Rebecca got livid.
Hearing that Jack Conte, one half of Pomplamoose (the other half is Nataly Dawn), is a co-founder of Patreon and arguably used his "I have no idea how to budget a tour" blog to subtly promote his other, presumably real, job, she was displeased. "Completely disgusting and dishonest" was how she put it.
I…am less angry. It's dishonest, sure, but I can't summon disgust.
Indie isn't what it used to be. There's judgment in there, for sure, but that's mostly a statement of fact. When indie was a thing that people cared about, the world was different. CDs were $18 a pop, unless you were Dischord. College radio stations mattered, because access was a thing that major labels had absolute control over. What you would listen to was whatever the conglomerate had decided would be on air in your market, or whatever you were willing to take a $18 gamble on. Indie meant you were willing to take that gamble.
It's a different world now, and the main point is one of engagement, not access. So when Conte declares that he's a part of the creative class, and like all indie bands, he's willing to lose five figures on a tour, I shrug.
(I shrug after yelling with Rebecca on Twitter about Conte's budgeting for an hour, to be fair. It is not impossible for indie bands of a different stripe to go five figures in debt, but they certainly don't do it for a month long US tour booked like a family vacation.)
Indie, now, only means not currently signed directly to a major label. And Pomplamoose fits that. My question is "why does this guy want to buy in?" Pomplamoose are already tremendously successful through actively avoiding the traditional indie path of tour, record, US tour, EU tour, US tour, repeat.
Because if he thinks indie has cachet, the joke's on him. Cachet is an infinitely decomposing currency, easily lost. Indie bands struggle to keep their heads above water. Pomplamoose, through their hustle, has an inflatable raft.
Pomplamoose gets $6,395 per music video on Patreon, last I checked. Conte and Dawn crank out two a month. Most indie bands have to work two jobs when they're not on tour. Pomplamoose earns enough to give each member a $30,000 yearly salary. I don't know what Conte draws from Patreon.
The rest feels like errata: Before this, Dawn had her major label debut on Nonesuch, (a Warner subsidiary) underwritten by Kickstarter money. She also appeared on a Barry Manilow record. Of course there's a major label connection somewhere, but at this point, it hardly matters.
The numbers Conte throws around show he's not from around here, and learning that he's also sitting on Patreon money takes the sting out of his "indie band guy/creative making it work" posturing.
To presume to speak to him directly: Mr. Conte. Bro. You don't want to be here. Here isn't anywhere, really. You've got the career you dreamed of, right now, and all you have to do to keep it going is pruning. If your bandmate booked the tour, why are you paying a booking agent? If you know you're going to lose $50,000 on hired guns, workshop a live set that is just as compelling as "big rock show." It'll be a new challenge. Given how intense your band's churn is at normal output, it shouldn't be too hard.
There's a dirty secret, one we're especially ashamed to tell: In all but this respect, we should be taking advice from you. $30,000 a year, on no touring? Sleeping in your own bed every night? Only recording and making videos? Bands dream about that.
You guys don't do tours anyway. You have a loud, intensely engaged fanbase that's willing to support you. You already do the hard work. The rest is just being willing to absorb discomfort.
Which, incidentally, might be the most indie thing you can do.
I thought about embedding a Pomplamoose song, but then realized I have no desire to listen to that band. You'll make do with "We Built This City! (On Debts And Booze)," won't you?