The Problem With PledgeMusic
I was first approached by PledgeMusic in 2009, shortly after I left Sony/Columbia with my second solo album. The company (and music-based crowdfunding as a whole) was in it’s infancy at that time and I was a belligerent young man who didn’t see the early potential in the platform. Fast forward just under a decade and I’m getting together the songs that would make up my latest album The Latchkey Kid. PledgeMusic again came forward, waxing lyrical about my previous releases and asking if I’d accept an invitation to fund the recording and release of my latest project. As an artist who truly appreciates the connection that I have with the relatively small but fervent following I do have, I accepted. I worked hard through 2017 and 2018 to obtain the funding and you responded in kind, sending me way beyond the initial target set.
It’s important here to talk about how this “deal” looked on paper. Artists do not receive 100% of the money upon completion of funding. Pledge take a 15% cut, and the rest arrives as follows:
• Roughly 1/3 of the amount upon 100% funding.
• Another 1/3 upon the digital release of the album.
• Final 1/3 upon completion of all pledges.
I could be wrong, but they seem to be the only crowd-funding organisation that operated in this manner. What money did arrive came late. Once again, my campaign was started to fund the recording and release of a new album. PledgeMusic’s arrangement made it difficult to make any of this work from the get-go. It is only down to the kindness of the brilliant people involved in the album’s recording that it got off the ground, in most cases waiting without complaint until funds came in or until I found money elsewhere.
On the face of things, PledgeMusic set out these payment “milestones” to incentivise the completion of the campaign – something I can wholly understand. But in reality the only incentive I need is to maintain the relationship and good faith of my following, and in light of what has happened in recent months those milestones now look like a delay tactic. Using your money to pay out on what was owed to other artists’ that they were already late paying. In my eyes that’s a ponzi scheme, and I could be wrong but I suspect that I’m not.
The company continued to expand, spending more on staff wages and taking on new projects to keep cashflow coming in. It looks like the bubble finally burst last year, and yesterday their original founder Benji Rogers (who was parachuted back into PledgeMusic a few months ago to right the company’s course) emailed artists to inform us that a potential buyer for the company hadn’t worked out and that the company will go into administration this week or early next, taking my money in the process. I don’t expect that I’ll ever see it. It’s substantial, way into the thousands.
So I’m now left still sending out Pledges with what money I do have and owing out expenses that the album racked up. Yes, I have CDs and t-shirts etc (paid out of my own pocket) and have been waiting for Pledge to come through so I can get them out to you, mailing out what I can in the meantime. There’s hundreds, you beautiful bastards.
My album was roundly rejected by pretty much every label my manager and I approached. I get it – I’ve been through the major label mill and haven’t necessarily set the world on fire. Myself and those that work around me (for little to no money) know it’s a brilliant album, but critical acclaim seems to count for fuck all. Thankfully the brilliant and forward-thinking people at Kobalt/AWAL have allowed me the opportunity to distribute the album through their company. It will see the light of day and you’ll be hearing more on that soon.
In short, every PledgeMusic artist has been completely shafted and you have been cheated in the process. But I promise I’ll do everything I can to get every single Pledge out one way or another. If you can’t wait, please do contact your bank/credit card company about arranging a chargeback or refund. Reason: fraud.
I play the Didsbury Arts Festival in Manchester on June 28th, and the Blackthorn Festival with the band on July 21st. More national dates will be announced shortly. If you do decide to get your refund, I encourage you to buy merch at my shows. The webstore will expanded with swag pretty soon as well.
There have been times in recent months that I’ve felt like jacking music in altogether, and I’ve spent nights awake wondering how all of this will work out. I’m mentally spent. But I won’t let it beat me. Fuck them.
EDIT: In the last few days, a wonderfully kind soul started a Just Giving page (see comments below) in my name out of the back of all of this. I didn’t expect that - I'm humbled and astounded.