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Dear PledgeMusic: It's Time to Stop Misrepresenting Music Crowdfunding

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I think PledgeMusic is one of the most important music tech companies currently in the game. I also think crowdfunding is one of the most important financial developments of this century to date though it does precede this century. Because I think both PledgeMusic and crowdfunding are extremely important to the music industry in this time of radical change, I find it disappointing that PledgeMusic insists on misrepresenting crowdfunding to musicians in order to position themselves as the true direct-to-fan platform.

PledgeMusic's Positioning: “Not A Crowdfunding Platform" Platform

When PledgeMusic launched they made a big deal of not being a crowdfunding platform despite the fact that, if I recall correctly and as others have pointed out to me, they looked a lot like Kickstarter. Plus, they have two funding options, crowdfunding and presales.

So they seemed to be attempting to benefit from crowdfunding's popularity and potential power while positioning themselves as the “not a crowdfunding platform" platform while simultaneously fixing the problems of crowdfunding with their emphasis on direct-to-fan.

That's a potentially convulated way to position onself especially since PledgeMusic decided to misrepresent crowdfunding as their solution to the positioning problem. But, from everything I've learned to date, successful music crowdfunding campaigns are the essence of direct-to-fan.

PledgeMusic Is Misrepresenting Crowdfunding

I actually had not planned on writing about PledgeMusic's take on crowdfunding until I saw this post and realized PledgeMusic wasn't going to stop and that this situation is not good for musicians. A lot of musicians are still sorting out their options and are somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to sort out.

Given PledgeMusic's great success and increasingly strong brand, some musicians might find themselves buying into a basic misrepresentation of something they don't yet fully understand:

“Let’s take a look at the mentality behind a traditional crowdfunding campaign. In this model, a person has a product to sell or a proof-of-concept and a hope of creating an actual product. Because said person doesn’t have the means to finalize this product or perhaps the budget to market it, he or she comes to the general public and asks one question: 'Will you help me fund [project X]? In return, I will give you the product when it’s finished or released.'"

“So how is that different from an artist coming to fans with a new album through PledgeMusic? The biggest contrast here lies in the question that’s being asked. If you pay attention to artists using PledgeMusic, you’ll see that they’re presenting fans with an entirely different underlying proposition, and it’s this: 'I have something exciting in the works, and I would love for you to be a part of it. Would you join me in this journey as we create something awesome together?'"

And who wouldn't want to be an artist going on a journey with their fans rather than a person trying to fund a proof-of-concept?

The problem is that successful music crowdfunding campaigns do exactly what PledgeMusic says that only they are doing.

PledgeMusic Fixed Crowdfunding But They Can't Say That

Crowdfunding platforms focus on the fundraising period after which artists can stay in as close touch as they wish and they should. They can do updates through the crowdfunding platform and they can set up presales campaigns after the crowdfunding period right up to release.

However it's up to the musicians to maintain that contact and on a typical crowdfunding platform you have to knit some things together yourself.

PledgeMusic helps with the knitting. They created what is essentially an integrated direct-to-fan album campaign platform featuring crowdfunding and presales up to the release. And they emphasize and push people to continue to connect with fans throughout the process. Crowdfunding platforms leave you a bit more on your own.

So what PledgeMusic has actually done is fixed music crowdfunding by creating a D2F album campaign platform that integrates crowdfunding into the total process.

But they can't say that because their positioning is dependent on not being a crowdfunding platform.

Gonna Tell Amanda Palmer Her Kickstarter Wasn't Direct-To-Fan?

This stuck in a corner positioning leads to repetious claims that crowdfunding is not direct-to-fan.

But the stellar work of the lads at Launch & Release shows otherwise.

I've been writing about crowdfunding since 2011 and focusing on the direct-to-fan aspect all along.

As Kickstarter's cofounder Yancey Strickler told Kyle Bylin in 2010:

“On Kickstarter there's no one to satisfy except your fans."

And, seriously, are you going to tell Amanda Palmer her historical crowdfunding campaign wasn't direct-to-fan? And then use her picture to illustrate your post?

PledgeMusic, you're a powerhouse, but please stop misrepresenting crowdfunding. It was direct-to-fan before you even existed.


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