A Followup to Kickstarter and Kickbacks: Pomplamoose goes begging

I’ve had quite a few people ask me about a response to my recent blog post about Kickstarter and Pomplamoose from Kia Kamran, an LA entertainment lawyer who works with/manages/represents Pomplamoose. I wasn’t going to comment on it, but there’s quite a bit of interest, so I decided to write a “followup” to the original post.

To begin, here’s Kamran’s comment from the earlier post:

Kurt you are FACTUALLY wrong about many things in this, most importantly about Nataly pocketing the lion’s share of the Kickstarter proceeds. As a matter of FACT she’s out-of-pocket above-and-beyond the Kickstarter income. It’s going to be an indy recording project and the expenses (instrumentalists, studio, strings, horns, etc.) are far outweighing the funds raised. Also, Jack and Nataly are not married. Bummer you chose to bash without having any facts. Astounding.

Kamran says/yells that I am “FACTUALLY wrong about many things” in my recent post. He identifies a few issues in particular:

1. “Nataly and Jack are not married.”

The Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN) interviewed the duo for about 30 minutes when they played Boston in 2011. During Part 2 of the interview (embedded below, approx. 4:30), the following exchange takes place:

Nataly Dawn: We live in the middle of nowhere.

Jack Conte: We also don’t even have internet at our house.

ND: We don’t have internet.

JC: We go to Starbucks to do internet stuff.

I guess it’s possible that when Dawn says “we live in the middle of nowhere” and (later on) “our house” she’s actually saying “we have a property where we both live as single people who are not in a romantic relationship”, and I guess it’s possible that when Conte says “we” he’s actually saying “my platonic business partner (who I am not married to and have no relationship with other than our professional relationship) and I own property together, a property that we refer to as ‘our house’ and we have no internet there.” It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Additionally, the BIRN pre-show interview comes right out and says that they are married:

The married duo who met at a gig while both were studying at Stanford University…

2. “Nataly [is not] pocketing the lion’s share of the Kickstarter proceeds.”

Here’s what I said in the original blog post:

…she could pay Jack to produce the album, which means a good chunk of Kickstarter money gets ‘Kickedback’ to the Dawn/Conte household.

I never said that Dawn was taking the “lion’s share” of the Kickstarter proceeds. All I said was that the Dawn/Conte “unmarried-super-special-platonic-friends who comprise a corporate music conglomerate/household” would be pocketing a “good chunk” of money from the Kickstarter donations as fees for Conte’s work as producer. I also said that there is “nothing wrong with that” from a legal perspective.

3. Kamran says that this project is costing Dawn “money out of pocket.”

If that is true, then it means that this recording is going to cost much more than $100,000. She only asked for $20,000 initially, so why will it now cost well over five times that amount? In the same interview (Part 3), both of them say that they initially recorded their music (the music that made them famous) with only a microphone and MBOX. A microphone and MBOX should not cost more than $2,000, but now she needs over $100,000 to do a solo recording?  The only way we’ll know if she’s actually spending her own money on this is if they post their income tax returns next year. I doubt that will be forthcoming as I’m sure their high-powered LA entertainment lawyer would advise otherwise.

4. Kamran says that I’m “bashing” Pomplamoose.

I am certainly poking fun at the gulf between their Indie, counter-culture stance and their overtly profit-driven fundraising strategy with Kickstarter. I also think their shtick is wearing thin, but I don’t think I’m bashing them. In fact, I was quite complimentary in my previous post:

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.


What I am doing is commenting on the lack of accountability in Kickstarter and on how Pomplamoose is capitalizing on that. I also think it’s sad that a group like this is begging fans for money rather than financing the recording themselves. It seems unbecoming and smarmy, especially so when coupled with the cutesy, adolescent tone used in the pitch on Kickstarter. (For example, for a pledge of $350, you get, among other things, the blue and red scarf that she wore in the La Vie en Rose video or the blue dress she wore in Always in the Season. For $750, you get the Batman shirt she wore in their cover of Single Ladies, which begs the question: are these fans, or stalkers? Strangely, none of Conte’s used clothes are currently available, but I guess we have to wait for his solo recording before those precious treasures are offered.)

Isn’t Kickstarter supposed to help struggling unknowns finance projects to “kickstart” their careers? Why is a well-off group begging for fan financing, rather than financing it themselves and assuming the risk? One of the benefits of being a successful group is that you can count on a certain amount of sales from the loyalty of your large fan base, which mitigates the risk at the outset; not so for an unknown band, where the investment is much riskier.

And what happens if this recording takes off and sells a million copies, or gets used in a movie or commercials? Pomplamoose will make a lot of money off it, as they should. I’m sure that won’t be shared proportionally amongst the fan donors who financed the project–they didn’t buy “stock” in it, and they’re not “investors” expecting a return, right? So, for Pomplamoose, it’s no risk, all reward. Nice formula.

