As of January 22, 2024, the crowdfund for the “Der Zibet Tribute Album” organized by “Der Zibet Project” has been up for only three days. Despite the number of international Der Zibet and ISSAY fans increasing drastically over the last decade, out of 196 supporters, they have only sold one overseas package. So, what is going on? Why are Der Zibet’s overseas fans not supporting this project? This opinion piece will focus on what I believe was their biggest mistakes while managing this campaign, offer some thoughts on how I think they could have fixed them, give a general explanation of the events that led to this outcome, and honestly, just use this space to vent about this whole mess.

THE THIRD PERK ANNOUNCEMENT

Before the announcement of this “perk”, I can confidently say people were pretty excited to support this project. Any Der Zibet fan who got into them before 2020 can tell you in detail just how difficult it was to even find information about the band beyond the basics. If you wanted to buy their albums or make an order on their website, you had to know how to use Japanese online second-hand markets and auction websites, use a translator app, get a proxy service, pay for all the fees involved, etc.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because I want to make this point perfectly clear before we continue – Even with all of those extra loops we have to jump through, people still do it.

When I say people were ready to support this project, I mean it.

Everyone who could support them was more than willing to do so. We wanted to be part of this campaign that promised to honor Der Zibet’s music. It was also a great opportunity for us to get more Der Zibet merch, since they have had only a handful of items for sale on their website for as long as I’ve been a fan of them, and even longer.

When the organizer of “Der Zibet Tribute Project” (which I will refer to as “the organizer” from now on) tweeted that 4 of ISSAY’s stage costumes would be up for sale as a perk, they immediately got backlash from international fans, as well as a couple of Japanese fans.

This backlash consisted of a mix of confused, sad, shocked, and angry comments. I think for many people, me included, it was pretty hard to believe that this was even happening.

I am not going to get into why Japanese fans were not as vocal about it because it’s not my place to speak for them (not that I am speaking for international fans either, I am simply recounting the opinions I saw on Twitter). Whether they approved of this act or not, most of the ones I personally follow were quiet when the first costumes were announced as a perk. As the situation kept escalating (more garments being added as perks), I did see more Japanese fans who were upset about this speaking up, but like I said, I won’t get into that.

With the benefit of hindsight, and knowing what I know now (we’ll get to that in a second), my opinion is that the main issue with this announcement is that it was very badly worded.

Their announcement raised too many questions. Most importantly: “How are they going to make sure these costumes won’t end up in the hands of resellers?”, and “Did all of ISSAY’s friends get the chance to claim these items if they wanted them before the organizer picked them for this crowdfund?”.

There was also the fact that no one really thought it was necessary to sell ISSAY’s costumes in order to fund this album. I personally told the organizer this, and he acknowledged that he saw it. It just felt cheap (and insulting to the participating artists, if I’m being honest) to assume that such a tactic was necessary to reach the crowdfund’s goal.

And that’s leaving aside the feeling of “wrongness” I got just by imagining the possibility of obtaining something he wore, just because I can pay for it (hypothetically, anyway).

Hours after the announcement of the third perk, I started tweeting about it and telling the organizer that he was going to lose a lot of support if he didn’t listen to the feedback from ISSAY’s fans. I never meant that as a threat, it was a warning.

I hoped that the organizer would realize that this was a bad idea. ISSAY’s fans don’t want this album, which is supposed to be a gift for him and Der Zibet, to be funded by selling his costumes. If he’s relying on Der Zibet fans to fund his project, you would think he was going to listen, right? Well, I did.

Not only did we prefer those costumes to be handed to people who his family and friends approved of, but we also wanted, you know, Der Zibet-related perks on the Der Zibet tribute album crowdfund. At that moment, they had only announced one t-shirt that included the band’s name.

This didn’t change, because all of the perks added after the T-shirts and (what looked like) expensive jewelry were clothes ISSAY wore.

