The crowdfunding landscape is a microcosm of the modern music industry: it keeps on changing, and in Darwinian fashion, only the strong survive. This is true for crowdfunding platforms as well as the artists who utilize these platforms, and since the very public dissolution of PledgeMusic, another institution has stepped up to fill the void with a music-specific crowdfunding platform: Bandzoogle.
Bandzoogle, which began as a web-hosting platform in 2003, is having an unusually busy year with all of its new offerings, but more on that later. Bandzoogle’s Director of Artist & Industry Outreach, Dave Cool says that the company approached the opportunity to get into the crowdfunding business very carefully, since the company had a good relationship with Pledge and its co-founder Benji Rogers.
“We knew our tools could be used for crowdfunding,” says Cool. “But we decided not to position it that way out of respect for Benji because, at the end of the day, we knew that they were most likely doing it better than we could.”
But in May of 2019, PledgeMusic declared bankruptcy after not being able to pay artists a backlog of approximately $1-3 million dollars. Bandzoogle ended the partnership after learning more about the situation.
“I think many of us were a little bit caught off-guard by the severity,” says Cool. “So we had a discussion internally that maybe it was time that we frame our features, which are all direct-to-fan features, and they can be combined in a way that you can very easily run a crowdfunding campaign. … It’s one of these things where there wasn’t a big plan. It was more wanting to do something for the musician community, like ‘Hey, what happened really sucks. You can use our platform to crowdfund your next project.’”
In the wake of the PledgeMusic debacle, many musicians expressed a distrust of online crowdfunding. The Bandzoogle team wanted to create a feature that would give musicians what they need, but without the financial hangup. Unlike most crowdfunding platforms, Bandzoogle takes no commission fees, though it does cost $8-$20 per month to keep your site running through Bandzoogle.Even if we felt that the fan deserved to be reimbursed, we couldn’t actually do that because we don’t touch the transaction. —@Dave_Cool of @Bandzoogle on the company's new no-commission #crowdfunding service Click To Tweet
“When we discussed crowdfunding, taking a cut never came up because that’s just not something Bandzoogle has ever done,” says Cool. “We don’t touch your money and your sales will still be reported to SoundScan, if that’s important to you.”
SoundScan reporting is one of the musician-specific features that separates Bandzoogle from generic crowdfunding platforms. What also separates Bandzoogle is that the crowdfunding platform doesn’t include advisors to help guide the musicians’ campaigns the way that Pledge did and the way that many other platforms still do. This means that fans might not have any recourse if the artist doesn’t deliver at the end of the campaign, but Cool says this hands-off approach is a welcome one in the crowdfunding market.
“If they’re selling something, they’ve got to deliver on it. We deliver all of the digital content automatically, but for any physical merch items, it’s up to the artist to fulfill those orders,” he says. “But even if we wanted to and felt that the fan deserved to be reimbursed, we couldn’t actually do that because we don’t touch the transaction.”
The crowdfunding feature is not the only new product that Bandzoogle is offering now. The company’s “subscription” feature allows fans to make direct donations to the artists running the account, in a model that’s similar to Patreon and Kickstarter’s Drip. This component was something that was part of Bandzoogle’s plan since about 2010. But Cool says that was the year the company decided to completely rebuild Bandzoogle from scratch, which was a massive coding project that required all hands on deck. Nearly a decade later, the subscription service is finally ready, and like the crowdfunding component, the subscription service is commission-free.
“It’s probably the biggest feature really that the company has ever released. It’s really multifaceted, super powerful, and super flexible,” says Cool. “It’s been a popular request of Bandzoogle members for many years … and with Bandzoogle it’s always been slow and steady, while constantly reinvesting into the platform as we grow.”
In addition to these two new additions to the Bandzoogle platform, the company earlier this month announced that it will be acquiring the members of CD Baby’s web hosting platform, HostBaby, which is shutting down.
“We’re thrilled to give HostBaby members a good home and they’re going to get access to all these direct to fan features, a built-in mailing list, a bunch of stuff that they didn’t have at HostBaby,” says Cool. “Bandzoogle and CD Baby will also be able to work together on the music education side. There’s so much that Bandzoogle does well and that CD Baby does well, so we’re really excited to combine forces and work together.”
Cool says that a smooth migration from HostBaby to Bandzoogle is the main goal for the company right now. As crowdfunding companies come and go, Cool doesn’t know what the future holds but he knows what will stay the same.
“Bandzoogle is going to be musician-focused,” he says. “It’s been that way for 16 years and there are zero plans to change that anytime soon.”