YouTube band-cum-inescapable internet fungus Pomplamoose, comprised of an immaculately quirked-out couple named Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, have been having a bit of a rough go as of late.
The pair, who have been making music videos and posting them to YouTube since 2008, recently managed to lose $11,819 on a tour that brought in more than $135,983 in income, and then blogged about how expensive it is to be a touring artist.
But never worry, Pomplamoose fans: Conte, who authored the post, noted that despite the losses the duo is "just fine" thanks in part to their Patreon sponsors, who give the couple $6,236 for every video they post. Patreon is a crowdfunding site for creatives—in this case, people who feel comfortable asking for money to produce YouTube videos, which they also generate revenue from.
Some pundits—like those at our sister blog Noisey as well as Pitchfork—panned Pomplamoose's promotion of the idea that it's difficult or near-impossible to make money on a tour, which many bands less popular than the 'Moose seem to be able to do.Others bristled at what they saw as an obvious Patreon marketing ploy by Conte.
You see, what Conte didn't mention was that he is also the co-founder and CEO of Patreon. Despite a follow-up post in which Conte wrote that he doesn't take any income from the site, the pair then experienced the full hair-trigger fury of the internet's usual stock of angry commenters, bloggers, and trolls.
To try to address the backlash, Conte and Dawn last night hosted a live webcast in which they promised to answer questions from their fans, as long as they were respectful. It was a request both misguided and utterly doomed.
Intrigued by the possibility of watching Conte and Dawn respond to their critics and tickled by the insanity of the situation, I got nice and stoned and settled in for the long haul.
Whatever was going to transpire, I had a feeling that it was going to be good. But I was wrong. It wasn't just good. It flew right past good, bad, or any conception of right or wrong and into the realm of total insanity.
The webcast opened with a blast of what felt like something akin to a poetic conceit. Conte, who normally comes off like a sugar high teenager with a beard, was somber and frustrated. Every smile dripped with the acidity of a forced feeling. His eyes were cold and hard. The low-resolution camera feed made them appear pitch black.
The man had clearly stared into the abyss of the internet. Maybe it started staring back. I felt a slight chill creep up my spine.
The usually stoic Dawn appeared lively—radiant, even. She nodded along and often chimed in with enthusiasm about how they are definitely not millionaires, as Conte tensely went off on how the couple are financially secure, own a house, have high salaries, and are therefore unafraid to take risks, which every artist should do. Patreon, not Pomplamoose, was the name in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
Why did people ever think these guys were an indie band again? I couldn't say. I suddenly became aware of an acute need for pizza.
Conte and Dawn then wheeled out some special guests, including Cory Casoni, a professional brand manager who came on to tell the couple that they were being treated unfairly, and Ari Herstand, a self-aware mop who plays guitar and writes for Digital Music News.
Sometimes, when you're stoned, you can tell right away when someone else is riding the dank dragon. Your eyes lock, and you just know. It's innate. And let me tell you, mop-man looked lit up. Respect.
Herstand occasionally asked the pair long, rambling questions that left Conte and Dawn with no recourse but to talk about whatever they wanted—which was always how unfairly they're being treated, coincidentally—while zoning out for a few sweet minutes of not having to say anything at all.
The feed cut out several times, and Herstand was left alone on the screen. He mugged, he giggled, he asked everyone what was up, and he joked about doing a sing-along. He was a star. The audience loved him.
After about 20 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. I put on my coat and sneakers and ventured out into the snowy night to find some pizza. When I came back with my hands full of a hot Canadian slice, Herstand was still there, asking another non-question.
After about an hour, Dawn and Conte ended the webcast without really answering a question from even one of their fans—or trolls, for that matter—fully. Instead, they pontificated.
"Taking occasional risks, I'm a strong proponent of that," Conte says around 40 minutes in. "And maybe it's a tech company thing to do, to sort of move fast and break things and celebrate failures."
And so, finally, I was left in silence. Full of pizza and still pretty hazy, I reflected on what I and roughly 430 other miserable souls—according to a remark Dawn made about the number of viewers watching the webcast—had just experienced.
Pomplamoose, who have for years been touted as indie musicians, revealed in a censored non-Q&A live stream fraught with trolls, that they're not indie musicians at all. They're viral content creators, and they make bank doing it.
What did it all mean? Did it mean anything? For me, it was an opportunity to viscerally experience how communities can be built online and crumble just as easily, and how we make idols out of online personas.
But perhaps, most of all, it was a reminder that the internet is still a crazy place. People rise to fame, and they fall from grace. People make money—enough to drop 11 grand down a well and not really mind. People believe in things. Right here on the web, together.