I know some people (including the organizer) fixated on the fact that we were saying they were ISSAY’s “personal belongings”, and using this as a loophole to defend themselves by explaining that they were “stage costumes”. Their other response to the backlash was to say they obtained permission from his family before putting those costumes for sale.

I would think this should be obvious, but I guess for him it wasn’t – No one thought he stole those garments. His having permission to sell them was also not a factor in whether they would find a “good” home or not.

The next point is the easiest to dismiss for people both in the business side of things and the bad actors that popped up while this was going on who only know ISSAY by name – People were hurt because we are still grieving the person who wore those clothes.

For many of his fans, ISSAY’s stage costumes are a fundamental part of the character he created when he was performing, which captivated people and made his stage presence so magnetic and fascinating to watch. We believe the capes and the perfectly tailored suits are one with The Count. Because of this, their value is too high for them to be sold this way.

Seeing things being listed for sale that he wore as far back as 40 years ago, to a suit he only got to wear a handful of times, felt like a pretty devastating slap on the face reminding us of the fact that he is gone.

All of this can be pretty inconsequential to someone who has no interest in handling such things with the gentleness and kindness we fans have treated each other for the past 5 months and a half, but let’s remember why this announcement was even written. The main reason they have a Twitter account. You want ISSAY’s fans’ money. You are on the internet doing social media promotion to ask people to support your project.

They have only sold one overseas package.

You have (unintentionally, if we want to be nice) pissed off your audience and hurt their feelings. What do you do next?

As a person who is very online and works on social media, I would have advised the organizer to make a proper statement right away explaining that the clothes were donated by his family and after consulting with his friends (assuming this was the case), they picked the pieces that do not hold any significant value for them. I would also add that any sale for ISSAY’s costumes would be heavily monitored to ensure they would go to fans (or his peers, if they wanted to support the project this way) and there was no risk of them being bought by resellers.

That’s pretty much it.

Would I have felt sad about it anyway? Probably, because I wish with all my heart the owner of those garments was still here and this whole thing was a nightmare I could wake up from. But the fact that no one else who should have those stage costumes wants them, and the assurance that they won’t go to a reseller were always ISSAY’s fans’ main concerns. So I would think that’s good enough.

Except… that argument falls apart the moment we introduce 3 additional perks, not only with ISSAY’s stage costumes (shoes and all!), but a movie costume that even the director of the movie would want to own. It would make no sense to say they asked everyone close to him who might want it, only to later use that comment as a selling point.

And why did they even want to sell so many costumes, anyway? Is this truly necessary? How much is this album going to cost??

Let’s jump back to the present for a second to analyze why this backlash got little to no reaction from the organizer, and why removing ISSAY’s costumes as perks for the crowdfund was never going to happen.

THE 5 MILLION YEN GOAL

When the crowdfund started, the question of why they wanted to put up so many stage costumes for sale was pretty much answered – The organizer set the goal for the Tribute Album at 5 Million Yen. If you add up the prices for all of the garments worn by ISSAY, they total 4.5 Million Yen. That’s 90% of their goal.

Drawing a conclusion from this information is not hard, but it would be speculation. We can’t know for sure why the organizer thought he would need such a big “cushion” for this fund. If it was indeed supposed to be only a cushion (again, I am being kind).

We don’t know the reason behind that baffling decision, but we can look at the crowdfund right now and see the facts: In just 3 days, they are way beyond the halfway point, and only 700,000 out of the 3,415,796 Million Yen he has collected so far come from the stage costumes.

I can’t imagine recruiting and organizing 40 artists for this project was an easy task. So why is it that after all that effort, the organizer still thought they would not be able to sell enough CDs? Or is it just that he wanted the project to be funded by less than 7 people who were willing to do all of the work for him?

It’s possible that he didn’t bother to come up with more Der Zibet-related perks, or even more ISSAY-related perks, because they would have production costs to account for, and his focus was on selling the items that were donated, which means 100% profit.

