Still, they’re not just asking the denizens of the web to purchase them a vehicle — as a teen would ask his parents — in return for wheels they’re willing to serve up an original song every day from the road.
“We really kind of felt like we were at this point where, to get to the next level of whatever, we needed to leave New York and specifically try to get to SXSW and play shows along the way,” says drummer/ songwriter Mike DiSanto of the band’s so-called “Vantasy.”
Inspired by the success of a Kickstarter campaign launched to rebuild Brooklyn DIY venue Silent Barn (winner of the Village Voice award for Best Kickstarter Campaign), the band took to the crowdfunding site to call upon the masses for aid.
The tricky part, according to DiSanto, was coming up with an appropriate award for potential backers. For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s basically a fundraising platform where people propose a project and a budget for that project. Backers are usually rewarded with various goods for donating money, and those rewards often increase in value when someone donates more money. The person who launched the project doesn’t collect any money unless they meet or exceed their fundraising goal in a certain period of time.
The issue with raising money on Kickstarter, however, is cutting through the clutter and presenting an original enough project that people will want to fund it. Music projects are particularly popular; in 2011, users pledged $32 million to film projects (the most popular category) and $19 million to music. That’s pledged — not collected, by the way. Some bands have managed to rake in the cash for their projects; YouTube-born singer/songwriter Julia Nunes raised more than $75,000 to fund her upcoming album, Settle Down. Others get lost in the shuffle.
Spanish Prisoners’ solution to the overcrowding problem was creating a unique reward for contributing cash to the van fund: All users who pledge $20 or more to the project will be subscribed to the band’s “Van Song” project, wherein the Spanish Prisoners will record a new song each day on the road to SXSW and deliver it to donors.
“We’re in the touring mindset, but we’re also trying to look for some new ideas,” says DiSanto. “We’re going to try to come up with songs that might end up making it onto the next album. It’ll be as though we’re in our rooms demoing songs for the next album, but we’ll be on tour. It will be influenced by the day’s events.”
The notion of laying out their entire process on the web and allowing fans to follow along with their musical journey (pun wholly intended) is pretty appropriate for the Spanish Prisoners, who released their first album, Gold Fools, via Bandcamp. (They also nabbed a spot on NPR’s list of the top Bandcamp albums of 2011.)
“[The web] has been good for us, because that’s really — at this point in our career — the best way to get out in front of people,” DiSanto says.
Right now, they’re about $1,700 into their campaign, with a little more than $3,000 and a little less than 30 days to go. “To be totally candid, the bulk of the early donations come from family members,” DiSanto says. The band is confident, however, that their rolling recording studio will get the project “out in front of people.” If not, guys, there’s always the bus.