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PledgeMusic's Benji Rogers On Going Beyond Fan Funding To Power Album Campaigns

PledgeMusic is a unique web service for indie musicians and labels that, in my opinion, faces a bit of an identity crisis. When I recently spoke with founder Benji Rogers, he maintained that they are not a fan funding company, though most musicians perceive them as one. I am sympathetic. Yet given that fan funding is a key tool in PledgeMusic's album campaigns, the problem is not in being mislabeled; but rather that there isn't an easy label that encompasses all that they actually offer.

I'm hoping Hypebot readers can help PledgeMusic find a better tagline for what they do once you have a clear picture of the complete service.

Currently their site banner states, "Your Music Company," with the subtitle, "Hands-on, direct-to-fan music-making." However, a quick glance at their site gives one the impression that they are a fan funding platform with a focus on getting albums recorded and distributed.

Ginger Wildheart's Triple Album Project Pledge Video

If one checks out Ginger Wildheart's Triple Album Project, which Rogers points to as an exceptional success reaching 509% of its target, one sees what appears to be a typical fan funding campaign. One sees reward packages based on how much is pledged and stats such as the number of pledges and the days left in the campaign.

What one doesn't see is the amount Wildheart is attempting to raise. Rogers says that the reason for not showing the goal is that it helps move PledgeMusic away from the "proof of concept" model.  A major dynamic of fan funding sites is that people pitch projects based on the idea that a successful level of fundraising is what greenlights forward motion.

In moving away from the proof of concept model to one focused on community building, PledgeMusic has found that fans pledge as much as 20% more when the specific goal is not revealed.  In addition, the end point of the campaign is not focused on reaching a financial goal followed by a gap until rewards are distributed but the end of the overall album campaign that ends when fans are rewarded.  Along the way, fans are made part of the process with regular updates and contact that builds what could be described as a temporary fan club.

As Rogers clarified, PledgeMusic's suite of tools and services are intended to power a total album campaign, including email list building and data capture tools.  They've found that fans will join and provide additional funding right up until the rewards are distributed.

PledgeMusic provides email services and data tools at no additional charge beyond the 15% of funds which are the source of the company's revenue. They also work directly with other companies such as Topspin and FanBridge who provide such services. If a band hasn't started building a list and isn't quite ready to enter the pledging stage, the company provides email list building tools for free while they increase their contact with fans.  A paid option to continue use of PledgeMusic's email services is also available or one can export one's data.

Either way, the focus is on building a community that the artist can maintain at the end of the campaign.

During the campaign, fans can also opt-in to automatic Twitter retweets and Facebook posts for an integrated social media aspect. In addition, a percentage of each campaign goes to a good cause, so fans know they're helping those in need beyond the artists they wish to support.

Ginger Wildheart's Triple Album Project fully exploits these elements in the most positive way. He presents a humorous personable pitch video shown above. He offers fans a triple album that will only be available to those who pledge funds. He updates them as he goes about the business of being a musician and recording the albums. Fans then get to vote on which songs should go on a single album that will then be released to the general public.  10% of the campaign will go to Save The Children.

In the process, Wildheart deepens relationships with his current fanbase while reaching new fans and feeding superfans.  Though PledgeMusic does not normally release funding totals, Ginger Wildheart agreed to reveal the fact that he's raised over a quarter of a million dollars over the course of his album funding campaign.

When I look at PledgeMusic as a whole, I don't see how they can escape being called a fan funding platform by denying that label. They need a description that clarifies the fact that they provide fan funding as part of an overall album campaign based on building community. So here's my tagline for PledgeMusic:

"Powering Album Funding Campaigns That Build Community"

So, Hypebot readers, how would you describe what PledgeMusic does without reducing the company's description to that of a fan funding platform yet making it clear that fan funding is a core tool used in their album campaigns?

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.