Modest Success Is Still Success For Indie Bands

from the Musicians-Wanted dept

A few months ago, we wrote about the band Pomplamoose for its unique way of making a living by selling its music digitally. The musical duo playfully connected with fans, sold homemade soap, and even encouraged listeners to give goats to charity. More recently, the band has gained more attention and was accepted into YouTube's Musicians Wanted program where YouTube offers a 50/50 ad revenue split with independent artists who use Google's video platform. Pomplamoose fan Joseph Johnson also points us to an interview with the band in which they describe their creative process and talk a bit about how they manage without the backing of a major label:
Ms. DAWN: I mean, if you can't just do it all yourself, then you do need help. If, for example, you're somebody who writes songs, like Lady Gaga, and you need everything, you know, that's going to make you Lady Gaga, then you need a big, fat label. But if you're just a band, I don't think we're in an era anymore where you need that sort of major backing.

Pomplamoose admits that the band doesn't cash $10 million royalty checks for its music, but that its two singers make a modest living doing what they enjoy doing. They don't play in clubs too much and haven't gone on tour because it's a lot of work for them to set up live shows. Actually, given the way they record their music videos, they don't really know how to play their own songs in a "normal" linear way without editing and remixing. And interestingly, they seem to be making enough to pay for the mechanical rights for the songs they cover.
Mr. CONTE: ... we make sure that we have all our ducks in a row. We bought mechanical licenses to all of our covers before we put them on iTunes. So it's all legit and legal.
So despite criticism that says bands like OK Go have failed and can't make it without a label, the reality is that more bands are able to create more music -- and are getting paid in a variety of different ways. Selling plastic disks isn't the only way to make a living. Touring isn't the only way to make a living. Selling T-shirts isn't the only way to make a living. And Google ads certainly aren't going to save every struggling indie band, either. In fact, there is no silver bullet for how a band can support itself. Simply put, the barrier to become a famous band has dropped considerably, but that doesn't guarantee success -- however, it makes it a lot easier for a much broader array of musicians to try to become professionals doing what they enjoy.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 4:24pm

    mechanical vs. synch rights

    Good thing they don't know about synch rights. I mean that - if they did, and therefore didn't release their great videos without clearing them, there would be no great Pomplamoose videos. Synch licenses are the devil, and aren't regulated or statutory like mechanicals. They are pretty much impossible for small productions to manage, and are designed to keep independent filmmakers out of the game. Ignoring them entirely really is the only way to release great videos like theirs!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:18pm

    create more music is a euphemism for cover tunes, samples, and other forms of innovation that involve just doing stuff over and over.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:26pm

    Re:

    All music builds on old music. Get over it, TAM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:48pm

    but the labels say you can't make any money without them!

     

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  5.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:56pm

    @4 haha

    @rest i see they admit to being lazy "too much work"
    ya ok. THEN YOU get what you deserve.

     

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  6.  
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    Big Al, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:10pm

    Re:

    So, what is the difference between them and what any other band has done for decades?
    Let's face it, when the 'industry' creates more music these days it's just formulaic mental bubblegum. It's hard to tell the difference between one superstar and another on style alone.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:19pm

    i am trying to figure out how copying other peoples music requires a creative process.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re:

    hi mike

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Michael Ho (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:42pm

    Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    Nina,

    Um. That's an interesting point about synch rights, but since Pomplamoose is performing covers -- I don't think synch rights apply to them?

    However, I'm sure if Youtube covers get more popular... the mechanical rights agreements will become increasingly difficult for indie bands to figure out. It's not even entirely clear how Pomplamoose can claim "it's easy" to buy mechanical rights for the songs they've covered. Is Pomplamoose a non-subscription ad-supported service...?
    http://harryfox.com/public/RateCriteria.jsp

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re:

    it isnt different. cover bands have played bars for 40 plus years making modest livings. this isnt new.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:51pm

    Re:

    You could try watching the videos, but that would require going beyond the 5-minute attention span for trolling.

     

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  12.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hi TAM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:00pm

    Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    Absolutely synch rights apply - to their VIDEOS. Even if you give videos away for free, if you don't pay for synch licenses, you're infringing copyright. That's why I couldn't legally give Sita away for free without paying tens of thousands of dollars - and only after paying costly intermediaries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royalties#Synchronization_royalties

     

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  14.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    I should add that synch licenses, because they're not regulated like mechanical licenses, are phenomenally expensive. Crazy expensive. Rights holders are also under no obligation to grant permission. Their main purpose is to make it impossible for independent producers to function; they're primarily anti-competitive.

    In comparison mechanical licenses are very easy. Rightsholders can't prohibit anyone from making audio covers; payments are regulated and can be made through the Harry Fox Agency. But once you have video involved, you're at the mercy of the monopolists.

    Finally, "covers" don't matter, since synch licenses are for the compositions. You may be confusing them with "master" or "performance" licenses.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    CHECK OUT THE VIDEO!!! THAT'S DIFFERENT!!! SO IT'S NOT THE SAME THING!!! YOU SUCK AT ANALOGIES!!! STOP USING THEM!!!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:17pm

    Re:

    COPYING IS ART!!! ART IS COPYING!!! TAKE AN ART CLASS!!! IT MIGHT HELP!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    the video. cover band material. please see sonny and cher show, circa 1970s. they covered other peoples material in video. not original. you suck at paying attention.

