When I wrote about Kickstarter in a recent post entitled Beggars’ Banquet: New Music Schemes for New Music Dreams, I mentioned Pomplamoose as a group that seems to be doing very well using their own creative marketing ideas (primarily on Youtube). They’ve received several (hopefully) lucrative advertising contracts with Hyundai and Toyota, they are touring regularly, and ticket sales appear to be very strong, although the venues they play are generally smaller niche market venues. Still, it’s quite an accomplishment and shows what good music and clever marketing can achieve.
I never thought I’d later be writing about them in regards to Kickstarter, but I watched in dismay as the vocalist/bassist, Nataly Dawn, launched her own Kickstarter fundraising campaign last year to raise money for her first solo album. She was asking for $20,000, but has since received pledges at five times that amount for the staggering sum of $104,788! I say “staggering” because Pomplamoose’s original videos and songs, which I was very impressed by, were homemade (the videos showed their studio in what appeared to be the spare bedrooms in their home) and self-produced, and yet, they resulted in a product that was a commercial and artistic success for this unlikely duo.
I thought it was unseemly for a singer who is part of a very successful group to go begging for money on Kickstarter, but hey–that’s just me. Here’s her video:
And here’s her pitch:
I know that I risk jinxing myself in saying that I have very high hopes for this album, but it’s the truth! Over the last year, I have written songs that I’m proud of and that I believe represent a cohesive body of work. They’ve taken a lot out of me (in a good way), and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.
It helps that I have so much faith in the musicians I’ll be working with. Between the drummer, the bassist, the guitarist and the engineer, I couldn’t tell you who was the most talented. They are the ones who will turn my bare bone songs into full-fledged works. They are the magic makers. I would tell you who they are, but you would probably get too excited and forget to give me money.
Everything is ready to go: the songs, the musicians, the studio. All I need is a little help from you! Every dollar will go towards the album: paying the musicians and the people who will be filming the recording process, reserving the studio and hotel rooms, renting gear etc. And if by some miracle there’s anything left over, I will buy myself a brand new Jaguar…or the money will go towards promoting the album. I haven’t decided yet.
I thought the cutesy tone was a bit strained (“…you would probably get too excited and forget to give me money”). I also thought that the injection of the high-brow language (“…I believe they represent a cohesive body of work”) was odd and certainly presumptuous if not arrogant, given that it is her own assessment, and premature, given that it is her first solo album. When I hear the term “body of work,” I think of artists who have amassed decades of consistently excellent music, not someone’s embryonic first recording. What I found most strange was that there was no mention of her husband, Jack Conte, as being involved. Was he not going to be involved in his wife’s “first solo album”? That would be difficult to believe, but maybe she really is striking out on her own.
Then, on December 11, she posts this:
YES! The day has FINALLY come! The studio time is booked, the team is assembled, and best of all, I get to use all of the Kickstarter money before the government can get their hands on it!
But wait! It get’s better! My very favorite person, JACK CONTE is going to be producing the album! (I’m going to just stop using exclamation points now. Please assume that every sentence is followed by a trail of exclamation points.)
So here’s how it’s gonna go down: I’ve written fifteen songs and we plan to record all of them in ten days at an incredible studio in Sonoma. We’ll be working with a very talented and accomplished engineer, by the name of Oz Fritz. He’s worked on numerous amazing records, including Tom Wait’s Bone Machine AND Lauren O’Connell’s upcoming album. The drummer is also one of Wait’s go-to-guys. His name is Stephen Hodges, and he’s got grooves that make the Grand Canyon look flat. Was that a lame thing to say? I feel like it was…
ANYhoo…The extraordinarily talented Ryan Lerman will be on electric guitar…
But wait! It get’s better! We now find out that “her very favorite person” (spoiler alert–her husband, Jack) is producing the album. What a surprise. ANYhoo, let’s be generous with the expense estimates (keep in mind that she estimated the cost for this to be $20,000):
Four Musicians@ $1,500 per week for two weeks………….$12,000
CD Production (all digital)……………………………………..$0
Which leaves her with a total of $47,788 to buy the Jaguar (who would have guessed she’s such a blatant materialist, lusting after a British luxury sports car?). Or, instead of the Jag, she could pay Jack to produce the album, which means a good chunk of Kickstarter money gets “Kickedback” to the Dawn/Conte household. Nice.
There’s really nothing wrong with this (if you don’t mind begging). It’s legal and it happens all the time in business and in politics when family members get “hired” for (in many cases) “no show/low show” jobs. It does illustrate the lack of accountability with the Kickstarter model, which is already showing itself to be problematic (for example, here, and here). As for Nataly and Jack, well, they should make hay while the sun shines. The adoring but fickle public will likely soon tire (as I have) of the spastic, quick-cut, split-screen videos, the ironic ’50s doo-wop references, and the coy, doe-eyed, vacant stares. (Click here for the followup to this post.)