The following interview is a lightly edited and condensed trascript of an episode of The Upward Spiral, Hypebot's music and tech podcast.
Jason Spitz: Welcome Jack Conte.
Jack Conte: Hello there. Thank you for having me.
Jason Spitz: Hey, Jack. It's a pleasure to have you... Jack is one half of Pomplamoose, a band you that you may know from their illustrious YouTube videos and ad soundtracks, but he's also an independent musician in his own right... I want to take a second for Jack to tell the listeners a little bit about yourself. What's your story?
Jack Conte: Well, I finished college and thought about going to film school, and then in the middle of an interview for film school they said, "So where do you see yourself five years from now?" And it was sort of this moment where I just felt like being really honest and so I just told them, "Well, I see myself making music and writing soundtracks and coming out with records." And they sort of looked at me completely perplexed.
And that's kind of when I started being really honest with myself about what I love. It just seemed that music was an impossibility so I figured I'd just do my best at it. I started uploading music to MySpace and just trying to make it happen, and one day somebody sent me a video of a kid who was sort of okay at acoustic guitar and singing, not great by any means, but just decent, and he had like 250,000 hits on this video; and I sort of went back over to my MySpace page. I saw that I had, you know, like 3 plays or 4 plays, that's what I'd usually get for the day, and I kind of realized then that YouTube was the new place people were looking for content.
So I started uploading all my stuff to YouTube and just converting all my efforts over to YouTube, and sure enough, it worked and things started taking off with my solo stuff and then Pomplamoose, and that sort of brings me here. A lot, a lot came from that. I mean, we didn't have a label or a management or anything, and we started getting e-mails and requests to use our songs on television and in ads and in movies and TV shows, and it just came from uploading videos to YouTube. So I guess that's the short version of how I got here.
Jason Spitz: That actually transitions nicely into Kyle's first big topic. Kyle?
Can Your Band Save The Music Industry?
Kyle Bylin: Our topic for today is, “Can your band save the music industry?” So between sort of 2009 and 2010, they're arguably the biggest years for Pomplamoose, the sort of hip and sarcastic YouTube stars. And there were definitely people who asked questions like, "Can Pomplamoose save the music industry? Is Pomplamoose the future of music?"
These sort of questions, as hyperbolic as they may sound, are a great example of how artists who are successful on the Internet often get put on this pedestal and heralded as the next savior of the music business – whether it's Amanda Palmer or Radiohead, Corey Smith, or even Nine Inch Nails, among others – they have all been put out there on these pedestals in recent years and used as the case study for making money in this sort of post-Apocalypse music industry...
Jack, as somebody who became branded by trade publications as an artist who figured out how to make it in music, what was it like to see your band Pomplamoose sort of rise and sort of become heralded as this success story?
Jack Conte: It was really exciting and really cool, and we were totally stoked about it. The funny thing is, you know, we lived in this place really without Internet. We couldn't get Internet at our house. Neither Nataly nor I is especially good at social media, and a lot of people called us like a “social media band” but, you know, we tweet and Facebook like once a week, if that.
I think pedestal is the right word. I mean, people were not rightfully sort of doing that to us, and the truth of the matter is, as hard as we worked and I think as good of an insight as it was to start switching content over to the YouTube, you know, that was really what we saw, right? What we saw was, "Holy shit. YouTube is the place to be for musicians," and I really felt like YouTube was going to blossom. I mean don't forget, YouTube isn't that old. It's what, eight yeas old or something? So when we were doing this in 2008, it was maybe five years old, four years old, and there wasn't a lot of high-quality content on YouTube.
Repeating Previous Success Is Impossible
"YouTube seemed like a really incredible opportunity, but it's not repeatable. I don't know how to make it in the music industry. I don't think anybody really knows how, and I'm unable to repeat what happened to Pomplamoose."
So YouTube seemed like a really incredible opportunity, but as good of an insight as that was, it's not repeatable. It isn't. So I don't know how to make it in the music industry and either does Nataly. I don't think anybody really knows how to make it in the music industry, and I'm unable to repeat what happened to Pomplamoose for my solo project. I can't do it. I've been trying for years.
