Influential punk band Stiff Little Fingers has turned to an emerging music-funding platform to release their first album in a decade.
The Irish band is using PledgeMusic as a platform to offer fans pre-orders of the album, which is slated for an early 2014 release, along with items and experiences exclusive to PledgeMusic, ranging from a signed copy of the album to the opportunity to perform the band’s debut 1979 single “Suspect Device” with them at a concert.
These Kickstarter-esque rewards are featured on all PledgeMusic projects. PledgeMusic is also like Kickstarter in that it gives supporters of the projects (appropriately called “pledgers”) the chance to follow an album’s production more closely through updates from the artists.
However, the site has several differences from Kickstarter that could have greater benefits for artists and fans.
It only hosts music projects, so artists do not have to worry about their campaigns being lost in the shuffle of Kickstarter’s many projects.
Because PledgeMusic makes projects more visible, viewers can more easily come across projects they might want to support by browsing.
For a relatively obscure band like Stiff Little Fingers, the ease of browsing could be a notable benefit.
Though an important part of the early UK punk scene, the band was not as popular or iconic as contemporaries like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. So while people like me, who read punk news websites regularly, are familiar with their music and influence on later bands, more casual punk fans may be discovering the group for the first time on PledgeMusic.
PledgeMusic also allows many more genre tags than Kickstarter, so users can search specifically for “punk rock,” which is not among the genres listed on Kickstarter.
The sites allows artists to set their campaigns up as “direct-to-fan,” which is like a standard crowdfunding campaign, and “preorder,” which is more like a traditional commercial transaction.
Preorder campaigns are for artists who have already been completed an album but want to use the site as a way to market it and offer exclusives to fans. Preorder campaigns can accept pledges up until the release date of the album, while direct-to-fan campaigns have a 90-day limit.
Fans might appreciate the clearly stated difference between project types. It’s always possible that people could dubiously use crowdfunding platforms to sell products that might already be complete, so simply classifying the campaigns differently gives pledgers a degree of transparency.
Fans are even more likely to appreciate another big difference between the two platforms—PledgeMusic has a more clearly defined accountability policy than Kickstarter, which takes a more hands-off approach. Most significantly, PledgeMusic offers refunds to its pledgers when an artist is not able to complete a project.
I don’t think many creators are going to default on their Kickstarter projects, but the fact that PledgeMusic takes more responsibility if one does is a little more reassuring than Kickstarter’s policy.
For all PledgeMusic’s benefits, Kickstarter has two important advantages over it.
First, Kickstarter takes only 5 percent of its projects funds, while PledgeMusic takes 15 percent. For bands with less money or smaller funding goals, Kickstarter may be a better option because it allows them to keep more of the funds necessary for completing their recordings.
Second, Kickstarter is a bigger brand name in crowdfunding, so its greater site traffic could bring more people to its projects than PledgeMusic.
However, the number of pledges has tended to increase with every project, and the number of artists and labels working with PledgeMusic has increased significantly since the site launched in 2009.
As the site grows, its benefits could attract more artists away from Kickstarter, increasing its prominence and strengthening its brand to a point where the title of “best funding site for musicians” is up for grabs.