PledgeMusic: Artists urged not to use crowdfunding site

PledgeMusic

With hundreds of artists waiting to get paid by PledgeMusic, the Musicians’ Union is warning performers to avoid using the platform – for the time being at least.

When it started ten years ago PledgeMusic was considered a force for good in the music industry. The crowdfunding platform gave fans the chance to directly support their favourite artists by providing much-needed cash investment. It seemed like a win-win-win situation. Artists got paid, fans got new music and Pledge got 15% of a campaign to cover hosting and support costs. But the company is now in trouble, and desperately seeking a buyer or investor to help it stay afloat.

What went wrong with PledgeMusic?

In years gone by, many singers and bands had very positive experiences with PledgeMusic. But in recent months things have changed. Many artists have complained that after reaching their Pledge targets, the company has been slow to pay up, has paid only a fraction of what they’re supposed to, or simply hasn’t paid anything at all.

An artist’s story

One such artist is Danny Vaughn who asked fans to pledge £17,000 to help him make a new record. Within ten days he’d reached his target and within three months he’d raised more than £26,000. Vaughn was over the moon – until he tried to get the funds he was owed out of PledgeMusic.

According to the agreement, he was supposed to get 60% of his target funds, that’s about £10,000, within two weeks of the campaign ending. This didn’t happen. After weeks of emails and phone calls, PledgeMusic handed over £3,000. Vaughn has since squeezed another £2,000 out of them but wonders if he’ll ever see the rest of the cash. Understandably, he is furious.

“If you’re thinking of Pledging right now, or if you’re an artist on Pledge right now, then stop. Do not send them one more penny.”

He’s not alone, which is why the Musicians’ Union met with PledgeMusic bosses last week.

At the meeting the union secured an assurance that “outstanding payments will be brought up to date within the next 90 days”.

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge adds: “This is far from satisfactory, but at this time we believe that any legal action against Pledge may be counter-productive. That position may change over time and we will keep you up to date with developments.

“In the meantime, we would suggest that, if you are thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign, you should approach one of the other established crowdfunding platforms until such time as this situation has been resolved.”

What next for PledgeMusic?

The company’s founder Benji Rogers has returned to steady the ship. He’ll act as a volunteer observer and adviser and hopefully sort the mess out. He’s vowed to work to see artists get paid what they’re due. He’s also promised to introduce a new structure where all monies that come in via donations/pledges are managed by an independent third party (yes, we’re surprised this wasn’t happening already too, WTF?).

The company says: “We ask for patience. We know that for a lot of you this must be wearing very thin, but we can only reiterate that we are fully focused on making this situation right.”

PledgeMusic has copped some serious flak in the past week or two, but let’s hope it can turn things around. Artists are increasingly reliant on crowdfunding to make albums – and it’s not just emerging acts, established stars including Robbie Williams and Sophie Ellis Bextor use it too. If the public lose faith in the integrity of the platforms that facilitate crowdfunding, it will be a sad day for the industry as a whole.

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