So at some point you have to sort of throw up your arms and say, "Wow. Pomplamoose was in the right place at the right time." We worked really hard. You know, luck favors the prepared, and we were very prepared for things to happen, but there was also a little bit of je ne sais quoi, a little bit of magic, and that's not something that you can repeat.
So I guess it feels a little bit silly to say that Pomplamoose could save the music industry or anything like that. But I think it's just an example of how as an entrepreneur, using the entrepreneurial spirit, you can kind of figure out what's coming. I mean, Nataly and Amanda Palmer did the same thing with Kickstarter.
Kickstarter Is the New YouTube, For Now
"Kickstarter I think is kind of like the new YouTube. It's the place to be for musicians if you have a little bit of a following. Probably in two years, people are going to be sick of giving money to musicians who want to make records on Kickstarter..."
Kickstarter I think is kind of like the new YouTube. It's the place to be for musicians if you have a little bit of a following. Probably in two years, people are going to be sick of giving money to musicians who want to make records on Kickstarter, just like on YouTube now, it's just saturated with music content so it doesn't seem like it's that great of a thing to upload music to YouTube any more. It's just kind of another place you have to be online.
Jason Spitz: You mentioned that you were prepared to take advantage of the sort of momentary opportunity. What sort of preparation did you do and what was it that made you prepared to take advantage?
Success Favors the Prepared Mind, Err, Band
"A lot of reading about the music industry, about YouTube, about online content, about audience, and where they are. One of my favorite books is The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I think reading that book is a great thing for any musician, for any entrepreneur, and we're an example of just being prepared.”
Jack Conte: A lot of reading, a lot of studying about the music industry, about YouTube, about online content, about audience and where they are. I mean, one of my favorite books is The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I think, for instance, reading that book is a great thing for any musician, for any entrepreneur, and we're an example of just being prepared. One of things it says in that book is, “If it's not working, change something and try it again. Don't just keep doing the same thing over and over.”
You know, Sesame Street, when they built it, I think they had an 80% attention rate or something. Kids were watching the screen 80% of the time and that
wasn't going to fly. They wanted kids to be watching the screen 98% of the time. So they kept making little changes, adding more puppets, taking out
people, until they had kids watching 98% of the time.
Nataly and I did the same thing on YouTube. Okay, so we'd upload a video YouTube. Great, we got 5,000 hits. How can we make it better? Okay, let's try doing this kind of song. Okay, that got 10,000 hits. Let's try to make it better. Let's cover Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and let's release it right after Kanye West makes an ass out of himself at the Grammy's. Everybody is searching for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" — the best music video of the year — and then, using Search Engine Optimization, we mooched off of all that traffic and got 10 million hits on our "Single Ladies" video.
And you know, that kind of understanding and know-how. I mean, it's really nothing special. It's just a lot of musicians weren't doing that and so capitalized on it when it was kind of a new thing.
Kyle Bylin: At what point of time do you think did you became sensitive to the expectations that grew from the success, and how did they shape that trajectory going into your solo projects in the years to come, and what did you learn from those expectations? What did you take away?
Jack Conte: Well, I'm going to level with you guys just because I feel like being honest.
Jason Spitz: It's a safe space here. You can say whatever you feel.
Handling the Expectations of Your Audience
"It's devastating, to be completely honest. When you're talking about being sensitive to expectations of our audience, of people watching us, of suddenly millions of eyeballs all at once – it was paralyzing, and I don't think we... did a good job dealing with it."
Jack Conte: Yeah. It's devastating, to be completely honest. I mean, when you're talking about being sensitive to expectations of our audience, of people watching us, of suddenly millions of eyeballs all at once – it was paralyzing, and I don't think we – honestly, I don't think we did a good job dealing with it. I think had we been better entrepreneurs and better business people, we probably would have been way bigger than we are right now.
Jason Spitz: Can I ask, did you have a manager or someone managing, a team around you helping with this, or was it really just the two of you guys kind of against the world in this situation?
Jack Conte: It was the two of us against the world and said "fuck you" to everybody that called us and said, "Hey, we want to work with you." I mean, not really. We talked to everyone and we were very nice. We got offered record deals from every major label that was around at the time. All four basically offered us and talked with us about what we wanted to do and we said "no" to everybody because we thought that was a bad approach.
