For eight years, PledgeMusic was a success story: A direct-to-fan platform where artists worked directly with their audiences to fund their albums, tours and all stripes of merchandise, with fans able to purchase everything from custom guitar picks to private concerts.
Yet last June, Variety broke the news that the company is struggling to pay artists, and its problems have snowballed in recent weeks, with hundreds if not more artists unpaid. The company is in triage mode: Founder Benji Rogers, who left the company in 2016, returned on a temporary, unpaid basis last month in an effort to stabilize the situation. While his return was greeted with relief by many in the artist community, the company advised all artists to suspend their campaigns shortly after his arrival (many already had). Beyond the recommendation to suspend artist campaigns, the company has not commented on its recent challenges beyond a statement late in January, in which it said, “It is our expectation that payments will be brought current within the next 90 days.”
However, as the figures below demonstrate — which artists have shared, showing how much money they are owed by PledgeMusic — the situation has left artists in a dire situation. One artist’s manager said, “He is currently borrowing money from friends and family to stay afloat. This sh– is real.”
Artists from Queensryche to Blacktop Mojo have posted apologies on social media to their fans for PledgeMusic-related issues; all of the figures below except for Bernie Torme’s were provided directly to Variety from the artist or their representatives. This list is not comprehensive or complete; these are artists we happened to reach out to, and several others declined to reveal figures or comment. A rep for PledgeMusic had no comment when contacted by Variety on Friday.
David Archuleta: $22,000
Seth Walker: $21,257
Emily Kinney: $21,000
Bernie Torme: The guitarist is currently in intensive care suffering from virulent pneumonia; a statement on his social media accounts reads: “Bernie remains in intensive care and asked for the following statement to be released: PledgeMusic owe Bernie Torme almost £16,000 which was due last December on completion of his recent ‘Shadowland’ Pledgemusic campaign.”
Fastball: $11,130.75 (“Keep in mind they had to pay for all the CD’s, vinyl and T-shirts for the fans who pledged money,” their manager Ron Stone tells Variety. “That was more than $10,000 in costs.”)
Jennifer Thomas: “just under $11,000”
Jesus Jones: “more than $5k, less than 10,” says rep Iain
Charlie Faye: $5,538
Seth Walker: “We’re owed $19,157, which is after Pledge’s 15%. In total, we raised $23,538. Additionally, we’re on the hook for $2,100 in shipping charges that Pledge collected but never paid out to their fulfillment company Bandwear.”
While Melissa Otero is not in as dire a situation financially as some of the other artists, she had the following to say: “My issue with Pledge isn’t that they still owe me money, per-se — I cancelled my campaign 20 days before its deadline. However, the issue is the following: 1. They launched my campaign in December well after they knew they had problems with payments; 2. I lost a lot of fans because of this. They left my newsletter and/or haven’t return to pledge over at my GoFundMe account which to me means they may not trust me or the platforms I use; 3. The total I had in pledges was $800, almost the full amount for my producer to be paid and lost all of that. It may not seem like much but for any project, every little bit counts. I believe that this is important because they were still launching campaigns and accepting money from people well into their financial woes and I believe other artists achieved 100% of their goals and haven’t gotten paid.”
L7 declined to provide Variety with a figure they are owed — but indicated the amount is many times more than the highest amount listed for any other artist in this article — and made the following statement via their attorney, Joseph J. Madonia:
“L7 is still owed a major amount of their Campaign funds by Pledge Music. They’re unable to complete and fulfill the Campaign without it. By law, Pledge is to keep all of this money in trust and on account for L7, and in separate accounts for each artist. We’ve issued a formal demand to Pledge Music for an accounting and the release of all monies due L7, so far with no reply. We still expect Pledge to follow through on their legal and ethical obligations to both L7 and the fans, and to stop evading the question on everyone’s mind, still unanswered in their spin and many public statements, ‘Where did the money go?’”
At press time, reps for PledgeMusic had not responded to Variety’s request for comment.