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.