About FraKathustra


5 Responses to “A Followup to Kickstarter and Kickbacks: Pomplamoose goes begging”

  1. I was going to get upset with Ellenburger but I’ve come to the the conclusion that he’s just a sad angry man who couldn’t make it in commercial music so he walks out of concerts and bashes bands that manage to make a living. He sit’s in judgement from a third tier college safe in academia jealous of those who support themselves with their music. Those that can’t do teach and those that can’t teach teach music.

    You don’t even research properly-
    Jack Conte has many solo albums.
    Jack Conte has a degree in music from Stanford University.
    Jack has produce many videos with the San Francisco Jazz Collective.
    Jack has worked with Brad Mehldau.
    Your concept of Kickstarter is confused have you read the FAQ.

    Maybe you should start a Kickstarter and take the dollar you raise for your music and buy a cup of coffee.
    Your blog is all about jealousy and anger. I hope find peace in your twilight years.

  2. I don’t really think this Blog is meant as a total knock against the Pomplamoose band. Contrary to your post Mr. Phillips Frakathustra does let the light shine on his praise for Pompaloose in his original blog (see the opening paragraph that reads “…because Pomplamoose’s original videos and songs, which I was very impressed by, were homemade…”).

    In my opinion, it’s more in relation to Kickstarter and other websites like Artistshare whereby artists plead (beg?) with their fans (i.e. mostly close friends/family) to sponsor their latest innovative projects. I like to refer to these sites as ‘panhandling with a guitar pick’. It’s silly and I find it really sad that artists have to do this. I guess we live in an age where YouTube, Kickstarter, Artistshare & TuneCore reigns supreme for these up-and-coming artists.

    I think Frakathustra’s original commentary on the accountability of Kickstarter is well-founded. Clearly artists like Pomplamoose are creating clever revenue streams vis-á-vis sites like Kickstarter. Anyone with a laptop, shot of espresso, and any interest in the arts have a right to question this. How do I, as an avid fan of a Kickstarter band, know that the money I send is going to be used appropriately? Why wouldn’t I want to know how my money is being used?

    I’m impressed with Mr. Conte’s pedigree as listed in your response Mr. Phillips although you would flatter him further by using spellcheck. Again, I think the focus should be more on the validity and respectability of artists having to resort to these “panhandling by moonlight” websites. So whether I use Kickstarter towards my music, college education, buying a new car OR putting it towards my daily caffeine fix it comes across as begging.

  3. You should a follow up post on how her Kickstarter project has gone on and on and on. She reluctantly post updates on kickstarter and keeps telling people to check FB then her blog, now it’s tumbler she is own. She all over the place just like her project. What turned out to be a solo album has turned into getting a record label and the backers are just hostage to all this.

    The big thing for backers was to get and hear her music first. Well that didn’t happen she has played two venues covering all the songs.

    Several dates have come and gone for the release. The last update being I’m shipping all packages out first week of November. The very latest email update via a no reply Warner bros email address says its now end of January.

  4. Well…I guess a few things stand out here:

    1) You clearly haven’t the first idea of what it actually takes to produce a non shoestring/indie record. A professionally produced album can run in excess of 50 hours per cut from soup to nuts. If this record is 15 songs…that’s 750 hours! And that’s just the songs that made it to the record. Especially if you are new to recording PROFESSIONALLY (many takes to get things right, tuning instruments exactly for each measure in some cases, sampling, spending time tweaking the percussion sounds etc) a lot of time gets wasted in the studio. To compare the videosongs this band produces with a professional studio album is simple minded and ignorant at best. By they way, the studio musicians have to be paid as well.

    2) They aren’t married. They clearly live together and are romantically involved. Why does that mean that they have mingled their finances. There are many couples that live together but have very separate financial lives. Can you concede that as a possibility?

    3) In any event, Jack Conte is a professional musician and producer. He gets paid, in some measure, to do this work. Why shouldn’t he be paid to produce this album? After all, time spent on this project is time not spent on other paying projects. Again, you can’t assume that their money goes into one big pot because they live together.

    4) I think you need to re center your definition of successful musician. Do you realize that the average working musician makes 30,000 per year? Sure there are boom times when you get endorsements, hit it nicely with an album but then there are big lulls too in which you have to sustain yourself with those earnings. It just isn’t as simple as “they put out some Youtube vids and had an endorsement deal so they should be able to afford to produce their own albums.” It just doesn’t work like that.

  5. Thank you for your incisive commentary on Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, serial panhandlers with a guitar pick. I appreciate your investigation and will pass on this article to my friends who have been persuaded to donate to kick starter projects. This insight will help change their minds set them straight about the marital status of Nataly Dawn, a Stanford university graduate with an MA in French literature.

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