Pledge Music

Pledge Music

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Fastball can’t get paid.

I got a call from their manager Ron Stone today. The band was due their 20k on 1/1, Pledge said to wait a while, they’d dribble it out over time. And then when Ron pushed for the money, Pledge went silent, it’s been three weeks now without a return phone call.

So obviously they don’t have the money.

But Fastball has already spent most of it! Making product to fulfill their obligation to their fans who pledged. It’s not Pledge’s money, other than the small percentage the service takes as a fee. They hold the money as a fiduciary. But obviously, they’ve spent it.

But Fastball is a small player in their ecosystem, what about the big acts? And do you mean to tell me you don’t have $20,000?

This is just like those festivals that spend the ticket money and then go bust. Assuming the ticketing company coughs it up to begin with.

Then again, these entrepreneurs are not bankers, they’ve got an idea and…

If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be taking new clients. And if you don’t have the money…where is the big windfall for Pledge Music gonna come from? They’ve got a fixed percentage, are they suddenly gonna get a zillion more acts so they can pay Fastball its measly 20k?

Or are they waiting for a buyout…


Well, who is interested in this low margin business to begin with? And if the present executives can’t make it work, why should someone with a deeper pocket be able to?

Or maybe Pledge just has incompetent executives. Well, aren’t there investors who realize this?

It’s one thing to run out of cash, it’s quite another to use other people’s cash to keep the lights on. It’d be like a bank blowing all your cash and not telling you until it was gone to boot! Then again, the government protects six figures of investment in banks. Beyond that…they figure you’re sophisticated. Come on, are musicians financially sophisticated? If so, they’d be doing something else. Pledge is not only taking advantage of the players, but stealing their hard-earned cash.

And you know Fastball’s fans are gonna blame the band, not Pledge. And how is this going to hurt the band’s image? And their future financial prospects?

Beware.

https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/fastball-all-the-pain-money-can-buy-20th

 


Responses from Bob’s readers. Please note, these comments are unedited for content, grammar or punctuation. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Encore or its staff.

 

I had the same experience with Pledge, Bob — the second payment was delayed a few weeks (there are 3 payments, due when you’ve met certain milestones), they dribbled the final payment our over about 4 months. Fortunately in my case I was able to meet all my obligations without that last payout, but they were clearly robbing Peter to pay Paul. The income wasn’t matching the outflow.

Tom Rush


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I launched a Pledge Music campaign for my album All These Hellos in November. It was the fourth album/campaign I used Pledge for. The very first campaign I launched was in 2013 and they’ve always been great…until now.

Now a month past our payout date my manager Barry Taylor has written four emails and the wording we get back is how they’ll work out a “payment plan” with us.
To which we’ve said we don’t need a plan. We need to get paid.

Like Atticus Finch says in Lee Harper’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie explains to Scout that “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy”.

We thought crowd funding and pre-sale platforms were working for us, but here we are.

Louise Goffin

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Hi Bob, I hope this email finds you enjoying nice warm weather on the West Coast. Yesterday was -15 here in NJ. Haha!

A friend of mine passed along your post about PledgeMusic not paying out Fastball. I ran a campaign through Pledge this year and it’s been a terrible experience with very little help from project managers. I was given my 60% within a few weeks of when the campaign reached 100%. Cool. And recently, I released my digital album on January 1st and I’ve been asking for the 25% that is owed to me. I’ve sent numerous emails and no one has given me a straight answer…and now there is no response at all. My 25% is only $3,000. I have fans asking me about receiving their packages in the mail and I can’t afford to print the CDs, shirts or posters without that money. It’s crossed my mind to ask a family member to loan me the money, but my fear is that I may never receive what I’m owed.


I kept thinking “Pledge wouldn’t be doing this to their big artists. They’re only doing this to me because I’m a super small independent artist.” Sadly, I can’t believe how BIG this problem is turning out to be.

I’m so disheartened and sad that my music career plans are being held, hostage. Thanks for posting that article.

Amanda Duncan

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Michael Sweet (Stryper/Sweet&Lynch/ex-Boston) here. I read your thoughts on the Pledge/Fastball situation and I have to say that I really enjoyed your write up. Oddly enough Ron Stone (and Danny Goldberg) used to manage us for a brief period in the early nineties.

I’ve also had bad luck with Pledge. Not so much with being paid but with them failing to get orders out on time and having to deal with the fallout. They also dropped the ball on reporting to SoundScan on time costing us a few thousand first week sales to report. It happened with two albums and I could not believe that a company that’s supposedly put together by professionals could make such a mistake.

I’ve gone as far as to say that I’ll never do another project with them again. I just don’t see the point of having a “middleman” that complicates things more than they need to be and takes a good piece of the pie while doing so.

Reading Ron’s thoughts on Fastball being payed improperly only confirms my feelings. Anyway, I wanted to share with you it was good to see that I’m not the only one who has had issues with Pledge. Thank you…..

All the best,

Michael Sweet

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I had a similar experience recently with them. It eventually took a letter from my attorney to get paid after I had sent at least 20 emails over a three to four month period to various folks at the company. Not only do they hold the money for the product the fans have paid for but the shipping and handling costs, which can be a pretty significant amount. The model worked well besides them doing zero marketing of the release, which they say they do when you are getting their pitch. It was clear there were some die hard Pledge Music fans who support projects even when they are not already fans of the act. That was definitely one benefit. I think they should be upfront and change their policy to pay out in 90-120 days and not the approx. 30 days they say when you sign up. The high percentage they take also adds to the frustration of it taking longer than it should to get paid from them.

Scott Bomar

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Same here, Bob! Have been pushing hard to get to the funds that are rightfully my artist’s for the past couple of weeks and have been met with unerring silence by people I’ve known for many years! Absolutely shameful!

Best,

Matthias Siefert

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Otherwise known as a Ponzi scheme. Not the first time this has happened, however. Friends of mine, The Ghost Town Blues Band, were treated to the same nonsense last year .Read about it here:
https://www.facebook.com/GhostTownBluesBand/posts/i-hate-to-have-to-bring-this-up-publicly-but-pledgemusic-has-not-paid-us-the-mon/10155387875357212/

Sturges Nikides

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They screwed me over too

Were giving me problems on paying me $7k, I had to hound them and make threats, this was a few years ago

They also agreed that I would offer vinyl, then when the money came in from my fans, they told me to put the money up to press the vinyl myself out of my own pocket, and were being difficult, so I had to cancel the whole vinyl campaign and have the money returned to my fans, they are compulsive liars

Ron Braunstein

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Hi Bob – Longtime reader. This reminds me of when my music project Eric Lives Here won one of OurStage.com’s monthly song contests…. Winner got a $100 Amazon gift card… Well that was 5 years ago and I’m still waiting for it! LOL Similar to this story, it was a bunch of excuses and then silence. But that was $100 and this is $20k. Ridiculous how many music companies out there are doing this.

Von Eric
Eric Lives Here

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Sadly in same position with Pledge. Have worked with them for few years, perhaps a dozen projects.
Last project ended about a year ago and we raised nice six figure amount for artist.
Been trying to get the final 18K since last July???
Sporadic communication, no definitive plan or offer or dates.

Want to be empathetic, it’s the music business and we’ve all likely been on both sides of this story at some point.

Further, I recommended Pledge Music to the artist so remain invested in closure…

At wits end and artist wants to go public, I have encouraged her to do so.

Kevin Day

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We had a similar situation with pledge last year and it took our managers and lawyers getting involved for us to finally receive our money. We were told it was an issue with PayPal who had handled their processing. The issue was blamed on a new policy that stated PayPal no longer handled their type of payment process. The cfo of pledge was tasked with finding another process company and when this search was done it was based solely on the profits that could be obtained by finding a “Cheaper” CC payment processor. When the new company took over the volume of processing crashed the servers of the small company therefore tying up payments in “Limbo”. We were told that CFO lost his job over this debacle and i had the thought that this was sign of a bigger problem. Our campaign was small compared to larger projects (about 15k raised). After paying 15% for a service my website host bandzoogle offers for free as part of our annual fee (199.00year) I vowed never to use PledgeMusic again. I further realized that the whole thing is basically a scam that give the illusion of a “Go Fund Me” type fundraiser, the reality is you have to get approved to host a campaign as pledge only wants to host “Fundable” projects as not to have any “Failed” campaigns. The reality is every pledge music will get funded weather you meet your goal or not even though the general public is under the impression that if you don’t meet you goal then no one with get their packages and the pledged money is returned to the fan. Have you ever seen a failed pledge campaign? I haven’t either. But we were told to tell fans this lie to encourage sales. And we’re also encouraged to raise our goal mid way thru because sales were going well for us. We actually didn’t hit the new goal and an set off a series of upset fans thinking they were not gonna get the album they thought they were funding. Again another farce is that the “Projects or packages” being sold as a “only if funded” project have to be 100% complete before ever being approved as a campaign. So it’s actually not a really Fund raider but rather a platform to dupe fans into thinking they are pledging to buy a future product. I could go on about this but you get the idea I’m sure my story isn’t the only one. Thanks for all your insight I love your column and use it to help guide my bands career. Cheers!

Maddox Messer
www.messerband.com

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40+ emails in total, 5-10 different company contacts, begging for months and months since a Sept 2018 release for a Grammy nominee fundraise campaign that ended in December of 2016 to help fans support recording costs.

We are owed a meager $3500, the second and final installment and the various finance/accounting employees on the email threads haven’t even had to the decency to offer one reply to manage any expectations over the course of that last 5-10 communications directly to their inboxes. We have identified one employee who does in fact care, but if he can’t even move the needle internally, how can we outside their own walls?!

The tell tale sign of an industry in distress is the marriage to a selfish short term dollar matched with low trust that has infected the entire ecosystem like a cancer freezing the artist development story dead in its tracks from every single side of the aisle, on stage and off it. An archipelago of self interested islands that only want to sail a boat to yours in fact you have coconuts you have grown that are ready to be taken.

For us and our bold vision, this is an invite and a source of daily inspiration. A welcomed invite to display how trust, sincerity, authencity, and true musicianshipcan can drive scalable impact across the board on behalf of the art that lives and breathes in our hearts. The entire reason we are all here in the first place…

#relentless

Jesse Guglielmo
We Save Music LLC

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Moira Smiley forwarded me the letter about Fastball.
I have been waiting since OCTOBER for my payout. They have mostly been silent, or just very slippery and sidestepping my questions.

I think we / artists need to band together on this issue.

Best,
Joanna

www.joannawallfisch.com

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Hi Bob,
thank you for posting this warning piece on Pledge Music.
I used them to raise funds for my latest record and what a hasstle it became getting paid out.
I just flipped through my extensive email correspondence and found one exchange of many which highlights your points. For what its worth:

On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 1:40 PM, Jay Aymar wrote:

Ok. So this Friday for the second payment and the remaining amount to follow after that.

As the release is pending my cash flow is of the essence.

Sincerely,
Jay Aymar

On Wed, Aug 1, AS wrote:
No, will let you know when we have an ETA for the payments. We’re still experiencing a backlog.
AS

Not sure what a ‘backlog” means exactly but I’ll just assume the best.
Jay Aymar

I received my payout but it was not without awful frustration.

If it quacks like a ….oh you get the picture.

Sincerely,
Jay Aymar
www.jayaymar.com

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You said small percentage. We ran a successful campaign with pledge a few years back. At the time, the platform was a great way to give privileged access to fans, in a familiar ecosystem, by offering presales of albums bundled with merch. Pledge’s percentage was based on grosse sales and the costs of manufacture and fulfillment fell to the band. That “small percentage” ends up being quite expensive and ultimately why we did not use the service again. I wonder how many acts are returning customers doing multiple campaigns compared to the one and dones like ourselves. Despite having a relatively successful campaign, I can’t recall anyone from pledge following up to see what more we could do or when the next album would come.

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Fuck Pledge. They’re crooks.

Fastball fans will understand it;s NOT the bands fault. Fans these days are WAY more informed than ever.

Kevnn Robinson

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I have avoided many Pledge Music projects due to an underlying fear that this might happen. Regarding Fastball, however, I did receive the beautiful signed LP that I supported – on time and hand packaged by the band. Fastball are some of the nicest guys you’ll meet in this business… let’s hope this works out.

-Bruce R Kilgour

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Their ecosystem seems to have been in dire straits for awhile:

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/pledgemusic.com?page=5

I don’t know when Fastball threw in with them. But anyone checking the stats now would not want to put their money or their hopes or their music on Pledge.

-Daniel Slosberg

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A couple of weeks ago, a singer who I used to play with posted a warning to all of her musician friends on Facebook. It was the same story: “stay away from Pledge. I can’t get my money.”
Regards,
Mark Feldman
NYC

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I’m glad that someone has addressed the troubling issues of Pledge Music.

As a Pledge campaigner twice over in recent years, (I know, fool me twice, etc..) it really is hit and miss with regards to the support you are given as an artist. Maybe bigger artists get a better service, but I very much doubt it.

It’s hard to tell whether the project managers are incompetent or have too many projects to focus on, but one thing is clear, even though the financials are in Pledge Music’s bank account, the projects are the sole responsibility of the artist (so I was told), especially when there are any problems or issues. I guess it’s all fine as long as they are getting their cut…

It’s a crowd funded platform, with lots of flaws, ironically due to Pledge’s actual involvement.

Your story about Fastball really hit home. It’s meant to be artist friendly, I really can’t believe that if they hit their target, that haven’t been paid. That’s one of the main parts of the deal. “Hit the target and Pledge will pay out 50% of the campaign account!!!”

