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LEFSETZ LETTER


Pomplamoose Blog
Posted: November 26, 2014
"Pomplamoose 2014 Tour Profits": http://bit.ly/1pgxs52

I don't hate Jack Conte.

I hate the people who are forwarding me this blog.

What don't you get about capitalism? The law of supply and demand?

What I hate about artists is the constant bitching, as if the world owed them a living. I'll go on record once again that I believe in a social safety net, I believe no one should starve, everybody should have a roof over their head, even health care, but no one is entitled to be a successful artist.

But what the internet has wrought is a bunch of sour grapes from people who think someone stole their opportunity, that if only there'd been no online, they'd have a deep-pocketed label to support them, that they'd be rolling in dough.

Hogwash.

Let's start with the audience. Who don't want to come to your show.

That's right. The way artist development used to work was there was a series of clubs across the country, which the labels supported. The companies bought drinks and tickets and the venues could survive. But what killed these venues is not the internet so much as people's lack of desire to attend. They'd rather go hear a deejay. Or go to a sports bar. Going out to hear live music in a club just doesn't have the pull it once did. Which may flummox those of you on the music treadmill, but get your head out of your rear and look around, most people just don't care that much about live club music anymore. And don't blame it on the internet, you can't steal a show. Then again, the internet is more interesting than most music you make.

But you decide to hit the boards anyway. You record your music, bitching all the while that no one else is paying for it. Wait, let's stop right here. Now we've got crowdfunding sites, so you can raise the money to record. But not a single act has ever broken out of Kickstarter. What I mean is crowdfunding is an echo chamber. You reach your fans, but you reach no more. Probably because most people just aren't interested. Sorry.

And then you can't get an agent and no venue wants to book you, and you don't realize that they too want to get paid, that they too are in business.

But let's say you get shows via an agent. You want to do it your way, with production and support. I'd like to drive an i8, but I can't afford one. Furthermore, I'm not presently on a path to afford one. That's my choice. But I don't go around bitching the system's stacked against me, that BMW won't give me a break, that the world isn't raining coin into my bank account.

Music is a business. And if you're not getting rich, give up or change.

So Pomplamoose goes on the road and loses money. Why'd they go on the road to begin with? It says right in the article it's an investment in their career. Good for them. But to believe labels supported everybody in this way in the past is fallacious. Labels signed very few. And they didn't support those whose careers weren't happening. Want to experience bitter? Talk to a baby boomer who was signed to the label. If the label didn't work it you were dead in the water, there was no YouTube, no social media, no way to cheaply reach your audience. Labels pulled tour support just after rehearsals. You were beholden to the man. You're yearning for those days?

And Pomplamoose is bitching that they didn't make any money even though they sold 1129 tickets at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

Please put that in perspective. San Francisco is the 14th most populous city in America, hell, it's the center of a metropolis with many more people, San Jose is close and even bigger than San Fran, but they could only do one show there?

And then there's all this claptrap about the million view YouTube clips. They're novelties! Sing one Pomplamoose song, I dare you! Pomplamoose is Jenna Marbles once removed. Do you hear YouTube queen Ms. Marbles bitching that she can't make it on the road?

OF COURSE NOT!

Jenna is leveraging what she's got. And she's not complaining. Which is pretty good, because her talent is limited.

I'd say the same thing about Pomplamoose. It is the MUSIC business after all. Where's the music? So Nataly is cute and the videos contagious. OK Go can say the same thing, but I don't see Damian Kulash bitching. And I hope Damian knows he's the leader of a cult band, because that's what OK Go is, and they were once on Capitol!

But Jack goes on how bleak it is for middle class artists.

And he's right, the middle is getting squeezed. Because everybody has access to the best all the time. Want to bring back the middle? Stop shopping at Amazon, stop going to Wal-Mart. Pay a grand for a flat screen. Drive miles for your music.

I'm not saying times are not challenging. But I am saying let's look at reality.

With the entire history of recorded music online, you've got to be as good as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin or else...most people are not interested. Believe me, if Led Zeppelin reunited they wouldn't be bitching about money.

And neither does Katy Perry.

And you may say she sucks, but her producer/writer Max Martin does not. He knows how to create a hit. Which you don't. Sorry.

That's what I hate about the modern era. The cabal of cretins lamenting the system is stacked against them. It's an echo chamber of delusion. The same way they used to say the major label was holding them back. It's fifteen years after Napster. Show me all the great bands who were being held back by the man, they don't exist. It's all sour grapes.

