#096: Jack Conte – Pomplamoose and the Video Song

Jack Conte of the indie pop duo Pomplamoose, joins us to discuss how they have used video to reach music fans around the world. Pomplamoose’s innovative videos have collectively been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube. That is a lot of views!  Their unique videos are a part of a new digital artform called a “video song” in which the video imagery is an inside look into how the song was actually created.  Jack explains the rules for creating video songs and how this has generated steady music sales for Pomplamoose.  Is this the future of indie music distribution? Tune in and find out!

See Pomplamoose in action with their video songs HERE.

  • http://philipclark.com Philip Clark

    Jack Conte is a bad, bad man. Love his stuff and how he markets. I’ll be listening intently to this one!

  • http://www.benpopp.com ben

    Hi from France. Two reasons for such a success : covers (MJ, Lady Gaga) and at last but not at least a great talent.

  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

    Agree and disagree with Ben. Covers dragged the viewers in, but, the fact that the singer is an attractive woman kept them long enough to actually listen and discover the talent of the duo.

  • http://www.iamnotlefthanded.com iamnotlefthanded

    Love these guys – their music is great and they’re really such an inspiration: doing things entirely their own way and thriving from it. We gave a VideoSong a try last week, it’s not as easy as they make it look:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIvdogC_4qQ

  • J-J

    Great Idea, glad to see indie musicians succeed! One question: I’d like to know if they have been bothered about the issue of using cover songs by music publishers? Especially with all the attention they are getting… and some of it from labels. Many musicians with less attention have been issued with “takedowns” and for much more obscure songs.

  • http://www.gregoryhyde.com Gregory Hyde

    This was a GREAT interview. I loved hearing what a savvy, business-minded person Jack is, and how he blends that so well with maintaining his vision and integrity as an artist.

    I actually discovered Jack’s music before Pomplamoose, so I disagree that Natalie’s cuteness factor (which is outstanding, no doubt) is more responsible for their success than the quality of songs & musicianship. Otherwise Jennifer Love Hewitt’s singing career might have lasted longer than 3.4 seconds.

    This got me completely rethinking my approach to touring, performance, and especially the value of quality videos.

    Well done guys.

  • Mike

    Great interview. I wonder how well it would work, though, for:
    1. Singer/songwriters. With only one person to fill the video, I can see it working once, but it seems it would be boring to view over and over.
    2. Ugly, older guys like me. It’s kind of like when movies went from silent to talkies. Taking music from audio-only to video may not work for a lot of us. Look at the manufacturer pop-tarts the labels create.

  • http://Www.onionaudio.co.uk Dan

    Anyone who can find a new fresh way of living from their music is on to a winner. It will be interesting to see how many people try to emulate this & if it works on a broader scale.

  • Karen

    Thanks for another awesome episode, Kevin! I’ve seen the name Pomplamoose before, but had not checked out their music…err…Videosongs until now! Love how savvy and in control the band is of their work. This proves that many successful artists are business-minded, but with their eyes/heart fixed on music and creativity.

    About cover songs: they’re never just a means to an end, so they’re never useless or just riding one’s coattails. You’re either paying homage to an admired artist with a cover, or using it as a bridge to your own work. Or both. It’s reappropriation and leitmotifs at their best in this huge music mosaic. I further have to thank cover songs for pointing me to ends of the spectrum that I would have not otherwise checked out.

    Lastly, I predict that video(songs) will continue to play a huge role in distribution/exhibition practices. LA Times recently used the term ‘transmedia’, “story told through multiple platforms (webisodes, live performance, Facebook, etc.) such that each one contributes a unique part of the narrative.” With niche markets, transmedia seems inevitable. I just hope we don’t lose a sense of community when each fan solely experiences a “house concert” within the confines of his own room/computer/mp3/phone screen.

    Whoops, lengthy post and may be preaching to the choir! Impressed with Pomplamoose’s 100% royalties success. Thanks again.

  • http://www.andrewrostas.blogspot.com Andrew

    Hello from Melbourne, Australia. Loved this episode and loved Pomplamoose. I even went and watched a whole bunch of their videos and bought an album on iTunes (damn stupid impulse buys!). Certainly got me thinking about the stuff that I am doing and what I want to do differently. I think that another reason why the videosongs work so well (other than what Jack mentioned about it being educational – which I agree with) is that it’s almost like seeing the band at a gig. You get a little window into the artists personalities and you connect on them in a more meaningful way, which in turn makes you more likely as a music fan to give your cash to these guys rather than an artist who you only know their music. Errr… not the most efficient or direct way of saying what I wanted to say, but I think (or at least hope) you get what I’m talking about. For this to work, you have to have good music (which these guys do, in my view) and have personalities which people are likely to want to get to know more (which these guys do also).

