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PledgeMusic: Hands-on, Direct-to-Fan Music-Funding

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Pledge Music is a way for you to help your favorite artists make their records. It helps artists and bands design a specifically tailored fundraising campaign to raise money for their next release. Pledge encourages the artists to participate with their fans in an exciting and unique way by creating an irresistible menu of exclusive content and experiences.

I had a great interview with Pledge’s Founder Benji Rogers this past Friday. He made a statement that really struck a nerve with me: “5,000 followers on Twitter is cool but 100 diehard fans are more important.”

Kelland: What is you background?
Benji: I came from a family of music managers. My mom, my father and my step-father were all managers in the business. I was musician myself. I toured and made music for most of my life while putting out about four or five albums.

Kelland: What there the idea for Pledge Music come from?
Benji: A few years ago, I was lying on an air mattress in my mom’s house and 34 years old and broke. I just saw it in my ahead. The concept was that artists would engage their fans to help them make their album and part of the profit would go to charity. It took about seven months to get things in place and we launched in July of 2009.

Kelland: How has the response been so far?
Benji: It’s been amazing. When we first launched we were doing about 2-3 albums per month. Unlike regular fan funding we have very integrated campaigns. Our campaigns usually last about 3-4 months. We are now at the point where we are helping artists release 2-3 albums per day.

Kelland: What’s the difference between Pledge Music and other companies like KickStarter?
Benji: The traditional fan funding campaign is you have 60 days to raise an amount of money and if you don’t reach the goal the albums won’t get released. In comparison, our campaigns usually last from 3 to 4 months. Also, we never show the public how much money is being pledged and the campaign is set up where people are giving money to fund a project which gives them backstage access to the site. This is where artists can upload rough mixes, video blogs, and photos. There are multiple ways of pledging from a $10.00 digital download, a $15.00 autographed cd, or $10,000 house concert. In addition, once the campaign is funded a portion of the funds go to a charity of the artist’s choice.

Kelland: What are some of the campaigns that you are most proud of?
Benji: Big campaigns I’m always proud of, but it’s the smaller independent artist who wouldn’t have been able to put out an album without our help. We work with bands that were signed and were dropped by majors and those who have never been signed. We actually help artists market themselves. We help artists grow their email address list from 100 people to a few thousand. We had a band that was actually signed to a major label and dropped. They set up a campaign with us and were able to raise around $85k and then that same label actually resigned them. Labels are starting to match whatever the bands raises, which is less of a risk for the label and it gives the band more room to negotiate a better deal.

Kelland: What are some of the challenges that you are currently facing?
Benji:Their are a lot of people that do fan funding, but we don’t call ourselves that. We are a direct fan platform. Defining ourselves by a competition has always been tough. People always say to us how do we differ from Kickstarter, but we don’t do what Kickstarter does. We get albums made and we build campaigns. Also, we are getting busy now so keeping the quality of our work in balance with the increase in volume. The biggest challenge for artists on our platform is that most of them tend to not take care of their digital marketing efficiently. You know? For any artists the most important thing they can have is their email list. When you release an album you need to be able to email them and they know they have an album coming out. If an artist’s plays 50 shows and for 100 people a show and they don’t have their email list they are seriously missing out. How do you tell them when your next show is? Facebook and Twitter are nice but you don’t own that. We spent a lot of money on building are email platform because that’s the biggest reasons that campaigns failed.

Kelland: Where would you like to see Pledge Music at in the next five years?
Benji: I would like it to be when an album is released the primary ways to purchase it are Visa, Master Card, PayPal and Pledge. Essentially, I want artists to know that if they aren’t using Pledge to release an album they are leaving money on the table and they are not giving their fans the best experience possible. On Tuesday of next week, thousands of artists are going to release their album in the exact same way it’s been 50 years. Every Tuesday its buy my album come to my show, buy my album come to my show. It’s the most boring message in the entire world and it’s not working anymore. And, we know this by the decrease in album sales. What if you can still buy the album,have access the making of the album, the demo versions, photos, and pledge on a limited edition of 5 handwritten lyrics sheets with tickets to the show? What if you could have all of that and still go out and buy the album in the store?