Where Music Meets Travel: An Interview with Brandon Phillips from The Architects

Brandon Phillips, The Architects

Brandon Phillips, of The Architects

Today on GoAbroad we bring you another interview with a musician who possesses a passion for travel. And not just travel, but online fundraising for meaningful travel experiences. See what GoAbroad Rep and Fund My Travel Director, Victoria Mita, has to offer readers today….

Still buzzing with excitement from the Frank Turner: Where Music Meets Travel piece, I was scrolling through his ‘tweet feed’ for some updates when the likes of something which, surely I could have only dreamed up, caught my eye. From one click to another, I discovered that another historically creative band, was sharing an Indiegogo campaign.

This was particularly interesting to me because I recently earned a position, directing another special, crowd-funding site, one specifically made for travel. My initial reaction question was, “What would an already well established band be creating an online fundraiser for?” I was so used to seeing individuals or organization groups make these things, not notable musicians…

Clicking right along, I soon figured out what they were doing and I was utterly inspired by their project’s individuality. Despite not knowing much of their music, I was immediately drawn into all of the updates, incentives and explanations on their campaign page. I quickly became a fan as I “got to know” the band and their project better. I donated a little something for the effort, as I appreciated the concept. Then I began following their social media channels for updates over the next month.

Concurrently, while I was doing more of my own research about online fundraising, I was amazed not only by the amount of times the band would post up about their campaign but also by how inclined I was to keep checking in and even to share their campaign out to my own network. By this point I was emotionally invested too. I really wanted to see them succeed! With two of my biggest passions joined, music and fundraising, I decided I had to talk to these guys…

The band I’ve been mysteriously referring to is The Architects, and lead vocalist, Brandon Phillips, kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions:

First and foremost, what made you guys think to use a crowdsourced funding site for your project, how did this all come about?

Brandon Phillips on stage, The Architects

For starters, our project by the very nature of its scope seemed to demand some new channel for funding. Border Wars is a concept album and comic book that is delivered to fans in five episodes – each episode consisting of six or so songs packaged inside a full size comic. Thus, there is an intense amount of legwork involved in the pre-production of each episode – writing scripts, writing songs, illustrations, layout design, recording, mixing, mastering, etc.

It’s also considerably more complicated and expensive to manufacture and distribute than a regular CD or LP. When you tally all that up, there is a huge disincentive for a regular record label to want to be involved no matter how cool they think the product is. Distributors are actually unnerved by the fact that the episodes of our album are not going to be the same size and shape as all other albums.

If you think that sounds ridiculous, I agree with you and it’s been our wager that fans of the band, fans of punk rock and fans of comics will agree as well. Crowdsourcing the funding was something we really agonized over as a band. There are matters of ethics and matters of ego at stake. In the end I’m very glad we opted to give crowdsourcing a fair shake because it’s been not only really useful for us as an insurgency in a zombie-industry, but it’s also been really energizing to see people react in real time to updates and tweets and the like.

It seems like it would take up a lot of time to maintain the campaign so proactively. Does all of the updating, commentary and media uploading ever become a hassle? What motivates you to keep up such consistent efforts?

I won’t lie, it is a massive time-suck having to handle all the updates and social media and so on. That said, I definitely prefer spending a few hours a day on a campaign that is verifiably raising money toward our goal, than spend those same hours trying to get my admittedly unorthodox project onto the radar of some record label big wig who has an 85% probability of blowing me off for Lakers seats.

Your campaign is unique from those on the site I work with, because FundMyTravel was made for study abroad students, volunteers and other travelers. You have a project in the works, which your donors will get something from in the end. Do you have any ideas or suggestions about ways that travelers might make their pages more creative and interesting for donors, like yours?

I’m not sure what is and is not being done in that area but it seems to me that if contributors got either a printed or a PDF travelogue that included photos, journals, report cards, etc. that they might get more of a sense of ownership over the journey they are sponsoring. That is honestly the part of this that I have the most fun with as well as the part that was intended to be more fun for fans than your typical album  – the sense that everyone who is contributing feels more ownership of this album, this band, and this campaign, than the guy or gal who just marched into Wal-Mart and picked up the new Brad Paisley album.

That person probably already likes a song or two and they’ll for sure play those songs in the car or at home, but as for the rest of the album…who knows if they ever get around to really listening to it? Will they rave to their friends about it? Maybe so. I digress. The point is, when I was a kid the bands we loved were ours and if crowdfunding is the way to bring that kind of passion back to a hopelessly over-commercial and overexposed music business, then that’s what I want to do.

The Architects

The Architects

What has been the biggest surprise for you about the experience of making and sharing this online campaign for the Border Wars Concept Album and Comic Book?

I was absolutely dumbfounded at how fast the support started pouring in. It was like walking up to the prettiest girl in school and kissing her, knowing full well that there may be a swift and hard knee to the groin in the immediate future, but instead she kissed back. Pure elation.

You’ve been quite successful with the project, with over 170 funders and reaching over half of your goal within a fairly short campaign length. It only just launched in March right? What do you think is the biggest contributing factor to this success?

It’s hard to say but, I’d like to think people are more willing to contribute because we are asking them to help us do something different.

What was the most challenging part of this campaigning process for you?

Brandon Phillips, Musician with The ArchitectsGetting over the initial trepidation that crowdfunding is like some kind of digital panhandle or grift. In hindsight I think a lot of people have that impression because there have been so many really obnoxious campaigns that seem to come with a sense of entitlement rather than a sense of ownership or collaboration or even a fair deal. Honestly, if all I were trying to fund was a CD in a jewel box, I’d probably still feel like a bit of a hack about it. The fact that we are doing something different gives us some latitude maybe.

What has been your favorite part about the Border Wars Concept Album project, what are you most excited about going forward?

I love that we are combining narrative, illustration and music in one thing and then releasing it episodically, so my favorite part may have been when it took hold that people understood what we were doing without having to hear some crazy long sales pitch. I’m really excited to see how people react to not just that first episode arriving in the mail or digitally, but also to the second and third episodes and so on. I’m dying to know how the story and the characters and the songs affect people.

Will there be much concert traveling and promotional touring in the works for you with the first Border Wars Album release? Do you enjoy being on the road and traveling?

There is almost nothing as satisfying or rewarding than touring. I adore the road and hopefully we will be out on it for a very long time with Border Wars.

And we will look forward to hearing more and seeing you out there!

For any travelers working on their own crowd-sourced campaigns, Brandon shared some amazing tips with us:

  • Remember to do something different and dispel the notion of entitlement.
  • Invest the time and effort to make your campaign especially yours.
  • Be persistent and help your donors find a way to gain a sense of ownership in  your project.

To learn more about this project from The Architects, check out their campaign here. To see them live, visit their facebook page for tour updates here.

**This post is brought to you in part by this month’s GoAbroad Blog partner, KCP International! Looking to study and improve your Japanese abroad? Be sure to check out KCP’s programs in Tokyo!


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