SAPVoice: The Digital Transformation Of A Progressive Heavy Metal Band

From the myriad business and ethical questions of streaming music to pondering if rock music is finally dead, it’s not exactly breaking news that the music industry is rife with uncertainty — especially if you’re a young heavy metal band just looking to make a respectable living.

Or so I thought.

Formed in 2003, progressive heavy metal band Ne Obliviscaris (Latin term for ‘Forget Not’) creates music that is at times chaotic, but also melodic, progressive and forward thinking. And they are embracing tools of the digital age to circumvent an industry they feel is not designed to treat artists fairly.

According to the band’s violinist and clean vocalist Tim Charles, Ne Obliviscaris’ eclectic style is inspired by many different sources — Opeth, Devin Townsend and Dream Theater; to Sigur Ros, Explosions In The Sky and Radiohead; to classical composers such as Arvo Part, Mahler and Shostakovich; or Jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Jean-Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli.

“I firmly believe there is great music in every genre so I always try to listen widely and absorb all I can,” said Charles.

Fan engagement opens opportunities

Just as Charles and his band mates listen to many different music genres to help form their one-of-a-kind sound, they also listen very closely to their rabid fan base – and embrace tools from today’s digital age to keep fans engaged and the band financially sound.

Ne Oblivicaris’ world tour crowdfunding campaign in 2014, for example, was about forging a pact with its fans with enticing sponsorship offers like, “If you help us raise this $40,000 AUD, we’ll guarantee you get to see us perform live in these countries.” Sponsors also received two limited edition EP’s that couldn’t be purchased anywhere else.

“That combination of emotional enticement, and appealing to the fact that we needed people’s help to succeed, but also ensuring that we gave them something significant in return aside from the tour, was a key to its enormous success and us breaking the Australian record for music related crowd funding raising over $86,000 AUD,” said Charles. “It’s all about thinking creatively, thinking laterally, and not being afraid to do something that nobody else has done before.”

According to Charles, the music industry is not designed to support artists. Almost from every direction it is set up so that other people can make money off artists, sometimes in exploitive ways.

“An industry that only exists because of the music created by artists and yet is set up to pay them last, if at all, is not one we felt was just, or that was fairly renumerating the many years of work we had put in to this band,” said Charles. “As a result we decided to circumvent the system. When you don’t like the way things are being done, come up with a new way.”

Dues that pay

When Ne Obliviscaris first started planning the launch of its monthly membership initiative in early 2016, they had never heard of Patreon until one of their fans mentioned it as a suitable platform to partner with.

But when Ne Obliviscaris further researched Patreon they noticed many examples of YouTubers, or cartoonists, along with many other types of artists using their platform, but from the world of rock and heavy metal music, there was nobody.

Ne Obliviscaris decided to push ahead, based on the firm belief I had that it did not make sense that the almost 100,000 fans that follow Ne Obliviscaris on social media would allow the band to break up due to financial reasons.

“It was my belief that we just needed to provide a way for fans to more directly impact the careers of the bands they love, and as a result ‘ The Ne Obluminati ‘ was born,” said Charles.

Members of ‘The Ne Obluminati’ gain access to all sorts of things month to month depending on their membership level such as: Free tickets to shows, access to live Q&A’s with the band, tutorials, interviews where they get to ask all the questions, dinner with the band, VIP access and much more.

Charles also believes the biggest difference between the traditional way artist’s dealt with fans and how Ne Obliviscaris goes about it is their lack of ego.

“The old rock star vibe of trying to pretend that you’re better than everyone else, meant that many people looked up to artists in an almost mythical way,” said Charles. “We’ve tried make it clear that we are just normal guys with families and kids and bills to pay that like creating music, and if you enjoy our music, you need to support us in some sort of monetary way if you want to help guarantee that it’s possible for us to continue.”

Charles said it also helps to have the support of its record label, Season of Mist, who is very accommodating when it comes to allowing the band to focus on making the most of things like ‘The Ne Obluminati’ via Patreon.

“For that we are grateful as it feels like we get the best of both worlds,” said Charles.

“Urn” the new album from Ne Obliviscaris was released on October 27th. The band kicked off its North American tour on November 1 st in San Francisco and heads to Australia and New Zealand in February. Tours through Europe and Asia are also in the works.

Tour the world with me @TClark01.


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