PledgeMusic Redesign De-Emphasizes Crowdfunding

PledgeMusic on Monday rolled out a redesign that de-emphasizes the crowdfunding features of its platform, a sign that crowdfunding has potentially reached the limit of its utility for musicians as they seek new ways to generate revenue directly from fans.

The new site instead lets artists offer a "bento box" menu of merchandise, limited edition memorabilia, private concerts, tickets and, of course, music. Artists can still hold crowdfunding campaigns to help finance the production of new albums, but that is now just one of several direct-to-fan options bands can raise money on the PledgeMusic platform.

"I'm a fan of crowdfunding, but it's not always the correct tool to use for music," said PledgeMusic President and Founder Benji Rogers. "One of our artists put it best when they said that with crowdfunding, the artists thanked the fans at the end of a campaign. But with other types of direct-to-fan sales, it's fans thanked them. It changes the way fans think about artists."

Rogers said crowdfunding also limits the type of things bands can sell, usually to finished albums and some accompanying merchandise. Instead, PledgeMusic has redesigned its platform to let artists capture revenue even as they're making the album, through update releases or VIP access to studio recording sessions, for example. This gives artists more than one bite at raising funds as they make an album, something that occurs only once a year or two for most bands.

"Our new motto is 'music as it happens,'" Rogers said in an interview. 

PledgeMusic's revamp is also designed to make the site more of a destination for music fans who want to browse through artist projects and offerings. (The platform continues to allow artists to embed their PledgeMusic campaigns on other sites via an application programming interface.)

"Artists have tended to make five times more money on the PledgeMusic site than they did" via API's on other websites, said Rogers, who added he has personally pledged on 1,160 artist campaigns over the past five years. "We also wanted to make PledgeMusic more of a destination to increase awareness for direct-to-fan commerce and grow the ecosystem."

More than 20,000 artists have launched campaigns to PledgeMusic's 560,000 active users. Those who have made purchases through the platform spend an average of $61 each transaction. The site launched 66 albums in January, 40 of which involved vinyl albums.