But you forward articles about Spotify screwing you.

Everybody's against you.

You're a student of the game. You believe since you're passionate, you deserve not only a chance, but success.

But the truth is everybody wants to play. And the sieve to success is extremely narrow. Because people don't have time for mediocre, they don't even have time for good! That's right, Windows Phone can't compete with Apple and Android and it's a very good product, but not good enough!

But you think you are. Since you went to Guitar Center and bought an axe. Because you practiced in your bedroom and spammed everybody on social media.

I'm gonna tell you how it works. And it's very simple.

It's all about numbers. You're either growing or you're not. Either more people are consuming your art or they're not. If you're on the growth curve, you have the option of continuing, of even starving in the pursuit of your dream. But most people are not growing, they're only bitching.

Evolve or die.

Ever think you weren't destined to be a musician? That you'd be better off at the tech company? That if you hate your service job you've got to educate yourself and do something different?

Why does everybody believe they're entitled to do everything?

Why does everybody have a chip on their shoulder?

Why is it that anybody who breaks through is the enemy, helped by the unseen machine?

Instead of tearing everybody else down, crying alone in your beer, why don't you build yourself up.

That's right, no one's holding you back but yourself.

If you're as great as you think you are, you'll succeed. On what level? Who knows!

Maybe this is as big as Pomplamoose gets. Maybe the act has already peaked. Like PSY but on a smaller level. Maybe this tour document isn't an explanation of middle class musicianship but the dying throes of someone who eluded the mainstream.

That's right.

If you're not a successful artist it's your fault.

Over and out.

From: Andy
Subject: Hey Bob - a little scandal re: that Pomplamoose article.

If you read the article carefully, it's a well-designed advertisement that states that you can't make money on tour, but you make more money on this one site Patreon than you can on iTunes and Loudr. Pomplamoose even has a page on this one site Patreon that they provide a link to.

But Jack Conte is a cofounder of Patreon - and in fact - while he's complaining about not making money on tour - his company Patreon has raised over 17 MILLION dollars from angel investors and other investors over the past year. He doesn't disclose this in the article - because the article is facially an article "letting his fans who asked him questions about what its like to have 'made it'" know how his touring expenses are.

Meanwhile, in the article, he's selling a lifestyle of the starving artist - an artist who can make money by producing comics, coding, music and the like - all services that Patreon supplies crowdfunding for.

Pretty devious, eh?

http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/23/patreon-raises-15-million-series-a-revamps-site-to-showcase-artist-content/

___________________________________

From: Lambgoat

"How not to spend $150,000 on a 28-day tour - an op-ed by the Artery Foundation?s Will Stevenson": http://bit.ly/1uIvjem

___________________________________

Jesus, I've not been on tour since 2006 (part time)...and I could save them that "loss" in less than a day of work on the budget. Are agents getting 15% nowadays? Did they really take lights out with them....but no LD? Why didn't they get a TM who also does FOH?! They hired pro musicians who don't have road cases for their s..t? Promoters don't pay for the marketing any more? A radio ad?! That's just off the top of my head.

Way too many holes in the story.

But he is a smart guy.

Hugo Burnham

___________________________________

I agree with you 100% on this one. Pomplamoose should be happy that they are making any kind of living playing music. I've been watching a lot of YouTube lately checking on my favorite rock bands from the 70s and 80s. There's no comparing bands like Yes or Cheap Trick to Pomplamoose. Even a somewhat poorly received (by hardcore fans) Yes LP like "Drama" had some incredible stuff on it. Look at the show Cheap Trick put out - the stage antics. Listen to the great Blondie tunes - even check out the best Go-Gos stuff, it's catchy. I'm at Cornell a lot, I don't see Pomplamoose T-shirts or hear people talking about them or hear any clamor to book them. They are right where they belong as a draw. No excuses.

John Gaulke

___________________________________

I stopped reading this article after they had to buy road cases. You f...ing kidding me? You're playing the Fillmore and you don't already have road cases?!?!? Any band that's been on the road for numerous tours most certainly has cases for their amps/instruments.

