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Editor’s note: the following is an unedited response from PledgeMusic Founder and President Benji Rogers to a post we recently made entitled “Who’s Accountable When Bands Bail on Crowdfunding Promises?”
We recently read Chris Devine’s post about his experience with Vertical Horizon’s PledgeMusic campaign for their 2013 album “Echoes From the Underground,” and we really appreciate his honesty and perspective. Performer Magazine has graciously given us the opportunity to provide an answer to Chris’s main question about accountability, and we’re excited to do so, as it’s an extremely important one.
First off, we’d like to clarify that PledgeMusic is not a crowdfunding site. Unlike other sites, our emphasis is actually not on raising money. One part of what we do is help artists get the support they need for new albums, but that’s really a byproduct of our main focus: inviting fans into a journey. Our direct-to-fan model actually de-emphasizes the monetary goal by listing everything in percentages, and we recently redesigned our entire site to put the focus even more on the artists themselves and less on that percentage.
Though we don’t identify ourselves as a crowdfunding site, Devine brought up some great questions and misconceptions that apply to the direct-to-fan model as well, and of course his experience was with PledgeMusic, so we’re happy for the chance to speak to these.
One relatively common misconception he brought up is a description of our model, saying: “To contributors it’s basically layaway; pay now and when the project is completed, you will receive it.” If we were offering just another way to purchase new music or a T-shirt, we agree that the model would seem pretty limited. In reality, though, one of the coolest parts about PledgeMusic is that we get to bridge the gap that has historically been the waiting period between an artist starting an album and the official release date.
Rather than giving fans another way to buy new music, we focus on giving them a reason to. The whole goal of our platform is to invite fans into a journey – an experience – that begins the moment you click that “Pledge” button. In that instant, you gain access to the “Updates” section of our site where artists post frequent updates from the studio, free downloads, photos and other exclusive content that opens a door to the whole music release process. This is what gets us excited! Fans become friends and co-creators (voting on album titles, choosing tracks that make the cut, etc.) rather than consumers passively waiting for an album to hit.
OK, now to the heart of the main question here: Who’s holding these bands accountable to actually do what they say they’re going to do? At PledgeMusic, bands can choose to either handle the fulfillment process on their own or to let us do it. More and more bands are choosing to let us handle it, which obviously gives us the ability to hit every deadline. When a band takes the reins, we do have to put more trust in them to deliver, but we also have some pretty significant safety nets in place to motivate them to do so.
We have a staggered payment structure, meaning an artist gets 75 percent of the pledges (less commission) when he or she hits 100 percent in a campaign, the remaining 25 percent upon delivery of the digital album to the fans and then any overage two weeks after all exclusives are fulfilled. We are sometimes called on to alter this slightly which our team can do on an as needed basis.
Does this system mean we can guarantee that every artist or band will hit the deadline on every exclusive? No. Does it provide a pretty good incentive for them to get a move on it? Yes. But what if they don’t?
PledgeMusic exists for musicians and for music fans. We absolutely do not want you to have a negative experience on our site, so please contact us if you feel an exclusive hasn’t been fulfilled as promised. Be sure to first check the disclaimer on the specific exclusive for details on the band’s planned fulfillment date. But if something feels off to you in any way, we will gladly advocate for you. We can also give you a full refund if you don’t receive the item or experience promised to you by an artist. We put a huge emphasis on being personal, and our team is here for you – the fan – just as much as we’re here for artists.
In the end, we believe wholeheartedly in the direct-to-fan model. Statistically, it outperforms both direct-to-consumer and crowd funding across the board. Fans are getting unprecedented access to the artists they love, and it’s nothing short of amazing to witness this. When a fan has a less-than-ideal experience, we feel like they’re missing out on something incredible, and you’d better believe we want to make that right. Thanks again to Devine for his thoughts and to Performer for the opportunity to dialogue. Please feel free to contact us directly with any questions!
If you have any questions, you can email [email protected] at any time.