    I would also like to know how they went about getting rights for their cover songs.

    Keep the great eps coming!!

    Andrew

  • http://www.twitter.com/shortcinema Shortcinema

    I have been waiting excitedly for this interview to air since Kevin mentioned it a few months ago. I am a big fan of Pomplamoose’s music. Been following them for close to a year. I once spent a weekend watching all the videos on all three of their channels so I could get caught up on their story.

    I heard their Lady Gaga cover before I heard the original. It was so good that the original just doesn’t sound right to me

    Which goes to Ben’s point. Covers are good business sense and making it your own and being creative is what is going to make the cover stand out.

    @Robert Lee King – I am with Gregory Hyde. Nataly is cute but I go back to the videos time and time again because they are good. When I first heard their Beyonce “Single Ladies” cover I was blown away by its originality, visually and especially musically.

    @Mike – There are tons and I mean tons of singer/songwriters out there just plopping themselves in front of a video camera creating a fan base for themselves. The biggest Youtube examples I can think of are Davd Choi and Julia Nunes.
    Yes there are trolls out there who will be unkind about the way people look but in the end it about the music. Put on a good show, be authentic and people will comeback. Also don’t feed the trolls.
    If you are really reticent about being in front of the camera, get creative; use paper cut-outs, sock puppets, action figures.

    Thanks for a great episode. I am so looking forward to the round table on this one.

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  • Karen

    @shortcinema – great points. I would also argue that the Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider duo wielded the videosong concept very well. They put a never-before-seen twist on coversongs, garnering even Oprah’s praise.

    I think the biggest appeal for Pomplamoose’s videosongs is that we see their production process. It *looks* so simple that a layman can do it– very accessible. But, it takes the creativity and gumption of an artist to do what they’ve done.

  • http://planetcorey.com Corey Koehler

    I with J-J on this one…

    “I’d like to know if they have been bothered about the issue of using cover songs by music publishers? Especially with all the attention they are getting… and some of it from labels. Many musicians with less attention have been issued with “takedowns” and for much more obscure songs.”

    Can someone discuss this on the round table or in the comments here. I think it is important to know.

  • http://planetcorey.com Corey Koehler

    OH…and great show!

  • http://www.jacobmoon.com Jacob Moon

    So the YouTube channel allows them to get paid for originals, but not covers, yes? they would need a different license, I think…

    VERY inspiring show guys…thanks. Where are the show notes?

    J

  • http://www.davekingmusic.com Dave King

    Great show. I’m also wondering about the publishing and copyright issues regarding cover songs – especially on YouTube which is known for refusing to host music videos that contain copyrighted music.

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  • http://kevinbreuner.com Kevin Breuner

    @Jacob Moon – The YouTube partner program ONLY pays based on ad revenue share. So if you have a YouTube partner account, you can enable ads to be shown over your videos. When people click on the ads, YouTube will give you a cut of that revenue. If you don’t have ads enabled, you won’t make any money. Jack talks about that in the interview a bit.

    @Dave King (and everyone else who asked about licensing) – As it works now, YouTube pays a blanket license fee to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC for the performance of songs on their site. That allows artists to post their own unique version of a cover song without having to pay anything. The artist is still required to pay mechanical licensing fees if they decide to sell their recorded version of the song, as that is something different all together.

    BUT – In cases in which you hear videos being pulled, every instance that I’m aware of is where the music was the original recording. So the master recording that the label owns is being used without their permission. This has happened a lot. Now a lot of it is automated, but you still hear about extreme cases like a recent video that was pulled of someone’s baby dancing. Way in the background, someone had a Prince song on. It was barely recognizable, but the record company had it pulled.

    Online video is still a new frontier, so expect adjustments in the rules over the next couple years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thevictimsofkool Craig Stevenz

    Thanks, Kevin…. The issue of mechanicals was one I also wondered about as I watched the video after hearing your interview.. Might be one of the most important topics for you and the guys when you talk about this on the next podcast….not everyone will read your explanation here….
    I’m glad you dug this up though… very convincing… Does the guy have his own deal with itunes or is he also a cd baby artist?…. Just wondering….