They also didn't already own their own van?!?? Why bring a sound guy? Phish needs a sound guy. Miley Cyrus needs a sound guy. Not Pimplenipplejuice or whatever this band is called. Did they really need to? The sound guy at The Fillmore is awesome (I live in San Francisco). Stop spreading this stupid s..t. Everyone has to put in their time. Let all the people complaining please fall to the way side and make room for us real musicians.

Mike

___________________________________

Bob, most readers of Jack Conte's article are ignoring a simple fact: This innovative band hasn't toured much and didn't budget to be in the black.

I love Pomplamoose; however, these tour expenses weren't set up to be profitable, considering they brought six folks on the road, a personal light rig to 400-800 cap rooms (a few shows 200) with an average ticket price of $15.

Let's pretend they did door deal (80/20) for every show. They would have had to sell out every show, that's approximately 12,200 tickets excluding the festival, to be close to 150K. That leaving merch sales as the only profit for Jack and Nataly.

Best Reddit response: "Pomplamoose basically left a trail across the country of people who profited from their show (including me, I'm the sound engineer at one of the venues where they played) while losing money themselves. Kinda sad, actually."

http://bit.ly/1vmYdWt

Best tweet: Pomplamoose: the Eagleton of touring bands ?#parksandreference??

http://bit.ly/1AUzn3A

Either way, I'm not following your train of thought. Even if musicians are complaining about the Internet, Jack is always saying the Internet is building a creative class.

Mike Vial

___________________________________

http://www.notreble.com/buzz/2014/02/13/from-the-ground-up-an-interview-with-michael-league/
Bob-
The folks in Pomplamoose should investigate the history of Snarky Puppy. These guys have been going at it for ten or so years and it is not until the last year that they had a tour manager or any kind of road crew. Best Western level motels? Nope after a show they would find gullible fans and ask if they could sleep on their floor.This from a band that is filled with top flight musicians who have played and recorded for and array of "Big Names" and have the Grammy's to prove it. Well they all have a Grammy now since they won best R&B song last year on a one off record they did with various vocalists, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SJIgTLe0hc , and they are still playing the smaller clubs (but with higher ticket prices) that they always have.Oh, and they played 184 dates last year in four continents with the band leader booking many of these shows. They are true to what they want to do a stick to the grass roots model. It should be noted that the band is a collective and that they rarely tour en masse, as they are fortunate and talented enough to be in demand for better paying gigs, so membership rotates depending on availability of the various members.

Ken McKean

___________________________________

Not to mention the plethora of unnecessary expenses they documented? A hotel every night? Seems a bit excessive. For some reason it blows my mind that a band of their caliber (1000 cap? yada yada) does not have their own van and trailer? Slowly purchasing a those necessities would be much more cost effective. Maybe I can?t criticize them because I have not produced a tour myself?? But I?ve certainly done some nitty gritty touring and got by on much less?

Just a few thoughts.

Karly Brecher

___________________________________

Well said Bob. There is some logic in letting the marketplace determine success. Isn't Pomplamoose best known for their Hyundai commercial from a couple of holiday seasons ago? That's not quite Sgt. Pepper you know.

Jack Casey, General Manager
WERS-FM
Boston

___________________________________

Agree 100%.

Also, as any indie act that has toured without label support successfully can attest to, they went out too big.

They could have easily looked at what their guarantee was VS expenses and realized that perhaps traveling more economically would have been prudent.

I've toured as both a musician and guitar tech, and doing festival gigs with Iggy & The Stooges often times it was only myself, one other roadie, and a road manager. Occasionally there would be a third roadie. This band had far too big of a crew, and too big of a vehicle. No need to travel with lights.

Their loss was their own fault! This article is yet another ploy to get attention. Not buying it.

Derek See

___________________________________

As an old radio DJ I just want to say you are dead on. Coming up you could see Springsteen playing in clubs in the East putting on great shows. Word of mouth spread about his unbelievable performances. It wasn't about the money. It was about the music. That's what missing today.

Mike Kaiser

___________________________________

They factored $50k into expenses that really could've been considered profit. They also rolled merch costs with promotion. Probably spent $15k to promote a tour that made $97k in ticket sales. Not too shabby.

