PledgeMusic Starts “Record Label” and “Signs” Band – So What Does That Mean? [INTERVIEW]
Back in December, PledgeMusic, a fan-funding site, launched their own record label and publishing division and signed the indie rock group The Damnwells. Once the news broke, many questions arose. What does it mean to start a "record label" and "sign" a band? To answer these questions, I spoke with Alex Dezen, a member of The Damnwells. Benji Rogers, the founder of PledgeMusic, chimes in too. In this interview, Dezen talks about how he's managed to leverage the Pledge system to further his career and what it's been like to be signed to this new type of record label hybrid.
Hypebot: What does it mean for PledgeMusic to "sign" you?
Alex Dezen: For me, as a musician and songwriter, what being signed to Pledge Music Recordings means is that the infrastructure that has operated thus far as a direct-to-fan hub, allowing fans to fund the production of records by purchasing exclusive content (such as signed lyric sheets, house concerts, signed albums, etc.), will now turn its vast expertise toward the promotion and distribution of the actual record. Really, it's Benj and his crew seeing one of his pledge campaigns to fruition, stepping in to help us not only maintain but build on our loyal fan base. I think Pledge has a unique perspective on this that will help a band like mine tremendously. They've proven to be one of the most effective partners in the post major-label world.
Hypebot: How does working with PledgeMusic differ from that of a traditional record label?
Alex Dezen: In the same ways working with an indie label differs. There's no encumbering bureaucracy to deal with when trying to get things done. Larger labels that try to stay afloat with enormous bureaucratic systems, which always prevent the expedient execution of ideas, are so far behind the curve, they move through the digital age with the momentum of a large, starved dinosaur.
Hypebot: To clarify a bit, could you please explain the nature of this "record deal" in detail?
Benji Rogers: Without revealing all the specifics it's a deal based on a fair split between artist and label, in fact favoring the Damnwells, with a limited term. We are paying for the marketing of the record and have setup physical as well as digital distribution, press, radio and Sync. We brought on a marketing chap out of NY who is overseeing the release and who has brought some fantastic and forward thinking elements to the album launch already. I always said that I would never offer an artist like Alex a deal that I myself would not sign and I am happy to say that I can stand by that today. PledgeMusic recordings have sought to give Wes Kidd (The Damnwells Manager) and Alex as much input as possible and we are seriously excited for this our first release.
Hypebot: How have you been able to leverage the PledgeMusic system to your advantage?
Alex Dezen: Well, we've raised nearly 200% of our initial pledge goal. I say that's helped. Benji and his crew also have access to a tremendous amount of new media type stuff that we previously knew nothing about. Pledge is just an all around great resource.
Hypebot: Does the web create a fear that every missed connection is a missed opportunity?
Alex Dezen: In some ways, yes. For bands, the web is like a retailer/listening station/fan forum/music venue that never closes. And fans have gotten used to the access the web provides them to the music they like. The fear is that if a band stays quiet for too long, they'll get buried under a wave of new information from some other band they like and forget about you. But people can tell when a band/artist is being insincere, so you can't toss out meaningless content just so people will think you're staying current. So there's the fear of being forgotten if you stay quiet too long, sure. But also the fear of being insincere that, as an artist, should always be the greatest concern.
Hypebot: Has PledgeMusic opened your eyes to the things that could be sold to your fans?
Alex Dezen: For sure. Pledge is able to help bands mine their resources and turn it into truly unique content, like experiences (house shows), one-of-a-kind memorabilia (signed posters, etc.), and one-on-one interactions (ustream shows, chat room Q & As) that they can offer at a price. It's more than selling records, concert, tickets, and t-shirts. The fans want a 360 degree experience.
Hypebot: In what ways can fans and their expectations both be a blessing and a burden?
Alex Dezen: While opening the door to fans and offering them unique content can increase the quality of their experience, that door is very difficult to close once it's been opened. As an artist, you have to be careful about what you offer your fans and how close you let them into your private life. They will know your wife's name, where your mother works, where you hang out, etc., if you accept them as friends on your Facebook page. It can get a little weird. I think I've been blessed with particularly cool fans who understand that I'm also a private citizen who deserves the dignity of anonymity just like everyone else. It hasn't been a problem thus far.
Hypebot: How has the Internet enabled you to connect more readily to a global audience?
Alex Dezen: The internet provides limitless access from anywhere in the world to unique, artist-driven content. It's not about big labels trying to drive a hit song down people's throats anymore. To maintain a career, you have to maintain your fanbase. I just did a ustream.tv concert the other day from my living room and played for people all over the world, people who, previous to the advent of the internet, would never have been able to see a live performance. That's what the Internet provides, and that's pretty incredible.