Huge Success Can Feel Like Huge Failure
"We did a good job taking it from zero to 50% and then I think we got paralyzed. We needed to be better leaders and have a cabinet of smart people to help us take it from 50 to 100, and instead I think we just kind of stopped at 50."
Now, maybe I'm being a little hard on myself because we did make a lot of money, and I bought a house, and we built two recording studios, and now we're still making music for a living, and our music is still in commercials, and things are pretty good. You know, for being a fulltime musician, things are pretty good. But I look back on things that could have been better and it's kind of feels a little rough. I feel like maybe we should have tried to trust some more people and bring more people into the circle and try to build the brand.
We did a really good job taking it from zero to 50% and then I think we got paralyzed, and we needed to be better leaders and to have a cabinet of smart people around us to help us take it from 50 to 100, and instead I think we just kind of stopped at 50. Now we're a decent, well-known band. You know, we play 600-person venues and that's awesome but I think we could have gone much higher had we been better business people.
But at the same time, we also wanted to be artists. We didn't want to be in it for the money. We didn't want to try and grow the brand. We wanted to make songs, you know? I spend my days in the recording studio. I'm very, very careful about how much time I spend doing business and how much time I spend doing music, and I want to be making music all of my time and so I'm willing to sacrifice certain business ventures because I'd rather be playing songs.
Kyle Bylin: So by taking it to 100% though, would the sort of element of Pomplamoose and your ability to iterate quickly and fastly, and sort of put it on hold if you needed to and come back later – would you have lost that and sort of be chained to an empire that grew beyond what you wanted it to be, or did you really want it to be 100%?
Jack Conte: No, I don't think we did. I don't think we did. We didn't want infrastructure and people telling us, "No, you can't release this now. You have to wait six months." You know, Nataly's coming out with her record now, her solo record. It's debuting on Nonesuch which is a division of Warner. She decided to go the major label route which is really exciting and really fucking scary but she's doing it, and it is taking eight months to release the record. We recorded in January of 2012. It's being released in January of 2013. The record was finished a long time and it's just – she's been sitting on it.
Now I'm not saying it's a bad thing, it's just that's not what Pomplamoose wanted to do. We wanted to keep coming out with songs, keep coming out with music, and we were kind of able to do that, but we got scared. It's really easy to be silly and childish when no one is watching and when no one cares, and then as soon as lots of people are watching, you're like, "Oh, shit. We probably shouldn't say that. Oh, let's leave this out.” So yeah, I mean, we didn't want any of that crazy infrastructure. We wanted to do it ourselves.
Why Iteration Matters
Jason Spitz: That's so interesting. And you did do it yourselves: you didn't necessarily go and form the miniature team of people around you, and you didn't necessarily conform to the expectations that Pomplamoose had to become bigger than it was and be owned by the fans and not necessarily by the band. And that goes into our next question which is like, what elements of Pomplamoose's success do you think other bands can learn from? Which parts can be replicated – as you suggested, perhaps not many – and what other things do you think bands should take away?
Try a Million Things Until One Works
"[You] should learn from Pomplamoose is not about YouTube. It's not about social media. It's not about music. It's about iterations. It's about trying a million things until something works. That's all we did. We tried a million things and something finally worked..."
Jack Conte: Yeah. The thing that I think you should learn from Pomplamoose is not about YouTube. It's not about social media. It's not about music. It's about iterations. It's about trying a million things until something works. That's all we did. We tried a million things and something finally worked, and we were sick and tired. I literally went on three tours where I played – I mean, there were shows where I played where the bartender left. There was literally nobody in the room that I was playing for, and I was not a successful thing. It was a total flop, failure, but we just kept trying and trying and trying, a million different things, and that's what I hope everybody takes away is. You know – not even the major labels, they don't know how to make a band, right? They have to sign thousands of bands for one of them to hit, and the other 999 of them, nobody's ever heard of and they flop. It's the exact same model as a – oh, what's it called? What do they do in Silicon Valley? What's the name of the…
Kyle Bylin: Startups. It's called startups.
Jack Conte: Who gives money to startups?
Jason Spitz: Venture capital firms.
