Some of that sympathetic disbelief has been dashed this week, however, with detractors pointing to Conte’s role as cofounder of Patreon, a website that allows fans of creative professionals ranging from comic artists to musicians to make monthly contributions to support their favorites. In the past year, Patreon has raised $17 million from “angel investors and other investors,” according to a critique on Conte’s financials published Nov. 26 by music analyst Bob Lefsetz.
He’s not the only one pointing a questioning finger at Conte’s story, which Conte himself is not a sob story but one of a band that is “making it” through touring and producing two YouTube videos a month.
Mark Teo, a writer for Aux TV, takes a hard look at the numbers Conte provided, willingly and voluntarily, on how his band’s costs were tallied.
The details “didn’t add up,” Teo says.
“How did the band spend $50,000 paying their tour crew? How did they spend $26,000 renting equipment? Why did the band rent out four Best Western-level hotel rooms for each night of the tour, when most smaller-level bands sleep on floors? How, exactly, were they able to put $17,000 on one of their credit cards?”
Teo, using Conte’s affiliation with Patreon, calls the accounting post nothing more than a “thin-veiled” plug for Patreon, “disingenuous” to other musicians and fans and “branded content.”
A third article, from Santos Montano of the band Old Man Gloom, questions how Conte can label Pomplamoose as “indie,” given the band’s $8,750 sponsorship from Lenovo in the form of three laptops used to run the band’s light show, among other things.
In his nearly point-by-point takedown of Conte’s post, Montano, writing for Pitchfork.com, says the article is the latest in a long line of things that “give young people all the wrong ideas,” like becoming a successful musician takes winning a televised singing contest.
“Some young musician will read this, and think they just can’t afford to go on tour, or that it’s virtually impossible to come out ahead in the music world,” he says. This not only isn’t true, it glosses over Pomplamoose’s vision of the $11,000 loss as an investment in future success. Some musicians only get one shot, if they take it, to tour.
“You want to make art, and you want to do that for a living, guess what: you’re currently doing it,” Montano says.
“You just don’t seem to think this is what it’s like to be successful, because other bands have been MORE successful. That thinking, in my opinion, is poisonous, and will hamper your ability to wholly experience this amazing ride you’re currently on.”
Montano does support one of Conte’s practices: sleeping in hotel rooms. After a certain age, or certain amount of touring, a comfortable bed and hot shower are must-haves in his book.
In light of these criticisms, and others, Conte has once again taken to Medium.com to explain his numbers.
He links to several articles and videos in which he discusses his involvement with Patreon and his refusal to take a salary for that work, living solely on the money he makes from his music.
During a webcast this evening (Monday, Dec. 1), Conte and bandmate Nataly Dawn said they knew from the beginning their recent tour was not going to make any money, and agreed that some of their expenses, namely lighting, wouldn’t be incurred again, or to the same extent, in the future. In response to another suggestion, from Montano, that supporting musicians be paid a predetermined percentage of any profits or be willing to pay for free, Conte and Dawn were visibly outraged. “It really makes me mad,” Conte said of the suggestion. “If salaries is people’s biggest problem with our tour, I’m totally OK with that. If that’s self-righteous, Pomplamoose is self-righteous.”
Without missing a beat, Dawn weighed in, suggesting there’d be even more backlash if they hadn’t paid their supporting musicians. “It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation,” she said.
Lefsetz, by the way, has some gruff advice for Conte and Pomplamoose: This might be as big as you get, so enjoy what you have while you have it. If you don’t think you’re making enough money, find a job that will pay you what you think you deserve — not everyone is cut out to be a successful musician.
If you want to read my original story on Pomplamoose’s financials, check it out here.