     

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  18.  
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    Michael Ho (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    Hmm. I wonder how Pomplamoose has avoided paying synch royalties so far... Is it because Youtube only offers streaming videos of their music?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    see mike?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Re:

    caplock is for nutjobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Is the shift key, too?

     

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  22.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    On the other hand, many recording artists and songwriters won't charge anything for synch rights because they are happy for the exposure.

    For movies and TV shows, it's best to approach them before you use their songs. If you have already done so and THEN try to cut a synch deal, they may feel they have you over a barrel and will charge you more. In fact, I had a lawyer tell me that was exactly what he did for a client of his. The movie had already been made and they had failed to negotiate a deal with the client for use of the song, so the lawyer charged them more knowing that.

    As for YouTube, my impression is that it is handled on a case-by-case basis. People cover other songwriters songs all the time and YouTube does nothing. So I think unless the songwriter tells YouTube to take down the video, it stays. And YouTube actively promotes bands like Pomplamoose that have covered songs and haven't obtained synch rights. (Maybe Pomplamoose HAS obtained synch rights -- I don't know -- but there are other artists who cover songs who haven't.) In fact, covering someone else's song on YouTube is a popular way for an up-and-coming band/artist to get attention because they turn up in searches that way. It's so common that I don't think most people are enforcing synch licenses for most videos.

    So, let me say that songwriters are generally easier to work with than you might imagine. If you want to use someone's song in a movie or TV show, ask them. If they want lots of money, talk to someone else who will let you use their music for free. In fact, it is this competitive pressure to get songs on TV/film that has driven down what people are paying. Music supervisors can often get what they need by paying little or no money these days.

     

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  23.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    No, it's because they don't know or don't care about synch rights; and that's a GOOD thing. The main enforcement of synch rights is in broadcast, theater, and mainstream distribution: no carrier will allow the work to pass without extensive documentation showing all rights are cleared. Fortunately that is not the case with online video. Anyone can upload anything, and then wait for a takedown notice, if one ever arrives. Infringement-seeking bots are not yet smart enough to recognize creative covers; they match recordings. So videos with creative covers are unlikely to attract notice and get taken down.

    This is a GOOD thing; it allows a lot of art to flourish between the enforcement cracks. But yes, the Pomplamoose videos are violating copyright. If copyright were enforced online the way Big Media wants it to be, there would be no Pomplamoose videos.

     

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  24.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 7:03am

    This is sneaky ....

    "accepted into YouTube's Musicians Wanted program where YouTube offers a 50/50 ad revenue split with independent artists who use Google's video platform."

    Thinking a little outside the box ... this could whittle away at iTunes and the record labels. This could be a golden opportunity for Google.

    -Google could allow sales and downloads or free downloads of the mp3's directly from the page the video is on.

    -Include a list of all the artists songs available for download and links to them on YouTube and off.

    -Plus include an "if you like this you might also like these artists, videos, and mp3's" area.

    -Plus include all sorts of pricing options.
    -- Free.
    -- Flat fee.
    -- An Amie Street type auction system that fluctuates up and down.
    -- The actual costs for using this in a reMix. (free, percentage, flat fee)

    -Include the Fair Use Terms for the Mp3 and Video.

    It would be a step up from iTunes. This is one site that the labels couldnt take on using their tried and true sue them as a negotiating tactic.

    Oh wait thats part of the business plan I am working on never mind .....

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    see TAM?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: mechanical vs. synch rights

    But you can get synch rights for free for broadcast, theater, and mainstream distribution in some cases. I've approved them myself for film and TV projects. Because there isn't a set price, some artists will allow you to use their music for free, or payment once the project makes money. In other cases the projects paid very well and the artists were very happy to get the money.

    Again, ask beforehand to see if you can work out a deal.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nailed it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So Sonny and Cher were a cover band? I had no idea. They didn't change covering other people's songs? They never made any original music? Together? Ever? Good to know.

    They seemed to do fine covering other people's music.

     

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  29.  
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    Joe, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:23pm

    So sick of 'ironic' covers

    This doesn't bode well for people who actually write and record their own songs without trying to live off Lady Gaga's and Beyonce's fame.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 4:34pm

    Re: So sick of 'ironic' covers

    This doesn't bode well for people who actually write and record their own songs without trying to live off Lady Gaga's and Beyonce's fame.


    Indeed.

    And yes, ironic hipster covers are beyond stale at this point.

     

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  31.  
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    Julia and Music, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 7:42am

    We're glad that they found a way to make music and do it in a way that works for them.

    We are going at it from the live performance of original music angle. Its a hard path especially because the market is so saturated with bands who probably shouldnt be out playing live.

    We're really grateful to Pomplamoose for sticking to the studio. Plus they're right setting up shows is a lot of work, so is touring. Fifth Nation has only been off tour for about a month since December and we will be on the road until August, at which point we will be taking a short break, then going back out for more!

    check out www.FifthNationMusic.com for more info on our band and a free download!!

    Much love, respect and gratitude,
    Julia and Music, Fifth Nation

     

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  32.  
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    BP, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    The above is not simply a copy - they've reharmonized the song and rearranged it, in very clever ways. If you can't figure out why that video is creative then you obviously don't know the first thing about music, and you should probably refrain from commenting on things you have no idea about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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