Posts Tagged ‘Feet on the Ground’

PledgeMusic, which began operations in 2009, has gone belly-up.

For those unaware, it was a crowdfunding website that connected indie music artists with fans who provided backing for specific projects. It was a win-win for everyone. The artists weren’t left footing the upfront costs for their projects (no mortgaging the house!) and, if they were smart, priced in a profit for themselves. Fans, for their part, scored new music plus, if they chose, nifty premiums – everything from autographed items to pay-to-order cover songs to house concerts to a chunk of an artist’s hair. They also gained access to an online diary that chronicled the project via posts and audio/video uploads.

The PledgeMusic model had artists receiving 85 percent of their raised funds through two payments over the life of a given project, with the company deducting its portion – 15 percent – from the second. There’s also this: The site’s terms and conditions says that “Monies collected by PledgeMusic for a Campaign will be held on account for the Artist.” That infers, at least to me, that the money raised by each artist was segregated from the company’s operating funds, and perhaps that was the case at first. Over time, however, it appears that Pledge dipped into the 85 percent supposedly earmarked for the artists, though why we don’t know. What we can say for certain: Payments to artists were delayed. And delayed again. And, finally, stopped altogether. 

PledgeMusic is now expected to enter bankruptcy, perhaps as soon as this week. The money sent in by fans to support specific artists will likely go to the company’s creditors, whoever they may be, and not the artists themselves. I’ll leave it to others to expound on and investigate the whys and wherefores of the company’s stumbles, and instead state the obvious: There’s no coming back from it.

And while Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding sites remain, PledgeMusic’s absence will be felt – at least for me. I found it, by far, the most user-friendly. It’s always where I began my searches for new or established artists to support.  

The first PledgeMusic project I backed was in 2011, when I signed on for the Juliana Hatfield album that became There’s Always Another Girl. In the years since, in addition to signing on for Juliana’s additional Pledge projects (and the Blake Babies), I backed a variety of other artists, including (but not limited to) 10,000 Maniacs, Josh Rouse, Garland Jeffreys, Rickie Lee Jones and, most recently, Church of Birch pastor Diane Birch, whose plate-passing campaign came in 14 percent above her goal just as PledgeMusic began suspending payments to artists.

So, for today’s Top 5: RIP PledgeMusic (aka Songs from PledgeMusic Albums I Helped Fund).

1) Juliana Hatfield – “Taxicab.” This driving tune – which is made for listening to while speeding down the highway – hails from Juliana’s under-rated There’s Always Another Girl album, which began life as “Juliana Hatfield New Album” on PledgeMusic in 2011.  

2) Garland Jeffreys – “Is This the Real World?” Garland’s 2013 Truth Serum album was highlighted by quite a few songs, but this one is – hands down – my favorite. One listen and, trust me, you’ll be hooked.

3) Rickie Lee Jones – “Feet on the Ground.” That artists such as Juliana, Garland and Rickie Lee had to turn to PledgeMusic says all one need know about the state of the music industry circa the 2010s. This song is one of the highlights from her 2015 Other Side of Desire album.

4) The Stone Foundation – “Next Time Around.” The British soul/R&B band’s Everybody, Anyone album was one of my favorites from last year. Absolutely addictive. And this tune is a stone-cold classic.

5) Diane Birch – “Stand Under My Love.” Diane’s 2018 PledgeMusic project reached its goal, only to have the money swiped from her collection plate. So I’m reaching back to this insta-classic tune from her 2016 EP, Nous. In another era, it would have been a huge hit.

(If you like it, head over to Diane’s BandCamp page and buy the EP.) 

Once upon a long ago, a month lasted forever. Now? In a wink – or is it a blink? – of a young girl’s eye, they pass me by. Sure, specific events from the distant past seem like they happened just yesterday, but much more has faded into the haze that hangs over the river of time. Life flows a little faster with each new day; and the mist thickens behind.

Certain things, however, have stuck with me. For instance, about once a week in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, I walked or rode my bike to the Hatboro Music Shop, a small independent store that stocked the latest 45s and LPs as well as a healthy smattering of older releases. If anything wasn’t in stock, it could be ordered – so long as it was still in print, of course. I often stopped in to browse and, sometimes, picked out albums based on the cover art alone. (I often regretted those purchases.) Other days, however, I was on a mission – I knew what I wanted.

Back then, as I’ve written before, being a music fan required work. Now? You can condense my lifetime’s pursuit into a minute’s transaction – or however long as it takes to join Apple Music or Spotify. And learning about one’s favorite artists is as simple as following them on social media. I checked into Twitter this morning, for instance, and discovered that Diane Birch shared a recently minted song via SoundCloud. Which leads me to today’s Top 5…

1) Diane Birch – “Ordinary Angels w/Glowstick Halos.” A deceptively simple tune that, to my ears, bears the influence of her recent cover of Paul McCartney’s “Waterfalls.” It’s stark, haunting and beautiful.

2) Rickie Lee Jones – “Feet on the Ground.” So, in November 2013, I pledged in support of a new Rickie Lee project on Received an autographed poster, which I’ve yet to frame, and…time passed. Occasional updates on Facebook reminded me of it, but it seemed like one of those forever-on-the-horizon things, never to be realized. Then came the notice a week or so ago that the completed album, The Other Side of Desire, was available for download. One listen and I was hooked. As a whole, it possesses a vibe that radiates instant familiarity; it’s as if the album, and “Feet on the Ground” especially, have been a part of my life forever. (And, no, I do not have temporal dysplasia.)

3) Neil Young & the Promise of the Real – “Big Box.” Neil’s latest release, The Monsanto Years, is much better than it ought to be. Essentially an album-long diatribe against Monsanto, GMOs, the corporatization of America, Citizens United, politicians and apathy, it’s the kind of screed one might read on left-leaning websites. And, yet, it works. It’s rough and ragged, rocks hard, and his outrage at the changing American landscape is palpable throughout. A sample lyric from “Big Box”: “Too big to fail/too rich for jail.”

4) Carly Simon – “Anticipation.” I saw The Spy Who Loved Me at the Hatboro Theater in the fall of 1977, when I was 12. I fell in love with the theme song and set out to buy it on what was one of my first trips to the Hatboro Music Shop; and left with the movie soundtrack, not the single, because – as I wrote a while back – I didn’t grasp the difference between LPs and 45s. I was a fast learner, however, and by the next summer was picking up 45s left and right. Well – not quite, but often enough. One of my first: Carly’s “You’re So Vain.” In time, I stepped up and purchased her Best Of. “Anticipation” quickly became my favorite song of hers; and remains so. Sometimes we look ahead to the detriment of the present. “These are the good old days,” indeed.

5) Stephen Stills – “Nothing to Do but Today.” We’re seeing Stills next week. Can’t wait. This has always been one of my favorites of his songs, from his underrated second solo album. Bluesy, guitar-centric and damn good.