Who doesn’t know that the music industry is failing? Talented artists are being dropped from their record labels, leaving them the option of either going back to the day job or chasing yet another route to success. Pledge Music on the other hand offers a real option, it allows musicians to involve their fans, keep their rights, fund their music and simultaneously raise money for charity. Sounds perfect, right? We were so impressed by Pledge’s new approach to music production that we arranged an interview with musician turned CEO of the company, Benji Rogers.
Hi Benji. Can you briefly describe to me what PledgeMusic is?
“Pledge Music is a direct to fan artist engagement platform, not a straight fan-funding platform. We work with the artist from digital marketing to the raising of funds, releasing albums and, we have our own record label from which we can offer certain artists a more conventional release. Pledge creates unique hybrid campaigns, offering fans great value for money and a new and exciting way for artists to release records. It’s a way of doing things differently; we don’t take rights away from the artists, we take commission from what’s made. It’s a great way of giving artists and fans more.”
Can anyone or any band join Pledge? Or, do they need to reach a specific criteria to apply?
“No, Pledge caters for everyone: unsigned, signed or working it can work in conjunction with a label. What Pledge can really show is that if a band or artist can do well on pledge, they present less of a risk to a label.”
Which countries is Pledge currently operating in?
“We’re currently operating in the United States, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Australia. We can actually operate in any country. Pledge now has offices in LA, London and New York.”
What sort of reponse have you had since launching?
“Absolutely incredible! The amount of love and goodwill we’ve received from the artists as well as labels is incredible. Pledge has been built by artists for artists and we differentiate ourselves in the crowded music space. We currently have a 75% success rate.”
How many albums have you made with artists already?
“Through working with artists we’ve currently made 115 albums and we’re growing at about 5% a month.”
Who came up with the idea?
“I saw a hole in the market. It’s not enough to just fund albums anymore. I had the idea whilst living on an air mattress in my mum’s flat as a struggling musician. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t making any money. By hook or by crook I had the idea and took it to my friends. Next thing, there are 3 offices.”
Why aren’t arstist making money if they’re selling records?
“The traditional model [major labels] is eroding. When I was making music there was no mechanism like Pledge that existed to help me. I couldn’t get signed and I couldn’t make any money. I tested it, I was the ‘Alpha Launch’ of Pledge Music, raising 6.5 thousand dollars in 6 days for my album.”
That’s impressive. Where do you see PledgeMusic in 5 years time?
“I think it’s going to be a pretty heavily used option with artists who want to make a living from music. We’re going to work with a lot more record labels. They’re starting to realise what sort of tool we are in the music industry. All our company was designed to do was to make money for artists and charities. We only take money by commission.”
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting Pledge?
“Keeping the quality as high as we can as the company grows. We can’t be on the phone to every artsist every 5 minutes. So yeah, the biggest challenge is keeping the excellence as high as we can.”
What makes you different to a standard record label?
“Starting a record label seemed an insane choice. Major labels have in most cases failed more than they have succeeded. If you can do something well and differentiate yourself in a crowded space, put a new take on it and give someone a deal that has their interests at heart then you will win. Most record deals don’t do well for the artist – we think about how the artists is going to make a living and whether it will work for them first. This means that it will also work for us and everybody involved.”
Which artists are you currently working with?
“We’re currently working with some great artists, including: The Blackout, Cast, Funeral for a Friend and Firehorse.”
Can you give me a hint as to any new artists for 2011?
“We’ve got a couple of thousand new projects coming live in March but I can’t say much about them.”
You were in the band Marwood before, how did you make the transition from band member to CEO of Pledge Music?
“I Went from gigging 3-5 times a week to three gigs in a year and a half. I really miss it but I kinda see that this is a labour of love too. I have found a way to help artists and I wished their was a company like ours that existed when I set out and I will continue to make records that I love. Now its built, someone has got to run it. I take what I do really seriously and if you see a way to help you kind of have to, you’re obliged too. Artists have come up to me after shows or pledges and said that Pledge has changed their lives. When they were dropped from their label we gave them a platform to work from and showed them the support from their fans. Making sure 75% of artists we work with are successful is a mighty achievement and I have my amazing team to thank for that. As an artist you have your options: try to get signed to a label, hope they give me the money so I can do what I want to do, or, go on their own and try and make it. If you want to get a record deal and work with pledge, you can. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s about giving choice.”
I love the way Pledge incorporates charities in it’s work. Can you tell me about them?
“It was at the heart of it from the beginning. It’s a huge part of it, the artist chooses a charity and decides how much they want to give. The more we engage the better it seems to be. We have people that go into the charities and work hands on with them to really embrace it. When you go into the studio and know you’re also working with a charity, it’s a great feeling.”
Pledge website: www.pledgemusic.com