Just how little faith did he have in Der Zibet’s, ISSAY’s, and all of the participating artists’ fans to think that in the worst-case-scenario (assuming he was acting out of an uneducated guess, and not out of malice), their support would only amount to 10% of the goal?

I find that insinuation pretty infuriating. We’re supposed to be paying tribute to Der Zibet, right? Right??

As their fan, not only did we end up getting just one t-shirt with Der Zibet’s name, no comments from band members on the crowdfunding page, and are supposed to put up with the undignified action of seeing ISSAY’s stage costumes being sold to fund a tribute for his most important life work, but the number of CDs we were planning to buy would be completely irrelevant in the organizer’s mind to whether the campaign could hit the goal or not.

But that would only be the case if the costumes were selling like I believe he hoped they would. Only two have been sold so far. Remember what I said before, they are already at 70% of their goal, and most of the money comes from selling regular packages that include just the CD.

Why go through all this trouble? Why cause ISSAY’s fans so much anger and pain, when in the end it was not going to be needed? If he was (very secretly) hoping selling those costumes wouldn’t be necessary, why even take this risk?

There are no answers to those questions, because the only statement we got from the organizer focused on one concern no one even had.

DESPAIR AND DISAPPOINTMENT

I don’t have a nice way to wrap things up. This sucks. Plain and simple. For all of the reasons I mentioned before, and a couple more I don’t even see the point in talking about.

If the organizer wanted to have a quick and easy crowdfund with 90% of the money coming from ISSAY’s stage costumes so he wouldn’t have to worry about production costs, it’s quite honestly shit that he got so many people involved in his cunning plan. This is not a labor of love. It’s purely a business transaction.

If the organizer knew the CD would sell because he trusted the band’s fans and took into account the long career and following of the participating musicians, and still made the choice to put those costumes for sale, then he made the deliberate decision to upset ISSAY’s fans for seemingly no reason.

If the organizer cared about this album being a gift for Der Zibet, ISSAY, and all of their fans, he would have heard our pleas when we asked him to stop listing more garments for sale.

It’s impossible for me to even try to defend the actions of someone who tripped and fell so many times, and was offered as much feedback as you could ever hope for when your project depends on people’s support, only to turn a blind eye on them.

The organizer has been following any Twitter accounts that mention ISSAY’s name no matter the context or content of the tweet for months. He projected an image of someone who cares about ISSAY, who cares about this band as much as we fans do. Despite Der Zibet’s history of not having the best luck with selling their music, bad management decisions, and no overseas promotion, this person looked like someone who, at the very least, shared our love for this band, their music, and their amazing vocalist who has touched so many lives.

I don’t think his blatant disregard for the backlash would have been as baffling and hurtful if he hadn’t done that.

I am only speaking for myself when I say that maybe, it wasn’t all his fault. Maybe my feelings of grief made me more receptive to his tactics. I do wish he had been honest about his “business-like” intentions from the start, so I would know not to get my hopes up, but I also think my earnest desire for ISSAY to be properly recognized and honored as the magnificent artist he is, and for Der Zibet to be paid tribute worthily, made me less likely to think about the things that could go wrong.

In my anger, I said on Twitter that I wished this organizer’s project would fail. I don’t feel that way anymore. I hope this project is funded without sacrificing more of ISSAY’s costumes, and that this man gets his 5 Million Yen and disappears from our fandom space.

I hope all of the participating artists don’t feel guilty regarding the actions of the organizer, I know for a fact at least some of them, if not all, weren’t informed about those garments being picked as “rewards”.

I don’t want this project to be tainted for everyone in the way it has been for me.

What I want the most is for us fans to heal from this fiasco. To put it behind us. To forget about the fact that there are people with the power to do this kind of disrespectful act and get away with it.

I want us to continue processing our grief, and using our time and energy by paying tribute to Der Zibet and ISSAY the way we have been doing since he left.

Let’s keep his memory, and Der Zibet’s legacy alive. With nothing but love and respect.

 

— Andy / @ghostcitycowboy.