“The concept of crowdfunding dates back to classical composers and made a grand entrance into the US with the Statue of Liberty,” Jayce Varden, Founder and Head of Global Campaign Operations of PledgeMusic, says.
The only thing that’s really different about crowdfunding these days is the technology, which makes it easier than ever to support artistic endeavors with companies like PledgeMusic. When Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Benji Rogers and Jayce Varden became friends and started playing music together in 1991, they could have never predicted that in 2008, they’d be dreaming up the idea of a company that would help shape the music industry as it is today.
“When Benji had the initial spark of an idea, we had been best friends and in bands together for sixteen, seventeen years. He brought it to me in the summer of 2008, and we literally sketched the first business plan and wire frames in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is right around the corner from where our current office is,” Jayce says.
At that point, Jayce was “spinning wheels, playing in cover bands in Boston and also running a restaurant,” and trying to find his way back into the music industry, but “maybe not on the performance side.”
PledgeMusic ended up being the solution, as he joined forces with Benji to create a crowdfunding platform that would be fueled by their passion and unique perspective of being musicians themselves. In fact, Benji’s own EP was the first project to launch on the website.
Just eight years later, PledgeMusic is one of the top preorder and crowdfunding options for musicians— and only musicians. Current PledgeMusic projects include the Pixies, Passenger, Shovels and Rope, and Papa Roach, and each campaign offers incredible opportunities for fans from signed vinyl all the way to a private acoustic show.
“Essentially what we did was evolved the platform from the more traditional crowdfunding sites— it was only for the music. We don’t fund any other things: gadgets, trinkets or cat videos or anything like that. This is purely a music-based solution,” Jayce explains.
PledgeMusic’s evolution reflects the ever-changing industry, as it continues to grow in different directions alongside the artists’ needs and wants.
“Some of the feedback as we gained a couple of years’ worth of traction was that there was a willingness for some of the more known independent or even major label artists to use our platform, but they didn’t like the crowd funding aesthetic. So we evolved a preorder solution. We developed our expertise. We brought on people that had digital marketing expertise, and we really evolved the service level business, and that’s led to other opportunities or verticals that are becoming some of our mainstream focus. The fundamentals are still there around what PledgeMusic is here to do,” Jayce says. “We’re an artist-first company. We’re driven to help artists succeed in their project goals or help them release their albums and reach as many fans as possible and maximize their sales and revenue around that. The development of the platform and technologies and pressure of competition has changed the bops and whistles along the line.”
Jayce explains the kind of target market for these types of campaigns as well: “We hyper-focus our crowd funding campaigns, pre-orders or store fronts on selling to the super fans. They are the 17% of the music buying population that spends over 65% of the money. The campaigns are tailored to appeal to those super fans, and they also tend to be a lot of the tastemakers and the ones who became the defacto viral social marketing team for that fan base. A lot of our tools are focused on hitting them, but as we grow, we look at tools that convert those secondary consumers that we’re able to capture by the voice of those super fans and figuring out different ways to convert them into super fans. So, grow fan bases as well as maximize revenue.”
Much like choosing between children, Jayce can't pick a favorite project, though he loves glancing at the walls in one of PledgeMusic's 3 offices and reminding himself of all the incredible things he's been able to be apart of. "Because there's a community of people here with me, I feel like we're our special little tribe huddled around this artist, kind of embracing them and helping rise them up as far as we can. Each project has an element like that, and that's the most precious part of it that I like to see."
When chatting with Jayce, it's clear that the old saying holds true: when you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.
"It's not just a paycheck. It really is a labor of love," Jayce says.
Follow Jayce Varden on Twitter here.