CEO Benji Rogers On Why PledgeMusic Is Building An A&R Team
Last week PledgeMusic posted a call for full and part-time A&R Scouts. While any business that offers services to musicians might conceivably need folks to seek out talent and build relationships in the industry, something about the post suggested that this was a more serious step for PledgeMusic. Though technically on vacation, CEO Benji Rogers was kind enough to fill me in on new developments.
PledgeMusic's job posting includes the following key requirements:
"Knowledge of, and intimate connection with, both emerging and established artists is essential. A firm belief that the relationship between artist and fan should be super-served is required."
Scouting new talent and generating new leads on a worldwide basis
Maintaining front-line relationships with artists/managers/labels
Delivering the core concepts of PledgeMusic in face-to-face meetings
Coordinating with project management teams on campaign development
Differences can be noted but, like label A&R's, PledgeMusic is seeking more than talent scouts.
The ad also states that PledgeMusic is "looking to expand its already passionate and motivated A&R team." However Benji Rogers explained in a phone call that, in terms of seeking out new talent, PledgeMusic's whole staff, including interns, have been identifying and sometimes courting up and coming acts that they believe are making great music.
As Rogers noted, PledgeMusic is always going to make more with established artists who can attract their large followings to their campaigns. But he also notes that emerging artists who are identified as making "great" music outperform other emerging artists in their genre. Beyond that, going big picture, Rogers expressed his belief that supporting new artists is about the future of music as a whole, not just the future of his own company.
We didn't actually attempt to define "great" but from Rogers' use of the term I would assume that great music strongly moves the listener and easily sets such artists apart from their peers when initially identified by an individual and then considered by others at PledgeMusic.
Finding such new artists is an essential aspect of A&R at PledgeMusic absent the major label's need to control and direct such acts in a manner that ideally leads to topping the charts on the acts' first major releases but often ends in failure.
So Why Build An A&R Team?
PledgeMusic already has numerous individuals with A&R backgrounds on staff. And even their interns are bringing in great acts. So why are they now expanding their A&R staff positions and recruiting across the States?
Rogers says that it's the Pledgers that are hardcore music fans who are driving this move. Many of them are now turning to PledgeMusic to find new artists. And when Rogers checks out comments by Pledgers on campaigns, he's seeing a broad range of people stating that they found out about the artist through the campaign.
These fans are also enthusiastically spreading the word about their discoveries. Rogers revealed that 28% of PledgeMusic's income comes from fans sharing news from updates for Pledgers only. He said that updates shared on Facebook and Twitter by Pledgers has led to new pledges that make up the 28%.
That strikes me as a very impressive stat for a number of reasons. The Pledgers aren't being rewarded, as far as I know, beyond the pleasure of spreading the word and seeing artists they care about get support.
It also validates PledgeMusic's approach, which Rogers says situates them between fan funding and direct-to-fan services. On more general crowdfunding platforms, most of the evidence I'm seeing suggests that musicians should not count on much financial support from new fans developed during one's campaign. While I'm sure that varies, it demonstrates the power of the platform PledgeMusic is building.
Music Discovery Works Better With A Context
Rogers pointed out that music discovery often occurs without much of a context. General crowdfunding sites tend to lack music players and, if you stumble across an interesting track on the web, you still usually have to search for a site or Wikipedia entry to find out more.
PledgeMusic is bringing those elements together via artist profiles with music players that provide the basic context one might need to evaluate an act. But the profiles also include visible links to official sites and social media accounts for new and potential fans who want to dig deeper.
Rogers also emphasized the fact that PledgeMusic involves fans from the very beginning of fundraising through the production of an album, the primary focus of most PledgeMusic campaigns, all the way through to the full release.
While hardcore Pledgers are often discovering music through new project listings and PledgeMusic's email newsletter, the ongoing contact also provides opportunities for fans to spread the word and bring in new fans at every stage of development.
That's far different from the traditional approach where a band says they're going into the studio, the word spreads and fans spend their time watching third party news sites and social media networks for occasional snippets that indicate progress. At PledgeMusic, once the news gets out fans can go ahead and place orders, follow the progress and spread the word while feeling directly connected to the act.
The Power of PledgeMusic
According to a Nielsen study with which PledgeMusic was involved, the traditional way of doing things is potentially leaving billions of dollars on the table annually.
On the other hand, promoters of the new music industry sometimes say musicians should give all their music away or go digital only or switch to streaming.
PledgeMusic is finding that they can increase artist revenue through fan engagement. In the process, 82% of the pledges are going to physical product, from music to merch, leaving digital the least sought after offering.
As Topspin has also shown, serious fans are buying physical product in forms that haven't been consistently available from the traditional music industry and certainly won't be available from those going digital-only.
PledgeMusic's marketplace is supporting both musicians and labels in maximizing their revenue. One of the many interesting angles in all this is that rather than disrupting traditional labels PledgeMusic is available to them as well.
Since Rogers emphasized the combination of fan funding and direct-to-fan elements of their platform, I asked about major labels and others who are using it primarily for presale campaigns.
Surprisingly he said that PledgeMusic isn't the best place for a traditional direct-to-fan sale which he points out is more of a direct-to-consumer play. By that he means that just making something available for preorder doesn't provide the strong sense of connection between artist and fan implied by direct-to-fan.
PledgeMusic requires regular updates for presale campaigns as a bottom line element so that fans are more involved than they would be simply putting in an order for future product.
But, Wait, There's More!
As with any encounter with Benji Rogers, our conversation covered a wide range of topics and insights. I think I've hit the key points that relate to why PledgeMusic is building or expanding their A&R team and how that relates to what PledgeMusic does differently.
Instead of packing this post with even more details, I think I should close with somewhat of a disclaimer. Though I have no relationship to PledgeMusic other than my coverage at Hypebot, I am becoming something of a fanboy.
That doesn't mean I'm not going to criticize or question specific moves as they occur. But I consider PledgeMusic one of the top music tech companies and, in many ways, one of the top music companies of our time.
And if you're an emerging artist considering retail and crowdfunding platforms, I'd suggest not waiting to hear from a PledgeMusic A&R. Check it out for yourself. It will probably be one of the smarter moves you make.
- Universal Music Canada Links With PledgeMusic For Direct-to-Fan Campaigns
- 2 Music Tech Trends For 2013 I Should Not Have Left Off My List
- PledgeMusic's Benji Rogers On Going Beyond Fan Funding To Power Album Campaigns
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.