Jack Conte: Labels have the same model as a venture capital firm, except it's more dangerous, which is why they take a higher percentage of the loan, basically, in the backend. But they say, "Okay, here is a thousand different things that we think could possibly be successful. Let's give each of them $500,000 to make something. Let's give all of them. We know that 98% of them are going to fail. It doesn't matter. We know that 98% of them, nobody's going to ever hear it, nobody's going to like their music, they're going to hate their music, it doesn't matter." But they know that two of them are going to be Lady Gaga and Coldplay, and that makes it all worth it, but they don't know which two. They don't know! Nobody knows!
Kyle Bylin: I think you make this extraordinarily brilliant point which is that it's not necessarily about trying one thing really hard. It's trying about a hundred things really hard and seeing what sticks.
Jack Conte: Yes.
Jason Spitz: Yeah, and I think some of the best and brightest bands that I've seen, and some of my favorite clients that I've worked with as a consultant, have been bands who have been open to experimentation.
Kyle Bylin: Yeah. It's really interesting what you're saying. I mean, it's not about necessarily picking one thing and sticking to it. It's about trying a hundred things and trying really hard at all of them, don't you think?
If It's Not a Hit, Switch
"Is it a hit? Are people flocking to it? Are people running to your idea? Do you have value? Are you adding value to the world? Do people really want it? No? Switch."
Jack Conte: Yeah. In fact Derek Sivers, who started the company CD Baby, wrote a book and he put little episodes of the book on YouTube, and one of the episodes is called "If It's Not a Hit, Switch, " and basically his idea is try something. Is it a hit? Are people flocking to it? Are people running to your idea? Do you have value? Are you adding value to the world? Do people really want it? No? Switch, something else. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate a thousand times until you have a hit, and then you've got something. So I love that idea – if it's not a hit, switch.
Jason Spitz: That's great. I wanted to switch gears for a second and ask you about fans, and fan bases, and connections with fans. So your music via Pomplamoose and your solo project has been exposed to the world in a lot of different ways – through videos on YouTube, through press coverage, through being the sound bed in an advertisement. And I'm just curious, from your perspective, what's been the most effective ways that you've gained new fans? In what ways have you captured their information and in what ways have you sort of found that you get a surge of new interest or new fans in your music?
Jack Conte: Surge of new interest of fans comes from covering a song on YouTube and using SEO to find people. There is no doubt about that in terms of Pomplamoose. Like, for instance, recently we just came out with an original song. Our current subscription base saw the original song, it got a great response and people really liked it. It got about 250,000 hits and did very well.
But then we came out with a mash-up of "Call Me Maybe" and Gotye's song, and that got a million hits in just a few days, and that brought us tons of new fans and lots of new sales. You know, doing a cover, you're going to reach more people with a cover than you are with your own original song. It's just – I actually don't even think that's true for just bands like Pomplamoose. I think it's true for anybody. I think if Justin Bieber covered the Gotye song, I think he would get trillions of hits on that.
Jason Spitz: He might break the Internet if he did that.
Jack Conte: I think it would break the Internet. So for bands like us, it's just a great a way to do it. Now that said, when we had our Hyundai commercials online, we got a lot of negative press for that because it ran the ads a lot and people got sick of it. Overplay, baby, that's the way to do it. Despite the negative press, we had record sales that month equivalent to when "Single Ladies" hit, so I think that month we sold like 30,000 songs on iTunes and that's a big month for us. We don't always sell 30,000 songs on iTunes, so that was a really great [thing about] mainstream television. That's awesome.
Strategies for Connecting to Fans
Public Relations = Not a Silver Bullet
"PR agents, PR campaigns, have not really done that much. I had a PR campaign done for one of my releases a long time ago and it didn't really do much, and then we tried doing another PR campaign for Pomplamoose and that really just didn't do much..."
I'll tell what has not been effective. Ugh, this is – okay. I hope I don't get ripped to pieces for this. PR agents, PR campaigns, have not really done that much. I had a PR campaign done for one of my releases a long time ago and it didn't really do much, and then we tried doing another PR campaign for Pomplamoose and that really just didn't do much and it was expensive and we decided not to do that. So that kind of stuff, nah, not really happening.