MIKE LANGFORD
Producer . Mixer . Engineer
The Pawnshop Studio
Toronto, ON

___________________________________

Hi Bob, I enjoy your blog?.just a point..it isnít always that complaining way I had a band in the 80?s, we were signed to WEA and toured a lot..we never even thought of the money,,,we were young excitement-seeking rock and rollers..Subsequently I Ďwent soloí and got a massive advance from Arista (which I am certain they never recouped)..and so I remained a Ďmiddle classí cult act (and bought a house with the advanceAnd then with the coming of the internet I re-released and made even more dough?.Itís all so money first these days but I never ever worried about money at all (read..hippy) and yet the money came?,, because as you always say..itís the MUSIC business and my stuff was and is pretty good..thatís all it needs..I ainít no megastar but I ainít moaning

Sal Paradise

___________________________________

The sense of entitlement from Pomplamoose is staggering. They wanted to tour like someone with major label support. They hired a crew and a six piece backing band! They stayed in hotels every night! I've never played the Fillmore, but I'm pretty sure they have their own lights. They overspent in every possible way.

And the thing is - they could have actually made a decent chunk of change on what appears to have been a successful tour. But nope. They wanted a huge band and a huge show. They wanted roadies. They wanted their own lights. They wanted to stay in hotels.

These are people that make a living doing fairly uninspired covers of HUGE pop songs. They're decent musicians, but what they do amounts to little more than a parlor trick. If they stopped playing music tomorrow, no one would remember them in ten years. Instead of enjoying their 15 minutes, they're bitching about the price of a tour that was beyond their means. I can't wait until they're done forever.

Chris Sink

___________________________________

I read that and found at least a half dozen places where they could have spent a lot less money and come out at least break-even; the lighting rig for one, the paid band members for another, the hotel rooms, etc.......I love Pomplamoose but he shouldn't complain if he does things that deliberately make them lose money.

I know plenty of low level bands who play music for the enjoyment of it and because it's what they want to do; making money at it isn't necessarily their goal. Once you decide you have to actually turn a profit, then you're not a band, you are a businessman.

Kevin Oliver

___________________________________

You forgot one thing that the youngsters donít really know about when they compare yesterday to today.

Radio. Especially AOR.

If you didnít get on the radio you had little chance of a paying career. As you know.

Bands like Styx worked the program directors relentlessly. Knew their names. Phoned them. Visited their stations. It worked.

The internet has led people to believe that all you have to do is stay home and work the keyboard.

Nothing beats face-to-face when youíre looking for influence.

And, yes, you can say that the program directors have no say, that they are just numbers-driven robots who take orders from the top. But, that would be untrue in many cases.

John

John Parikhal

___________________________________

48,000 dollars divided by 6 people for one month's work = 8,000 dollars each?

What the f..k?!

I will GLADLY go on a 24 day run for 8,000 dollars!!! Are you f..king kidding me????

Sign me up!!!

Love this article. Love their ambition.
But...don't they just cover the hell out of everybody's songs?

Bill West

___________________________________

What infuriates me is that this band is successful and could easily have walked with 40K in profit if they didn't recklessly budget for this tour. 5k for insurance for a month? 18K on hotels and food? And paying your crew $1500 a week is way too much at their level. They need a manager/business manager. What a joke.

Brendan O'Connell

___________________________________

I co-wrote (with Ian McLagan) a cover on the first Ringo album not to sell amillion. He wouldn't tour to promote it, his new record company pulledsupport, one of those familiar stories.

So it didn't make me rich. (Nor did a cover on the last Sammy Hagar albumbefore he started selling big numbers.) But how many people can say theywrote a song for one of the Beatles? I'll settle for that.

All the best
John Pidgeon

___________________________________

Sounds like roughly $2 more per ticket would have put them over the top. And fans would have paid it.

Richard Tafoya

___________________________________

I could not agree with this more Bob. Can I write my income statement on a blog as an indie promoter and make statements about how indie promoters live and die by each show and lose untold amounts of money, but they stay in the game anyway, for the acts, for the love AND for the hope some day that one of these acts they took a chance on will actually break and not give their tour to LN.

If they can't afford to tour, make better music, come up with better plan or get out of the way of those who aren't complaining.

Scott Brill-Lehn
SBL Entertainment

___________________________________

More importantly....exactly what sort of insurance do you get for $5000/month?

This article should be titled "If you want to tour like a rockstar despite not actually being a rockstar you could potentially lose a little money."

Don Bartlett

No Door Agency

___________________________________

From: Hoodie Allen

Theyre doing something wrong.

Writing currently from tour its 430 am and I can't sleep en route to the Riviera Theatre in Chicago for one of the last stops on this headliner.

