Pledgemusic, Kickstarter and album/single launches

I came back home to see Darren Hayman’s views on twitter about Stuart Murdoch asking for money on Kickstarter to fund his film “God Save The Girl”. Now I’m not a big fan of this sort of thing in music but it seemed fair enough to me for raising money for a film. I get increasingly annoyed at hearing people talk nonsense (quite often outdated nonsense) about the music business so I fully understand that I have quite a simplistic view of making films but they seem on the face of it more expensive to make than albums and have more of a history of “angels” funding them. However looking at the page for Stuart’s film it does seem to mimic the Pledgemusic model with numerous incentives to give money and receive something in return. It looks to me (and maybe I have got it wrong) that the difference is that those who put in money don’t get a share of any profits or even their money back. Those who fund films or indeed plays I’ve always understood do so knowing there is a good chance they will not see their money again but with the possibility at least that it may be returned many times over. This way they are sure to get something but  ……….. 

However with Pledgemusic being used to fund albums I feel on slightly more solid ground. It’s not a good idea at all. Ignoring whether it is begging or taking advantage of fans fervour what it does do is take an artists fanbase completely out of the equation when the album comes out. Sure if you have 5,000 fans and 500 pledge then it isn’t really a problem but then if that is the case you shouldn’t really need the pledge system. It is similar to artists having an album/single launch. I regularly get bands in saying they “have hit a brick wall”. What they mean is they have sold their album to their fans at their launch, had a bit of publicity in the papers and in blogs and had a few orders online and then it just dies. At this point some then realise that what shops provide is literally a permanent “shop window” for their album long after the launch and reviews have passed and wonder if I can help. Of course from a shop’s viewpoint it is a bit late by then to get involved.

A successful release needs momentum and word of mouth and what both Pledgemusic and launches do to a large extent is kill that. Clearly I am biased but shops can reach people who don’t know about a band whereas gigs and pledges only attract those who are fans already. I quickly looked at Pledgemusic just to make sure it was what I remembered and who is right at the top but Ian McCulloch. At first I couldn’t believe he needed pledges to record an album but given everybody is sent a copy on March 5th and he is already in the studio it just seems like it is a way of making as much money as possible from the album. I assumed the £15 tote bag must have the CD with it but now I’m not so sure. Mac’s Armani glasses are £500.

I should say Stuart and Darren along with Ian McCulloch front/have fronted three of my favourite bands. Of course they are all rubbish now ! I jest. Honest !  

2 Responses to “Pledgemusic, Kickstarter and album/single launches”

  • Robert:

    I think I’d question your definition of “successful”. To me that means anything more than breaking even financially. The point of pledgemusic is that as soon as the album is released, you have already covered your costs and you have only sold to your core fans.

    The method of the studios is to tell you that recording and releasing an album is incredibly expensive. We will give you an advance, send you to a studio, and then release your album, and then we will take your advance back from your share of the profits. Very few albums ever actually break even for the artist.

    Taking the studios out of the equation leaves artists needing to foot the bill for recording, mastering and duplicating before they can get any money in return. Pledgemusic is there, as generally is kickstarter, to fix that cashflow problem. If your core fans (who will buy the album anyway) pay for their albums first, by the time you get to release day your debts are paid off and you have an album to sell.

    Of course, what they should do is coordinate that launch with record shops and do all the things that they should do anyway. But it means that it should be technically impossible for a pledgemusic album to fail financially, and anyone who is complaining after the event has just used it badly.

  • Hi there,
    One of the Pledge team forwarded me y our post. As an aside I used to front a band called Marwood and I actually played in your shop in Glasgow way back when! It was actually around that time that I had the idea for Pledge and well – the rest is history but I still have the T-Shirt!

    Anyhow to your points. I can’t speak to our friends at Kickstarter except to say that fans pledging for a return on investment is technically illegal and so can’t be done.

    PledgeMusic however I can speak to. Firstly I built it because it was something that I wanted to use. As an artist that is. We launched a campaign to make my last EP and six days later I was in the studio. 1 month later it was up online to be bought and the Pledgers got to hear it and download it first.

    Secondly – it’s not just about funding the album. It’s about the experience of making the album. Bands tend to hit their fans with two basic messages.

    1. Buy my new album
    2. Buy a ticket to my show.

    and as you say in your post – they hit a wall. I hit this exact same wall in fact.
    So what fascinated me about the idea of PledgeMusic was that you could invite the fans into the process of making the albums, by video, audio, photographic and written updates, (we call these Pledgers only updates). So if an artist does 45 pledgers only updates during the campaign (remember these include unreleased tracks, videos from the studio, perhaps unseen photos etc all delivered solely to Pledgers for the price of the minimum £8) then it’s incredible value for money.
    Then if you want to buy more deluxe items, signed Vinyl, Hand written lyric sheets, and yes even the sunglasses etc you still can.

    What Pledge does is bring the fans on a journey with the artists that they love, allow fans more options that just a CD, download or ticket but also does not exclude that.

    To say it another way. As a fan (not a record shop) what would you rather?

    Have an artist let you know two weeks before the album comes out that you can preorder the album on itunes, or on CD. Bundle it with a T-Shirt or a ticket and that’s it? Just wait for it to arrive…?

    Or would you rather see into the process, watch the music as it’s being made, see the artwork, get your name in the album credits, hear songs from the vault, unreleased live takes, old press pics, posters from years gone by etc… and then STILL get the album on CD with a T-Shirt or ticket bundle.

    The latter seems like a better deal and far greater value for money.

    For those who don’t want it that way they can just wait till all that fun stuff is over and then grab the CD. So one does not preclude the other.

    As to selling to the fanbase this is a fair point except for the fact that the average Pledger spends over £50 per transaction. So you need fewer fans to make the record happen. I think it’s no secret that bands need more fans. Whilst Pledge can’t make this happen on it’s own we did build the ability for fans to autoshare their Pledgers only updates to both their facebook and twitter feeds.

    So for example an artist posts an update of a demo for a new track and this feeds that artists facebook, twitter, myspace etc. Then when I Pledge I can set for this update to also post to my facebook and twitter as a fan. My friends then get to see that I am watching or listening to something that they then would have to Pledge to see. In this way each update gets the band more exposure.

    For example as I’m typing this Ginger Wildheart just released a Pledgers only update video (his 44th) and it was retweeted 142 times to his followers on twitter alone.

    I believe that fans want to show loyalty and that true fans want to be taken on a journey. Since we founded Pledge we have had 3 top 20 albums out of the system and a top 30. Which means that the super fans have used Pledge to get the music first and the rest of the fans have bought it later on. To add to that 26 artists have been signed to major and indie labels out of the system.

    It was designed to be an option and I know in my heart that it’s a great option.

    Lastly the Ian’s tote bag comes with the digital download and access to the updates in which there are two unreleased performances already for Pledgers only!
    So it’s already a bargin right?
    Cheers and be well.

    Founder of PledgeMusic

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