Facebook ads – we tried to use Facebook ads to get people to some of our live shows and things, and I think that works a little bit. It's pretty good, but it's not like releasing a cover on YouTube. That's just enormous. You can get a million hits with exposure, and if 1% of those people like your music and want to subscribe to it, well great, there's 1,000 new fans right there; and if you can get a million hits, then maybe you can get 1,000 new people who really like it. You know, if 1% of the people really like it, you're in pretty good shape.
So yeah, those are the ways that have been most helpful, and in terms of collecting their information, we use ad pages, extensions for our e-mail collection. For a while we were using HostBaby which turned out to just not be so great for us, and let's see, what else? YouTube subscriptions and Facebook likes — you know, all that kind of stuff, the usual, I guess — the usual suspects in terms of collecting people's information.
Jason Spitz: And do you have a plan for engaging your fans across these different platforms? Your email and social and messages through YouTube? Have you established clear, set channels where fans can expect to get certain types of information or communication from you? Do you just kind of blast it all at the same time across all channels? Do you kind of go piecemeal? How do you guys approach communicating with your fans?
Jack Conte: Pomplamoose has no plans. We are terrible at plans and that, I think, goes back to something we were talking about earlier, but usually we communicate when there is something to communicate.
Don't Update Your Facebook Every Day
"People are like, 'You have to post on Facebook every day, and if you don't post on Facebook every day, then there's no point in posting on Facebook at all.' And that's just a giant load of steaming bullshit because when we post on Facebook after not posting on Facebook for two weeks or three weeks... People are into it. They're excited."
We are not one of those bands that believes that you need to post on your Facebook page every day to engage your fans. I've gone to a lot of these social media conventions and I always just kind of throw up a little bit in my mouth when people are like, "You have to post on Facebook every day, and if you don't post on Facebook every day, then there's no point in posting on Facebook at all." And that's just a giant load of steaming bullshit because when we post on Facebook after not posting on Facebook for two weeks or three weeks, and we post a picture, it's awesome. People are into it. They're excited because we have a new, cool picture, and if we were posting every single day, we'd just dilute the effectiveness of our posts. I think at some point people are going to get really sick of all of the crap in their Facebook feed.
People want to be updated when you have new content. That's really what we've found is people want to know about something when there's something to freakin' know about. If there's not something to know about, don't force it, you know? People want new content. They want to hear a new song. They want to see an awesome picture of you guys backstage, you know, stuff, things that add joy to your life.
Leverage New Scarcities, Find New Revenues
"We’ve been using Stageit which is this incredible video live streaming site that has a tip jar on the site, and people can tip you as they're watching which is just freakin' mind-blowing, and now Stageit is like a significant source of income for us."
So we go across all channels. We'll do an email blast when we have a Stageit show coming up. We’ve been using Stageit which is this incredible video live streaming site that has a tip jar on the site, and people can tip you as they're watching which is just freakin' mind-blowing, and now Stageit is like a significant source of income for us. So when we're about to have a Stageit shows, boom, email blasts, Facebook blasts, Twitter, everywhere. We put up YouTube announcements. We go crazy. We blast all channels because we want people to know about it.
When we have a tour, we blast all channels – our email lists, we send out multiple Facebooks, we do a full campaign. So yeah, when there's something to be known about in terms of what Pomplamoose is doing, we try to make sure that as many people hear about it as they can, and we don't reach everybody. Despite how many blasts, we still don't reach everybody. It's hard to reach everyone.
Jason Spitz: Sure, but you do the best you can when you sort of do the full-court press like that. So I want to explore the question of fan feedback, you know, YouTube is notorious for the brutal honesty of its comment sections, and like you said, you got a lot of sort of unsolicited feedback from the overexposure of your car commercials which were none of your – it wasn't your decision how often to run them, but people gave you a lot of feedback. They volunteered their feelings about it directly to you.
I read a blog post that Nataly put up a while ago talking about sort of her conflicted feelings over the next steps and about what you guys should do next, and over-thinking it, and trying to be natural versus being sort of over-thoughtful. It was very honest and complex thoughts in this post, and there were lots of comments on it, and the comments said two things, often in the same comment. One is, "We think you guys should keep doing exactly what you want to do and be true to yourselves" and oftentimes in the very same post it was like, "but don't ever get rid of the toy piano."
