PledgeMusic in arrears to artists, suspends fan contributions

Online crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic suspended fan contributions on Wednesday, leaving artists unsure if they're going to get paid and fans wondering if they'll get their the music and merchandise they've already paid for.

The online direct-to-fan platform is facing financial trouble, leaving artists wondering if they'll get paid

Fans were prompted with a message saying pledges have been suspended on active campaigns on crowd funding site PledgeMusic on Feb. 6, 2019. (screen capture)

Online crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic suspended fan contributions on Wednesday, leaving artists unsure if they're going to get paid and fans wondering if they'll get the music and merchandise they've already paid for.

Established in 2009, the UK-based business uses a direct-to-fan platform where artists can set up a campaign to raise funds for an album and to create merchandise fans can pre-order.

When a campaign is fully funded, the artist is owed 60 per cent of their funding, minus a 15 per cent cut for PledgeMusic. When a digital album is uploaded to the site, the balance of the funding is paid to the artist.

But in the past year, the company has fallen into financial trouble leaving artist payments short or delayed and raising uncertainty about its future.

Local artist impact

Dayna Manning is a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter from Stratford, Ont. who has a fully-funded project on PledgeMusic for her upcoming album, Morning Light.

Manning met her funding goal last March and has been paid the 60 per cent of funding she was promised, but says there was a delay.

"I actually sensed issues with getting payment and it didn't come as fast as I had expected it to," she said. "My project manager made a quick exit from the company, so my red flags were up about a year ago."

The 20-year music veteran is also part of the folk trio Trent Severn, who used PledgeMusic to fund a previous album without any issues.

PledgeMusic issues apology

PledgeMusic officials released a statement Feb. 1, calling the situation they're in "unacceptable" and that they're "deeply sorry" to all of the artists, managers, labels and fans who trusted them. The company also asked for some "breathing space" as it works to find a solution to the current situation.

"I do feel like they've alluded that they are looking for a buyer and a sense of 'Hey guys, be supportive of this, don't speak out too much, we can still come through,' kind of thing," said Manning. "I don't fly with that, that doesn't work for me."

The company said it was in talks with industry partners in late January and hinted at a potential partnership or acquisition.

Fan contributions halted

On Wednesday, PledgeMusic decided to suspended all fan contributions until further notice.

The website's founder, Benji Rogers, left the company in 2016, but returned at the end of January as a volunteer strategic advisor and observer to the board. Following the announcement of the company's woes, Rogers posted a tweet asking for calm.

In a post to artists and fans, Rogers pledged to do everything in his power to help the team and bring the situation to a "successful conclusion for the artists and fans as quickly as is possible."

UK-based Musicians' Union (MU) met with PledgeMusic in late January to discuss concerns over outstanding payments owed to musicians. PledgeMusic told the union it plans to bring the outstanding payments up to date within the next 90 days.

"This is far from satisfactory, but at this time, we believe that any legal action against Pledge may be counter-productive," Horace Trubridge, the general secretary for the MU, said in a statement.

PledgeMusic has not provided an explanation as to why it is facing financial woes.

Delivering to the fans

While musicians and fans are forced to play a waiting game, Manning says regardless of the outcome, she will take care of her fans.

"Anything that they've pledged, or that I've guaranteed that I will deliver on, I will deliver on, one way or another," she said. "I guess I would owe them an apology for leading them towards this service."

The CBC has reached out to PledgeMusic from comment but did not receive a reply before publication.