CMW Crowdfunding Panel

Never send the B team.

There’s a reason why Pandora is so successful. Tim Westergren. The company’s tireless leader is not only willing to show up everywhere, he’s impassioned, he’s a believer, hell, I’ve always said Westergren’s selling a religion, not a radio service.

And that’s how I felt about Benji Rogers of PledgeMusic yesterday.

Crowdfunding. Is it forever? If you haven’t gotten e-mail from disgruntled pledgers, pissed that the project they donated to didn’t come through, you’re not…ME! That’s the number one challenge facing the sphere. People who pony up cash and end up with nothing.

PledgeMusic gives them their money back.

Furthermore, after a project is funded, Pledge holds the hands of the creators and updates the donors, keeping the relationship alive.

Do Kickstarter and Indiegogo do this? From what I can understand, no. They certainly don’t give money back, as for a continuing relationship with the creators…

I need someone to look me in the eye and tell me the truth. I need to know I’m getting it straight from the horse’s mouth. Otherwise I’m left with questions, and I hate uncertainty.

Now that’s not the only problem confronting crowdfunding sites, there’s also the issue of veracity. People manipulating the platforms to their own ends. In other words, did “Veronica Mars” really need the money, or was the whole campaign a marketing manipulation?

I got e-mail to that effect.

But I also got e-mail from a tech entrepreneur that many would know telling me his next project was already funded, but he was going to put it up on Kickstarter for the marketing boost.

Hmm… Will this alienate donors?

And then there was that guy from Protest The Hero on the panel. He raised a lot of money, the most successful item being a pizza party at the donor’s house, but did he gain any new fans? He got a ton of publicity, but did it grow his audience?

Maybe an itty-bitty bit.

Then again, all these companies are now promoting themselves as kind of a social network. A way to round up your fans and bond yourself to them. But it always worries me when a company changes focus. As we say in the music business, it’s not about the money…IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY!

That’s why crowdfunding is successful!

And too many in attendance, even on the panel, were ignorant to the fact that a benefit of crowdfunding is you end up with ownership, i.e. copyright. And if you don’t think that’s key in the music business, please read Don Passman’s book.

As for musicians… That’s all PledgeMusic does.

But Pledge charges more. 15%. That includes credit card fees. Whereas Kickstarter and Indiegogo are about one third of that, before credit card fees.

Then again, I’m always someone who wants to pay extra for the best. Which brings us to the science of pricing, some people raise the price just for this effect.

But doing only music, Pledge can hold your hand, all the sites counsel you as to what will sell, but Pledge can tell you what a signed CD should go for and how much vinyl costs to ship and I want my questions answered, I want someone who’s done it, I want no surprises. And Benji Rogers of Pledge Music told me they’re funding two to three records a day. That they’ve even got a recommendation engine.

Yup, Benji’s a salesman.

But he sold me.

The grapevine says that on Pledge you don’t have to reach your goal to get the money. Benji says this is untrue, they’ve got a super secret insider formula that they don’t reveal to the public. I think that’s good for the public, but for insiders…where’s the truth here?

Then again, founders are mostly enthusiastic. If you use Slacker, you’ll give up Pandora. Spotify is something completely different (although it does have a radio service now.) Misinformation rules. The way you triumph is by getting ahead of your customers with your version of the truth.

And the best person to sell the story is the man or woman himself.

I wish Yancey Strickler was on yesterday’s panel. I don’t know who actually runs Indiegogo.

But yesterday, Benji Rogers won the competition, first and foremost by being there.

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