In the summer of 2012 I learned about this fabulous band Pomplamoose and started seeing the music business in an entirely new way. Later that year, newly self-employed, I started blogging for the fledgling online magazine Pyragraph on having this career as a young musician. Here on my own blog I’d like to start featuring some of what I’ve written for Pyragraph. I’d like to start with this. It’s something I wrote over a year ago, not too long after I learned about Pomplamoose. The way they’ve made their careers work totally blew my mind.
My Pomplamoose Revelation, or: Why It’s So Exciting To Be a Musician Today
A few months ago my sister introduced me to the music of this indie duo, Pomplamoose, and I freaked out. Here’s why: not only do I love their music, but I also love the way they’re making a living.
Here’s one of their most popular covers; it’s one you may have already heard.
Here’s what they do: they make videos of their recording process in their home studio, then post those videos to YouTube. (Recently they’ve started hiring filmmakers to take care of the video, but they still record the audio at home.) They make money because they sell the mp3s of almost everything they post to YouTube. Their songs have also been used on commercials and TV shows. They’ve never pressed a physical CD. They hardly do traditional live shows. They don’t tour.
So, why did I freak out? Now, having lived with this information for an entire summer and on into fall, their career seems completely normal to me, completely natural. Of course you can do things the Pomplamoose way! Why not make a living doing music online? There’s no reason you couldn’t do that! The reason I freaked out is that Pomplamoose completely shattered the idea I had about what it means to be a musician.
Here’s the traditional format as I understood it: As a musician you write songs and practice a lot, you get together with people and record a CD, you book a lot of shows in your town, you do shows in other towns. Eventually you can afford to hire a booking person. Maybe you even hire an agent or a manager. You live out of your car. You try to sell a lot of CDs and a lot of T-shirts. You tour a lot. It’s hard to have a cat or a garden because you’re away from home so much.
For some musicians, this is true. Last week I performed as Shannon McNally‘s opening act here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live. She talked to me about how hard it is to tour constantly and be away from her four year old daughter (whose dad, rest assured, is taking good care of her at home in Mississippi). She advised me to do music, to do it and to love it — but if I could possibly imagine myself doing anything else, to cultivate that as well.
What Pomplamoose has helped me realize, though, is that a different kind of musical career path can be cultivated: one that may not require so much travel or time away from family (or, in my case, my cat). The thing is, it’s become unnecessary to adhere to any pre-formulated structure. You don’t necessarily have to tour. You can make a living out of videos on YouTube. There isn’t any single path to follow. That’s what makes it exciting. That’s what makes it terrifying at times. That’s what’s so freeing, and that’s what makes it so very wonderful to be doing what so many of us are doing, because now I realize that there are plenty of people doing music in this way.
Here’s one of my favorite original Pomplamoose songs.
Thanks, Pomplamoose, for showing me that the possibilities are endless. We’re all doing things our own way, but we’re not alone. Let’s learn from each other!