“To me, the way PledgeMusic puts out music is what the future of the release of an album looks like,” said the founder over the phone from a noisy cafe in Minneapolis.
I spoke with the founder and former lead singer of the band Marwood (I bought their CD from CD Baby in 2005…no seriously), Benji Rogers, just before he left for the airport to continue his worldwide information tour (my words – not his) on PledgeMusic.
He had just spoken to students at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul (my alma mater!) and was on his way to France.
I always thought PledgeMusic was a crowd funding platform similar to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. I’ve pledged to a few projects (including Ben Folds Five campaign) and never really saw how it was different than Kickstarter – besides not listing the funding amount (and of course PledgeMusic is exclusive to music projects).
After my brief conversation with Benji, I get it. And I’m impressed.
Aside from being an incredibly specialized platform for musicians, PledgeMusic looks to change the process of recording and releasing an album altogether – bringing fans along for the entire process from the moment the first dollar is raised until the moment they receive the package in the mail.
Yes, there is a crowd funding platform similar to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, but the biggest difference is that PledgeMusic does not list dollar amounts.
“When you show a financial target you either look desperate or needy. One of the things we found is that if you hide that financial target fans spend more,” Rogers explained.
Another reason they chose to hide the dollar amounts was because the larger artists that they work with didn’t want to disclose how much they were raising.
Artists who have used PledgeMusic include Ben Folds Five, Mike Doughty, The Hold Steady, Imogen Heap, 311, Tokyo Police Club, Lucinda Williams, The Damnwells, Sevendust along with thousands of others.
The average transaction on PledgeMusic is $64 globally. With over a half a million people who have pledged, that’s around $32 million total that has been raised on the platform (PledgeMusic would not disclose total funding numbers).
PledgeMusic sets itself way above Kickstarter and IndieGoGo with its success rate of 90%. Kickstarter claims nearly 55% of their music campaigns reach their goal and IndieGoGo is much lower than that (but would not release these numbers when asked). If PledgeMusic projects do not reach their funding target, similar to Kickstarter, all the funds get returned to the fans.
Most artists on PledgeMusic raise 140% of target.
On a successful campaign, the moment the funding period closes, the pre-order period begins. The site doesn’t change the look or the feel. Fans can still order the digital download and all exclusive pre-order packages.
Any fan who pledges any amount to a project becomes a part of the project’s creation process where they can view pledger-only updates (such as behind the scenes footage from the studio).
Every pledger, for a minimum pledge of $10 (some campaigns are $15), gets the digital download of the album and PledgeMusic registers these numbers as sales to Soundscan. This has helped many PledgeMusic artists chart the day their album is released to the public (including Ben Folds Five who reached #10 on the Billboard charts and #1 on iTunes).
Every time an artist posts an update, it can be easily shared on social media by fans. If it’s a private Pledger-only update, the bulk of the content is hidden (but enough is revealed to entice non-Pledgers to signup).
Rogers mentioned that 22% of inbound traffic comes from fans sharing these updates.
Rogers worked with refugees in the Middle East in 2004 and felt it was important to include a charity component to the service. 67% of projects donate a portion of their proceeds to a charity. Artists can choose any percentage amount of the money raised above their goal to donate to the charity of their choice. PledgeMusic employs a charity outreach specialist to pair up charities and artists.
What sets PledgeMusic apart from the other crowd funding companies is their overall mission. They don’t just want to help projects get funded (hell, some artists use PledgeMusic JUST for the pre-order and no funding at all), they want to change the music industry.
They have A&R teams based in Manhattan, Boston, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Berlin, Australia, Chicago and soon Minneapolis. PledgeMusic’s A&R scout out bands in those cities to join the PledgeMusic movement.
Every artist interested in running a campaign can sign up to create a project and PledgeMusic will help them through the process. The reason the success rate is so high (90%) is because PledgeMusic works with every project to make sure it has the best chance for success.
Unlike Kickstarter, PledgeMusic is very hands on with every project. Even though PledgeMusic takes about 5% more in commission (15% – which includes the credit card processing fee), they make that commission in their hands on approach.
When the campaign finishes PledgeMusic is still available to aid artists in their career.
Many artists have run multiple campaigns. Rogers mentioned that 2nd campaigns almost always outperform the 1st.
PledgeMusic has helped get 50-60 artists signed to record label deals.
Currently PledgeMusic has 62 total employees spread all over the world.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. His record release show is at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood on March 29th. Get tickets here. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake