It was a disaster that almost killed artist crowdfunding entirely.
As PledgeMusic disappeared with potentially millions in fan contributions, the concept of an artist crowdfunding platform rightfully came under scrutiny by musicians. But how was it possible for PledgeMusic to steal so much money in the first place — and get away with it?
According to Bandzoogle, the answer is pretty simple — and fixable. Bandzoogle, which has been offering a broad range of tools for artists for two decades, doesn’t touch the money. “This is not an escrow arrangement,” Dave Cool, who heads artist relations at Bandzoogle, flatly told Digital Music News.
Far from it: Bandzoogle doesn’t even take commissions. Instead, they charge a modest monthly fee for platform tools that include artist page hosting, direct-to-fan artist subscriptions, SEO optimization, download sales and delivery, analytics on fans, ticket sales, and even Soundscan reporting.
It’s a model that’s been quietly achieving serious traction with artists, and a low-key industry success story. According to Bandzoogle’s CEO, Stacey Bedford, the company has been helping artists to earn tens of millions of dollars directly from their fans through a range of tools. She’s not sure of the total amount, but the company started tracking its artist revenues in 2011, and the ticker is about to cross $37 million — with no commission cut.
Not too shabby, especially for the artists using this platform. We recently joined forces to expand the success further hopefully, and shine the light on Bandzoogle’s relatively recent forays into artist crowdfunding. In the process, we’ve been introduced to a company that lives and dies for indie artists and is essentially the opposite of PledgeMusic.
“Dollar signs do not motivate us, we’re motivated by doing something useful with our time,” Bedford told us.
Sadly, PledgeMusic was more of a scam than an escrow arrangement, with funds held but never distributed.
After successfully paying artists for years, the platform hoodwinked artists like Filter, L7, and Queensrÿche by using pledged funds to pay for company overhead, salaries, or worse. Sadly, Filter was forced to cancel a 20th-anniversary album, and Queensryche lost $70,000 in pledges. L7 has threatened litigation to recover their funds after accusing the company of running a scam.
But that was only part of the story, according to Dave. Beyond the more prominent names, other indies were often forced to pay for projects on their own while PledgeMusic froze contributions. Those artists got far less attention but had a more difficult recovery challenge. “The money they lost had a huge impact on them,” Cool said. “They had to pay out of pocket.”
Sounds like an interesting idea — though launching a Spotify app for a single artist seems complex. But Bandzoogle had also been hearing this suggestion from other artists, so they constructed a subscription-based solution in response.
Accordingly, any Bandzoogle artist can easily build a subscription wall around any content and integrate the payment platform within their sites.
The result is an exciting financial possibility for artists, with the potential to generate recurring, sustainable monthly income. In a nutshell, Bandzoogle layers subscription-based areas onto an existing site, with the look-and-feel consistent throughout. Then, the artist can decide what goes behind the subscription paywall, including pre-release music, exclusive outtakes, remixes, videos, and live-streams.
One of the earliest takers of Bandzoogle’s subscription feature is Jont, whose ‘Gentle Warrior’ community exists across different access tiers. The exact mix of content depends on the subscription level, with Jont positioning access options for $5, $15, or $50 (Canadian) a month. Entry-level subscribers get access to lots of songs and videos, while ‘Gentle Warrior III’ subscribers enjoy ‘red carpet’ treatment. The bag of goodies includes unreleased songs, long-form videos, and concert recordings.
Jont pointed to the subscription platform as a way for fans. It’s a way “to show appreciation for my music in a tangible way that will help me focus on my music full-time,” he said.
Bandzoogle’s subscription platform resembles Patreon in some ways, but without the commissions. The money goes directly to the artist. But most importantly, it’s a way to directly connect with fans, many of whom are dying to support their favorite artists directly.