An Interview With PLEDGEMUSIC CEO Dominic Pandiscia On The Music Platform’s Great Success and Recent Rapid Growth!
Posted On 20 Oct 2017
Meet Dominic Pandiscia! He is the current PledgeMusic CEO. PledgeMusic is an online direct-to-fan music platform, launched in August 2009, that facilitates musicians reaching out to their fan-base (termed Pledgers) to pre-sell, market, and distribute music projects including recordings, music videos, and concerts.
PledgeMusic is changing the platform of the music industry today. There are so many artists – and now even labels – that are working with this platform because they are the only direct-to-fan platform that brings artists and fans so close together. And so many major artists are working with them. They also have a really great charity component – where they urge all their artists to donate a percentage of the campaign to their favorite charity.
Learn more about Dominic and PledgeMusic in the following All Access interview with him:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
DP – I’m in my office overlooking Canal St. Its’s $5 dumplings for as far as the eye can see.
Is there music playing in the background?
DP – Always. Today it’s my “Power Pop” playlist on Spotify. It’s never a bad time for The Posies in my opinion…
What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
DP – It’s anything that fills the soul based on whatever I may be feeling at the moment. It can be the right song by Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Laura Marling, Marvin Gaye, Jeff Buckley or countless other artists that have the ability to speak to a feeling. I’m kind of obsessed with “Pain” by The War on Drugs, as well as “Eastern Wind” by Heartless Bastards and “Song in Stone” by Iron & Wine.
Growing up, did you ever think that you be the CEO of a company like PledgeMusic? What career did you always want to have when you were younger?
DP – I never thought in terms of titles but I studied French Poetry and Modern American Fiction in College which would seem like the anti-Harvard Business Review to be the CEO of anything other than the local library.
Strangely I ALWAYS knew I wanted to work in the music business even though I didn’t really know what the “music business” was at 5 years old. I was lucky to grow up in a very musical family and started playing guitar when I was 10. I still play today but knew even then that I wanted to work in “the business”. My brothers and I used to play “shopkeeper” when we were kids and I always had the record store.
Can you talk a little about the trajectory of your career and how you got to be the CEO of PledgeMusic? What other jobs did you have along the way? What jobs do you think prepared you the most for this position?
DP – I played in bands in college, worked in a record store, had a radio show on my college station and also did mobile DJ work to help pay for school. Tragically my band-mate and writing partner was killed in an accident the weekend after we graduated. We had planned to commit ourselves to that project for that summer and beyond and suddenly I was pretty lost. I had sent out one resume to EMI Records earlier that spring through a contact at the record store I had worked at and decided to voraciously follow up on it with weekly calls. Miraculously I got a call back from them early that summer looking for what was basically a “paid intern” job to hang posters in record stores, etc. My 2nd week on the job I worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they released the Mother’s Milk album. Within 9 months I got my first “full time” job as a “Single Sales Specialist” selling cassette singles, followed by a promotion to Sales Rep. for CEMA Distribution. Those years were critical to my development as I learned how to deal with a variety of personalities while honing my business acumen.
The long-term career inflection point happened for me when I moved closer to the creative side with Virgin Records. I spent 13 years there in any number of commercial roles including overseeing all commercial activity for the Capitol Music Group (formed when Virgin Records and Capitol Records where collapsed under one company). My first role in running an entire business was when I stepped in as GM of Caroline Distribution which was a sister-company of Virgin Records at the time. The company had struggled for a period of time prior to that and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to step in and try to help. Through a wide range of deals for great labels like the Welk Music Group, Stones Throw and artists such as Raekwon, Tyrese, Slash and more, the company became profitable which lead me to be asked to run all Commercial and Revenue Development for EMI North America. EMI had the most profitable years globally in that era and I was also blessed to be on point for EMI on the deal that brought The Beatles to iTunes.
When UMG purchased EMI in 2012, I was asked to go back to Caroline to help strengthen its’ market position and grow it globally. Caroline never had a #1 album in its 33-year history and we wound up having four in 2015 (Alabama Shakes, Tyrese, All Time Low, Five Finger Death Punch) with record market share and profit for the company. I left in the fall of 2015 to start my own company and wound up working with a number of labels and artists as well as doing the music strategy for the Discovery Channel film, Racing Extinction which was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Song” for the Antony track (losing to Sam Smith’s James Bond theme!). I was building my own company when I was approached about the role at PledgeMusic and it became clear to be this was an undeniable opportunity after my first meeting.
What is a typical day like for you at PledgeMusic? What would you say are the most important and meaningful aspects of your role there?
