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PledgeMusic still not paying bands; founder issues statement

Pledge Music

Direct-to-fan music platform PledgeMusic admitted to falling behind on artist payments back in June of 2018, and it appears its troubles are ongoing. Company co-founder Benji Rogers posted a statement to Medium following renewed discussion of issues artists are having getting paid through the platform, that surfaced recently through The Lefsetz Letter. Rogers, who says he stepped down as CEO in April of 2016 and left the board last February, writes, “to the Artists, their teams, managers, labels and fans, and to all who have been negatively affected by the issues at PledgeMusic, I am truly sorry.”

“When I conceived of Pledge, and when the co-founders and I started in on building the platform we thought of little else but of how it could help artists,” Rogers continues. “We benchmarked the company’s success on how well our artists’ campaigns did… The fact that this trust is now broken is unacceptable to me personally and I am truly sorry to all of you who have been affected by this. I have emailed a lot of you from my personal email account, as I no longer have a Pledge email address, and have tried to help where I can, but it’s not enough. As such I have been in touch with the current board and management team to offer my help both strategically and practically. If it is asked for, I will commit to doing all that I can to ensure that this wonderful engine that we created does not cause any further harm, and can grow into something even better for all who would use it.” Read Rogers’ full statement below.

UPDATE: PledgeMusic itself also made a statement to Billboard about its ongoing troubles, writing, “we deeply regret that recently we have not lived up to the high standards to which PledgeMusic has always held itself. We acknowledge that many artists have and continue to experience payment delays. These delays to artists are unacceptable–not only to them, but to us.” Read the full statement below.

Fastball‘s manager Ron Stone contacted Bob Lefsetz to tell him that the band was still waiting for $20,000 owed to them on January 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,” Lefsetz writes. “It’s one thing to run out of cash, it’s quite another to use other people’s cash to keep the lights on,” he continues. “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.”

In his subsequent email on Wednesday (1/23), titled Re-Pledge Music, Lefsetz shared many more emails from others who had run into trouble with PledgeMusic, including many who are still waiting on payments for themselves or artists they work with. Two days ago, artist Mike Evin published his troubles in detail as an update to his PledgeMusic page (“today I have to let you know that PledgeMusic is in breach of their contract – and I am far from the only artist affected.”.

HERE IS BENJI’S FULL STATEMENT:

To the Artists, their teams, managers, labels and fans, and to all who have been negatively affected by the issues at PledgeMusic, I am truly sorry.

When I conceived of Pledge, and when the co-founders and I started in on building the platform we thought of little else but of how it could help artists. We benchmarked the company’s success on how well our artists’ campaigns did. We didn’t sleep a whole hell of a lot as we put in the hours to make things work and build the features that our artists needed. In one sense artists drove the innovation and we viewed the platform as a place from which they could connect with their fans, make money and retain ownership over their data. As I had it in my head, Pledge was meant to be the home from which they could launch something amazing into the world, and thousands of you did just that.

Even though I handed over day-to-day control of Pledge as its CEO for the second time in April of 2016 and left the board last February, the fact that this trust is now broken is unacceptable to me personally and I am truly sorry to all of you who have been affected by this. I have emailed a lot of you from my personal email account, as I no longer have a Pledge email address, and have tried to help where I can, but it’s not enough.

As such I have been in touch with the current board and management team to offer my help both strategically and practically. If it is asked for, I will commit to doing all that I can to ensure that this wonderful engine that we created does not cause any further harm, and can grow into something even better for all who would use it.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the incredible team, which includes one of my co-founders, who have been battling to get the right people paid under immensely difficult circumstances both professionally and personally. They are feeling the heat, as they are on the front lines of this and are doing their very best to help you. Of that, I have no doubt.

Once again I am truly sorry to any and all of you who have been harmed as a result of what I made. Please know that I will do all that is within my power to make it right and to fix what I can if given the opportunity to do so.

Benj

PLEDGEMUSIC’S STATEMENT TO BILLBOARD:

PledgeMusic has always been committed to serving artist and fan communities. It was established by artists and was born of a need to change the way in which the traditional music industry operated. It was designed to help artists and their teams at every level, and we believe that PledgeMusic has become an essential part of the evolving landscape of the music industry.

That said, we deeply regret that recently we have not lived up to the high standards to which PledgeMusic has always held itself. We acknowledge that many artists have and continue to experience payment delays. These delays to artists are unacceptable–not only to them, but to us.

Since its beginning, PledgeMusic has successfully serviced over 45K artists from emerging acts to some of the biggest names in the industry. We’ve supported 60 Grammy-nominated artists and helped springboard 100s of unsigned bands to successful careers. Our efforts have assisted over 375 artists with chart position on the Billboard Top 200. Our platform has provided close to $100m of revenue to its artist community.

Mid 2017, new investors came into PledgeMusic with the goal of strengthening the company and improving the value proposition for artists and fans. After substantial investments in the business over the past 18 months, we believe we have made good progress to that end, but it hasn’t been enough. That said, the company has cut its operating expenses nearly in half over the past year. We’ve overhauled key parts of our financial and operating systems, while adding talent to our roster and making enhancements to the platform like our Vinyl Store, D2C artist store-fronting and our data analytics.

While the company has made progress, we still haven’t reached our goals. PledgeMusic has been in discussions with several strategic players in the industry who have interest in the PledgeMusic platform. We are evaluating a number of transactions with those potential partners, and we plan to announce details of this in the next 60 days. It is our expectation that payments will be brought current within the next 90 days.

We accept responsibility for the fact that we have been late on payments over the past year. PledgeMusic is working tirelessly on this issue, and we are asking our community for their continued support and patience.

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