    I’ve enjoyed this show since it started… reminds me of the show you did “I am Jen”

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  • http://www.huffmusic.com Chris Huff

    This show was really a great eye-opener! So many ideas for my own music and marketing came as I was listening…now to execute!

    There are very few places these days where musicians can come together and create the future – thanks to Kevin, Chris, and The Bolt for helping the process along…

  • http://www.thefamous.net The Famous

    Great interview! Very inspiring. I loved the part where Jack was talking about seeing dudes playing guitar in their bedrooms with 250,000 views on YouTube then looking at his MySpace plays and seeing 8. I totally know how he felt. I feel that almost every day!

    We just released a very beautifully shot and edited traditional music video that took us 3 months to make:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jyfqrPi7tY

    to promote our traditional full-length album that took a year and a half to make.

    http://www.cdbaby.com/thefamous2

    After hearing this interview though, I am fired up to try going the opposite route and releasing digital EPs instead of full-length CDs, and quick and dirty video-songs on a much faster time scale. The trick will be to not sacrifice quality at the expense of quantity.

    -Vic-
    The Famous — A shot of classic country with a post-punk chaser
    http://www.thefamous.net
    http://www.facebook.com/TheFamousMusic
    http://www.twitter.com/thefamous

  • http://www.huffmusic.com Chris Huff

    Also, it occurs to me that videos on YouTube don’t necessarily need to be complicated to work

    i.e. Richard Thompson sitting on the edge of his hotel bed playing “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”

    but of course, we can’t all play like Richard Thompson

  • http://www.ronnierecords.com Ronnie

    Inspiring

  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

    While I enjoyed the episode, I am more than a bit fascinated that you all seem to think this is something new. This is the way videos were done in the 1960’s and early 70’s. Granted the duo have a decided advantage over those early videos in the use of sophisticated computer software to produce them but, they aren’t something new, just something very old retooled for the current age. Check out some of the early video versions of Help and A Hard Days Night. Look at Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, for that matter, a kinescope or video of virtually any live performance.

    These are entertaining true. Informative? Not in the least. Natalie’s vocal processing for example is never seen and though they attempt to show the double/triple and more of a part, they don’t fully do so. This is not a knock on the duo only on the astounding ignorance of “artists” proclaiming this so informative. Really? What did you actually learn from any of the videos? Come on, you all know the truth, nothing, That’s what you really learned. The production, completely hidden. The actual performance, only hinted at.

    Remember Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody? Nothing new here just more of a very old technique.

    Is this method a good marketing tool? For Pomplamoose yes, for others, unlikely. There is nothing new on earth, everything has been done in some form or another already. What succeeds for one only succeeds for that one, when it is unique or seems so.

    Remember, Radiohead tried the pay what you want then everyone else seemingly followed suit. It worked for Radiohead but only once. It has not worked for anyone else since. Once it’s no longer unique, it’s passe’ and has no value.

    Last point, I guarantee, with no reservation at all, if Natalie was a fat chick to use a bad coloquialism, these videos would have found zero audience. Want proof? Okay, Millie Vanillie, The Weather Girls who were never seen until “Raining Men” was a hit. Dolly Parton, who though talented only became famous because of the size of her chest first. Ann and Nancy Heart, who hid for more than a decade how much Ann had ballooned up. Fleetwood Mac who focused not on Mick, not Christine McVie but Stevie Nicks. Who is the most known and beloved of the Beatles, that’s right, the pretty boy, Paul. What about the Wilson sisters? Who? You know, Wilson Phillips? One hit wonders to be sure but the videos were very careful to spend little time on the fat chick… My point is, pretty rules. If you ain’t pretty, video isn’t going to help you.

    This whole video song idea is old and WILL NOT work for most. First you have to hook the audience visually, then and only then, will they listen. At that point you’d better be damned good or you lose them anyway. While Pomplamoose as a duo is good, they aren’t extraordinary. Nothing about them musically screams pay attention to us. But Natalie does, visually. And that, is the key.

    If Jack were the focus of these video songs, we would never have had this episode. No offense meant to Jack but he’s just another guy making music, just like the rest of the 6 or 7 million of us globally.

  • sf

    @Robert Lee King > you sort of make a lot of good points, however while visual hooks are important, and good looking ‘front people’ will always help immensely, to my eyes at least the female in this band (and no offence to her as you meant none to Jack) is nothing ‘special’. She appears to be an average girl (in a good way) not some sex-bomb so it can’t just be because of her looks that they get attention. I’ve seen far better looking females ignored because they didn’t have any talent.

