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Pomplamoose: Terrible Business or Brilliant Investment?

Weissy here. As you know, my main vocation is record production.

What you may not know is that I spent three years touring off and on with a band (the band was called “Drake” but had to change names because of a legal dispute), and many many years touring sporadically with a rapper (Mega Ran).

While I’m not a professional promoter, booking agent, or tour manager by any means, I’ve been fairly involved in the process.

Recently, Pomplamoose published this article which outlines the expenses incurred in a recent 28 day tour.

The article has had some weirdly mixed reactions, everything from people praising the dedication this band has for their fans, to scolding them for their spending habits.

I’m going to weigh in with my opinion on the subject, but really, this article is an expose on touring and business strategies.

1. Understand Where The Money Is

A band is a business. This is an inalienable truth, for better and (mostly) for worse.

When you have a business, you have to understand where the money is really coming from.

Music is a multifaceted business and money can come from a lot of different places. Here’s a quick list: Touring, Mechanicals, Licensing, Club & Session gigs, Merchandise, Image, and Crowd-funding. And all of that can be broken down into more specific revenue streams.

As a band/artist, you really have to be looking at all of these different means of making money and figuring out where it’s all coming from. That informs you where and how you can spend money.

Pomplamoose, for example, makes their income primarily from crowdfunding. In order for this business model to be successful they really have to invest in face time with their fans. A crowdfunding based model is interactive.

Pomplamoose needs to consistently provide for their fans in small ways throughout the year, and provide for their fans in a big way a couple times a year.

Pomplamoose chose to do it with a tour.

2. Create A Strategy

I think Pomplamoose genuinely loves their fan base and loves performing.

I don’t think they’re business strategy has been supremely formal — more like an ideology that’s supported by the fact that they really care.

Nevertheless, they have a business strategy.

Because they have a strong revenue stream outside of touring, they can view a tour as an investment — which they explicitly state in their article.

This model isn’t for everyone! For some bands, the tour is the big payout. For others, the tour is used to move merchandise.

For Pomplamoose, it’s the cherry for their audience. It’s not just an investment into future touring (as stated), but also an investment into the dedication of their supporters. They want their audience to know they will spare no expense when it comes time to perform.

When formulating a strategy you need an end game.

If the end game is to make substantial money from touring, then tours need to be planned in a certain way (not the way Pomplamoose did it!).

If the end game is to use the tour as a spring board for other endeavors that will pay off down the road, then you’re already committing to not doing it to make immediate income.

And this initial idea leads to…

3. Commitment Is Everything

I’m going to approximate some numbers for simplicity’s sake.

Let’s say the tour booking is $100,000 for 25 gigs.

Now, let’s say you need a drummer to tour with. You could, say, hire an Alex Maio for $10,000 for the tour. Or, you could get Bobby Notbad for $5,000. This is a pivotal decision. On the one hand, Alex Maio is gonna up the value of the show exponentially. On the other hand, Bobby Notbad can get the job done and $5,000 is a fair chunk of money.

The key here is commitment to the strategy.


You see, once you decide to go with Notbad over Maio, you may as well go with the second tier choice for all the other touring musicians as well. Because your backing band really just needs to hold it down in this scenario — they don’t need to shine on their own or bring something else to the show.

Once you decide to go with Maio, you should be bringing on other band members of the same caliber.

If you’re hiring three cats onto the gig, that’s ultimately a $15,000 decision — and that decision should represent your plan, not your bottom line.

And these kinds of decisions crop up everywhere. For example, hiring a touring sound man.

You should either be hiring someone good, or not hiring a sound man to tour with you at all. Hiring a touring sound guy for $10,000 +/- for a tour is an investment in a great sounding show and a better experience for the audience. Hiring a sound guy for $3,000 on the other hand is probably a waste of $3,000.

What you need comes down to the original plan. Are we touring as an investment toward other endeavors? Or are we touring because this is where the rent money comes from? Once that decision is made: commit.

As a side note, for those who said the hotels and food bills were too expensive: Pompamoose’s crew was paid an average of $300/gig. That’s very inexpensive for serious crew. They very likely would have declined the gig if decent food and lodging weren’t part of the package. In my mind, this was good and business savvy.

At the end of the day you have happy, well rested crew, and at a very reasonable price.

4. Business Acumen Isn’t Heartless

The flip side of all of this is that it’s pretty endearing to hear about a band spending more than they earn in order to make the fans happy.

Well, Pompamoose didn’t really do that… exactly.

They made a calculated business decision. And that even includes the decision to release an article that documents their income and expenses.

It’s about investment and projected returns. In fact, all successful entertainers and artists do this.

Winging it as a means of earning an income is not a good idea. It only leads to two things: being broke, and having disappointed fans.

Dedicating time to coming up with a business strategy and viewing your art as a business might feel “sell-outish” to some, but don’t let the unknowing masses fool you for a second — if you can’t make money doing your art, you are doing your fans a disservice.

If investing heavily into a tour is a means of pulling in sponsors, that doesn’t mean it’s not a means of making your fans happy!

So grab a pen, grab some paper and figure out a plan.

5. Mistakes Happen

I’m of the mind that Pompamoose more or less did it right for what they were intending to do.

However, even just going over the very general outline of expenses I can see a few places where a tummy tuck would have been ok.

I think with a bit of hindsight and extra planning, a good $5,000 could have come off that bill without much compromise. But that’s ok. If the return on the investment works out, that $5,000 will be easily sufferable.

In my own business, be it engineering or when I was touring, I easily could have saved myself a lot of money. But I only know that because I can look back on how I wasted a lot of money!

Ultimately, it’s ok. It’s part of taking risks, it’s part of learning.

I’d rather spend $5,000 on something that ultimately doesn’t pay off, then fail to spend $5,000 where I crucially needed the investment.

The whole act of growing a business is a long-term endeavor. There are ups and downs, happy surprises and unfortunate disappointments, but you learn from your mistakes and use that understanding to do it better the next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:

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