DP – The secret sauce for working at PledgeMusic is that you have to think like a fan every day. We are continuously looking for ways to deepen the connection and relationship between the fan and artist. That is a sacred bond and when that fans transitions from a “casual” fan to a “passionate” fan, we are there to help them better understand the creative vision of the artist. They are ultimately the career-fan for the artist so both the artist and fan are rewarded via our platform. Conveying that message to every stakeholder in the business is the most important part of my job. The most meaningful part of my job to me is delivering value to everyone that engages the platform (the fan, the artist, the label, the management company, etc.).
How do you think that PledgeMusic is changing the platform that is the music industry today?
DP – As the music consumption market accelerates ever more-so to streaming, that can ultimately be a very clinical way to immerse yourself in the creative vision of your favorite artist. I’m a big fan of music consumption of every type (streaming, physical, etc. etc.) and consume hundreds of artists in the streaming space. For my top 10 or 15 artists that will never be enough for me and PledgeMusic helps facilitate that deeper understanding and connection. We are completely unique in this regard. We do things no other platform can do by virtue of the marketplace we’ve build and having 50,000 campaigns of experience to understand fan appetites, etc.
Can you think of any previous companies that attempted to do with PledgeMusic has been able to successfully do over the past few years?
DP – There are companies that offer one dimension of the 3-dimensional platform that is PledgeMusic. Kickstarter or Indiegogo are in crowdfunding (as are we), Amazon and others are retailers (as are we), there are also many data-harvesting companies and on-line marketing companies, etc., but no one pulls all of these dimensions together into one cohesive, strategic approach like PledgeMusic does.
What makes the direct-to-fan platform so unique and sets it apart from others? Do you know what was the first campaign for this with PledgeMusic?
DP – Artists can speak to their fan-base directly more than ever before. There will always be a need for any number of “middle men” to help cast a wide-net to expose one’s music, but transitioning that fan to a direct relationship with the artist is the end-game. That’s a sacred relationship.
In your opinion, what is the main reason that major artists are so happy with PledgeMusic right now? Why are more and more of them coming to PledgeMusic now for support to release records? What have some of your favorite recent accolades from musicians?
DP – I think the headline answer to this is that “everyone wins” in doing business with PledgeMusic. The fan feels a deeper connection to the artist, the artist understands that passionate fan more deeply, the economics per transaction of that relationship are unmatched anywhere in the music business other than perhaps ticketing, and as a result the marketplace we’ve built for passionate fans, the appetite for discovery of new music from an established, or unknown artist is unmatched. On average 34% of the business across all of our campaigns comes from our community. That is a big increase from what an artist can achieve by JUST speaking to their existing community. We also heavily push new artists to fans that have shown an appetite for other artists in any given genre so discovery is a big piece of our business. 20% of our business is done on completely unsigned artists.
What bands or artists in particular have you been the most excited or proud to work with in your time with PledgeMusic? What are some upcoming artists that are going to be using the services soon?
DP – This is a hard question as I believe it’s a privilege to work with artists of any stature. We have a portfolio of campaigns we are able to build a business from but each artist has one career and we can never lose sight of that. We have to deliver value to them every day. It’s been fun to work with some artists now such as a Richard Thompson or Lindsey Stirling, or others that I may have worked with at some previous point in my career. In some ways things have come full circle to where the overall music marketplace is GOING….
What do you think has ultimately been the key to PledgeMusic’s successful place in the industry?
DP – I think our radical growth in the last 18 months has largely been the result of talking about the business in a different way. The idea of the “marketplace for the passionate music fan” was always here but wasn’t really the focus of the positioning to the trade. Identifying and amplifying this as a core-business has made a massive impact. No one “loses” by doing business with PledgeMusic. The question is, how big of a “win” can we post together?
Where do you see PledgeMusic in 5 or 10 years from now? How do you think that it will continue to grow and help out musicians?
DP – Our user base continues to grow aggressively and we have quietly started to branch out into other mediums such as books and film. Currently these are all music-related but we are about to launch a non-music related film campaign that is going to make some noise for sure. The long-term trajectory for the business is to launch other verticals including PledgeBooks, PledgeFilms, PledgeTV, PledgeComedy and eventually PledgeSports. That said, music will always be the core business and as our overall user base grows via genre and vertical diversification, it will only add ongoing incremental value to artists.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself, your role within in PledgeMusic or the company itself?
DP – The idea of what PledgeMusic does is really pretty simple. It’s what an antique market is to one who loves antiques, or great micro-brew for one who loves beer, etc. We are a community of passionate music fans. If you’re a big music fan like I am, you’ll know exactly what that means. These are “our people”.