Crowdfunding has no doubt been a continuing hit this year. Not only does it help the dedicated musician secure funding, it also acts as a marketing tool bringing artists and fans closer – more specifically targeting the super fans than any other platform. One platform has really brought crowdfunding to the next level in the music industry. PledgeMusic’s services are laser-targeted to the music industry and the needs of musicians. Check out this interview from PledgeMusic co-founder Jayce Varden to learn more about the company and what they have to offer you.
This interview, by Kyle Billings, is from the Music Business Journal. It presents a great overview of Pledge Music and the value it provides artists. Here’s a short excerpt, but you can read the full interview here.
MBJ: Would you please share with us your vision for PledgeMusic?
Jayce Varden: Increasingly, and as a result of access to social media, the creative experience has become the value point around music. The recorded product could be considered devalued from a commercial perspective. But fans want to be a part of the process. What we do at PledgeMusic is give access to a creative project, a video, or the experience of a tour. Our focus is on creating an experience in inclusion—the time on the bus, the in-studio time, and the moments backstage. PledgeMusic provides the fan an ability to be a fly on the wall and to feel even closer to the artist than they already do. In fact, we take all of the social media content that artists would normally not monetize and contextualize it, and then build an interactive community around this. On the one hand, we empower fans to experience the making of an album, a tour, or a music video. On the other hand, we enable the artist to monetize content that would otherwise go to waste.
MBJ: Could you tell us about PledgeMusic’s origins?
JV: [Founder] Benji Rogers and I are best friends and he was the best man at my wedding. We met as students at the Berklee College of Music in the early 1990s, lived together in the Commonwealth Ave dorms, and played in the same bands. Then Benji moved to New York. I came back to Boston and got a Corporate Systems degree from Boston College. I was playing in bands, working in restaurants, and living the musician’s dream for a while too. Benji had been doing the same in New York. But he came up with the idea of PledgeMusic after I finished at BC, and I remember we sketched it together on coffee shop napkins. We thought it could work, brought in some friends and advisors, and then came up with a proper business plan. We quickly got the initial investment to build PledgeMusic in the summer of 2008 and launched in July 2009. Benji’s last EP was the first project we ran. We wanted to make sure that the payment mechanisms worked, and see how the updates of the project looked when posted. A large amount of the money he raised went to Amnesty International. As crowdfunding and Kickstater became ubiquitous, we realized there was little follow-through from project managers; rewards were not being delivered. We knew we weren’t going to be a Kickstarter and, by nature, we had customer service mentality. This is the area that we are in the process of growing right now tenfold. We want to make sure that people feel secure using PledgeMusic. Our success rate with A&R projects is 91%, which is unheard of in the crowdfunding industry. A large part of that success is explained by our curated approach to each project. We are still music geeks at heart, constantly going after our influences and trying to sell them on the platform. We always knew our job was to fill that platform with the work of musicians we absolutely love. And four years later we are still around.
MBJ: PledgeMusic is considered mostly a crowdfunding platform. Is this right?
JV: Crowdfunding is the payment mechanism. We absolutely have ties to crowdfunding, but when you shift the focus from the transaction to the experience, it becomes more a direct-to-fan business. We emphasize that crowdfunding is just another way to directly engage fans, and this is the point we often make to our artists. People who are quick to say that crowdfunding is an answer [for marketplace success] should be aware that they better have answers themselves to a litany of questions and issues that will likely crop up during the campaign. You really need a thought out communication and content strategy. As a marketplace brand, PledgeMusic is focused on getting more out of the artists we launch on our platform—drawing out their creativity and working with them to create a fuller experience for their fans. So it is a much more customer intensive business model than Kickstarter or IndieGogo because our artists are never alone and we work very hard with them from start to finish.
MBJ: How else does PledgeMusic create value for artists?
JV: The biggest value of PledgeMusic is our human capital. We treat these projects as marketing plans; each project has a dedicated representative. We offer artists several platform tools as well. For example, our data-capture widgets are buttons that offer a .zip file or audio track in exchange for an email address, Facebook like, or follow on Twitter. We also offer an email program for artists that have yet to understand the basics of email marketing. We aggregate subscribers in a PledgeMusic system and facilitate direct to fan communication. The proof of concept is the community we build for the artist—that is what pushes these campaigns. Social media integration is part of the package. We also become a viral marketing tool for the record labels. Instead of constantly asking fans to come back to the platform, we can automate the process of exposure for labels.
MBJ: How does a PledgeMusic campaign benefit artists in the long-term?
JV: Provided they have run a truly engaged campaign, and also that they have fulfilled their deliverables, our artists leave PledgeMusic in a very strong position. In fact, we’ve seen returning second or third time campaigns. PledgeMusic is much more than a fundraising well. If an artist has created an experience, that is repeatable. PledgeMusic does not just fund something, it grows fanbases. We continue to promote the artists in our ecosystem. For example, we promote the Ben Folds Five playing at the Barclay’s center or Will Daley, a local artist who’s going to France. That’s fun—being able to carry them all along the way with us. Because we allow the artist to own the data, and because we are there to help them understand what it means, it becomes a sustainable proposition for artists.