Jack Conte: Right.
Are Fans Too Close?
Jason Spitz: And I wonder, in terms of feedback, how do you guys respond to it and do you feel like – because you're such an honest, straightforward [group]… there's very little artifice and very little sort of buffer between the real you, the real folks behind the music and the audience — if you feel like that's almost too direct of a connection and that it sets expectations on you from your fans, and if that feedback impacts your decisions creatively or otherwise?
Jack Conte: Yeah. That's an incredible question and a very important question, artistically and businesswise. I think if we were running a YouTube channel like a lot of YouTube channels that are on these days, I think incredible YouTube channels like freddiew or Devon Supertramp or Corridor Digital or any of those YouTube Channels – if we were running one of those, then I think we would probably read through comments and say, "Okay, people like this, people don't, let's put this in our next video, let's not put this in our next video."
I read a lot of our YouTube comments. I guess I get a lot of joy from the YouTube comments because a lot of people really like what we do. A lot of people really hate what we do, and there's both on YouTube. The thing is, you can't believe any of the comments, not the good ones and not the bad ones, because you can't think, you know, "Oh, my God, you guys are genius." If you believe that, you're going to start sucking, you know.
Don't Think You're a Genius
"You can't believe any of the comments, not the good ones and not the bad ones, because you can't think, you know, "Oh, my God, you guys are genius." If you believe that, you're going to start sucking."
You have to think that you're not a genius. You have to think that, "Well, I just worked really hard and I kept working on this song until it sounded good, and I spent hours and hours and hours tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until I really liked it." If you think you're a genius, then you're just going to fucking barf onto a piece of paper and call it art and put it out on the Internet, and then it won't be very good any more. So you can't really take the feedback literally, first of all.
In terms of, "Hey, I want more of this and I want less of this," we sort of categorize our videos into two components: one is the video, two is the audio. For us, we're audio artists. We consider ourselves to be creating art through music, and that's what gives us ultimately a sense of fulfillment, listening back to our catalog and going, "Yeah, these are good songs." The video for us has always been an advertisement for the music, so the video is this incredibly functional, cut-and-dry, thing that generates sales and reaches people, so the video for us is packaging. It's what Apple wraps their laptops in. It's that white box with "Macbook Pro" written on the front of it and a really slick picture of a silver computer. It's the packaging and nothing more for us. We don't really get our artistic fulfillment, sense of joy out of the video. So if people have comments on the video, if we realize that certain videos do better than other videos, yeah, great, we'll change the video. I don't give a shit. I don't really.
Kyle Bylin: Jack, come on, as someone who pioneered practically or sort of put the “video-song” on the map, this is a pretty interesting comment from you, right? Because, I mean, I feel like I listen to your music on Spotify and I play the video in my head because they're so mutually attached.
Jack Conte: Yeah, okay, I know. It's weird to think of it like that and I know, I understand, it might be weird for me to say that because I was and still am attached to the video song as an artistic medium just as an idea of rules but I'm also an extremely functional person. I really believe in function over form, at least when it comes to most thing, and so – ach, you know, the video – ultimately video songs and the concept of the video song was a direct conversion of music into video. That was it. It was an equation.
It was a way to convert a piece of audio to something that would work where people were flocking, which is YouTube, right? People who were on MySpace are on YouTube. I have songs. How do I convert those songs to a medium that people are engaging with? Ah, I've got Effofex, you know? Effofex is the video song. Effofex is the video song. And boom, it was this functional thing that worked. It converted music to video. It got people attracted to it. It got an audience. It engaged people.
While I do like the idea of rules behind it and all those things, and I think that's very important, and I do feel like it's somewhat – I guess there is some artistry involved in it – but it really feels more like a functional thing to me. So yeah, I stand behind it. I stand behind the idea that the video is packaging and so we'll take feedback about the video.
Jason Spitz: Yeah, and it's a clear echo of what you said in your very earliest introduction, which is what you were saying in film school is that you were studying film and it was of an intellectual interest to you but at your heart there was music.
Jack Conte: Yeah.
Jason Spitz: And I think what you just said about your perspective on video-making just echoes that perfectly.
