowns to at least try it out but without the pre-existing fan base it will be bloody difficult.

  10. Here’s another way of getting funding for your project.

  11. As a long time fan of pth, I was super excited to see how well this model worked for them. They have now more than doubled what they originally asked for!! The best part is that they will be transparent and document what they spend all that money on.
    While I agree that it has greatly helped them in this pursuit to have the name recognition via their tenure with a lable, I also have friends in a two different “local” bands that have had success using this model to fund their studio time. Granted, both bands asked for less than $10,000, but they also have significantly less fans. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops.

  12. Mindless Self Indulgence did this as well.
    But they said: “We are not even gonna release the album if we don’t reach the goal. I don’t remember how much it was, but they reached it easily.”

    It’s a cool method where the fan invests.
    But i can see working only with a proper investment in promotion.
    I mean who invests in the lonely cat sitting at night at the river shore, singing a beautiful song that no one hears?

  13. More power to them. I don’t know who they are but they must have a strong fan base that love what they do.
    Public Television has been collecting donations from fans and funds from goverment for years.

    My fans would like to get paid to come to my shows.

  14. I think every once in awhile, something comes along to spark something bigger !!! Something like this may not be the be all end all, but, it might be the spark that starts bands and artists really pushing the envelope of finding ways to avoid the labels and the constraints of that way of doing business. But, ultimately, it will still come down to fans, and whether or not they get on board. If the people can be convinced that the labels really are scumbags, and should just go away and sell products as products, and not music as products, then we will see a permanent shift away from labels.

  15. I am not sure how I feel about this. I look at it as another form of promotion for an upcoming album and the band. It is presales for the next project plus promotion. I know it works great for bands that have already had the record company push, and friends bands have funded projects and a tshirt company. I am just not comfortable yet with it for some reason. We have done OK on our own and turned down a not so great record contract with no advance money built in. Most people could give a crap what record company somebody is on. They hear a song or see a video and do not think about why they hear it, like because of promotion or pay offs. They just hear it and download it cause they like it or think it is cool, not cause everything put out by Rise records is great and the have to buy it or they will die.

    I disagree about the playing shows being the number one tool for popularity. A video is Number one. I have 1500 views a day for the last year. That is why I sell. “The right gigs” people will say. There are no right gigs. Yes If I opened for Blink 182 with no other openers and they were late and terrible that is the right gig. I would look great and get noticed by 20,000 people. A video is working for you every day.

    Just wait Toms shoes. Cool with hipsters, donate shoes everytime someone buys. My future so called nonprofit record company will pay me a nice salary, and donate 50% of the after expenses money to food banks. Don’t steal this guys. Food Bank Record – first compilation release Will Play for Food. Shows 5 and 5, five bucks for a ticket plus five cans of food. No food 12 bucks. Wait til you see the merch. I hear people everywhere opening their wallets, got to go and go to sleep. I suck at sleeping lately.

  16. It’s pretty interesting to see all these artists trying new, creative ways to continue to fund their career.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see some popular ‘youtube’ musicians start trying to raise capital this way. Granted on a much smaller scale.

    Ps. I’d never heard of PTH before, I like em. The lead singer sounds like a punk version of Axl R. (In a good way)

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