The Pomplamoose Problem

An Interesting Article on the site Artist Empathy (yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either) discusses “The Pomplamoose Problem”…

Pomplamoose…Or, why Artists Can’t Survive as Saints and Martyrs.

Pomplamoose is a neat online band I’ve enjoyed for years on Youtube; a couple known for their awesome music videos: Nataly, a really understated guitarist-singer, and Jack, her way overanimated boyfriend, who plays just about every instrument he can get his hands on.

Stating the Problem

Jack recently posted a brief article about how hard it is for artists to survive, even those who their fans think have “made it.“ (“We have not ‘made it,’” he concludes. “We’re making it.”)

Well, he was ripped a new one for daring to tell the truth — and explaining how and why the band lost money on its recent tour, despite a great turnout by fans.

It’s really hard for artists to survive, Artist Empathy says: “The reality is that we’ve reduced American culture to a system of arbitrary donations and pats on the head. That isn’t sustainable. Corporate and trust funded music will survive, but will its message represent the diversity of our culture? No. And resentment is building — a resentment that is quite clear with the level of anger generated by just one mid-level band publishing just one article about the difficulty of surviving in the music business.”

A neat innovation by Pomplamoose: they show every instrument
(even as simple as clapping hands) so you can see where every
distinct sound comes from.

The Bigger Picture

I can relate — as much as writing and publishing is included in the definition of “art” these days. Premium subscribers have put their money where my mouth is, but a push in the free edition on Friday brought a grand total of eight new subscribers. Eight people who agree to pay a few bucks per year …for at least one year.

Out of their fee, I’ll need to pay for the two writers that each contribute about three stories a week (I write the rest), a high-end web server that won’t crash under the sudden loads it gets when an issue goes out, email servers that don’t choke when I’m ready to send tens of thousands of emails all at once, an assistant to process your orders (and get books ready for publication), office space, computers — on and on. It’s definitely tough to survive in “the arts” — not even counting those who expect, even demand, that they get the results of the work even though they don’t support it themselves.

Oh, and did you figure in that credit card processors (and Paypal) take a percentage right off the top?

Not Complaining

Far from this being a whine, it’s important to me that I periodically say Thank You to the several thousand of you who do support my work, because you make it possible in a very real way. As I say again and again, that doesn’t just mean financial support: spreading the word works wonders. Just one post by a True reader on Lifehacker in June brought in a couple of hundred new readers, simply by answering a question posted there, “What Are Best Email Newsletters That Are Actually Worth Subscribing To?” Wow! Thanks Tidymaze, whoever you are! The same Lifehacker member did it again last month, by answering another post which asked asked for “The Best Subscription Gifts You Can Give”, which has resulted in more new subscribers. That really, really helps.

So please: think about how important it is for the bands who make music you love, for writers who make you think and laugh, for video producers like the brilliant Veritasium who explain things in understandable ways to make you smarter — we all need your support. You might even be one of eight who really make a difference.

Veritasium Example

The roundest object in the world — and why it was created:

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5 Comments on “The Pomplamoose Problem

  1. There is NO simple answer to this issue at the moment. And none in sight.

    My uncle was in the Australian Country scene back in the days they called it Bluegrass and had several records to his credit. However, while the recording company made a mint, he made so little he had to give it up and take on a clerical job to eat. A couple of his mates stayed in and kept going, but had to work at day jobs to put food on the table for many years, then only started to make a living out of music by doing the club and pub circuit while doing all their own handling.

    I’ve run into similar issues as an independent author. Unless I have an in with a literary agent who can get me before a print publisher I’m left with self publishing or giving the stories away free. Thus some stories are free on certain websites and most are available as PDF files or Print on Demand from a website.

    Just like the people you mention above, I’m caught in the middle between those that want it all for free because it’s available electronically, and the big companies who want to control it all and make all the profit off it. As a physical product it’s the recording and publishing companies who want the control, as an electronic product it’s mobs like Amazon and Apple who want the control. Neither the companies or the general public who want it for nothing give a damn about the many hundreds of hours I spend researching things before I write a story, or the hundreds of hours I spend writing the story and cleaning it up with editing, and those who help with the editing.

    It’s because I know and appreciate the work involved in producing This is True that I have a premium subscription and am happy to pay you for it; because you deserve the useful recognition a premium subscription gives you, it’s all you really have as a recognition. I hope you get more people signing up, and I hope more people realise that artists spend many hours creating the art and could starve if they don’t get a real income — historically, some have starved.

    Reply
  2. Granted, this has little to do with your blog entry, but it touches upon a raw nerve. I’m a bit frustrated with the “artists” who continually demand greater funding through the National Endowment for the Arts. I’ve never heard of, nor can I find in my limited research, any artist who has paid back any “gifts” from the NEA. A gilt, gem encrusted pile of aardvark poop sitting in a museum does not qualify. One would think that perhaps this or that artist may be better off as a plumber’s apprentice. Just because a person likes art and calls him (or her) self an artist does not make it so. I would think that without the NEA, we would have better artists, surviving, instead of more artists.

    Reply
  3. As a struggling photographer I have the same issues, but compounded by the fact that everyone has a camera these days. They assume they can take the same pictures I do even though I have years invested in training and learning about light and exposure. And because they give away their pictures, I’m expected to give mine away for free too. I work a day job because photography doesn’t pay enough for me to eat, let alone my family, my house, my car …

    “Everyone” thinks they can write, too, “because I learned how in school.” Yeah, they learned how to fingerpaint, too, but they’re not professional illustrators, are they? There’s a difference between those who know how to use a camera and those who can consistently create art with one. -rc

    Reply
  4. I recently came across the way to repay an artist who provided me (and many others) with great entertainment. Monty Oum created the awesome Dead Fantasy videos, but they used copyrighted characters and were therefore free. Now that he’s producing original work, a series titled RWBY (pronounced ‘Ruby’), I bought the DVDs and soundtrack.

    Despite knowing that much of the videos are available for free viewing.

    Reply
  5. Just a suggestion re the web server.

    Given that you can predict your load spikes, it is possible to use cloud based virtual servers to up your site performance in advance, or to dynamically respond to load increases.

    And you only pay for what you’re using.

    That might be a better option for you.

    Thanks, but I’m already using the former, but don’t size it up and down since every time it’s changed, it has to reboot several times, meaning it’s offline for several minutes several times over a half-hour span. To do that four times a week (going larger, and smaller, for Premium and Free editions) would be ridiculous, even if it could be automated. The latter, however, is more expensive than what I’m paying for now, which is handling the spikes just fine.

    In other words, I did research the alternatives, and went with the best combination of quality and price available. -rc

    Reply

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