Since its inception in 2009, Pledge Music has had a hand in curating musical experiences that have gone beyond the realm of the traditional album sale for more than 50,000 artists and 3 million music fans around the world. From limited-edition releases to handwritten lyrics and one-on-one experiences, PledgeMusic has served as the ultimate music geek’s dream come true.
Late last month, however, Texan power-pop trio Fastball, via Bob Lefsetz, went public with the revelation that PledgeMusic owed them $20,000. The news arrived approximately six months after an initial report that the service was having trouble paying its artists. One unnamed company source attributed the company’s woes to both a changing payment processor structure as well as the exponential growth the service had seen over the last few years.
PledgeMusic declined to comment to FYI Music News and referred to a statement issued by the company on Feb. 1 that insisted they were working around the clock to address concerns and that they are hopeful of reaching a positive resolution soon. The statement arrived just days after PledgeMusic co-founder Benji Rogers, who left in 2016, returned to the helm of the company on a temporary basis, and approximately one week after it issued a comment on the payment backlog that artists were facing.
There’s been no shortage of Canadian acts who have undertaken PledgeMusic campaigns throughout the last decade, including Voivod, Sum 41, The Headstones and Rusty, among others.
Headstones vocalist Hugh Dillon credits PledgeMusic with having helped the group get on its feet again after a nearly decade-long hiatus.
“We truly had a great experience with PledgeMusic.
“In a way, they’re the ones responsible for us becoming the band we are today and connecting us with people who give a shit about us,” Dillon tells FYI, noting the group used the platform for both 2013’s Love + Fury and 2014’s One In The Chamber Music.
Dillon says the visibility and access PledgeMusic provided to both the band and their fans was a close-up view they hadn’t necessarily been afforded in the past.
“That’s one of the best aspects of the platform, having the chance to get personally involved with your fans and see exactly what this band means to people.”
Long-running Toronto rock band Rusty launched their PledgeMusic campaign behind the group’s latest full-length effort, Dogs of Canada, in late 2017.
Rusty guitarist Scott McCullough says despite the group getting caught in the delayed payments issue that came to light last year, their experience was overall positive.
“What drew us to the PledgeMusic platform was the fact they were so responsive to any concerns or questions we might have had,” McCullough says.
“There are other crowd-funding platforms out there that take less of a cut, but from what we observed, they couldn’t necessarily match what PledgeMusic offered in terms of ongoing support. Even when it came to addressing the delay in payments, they were always very apologetic and sought to reassure us they were doing all they could to sort things out.”
While the firm’s future remains uncertain at present, Dillon is confident that Benji Rogers’ return to the company will ultimately get the PledgeMusic ship steadily sailing once again.
“I feel that Benji can fix it. He’s not the kind of guy that would just walk away from everything. He has an incredible amount of integrity and won’t give up on it because he knows what it means to both the artists and the fans. I hope this will just be a bump in the road when it’s all said and done.”
Meanwhile, British electro-pop band Jesus Jones are hoping their PledgeMusic saga will see an end sooner rather than later. The group, which found international success in the early ’90s with their still-ubiquitous hit “Right Here, Right Now,” launched two different album campaigns via PledgeMusic last year.
The first project was Passages, the band’s first full-length studio album since 2001. The group’s other release, Voyages, serves as a companion piece to Passages, and was billed as a “collection of ideas, demos and alternate mixes.”
Via email, Jesus Jones keyboardist Iain Baker says it was toward the end of the band’s campaign for Passages that it began to sense something was amiss.
“It did take a while for all the payments to be made,” Baker shares. “I had to pester them, again and again, repeatedly following up with emails. But the funds were eventually released and soon after, [PledgeMusic] put out an email which said they'd had issues with PayPal refunds, and that it was negatively affecting cash flow, but they'd got it all sorted. So, we thought it was still safe.”
While Pledge Music’s financial troubles weren’t enough to completely foil the release of Voyages – Baker says the album was entirely manufactured and sent out to those who had pledged – the band is left holding the bill for manufacturing costs until the time PledgeMusic pays the group.
“The bills associated with making the record are coming in, and we don’t have the funds to cover them. It impacts what we’re able to do as a band moving forward.”