PledgeMusic: the future for independent artists?

27 June 2012

Written by: Cass Savellis

Crowdfunding and direct-to-fan platforms are essentially websites where funds are sourced from the public in order to complete a project. This is not a new concept; there are numerous sites out there that are based around crowd funding for various categories, including Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and Pozible, to name a few.

With CD sales falling and more music being accessed digitally, are these sites leading the way for musicians to keep producing music?

PledgeMusic is one music-specific direct-to-fan platform site, which bypasses the usual companies involved in music production, thus enabling the artist to connect directly with fans. The site allows independent musicians to raise money for projects such as music production or going on tour.

Artists then promote their project to get their fans involved. There is a set target the artist aims to reach, which they can choose to achieve in 30, 60 or 90 days (however the catch is the project closes if the target is not met within the specified limit). The site states that all projects are assessed by the team and approved once it is agreed that they are viable to try and prevent this from occurring. This method has proved quite effective to date, with founder Benji Rogers saying that 88 per cent of projects on the site are reaching their funding targets.

Fans who contribute are not charged unless the target is met and in exchange for contributions, artists offer items such as signed merchandise or one-off opportunities such as a Skype chat. Artists can also choose to donate a percentage of the pledge to their chosen charities, which are displayed on their page. For instance, some choose to donate anything over 100 per cent of their target to charity.

I came across this site by reading one of Ash Grunwald’s tweets, which led me to the page where he has auctioned off all kinds of items. Some of the most intriguing include a guitar lesson on Skype for $80, surfing with him for $300 or for some of the more intense fans, his steel guitar that was used to record the tunes Introducing and I Don’t Believe, going for $3,000. Then there are the more standard offers such as his new album Trouble’s Door for $20, or a signed copy for $30, which most artists offer for the more basic pledges.

Therefore, if you’re a fan who was planning on purchasing the album, you can choose to do it through this site and be involved in the process of helping get it released.

‘The idea was that you could involve fans in the making of the albums and not just try and sell to them,’ Rogers says.

The idea of pledging is that you will receive something, regardless of the amount you choose to contribute.

‘No matter how much you pledge, you’ll get access to exclusive stuff never before seen! Videos and photos, video blogs… Maybe some live tracks or an MP3 of a song’s inception or a little live gig from my studio!’, Ash states on his pledge page.

It is kind of like being bumped up to a first-class fan, as opposed to just an economy fan. Rogers notes that the projects are shared with fans via pledgers only updates.

‘These are private blogs that contain music, video, photos and words just for pledgers. The more updates the more fans pledge!’.

So, could this be the future for funding music production?

The site ensures artists can keep regularly producing music, while communicating with their fans on a more personal level.

‘The thing that gets me really excited is that this could be the new way that artists fund music. It’s just between the artist and the fans,’ says Ash Grunwald.

Many artists like to be in control of how their music is produced, as opposed to letting a recording company decide for them, which is where PledgeMusic comes in. However, nothing comes for free. The site takes 15 per cent of profits, which is quite high compared to other crowdfunding sites which normally take five per cent.

Then there’s the question of whether fans will support their favourite musicians. Even though most fans would love the opportunity to participate in some of the ideas on the lists, such as a meet-and-greet (now more accessible instead of something you only hear about in movies or get the chance to do by winning competitions), now thay have to earn the privilege by contributing to the project.

The key to successfully wooing fans seems to be engagement and creativity.

‘Fans come to their artists’ PledgeMusic pages to interact with the artist… Artists or labels who take the time to make the campaigns as interesting and creative as possible see the best results,’ Rogers says.

For those who are happy to contribute, it seems like a win-win situation for artists and fans.

For all the budding musicians and music lovers out there, what do you think of concepts such as PledgeMusic? Should it be the artists’ job or the fans’ job to raise money to keep local music going?

Cass Savellis is a final year Bachelor of Journalism student and part of the upstart editorial team. She writes a blog and can be found on Twitter @csavellis.