As an artist who has championed the DIY way, tour budgeting and planning has always fascinated me. It's the one time I actually get to put my very expensive college education to use.

I didn't look at the full Pomplamoose routing so I don't know if the SF show was an anomaly but since it was highlighted and based on the gross monies let's assume most of these were 400-500 cap rooms.

They are certainly right about one thing -- the upfront investment on van and trailer tours like this (or any for that matter) is extremely high for an indie act but there is no reason that they should not be profiting (and profiting decently well) on a tour of this magnitude. So let me give my best insight into where money is being overspent or allocated wrong.

Production rental of 26k (roughly a little under 1000 a day) -- van rental here as they indicate is such an unnecessary sunk cost. I bought my first van that has lasted me till now for about $7000 off a nice staten island fellow on craigslist. I was able to amortize that cost and the cost of that vehicles insurance over 5 tours in the following 2 years. By the end of year 1 the van was completely paid off and has since been an awesome asset to have despite the usual upkeep and maintenance for one off dates. I would recommend they consider some real investment in this area because as a band that wants to hit the road hard, it is quite foolish to pay this recurring cost

Hotels and Food
Hard to break down the food component here but lets focus on hotels for a second. Perhaps this is unfair for me to say and maybe they are too old for this and I'm just a naive kid but if you are concerned about making money on tour and you are racking up around $500 a night in rooms perhaps its time to consider doubling up occasionally. For the longest time we did 4 to a room, ask for cots at the hotel, etc. whatever to stretch the dollar. The food cost here is also a bit confusing as they go on to mention that they are paying a separate per diem to the members...is there not also a venue buy out for food every day or at least some sense of a catering budget? The costs in this section seemed a bit high...

Salaries and Per Diems$48,000!!!?!? Holy s..t, ding ding ding, Here it goes. I don't even know how to write this section without it seemingly implicating myself as a cheap ass but based on the fact that Pompaloose is paying a crew of 4 band members, a FOH engineer and a tour manager in 500 person cap rooms, THEY SHOULD NOT be carrying a weekly crew salary of $12,000...for 6 people. That would seem to indicate that on average their band members are being paid nearly $2000 a week. Let's just all keep it real, this is very very generous for a tour of this size. I have no idea about the relationship to their band or crew, if theyve been together forever, if they are a part of writing the music etc. but I think if I took a poll from tour managers asking what a crew/band on this size run would be expected to make on a weekly basis, they would probably be more in the 750-1000 a week ballpark. Hell, there will be plenty very talented people willing to work for even less than that. This is where their expensesare out of control. Easily could be saving $25,000 here

Merch and PR

Okay well based on the merch sold, it looks like these guys still need to develop this business a bit. They're selling less than $1000 a night in merchandise and at our assumed 400 cap average were talking about $2-3 a head. Maybe their audience doesn't liken itself to a huge merch audience but if so they need to find a way for this to be a profitable section of their business. The costs are too high. Did they over estimate their demand and end up with a ton of inventory? Are they getting a s..tty deal on t-shirt costs? Would love to know more here

...also confused why the band is paying for a radio campaign and facebook ads. Is there no promoter on these shows, does the promoter not have a marketing budget? Seems all very odd to me. Perhaps better communication needed between buyer and band

Income
$97,519
"Our cut of ticket sales"
Okay last thing here that confused me. We got a booking agent routing a 20 some odd city tour nationally. Perhaps, their blog was worded odd but "our cut" of tickets. Do they not have guarantees every night? I find it hard to imagine that every show if any were door deals at this level. If so, that's really rough and the agent is putting them in a touch spot working with buyers who have that little confidence on their draw. It's so hard for an indie band to budget a tour without having some preconvienced notion of what expected gross sales from the shows should be. It is written in this blog to make it seem like they all had their fingers crossed that a certain magical number would appear in 'income'. I'd love to know more about the structure of the tour and guarantees/or lack thereof. I think if there were guarantees on this tour, it makes it way easier to budget and estimate the costs. If you're not willing to spend more than say 50-65% of your income in expenses, then you willknow hey we cant pay this guy 2000 a week to play bass or hey we cant stay at this hotel every night.

I hope this doesn't come off as egotistical or its 5 am and I would love nothing more than to help them in anyway if i could because a band like this touring the country nationally, should be able to do so and take home half a year's salary in a month long tour and actually be living comfortably

Best,
Hoodie

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