What is PledgeMusic
PledgeMusic provides fans and artists the opportunity to work together to make new records and raise money for charity. By combining new social networking technology, old school music biz know how and an irresistible menu of exclusive incentives, fans can visit the site to hear great new music, enjoy and share unique experiences with the artists they love and actively participate in the release process.
From The Site: “Why PledgeMusic? Engagement, Freedom, Support, Promo Gold, New Fans, Proven Results!” ~ We are fairly sure after you finish reading this interview and do your own homework, you’ll agree, PledgeMusic is the clear choice!
I would like to start on the topic of ‘direct-to-fan’. What is it, how does it work and how do you think it helps the unsigned musician or band? What do fans think of it?
Sure. “Direct-to-fan” is a term that we use to describe the artist-fan relationship PledgeMusic works to foster. Basically, when an artist decides to release a new album, he or she can come straight to fans and essentially say, “I’m making new music, and I want you to be a part of it.” From there, fans can get involved by pledging on a campaign to gain access to behind-the-scenes updates from the artist as well as exclusive items and experiences. For signed and unsigned artists alike, this model has proven itself time and again. What we’ve come to realize is that fans don’t need more ways to buy music, they need more reasons to. By going directly to their fans with a new record, artists get to build momentum long before the project even releases, letting fans into the details of the recording process and even giving fans input into things like album artwork or song titles. Fans love this kind of unprecedented access to the artists they love, and they’re willing to spend money to get it.
What fees are involved for a campaign at PledgeMusic and if a project isn’t fully funded, what happens?
PledgeMusic charges a flat 15% fee with no other hidden fees of any kind. Our fee is a bit higher than traditional crowdfunding sites because of what our team brings to the table. When an artist comes to us with a campaign, he or she works personally with a project manager who will talk through the campaign, help set the campaign goal, give suggestions for good exclusive offerings and just get the ball rolling. Unlike other popular sites, PledgeMusic isn’t a static platform, meaning that an artist doesn’t just set up a campaign, hit “launch” and then hope for the best. PledgeMusic artists can add and remove exclusives and make other changes to their campaigns as they’re live.
We’re an interactive platform built just for musicians, so everything we do revolves around helping artists get that music out there. We also offer data capture widgets to help artists grow their social networks and email lists, etc.
Plus, we offer two different types of projects. A private target-based campaign and a pre-order. For campaigns that have a private target, Pledgers are only charged if the goal is hit. We calculate what we think that artist’s target should be, and so far have over an 80% success rate in hitting that goal. If that goal is not reached, then no one is charged. Or if they use PayPal then they are refunded. Since there are no targets on pre-order campaigns, they do not need to hit a threshold.
What led you to come up with the idea for PledgeMusic and how much trouble has it been to get going?
I started out as an indie musician myself in a band the called Marwood. My parents were band managers, so I grew up on the road and immersed in the ups and downs of the industry. I wasn’t quite making it as a musician, and I saw a new way in my head. I felt like fans wanted more than I was giving them, and I had kind of caught on to this same trend during my time growing up on the road. One night I was lying in bed wondering if there was a better way to let fans into the whole music recording and releasing process, and the idea just kind of hit me all at once. I immediately thought, “artists, fans, charities” – fans want to experience the making of a record rather than just listen to it when it’s finished – and it has all grown from that initial idea back in 2008. We officially launched the company in July of 2009, and we haven’t slept much!
We have a similar goal in that we both want to help change the way the current music industry works. Can you tell our readers a little about what you have in mind?
For me it’s about becoming normal. It’s about fans being involved from the get go. To me the most exciting part of the music business will be the business of making music. I want for it to be a strange and distant thought that at one time, artists did not engage their fans in the release/recording of their music as it was being made. I want for it to be a strange thing that 100% of the risk lay with a label. It’s a big goal, but I’m excited to make it happen.
I have read elsewhere that your company is very ‘hands-on’ with projects and that you even help out after a project is completed! That is awesome and we would like to hear more about that please!
Yeah, this is one of the things we’re really big on. One thing you have to understand about PledgeMusic is that most of our team has experience in some corner of the music business, whether as artists ourselves or artist managers or label execs. We’re all tied to the life and creation of music in some way or another, and so that’s a passion that runs deep in the veins of our whole team. That said, our first priority is to help artists release new music and to give them an opportunity to thrive in an ever-changing industry.
