Anyone with friends in the music community has probably seen almost as many requests for crowdfunding support from bands as they have GoFundMe’s for cancer patients being screwed by their insurance companies.
Musicians have been turning to crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and PledgeMusic to raise money for recording time, album production, touring, etc., for years now. While on the one hand we shouldn’t have to live in a dystopian hellscape that requires sick people to create a compelling and sad-but-not-too-sad video in order to receive adequate healthcare, when it comes to entertainment, crowdfunding should be a pretty good option for a lot of creators looking to make music or art, some new gadget, whatever.
PledgeMusic, the only one of the major crowdfunding companies that focuses exclusively on music-based projects, has been making news in the music world lately because it has fallen behind on payments to artists, and it now looks like those artists and fans will never see the money they’re owed. I believe it actively committed fraud against the bands and consumers using its service by spending money for artists on other things, and since it has a Massachusetts office—and because I’m a big-government democrat who wants the government to solve all my problems—I think it’s something the attorney general’s office should address.
PledgeMusic’s platform allows bands to set a goal for funding, create an online store to offer incentives to fans (a copy of the eventual album, a private performance, etc.). Fans purchase these things in advance, and PledgeMusic holds the money in an account until the goal is met. When enough money comes in to cover the campaign, PledgeMusic takes a percentage as a fee and gives the rest to the band so they can use it to record, cover tour expenses, whatever the campaign was set up for.
At some point in 2018, PledgeMusic began delaying the payouts for bands, and eventually stopped making or accepting payments altogether. This means that consumers who sent money to PledgeMusic to support a campaign will never receive the items they purchased or have that money refunded, while bands and artists that were using PledgeMusic to recoup costs will be out-of-pocket on those expenses forever.
To pour salt in the wound, per leaked emails sent to Digital Music News, it looks like Pledge is now attempting a fire sale and may be offering an agreement that doesn’t require the new buyer to take on the existing obligations. That sounds like executives at Pledge will receive some sort of payment, while the consumers and artists will be left in the cold.
This is the exact sort of thing that the attorney general should be looking at. There are many, many people in Massachusetts who are hurt by this situation, and many more worldwide. If PledgeMusic is looking for a buyer and not including a payout for creators and consumers who they owe, then the office charged with protecting consumers in the Commonwealth should step in and make sure the little guy is paid before execs see a dime.
Richard Bouchard is a band manager, promoter, and show booker in Boston. Follow him on Twitter @indierockranger.