Who’s Accountable When Bands Bail on Crowdfunding Promises?

PledgeMusic

Crowdfunding is a relatively new process, but it’s simple; an artist puts out the request for fans to pre-pay for their next project in an effort to fund the aforementioned project. It’s been done for not just music but movies and even inventions. To contributors it’s basically layaway; pay now and when the project is completed, you will receive it.

In 2011, my wife donated to Vertical Horizon’s PledgeMusic fund for their upcoming CD. For a $100 donation she got me a Skype session with guitarist/vocalist Matt Scannell. In October of 2013, their CD was completed and I got in contact with the band’s management via email, asking when this Skype session would happen. The response from their manager was that Matt was really busy, and they were trying to work out a schedule, and he asked for dates and times that would work for me. I responded in kind, and heard nothing for two weeks. I began the process again, with the same exchange of emails, and again, heard nothing for two weeks. This pattern continues through January of 2014, when the manager apologizes for the situation, and offers me t-shirts and swag for my patience.

At this point I kind of lost my cool; it’s been a long time coming, and I tell him I’ve lost faith in this band, and if he can’t deliver what my wife paid for originally, I don’t think he has the ability to do anything else for me. I tell him that I’ve supported this band for 14 years, seeing them when they come to my area, buying their CDs and MP3s, and the like. I ask for a refund. The manager comes back with “don’t blame the band, blame me” and “the band knows they’ve been successful because of their fans.”

Cut to: he offers a VIP meet-and-greet, as well as anything else I could ask for. At the bottom of his email, he has a cell number, which I call. After leaving a message, he calls back, launching into me about how tough it is for him to be the band’s manager, and his job is to put food on the plates for the band, as well as money in their pockets. I ask, “What about money that came out of my pocket?” He ignores the question and again tells me again that it’s his fault, and not the band’s, and I can’t hold them responsible. I say I can, because in the end, they got our money. He shifts the conversation, and states crowdfunding wasn’t easy and they’ve had some issues with it. He offers up anything I could want from the band, even gets sarcastic by saying he’d cosign a car loan for me.

In the end, I opted to ask for a refund (again). Their manager put us in contact with a PledgeMusic representative, and we were finally issued a refund. PledgeMusic stated that they really have no control of the artist fulfilling their obligations, but that they take this type of situation seriously, and apologized. Later on I noticed that someone posted on the band’s Twitter page that they hadn’t seen the package they were owed, either. A look at their PledgeMusic site found similar situations.

Their manager took the blame, while he personally wasn’t the recipient of the donation. The big question is the integrity of the artist, who is supposedly aware that they owe their success to their fans. Not being accountable or proactive in repaying their debts and obligations is kind of a sore spot for me. During the time the manager said Matt was busy, I noted a Matt tweeted the same day, saying how tired he was from a walk he took earlier that day; apparently, that’s “too busy.” I’ve since unfollowed the band on the various social media outlets, and when they come to my area on tour, their show is now considerably lower on my priority list, and I will likely never crowdfund any project in the future, regardless of the artist.

The only advice I can offer anyone thinking of supporting a crowdfunding endeavor is to treat it like gambling; only spend what you can afford to lose. To artists looking for funding via this method: it’s your name on the line, and if you won’t/don’t/can’t deliver, you can call your next album “Dropped Balls & Broken Promises.” If you have any fans left, you may sell a few copies.

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