For this reason and others, we’ve built PledgeMusic to be a dynamic platform rather than a static one, as I mentioned earlier. Our team works one-on-one with artists to set them up for a successful run, and we’ve built widgets to help artists build their social networks. Plus, PledgeMusic artists retain 100 percent of their rights, and that’s something we also care deeply about. When I started this company it was to meet a specific need in the industry that I experienced firsthand, and that’s been our aim from day one. Thankfully we’ve had the privilege of working with artists like Slash and Ben Folds Five and Imogen Heap and tons of incredible talents who have believed in this approach and invited their fans into the entire process of releasing new music. It’s been quite a ride.
As far as after a project is completed, we feel a connection to artists we’ve worked with, especially since we do work personally with them. That relationship compels us to stay in their corner even after they’re no longer running an active campaign on PledgeMusic. We’ll often include them in showcases we’re having or promote their successes through our blog or newsletters. Overall, we’re just huge fans of the artists we get to work with.
Why do you think your success rate is so much higher than other related services out there? Also, share what you think it takes to have a successful campaign at PledgeMusic.
I think part of it has to do with the personal element we’ve been talking about. We’re also different from traditional crowdfunding sites in the fact that our campaigns usually last between three and six months instead of the standard 30-day campaign you’re used to seeing elsewhere. By extending the timeline on a campaign, you give it the time and space to really gain speed and do well. Our campaigns also continue even after an artist hits 100 percent of the initial goal, which means we commonly have artists hitting 200 or 300 percent of their initial goal or more. If fans want to continue getting involved, we don’t want to cut it off after 100 percent or to have their campaign suddenly end at an arbitrary date like 30 or 60 days.
Another thing that makes PledgeMusic a bit different is that our main focus actually isn’t on the funding side of things. Of course we’re all about getting new music into the hands of fans and giving artists a viable way to fund their albums, but in the end we focus more on attaching a journey to an album release and then just inviting fans along for the ride. All of our decisions hinge around this mindset, which is why we don’t display goals in dollar amounts but use percentages instead. The dollar amount varies from artist to artist, but in the end the heart of every campaign is the same, as it allows the fan to move from being a consumer to actually being a co-creator, producer and a friend.
While there isn’t a hard-set formula for a successful campaign, what we’ve seen is that the artists who really intentionally engage their fans throughout the whole process are those who see the biggest return. When a fan feels emotionally invested in a new release, he or she will be much more likely to become financially invested as well.
What are the differences between Direct-to-fan and crowdfunding? Please include the pros and cons if you would.
I’ve mentioned some of these things already, but to sum it up, direct-to-fan is different from crowdfunding in that it focuses more on the journey than the dollar amount. Practically, we display campaign goals in percentages rather than dollar amounts and extend the lifespan from the traditional 30-day campaign to a three to six month campaign. We also allow artists to go beyond 100 percent of their initial goal, which gives the campaign a longer life as well. Or they can do a pre-order.
There is no con in direct-to-fan – unless it’s done badly.
The biggest pro of the direct-to-fan model is that it’s a win for artists, it’s a win for fans and it’s a win for the overall industry. A large percentage of our artists are profitable before they’ve even finished tracking an album, and that’s a huge feat in today’s music world. Sales on PledgeMusic are recognized by Soundscan and are chart eligible, and we’ve had a number of Top 40 and Top 10 hits released through our platform.
When it comes right down to it, 50 percent of all consumers say they want to be more involved in the recording process, and PledgeMusic gives them a way to get involved. Fans no longer attend a show and have to wait months for an album release. Now, an artist can point fans to a campaign at a show when the excitement in still running high, and the fan can pre-order the album before even leaving the venue.
Being a musician yourself, do you have any general advice to offer our readers? Feel free to share your story and if you are still making music, your websites and such.
Sadly I am not able to be a musician any longer as PledgeMusic has taken over my life completely, but it’s a reward in and of itself. The advice I’d give to any artist today is pretty simple: Believe in your fans and let them get involved. If that sounds painful then wait until you see what the press can do to the rich and famous. Superfans will carry and support you. Let them. You won’t regret it.