The promise is much rosier than reality…

Beware indeed.

Pete Spiby

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Check this out. I’m a huge fan of Vulfpeck. They have been using a company in England called Qrates to fund their albums. The latest release, ‘Hill Climber’ was supposed to ship on Dec. 28th. Now they are telling us that they are having production problems after we all paid roughly $35 for the album back in September. The campaign ended on 9/21. I’m not so sure that we’ll ever see the album. They keep pushing back the date. I’m including the last email I received from them and I’m not happy. I think are just relying on the fans to keep them afloat, which is terrible business. I’m not mad at Vulfpeck, but I’m disappointed as fuck…

Rodney Rowland

Hi Rodney,

This is an update regarding ‘VULFPECK /// Hill Climber (First Pressing)’ and ‘VULFPECK /// Hill Climber (180G | White)’.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the delay. We are currently re-manufacturing the ‘VULFPECK /// Hill Climber (First Pressing)’ due to manufacturing defects. For that reason, we will ship the ‘VULFPECK /// Hill Climber (180G | White)’ first. We will get back to you as soon as possible with an estimated shipping date for both titles.

Once again, we’re very sorry for the delay and inconvenience. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
The Qrates Team

So unfortunately we cannot provide an estimated shipping date for now, it will take a few weeks to get those things fixed. We know this is very unpleasant, but unfortunately we have no other option now.

Thanks for your understanding!

Best regards
Marcel
Support Team

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Please don’t print my name or email as I have an artist owed $.

Dominic Pandiscia fucked this ship up and now all the bands are paying for it!

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Our band & another band who are long time tour mates of ours have been getting screwed by PledgeMusic as well. Not only are they not even giving us an estimate of when we may get our money, they were miserable to work with during the campaign process. When we were shopping for a fundraising platform they made a lot of big promises to us in terms of promo & ‘coaching’ during the campaign and said that’s why they take 15% instead of Kickstart or Indiegogo’s smaller 6-8%. Not only did they fail on their promises during the campaign, but they were rude toward us to boot. Now we’re screwed. We’re not a huge act but we need the money to be able to finish and promote our record. What can we do? Sue them? As I said, it’s not just happening to us; it’s happening to some of our best friends and they’re receiving zero response from Pledge as well. Some other artists have also contacted us as well about not getting paid. It’s our money nor theirs! They don’t deserve the 15%! At this point we’re afraid that if we speak out too much against them in public that our chances of getting paid will grow more slim. Too bad you’re ‘BEWARE’ didn’t arrive much much earlier….

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Since Benji left the company fell apart.
So many bands including me had to fight to get paid.

I’ll never use them again.

Michael Manafest

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Incompetent isn’t an excuse.

You absolutely can not spend money that isn’t yours. Period.

Here is a novel concept… HAVE TWO SEPARATE BANK ACCOUNTS!

David McKay
seated.com

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Holy cow. As the owner of a ticketing company, I can say we are asked to do this all the time. Hold the money responsibly, and pay it out on time. In 10 years I can say we’ve never missed a single payment. Seems like table stakes for a business that is all about facilitating the transaction between creator and customer. Without trust that large fan friendly, independent, do-gooder brands like Pledge will do right with the responsibility they’ve been given, what do we have besides a scummy, rotten, shark infested music business that neither customer or creator can buy into. Without that, we have nothing but used up dreams. I thought things were changing, maybe not. Maybe so. I never know these days.

J.R. Denson

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This is bad. I have backed many projects on Pledge Music and still have 3 or 4 pending right now. What a shame. Thanks for the heads up. Hopefully, it is just an oversight.

Rich Moylan

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Isn’t this robbing Peter to pay Paul? I had a situation like this on Kickstarter. Guy was using funds from the current project to print up books for the past project. I enjoyed what he was printing but once i figured out what he was doing, i quit funding his projects over concern of not getting the rewards if he didn’t meet his goals.
As far as Pledge Music, i enjoyed backing a few different projects that gave regular updates as recording progressed. Anymore, however, it just seems like a platform for pre-sales with no excitement of being a “part” of the process. I don’t even bother. It does really suck they are screwing bands over.
Anyhoo, just my two cents. Steve

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This confirms my suspicions.

I was just about to launch a Pledge with them for one of my artists but the people who do the merchandise manufacture for them in the UK told me that they’d had some payment issues with them.

Mmmmmm, now how am I going to fund the album of a 65 year old singing priest?

Go Fund Me? Is Kickstarter still a thing?

Any suggestions welcome.

Gordon Charlton

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If I were Fastball I’d be out of my head. I’d be out of my mind!

Rich Gilberto


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