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Spotlight: 'The Demise Of PledgeMusic'

The news of PledgeMusic's demise has been a sad blow to the music community but one that seemed inevitable as time drew on.

For people not in the know, PledgeMusic was a way for musicians to fund releases in advance by asking their fanbase to pay upfront to help fund the recording, manufacturing and distribution process. In a nutshell, the musicians and PM would agree to a total for the project, with PM taking their percentage cut before anything else. Once a project hit 100% it was seen as funded and anything else over and above was seen as a bonus (some bands chose to give a slice of that to charities, a fantastic and noble idea). It was good as most projects would have extra options you could purchase, from signed copies of albums, bonus EP's, lyric sheets, invitations to recording sessions, and so on. There was something for every budget.

It was a way to bridge the gap between audience and artist. Most would offer updates via message or video, or there would be bonuses like extra songs or demos. As a fan you felt like you were involved, you were part of the creation, which added an extra investment that no money could buy.

As usual with such things like this, some artists were better than others. Artists like The Idol Dead and Dave McPherson would release so many extra tracks to their projects you quickly lost count whereas the Eureka Machines released bonus EPs' as a thank you to their funders. Paul Miro released a series of acoustic videos of new songs. Ginger Wildheart had a series of crazy behind the scenes videos after smashing records and targets for his solo triple album "555%" (named after the total raised). There were some that....... well, let's just say they weren't as good.

Even though it was a platform more designed for unsigned artists it got the attention of the major labels. As the industry tries to reinvent itself in the the wake of an ever changing digital model, they jumped at a chance of another medium to use. These campaigns often seemed bare and basic, especially compared to the indies. To me, this was a missed opportunity and a sign that the big labels didn't really quite understand part of the ethos of PM.

Then a few months ago the rumblings started being heard that the crowd funding site was in trouble, that debts were starting to creep up, that bands were having problems getting their promised funds from the company. Several bands started mentioning that they were struggling to get access to the funds they'd raised so they could start paying for recording and manufacture. Nobody could quite understand what was going on.

Benji Rogers, one of the company's founders returned back to PledgeMusic to try and help but unfortunately, after several months of radio silence he released a statement to confirm it's demise.

Where did it start going wrong for Pledge?

Some people are pointing the finger at the major labels who no doubt would have cut a different deal than independent artists. Others are saying that it just goes to show that crowdfunding as a business model is flawed and the collapse was inevitable. There are some who are muttering about general mismanagement at the company, that profits rather than sustainability.

The knock on effect from this is going to be felt for quite a while now. The bands and fans who were trapped in limbo over those final few months are left out of pocket. Some bands like Hands Off Gretel caught wind of things early on and advised pledgers to cancel their orders through the site and immediately set things up on their own instead. Other bands weren't so lucky and paid for things out of their own pocket while waiting for PledgeMusic to release their owed money to them, which they'll now never see (The Spangles and 24-7 Spyz both did this). Most major labels will be trying to find ways to absorb this already but smaller, independent, self-funded bands won't have that opportunity with some now left drastically out of pocket because of PM's collapse.

The crowdfunding model has proven to work so well in the past, just look at Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter for her second album and tour that raised a reported $1.4 million. But will bands and fans be able to place their trust back into the model? I think it's a case of time will tell with this but it's definitely something that still that can still work out as the music industry continues it's struggle to find ways to continue in this ever changing environment.

The link to the statement from Benji Rogers regarding the future of PledgeMusic:

Scott Hamilton

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