  • sf

    However you are correct (and others) when ever a ‘great idea that just worked for a band’ comes out as the new way to do it, it is doomed already (for other bands). By the time we hear about it, it’s far too late! we all need to find our own way it’s a simple as that. Take elements of things that work but no one way guarantees anything.

  • http://www.vibesbyginger.com ginger

    as a musician/mom/writer/teacher for 40 years, I found this podcast fascinating and inspiring. why don’t they teach this in music school??? the creative talents of all musicians should be presented to the world this way. kudos Jack and Natalie for making your music actually work for you!

  • Steven

    The videos are very well made–it’s not just a cam shot of someone playing the guitar. The videos aren’t really too far off from traditional videos I think.

  • http://www.waxbotanical.com Tim Harper

    The proofs in the pudding, they’re earning a decent living from making music. Fair play to them. well spoken on the interview and some very nice production and arrangement on the videos.

  • http://concreteanthill.com Freda Rente’

    The videosong idea is great!
    Although, the cover tune thing, I question!
    It’s too easy and time consuming.
    It can be a journey for a few to their own sound.
    For some it is all that is brought to the table.
    For others it is their bread and butter, homage or not!
    On this level I’d like to know how the actual songwriters feel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KTNkr-y8JE

    Scissor Tickles

  • http://www.videosongsblog.com Arno

    Want to know more about videoSongs ?
    I run a blog about this new medium : http://www.videosongsblog.com
    Interviews, analysis, videos…
    Enjoy

  • http://www.christophernorth.com/ christopher north

    Thanks CDBaby Podcast and Pomplamoose! I’ve been waiting for this one! You answered so many of my questions. (Video Song concept, Camera info, youtube partner, income streams, JC’s background, etc. ….) Great questions, @Kevin.

    I’ve enjoyed and followed all of Jack Conte’s work (as well as Nataly), originally discovering him on Electro-Harmonix’s Site. (An amazing symbiotic cross promotion.) I’ve bought tracks and pedals because of the songs and sounds. That early Bass Big Muff vid still cracks me up.

    Pomplamoose’s story and the medium of videosongs are a 21st century super success story. Congrats on the home purchase. And to all the naysayers, there is great reason for optimism in the music biz (that has nothing to do with the old music biz.) Yes, it’s so true, “The labels do not get it.”

    There is something very honest, real and affirming to see a fellow artists assessing their talents & likely interfaces for success, focusing on their strong points (arrangements/production, multi-instrumental, video skills / documentary footage with sense of humor) and landing on their best target. Their songs are quite good, but that’s not enough in these oversaturated musical times.

    Great work, Pomplamoose and CDBabyPodcast, Keep it up!

    -c

  • http://www.tonyomalley.com Tony O’Malley

    Jack Conte is such a refreshing musician – passionate, inventive and right on the money when it comes to record labels!
    Love to see you hit the road, Jack…
    Good luck!

  • Rich M

    Excellent podcast, as usual. Very good feedback contributions. Kudos to CD Baby.

  • http://minamauldin.com Mina

    Great inspiration! Thanks for this podcast!

  • http://www.indiefolker.com Indie Folker

    I would be interested to know whether they’ve had any issues regarding their cover songs on YouTube or how they went about doing that in a way that it wouldn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. It’s a lot of us out there still wondering how that is done, and Pomplamoose is THE band to ask, as their success is mainly because of their awesome cover versions of famous songs. Kindest regards.

  • Armando Peredia

    I probably should have commented on this when u guys first did it but just had to tell you it was a great interview. I heard you guys mention Jack and Nataly some time ago and since I checked them out last March I couldn’t wait for this interview. Great job guys! Btw just want to say congratulations on reaching 102 episodes! I don’t miss a single one of ‘em! Even though some times we’re just listening in on the conversation it’s still a great show, like talk radio for musicians! Good stuff.

  • http://howtorunaband.com Chris “Seth” Jackson

    I love it! “The Major Labels can only do 50% of the advertising that we can do by releasing a video on our own” (paraphrased) This podcast really confirms the switch from majors to independent artists. I love how Pomplamoose examines the major label deals they get offerred and refuse them because they are already doing it on their own.

    Great stuff and very inspiring!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/MusiciansTogether-Mark/100002833822000 MusiciansTogether Mark

    One thing this doesn’t take into account is the way Youtube have changed the way their music category works. Now it only features much bigger artists, making it a lot harder for another Pomplamoose story.