Jack Conte: Yeah.
EDM Is a New Electric Guitar
Jason Spitz: So I want to ask just one last question to close out this section of the interview and to also talk a little bit about what you're up to now. So we've been hearing a lot about the electronic dance music, the rise of DJs. In fact, as I mentioned earlier in the show, our co-host Hisham Dahud is currently on tour with a large project that is part performance and part education about electronic music. And I want to hear your thoughts about, first of all, what are you up to now, and what are your thoughts on this sort of electronic-centric direction that music seems to be trending at the moment?
Jack Conte: I'm crazy about it. Maybe you were expecting something else.
Jason Spitz: Jack iterates. Iteration.
Jack Conte: What's that?
Jason Spitz: Iteration. The market is trending, iterate.
Jack Conte: Yeah. I am so stoked about it. I think if I didn't like it, that would suck… I remember in 2010 when I first heard dubstep, not quite like dubstep, what it is now, but like guys like Bar 9 and that whole crew, Scream, and those guys, and I remember the night that I discovered it. I spent hours online just sifting through new stuff. You know honestly, it was so exciting to me, it felt like the new electric guitar. It felt like the electric guitar had been re-invented.
Here's this completely new sonic spectrum that's available to us as producers and musicians. No one has ever thought of this before and boom! All at once it's in our laps, this whole new set of tools and spectra that we can play with. It is the most exciting thing to me in the world. I heard that and I freaked out and I've been learning – I've been reading manuals and going crazy for a year. I've been spending 12 hours a day learning how to use new software, because I'm obsessed with this new palette that we've been given over the last few years.
Jason Spitz: Wow.
Jack Conte: And yeah, I really want to do something new with it. I think people are going to get sick of "Argh, argh, argh, wawawa." People are going to get tired of that really soon; and there's a lot of room for blending it with other things. One of my favorite bands right now is this band called KOAN Sound. They've blended '70s funk and like hip-hop tempos with a sort of modern dubstep esthetic and boy, it’s awesome. I could just listen to stuff nonstop. I freaking love it.
And so yeah, I'm super stoked about EDM. Do I think it's going to save the music industry? Hahaha, give me a break. Like it's – I mean, the only reason that I think – well, not the only reason – one of the greatest things about EDM for the labels is finally – I mean it's actually – here, let me jump back just a little bit.
The value of the song has been going down since 1970 monetarily, you know. If you look at like the Beatles LP that came out, the first Beatles LP, in modern dollars for 10 songs it was about 30 bucks, I think, if you actually adjust for inflation and things like that. And since then, records have just been getting cheaper and cheaper, then CDs, then the single comes out on iTunes, 99 cents, now Spotify, it's literally free to listen to a song. You know, YouTube, boom, you go on to YouTube and you can listen to any song you want. It's free. A song is worth nothing.
Keep Interating (Or Thank God for EDM)
"Thank God for electronic dance music because it's come along and suddenly now it costs nothing to produce a song. It used to cost $500,000 to produce 10 songs, now it costs nothing! Skrillex made Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites on a laptop for zero dollars..."
Thank God for electronic dance music because it's come along and suddenly now it costs nothing to produce a song. It used to cost $500,000 to produce 10 songs, now it costs nothing! Skrillex made Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites on a laptop for zero dollars. He used a pair of headphones and $300 speakers, a pair of KRKs that are 150 bucks each. That's how he made Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, and it's still on the top ten charts of iTunes, it's two years later, it's an amazing record, and it was free to make.
This is the first time in history you can make top-top music for absolutely no money. I'm not surprised that the labels are jumping on that. They're dying for cheaper music. They don't want to spend $500,000 making records any more.
It's the same thing that happened with the music video 10 years, 20 years ago. You know, as soon as digital came along, ah, it saved the music video. It was so expensive. You had to spend a million dollars making a music video and then digital video came along, now bands are spending $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 on a music video and they're coming out with music videos all the time for every song.
I mean, that's not how it used to be. It used to be a music video was a really big deal and was really expensive to make and then the music video just lost value completely but now it's finally, thanks to YouTube and the resurgence of short-form content, it's actually gained a little bit of value now.
So what do I think of electronic dance music? – I think it's awesome.