Pomplamoose YouTube Fortunes Fueled by iTunes Sales & Licensing Deals [VIDEO]

PomplamoosePomplamoose are navigating the treacherous waters of YouTube cover song stardom when one has dreams of being more than a cover band. Part of their approach is to record their original work as solo artists Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte separately from Pomplamoose. While that may sound a bit complicated, the approach is keeping their musical identities clear while building a brand that supports their long term career-building activities.

TechCrunch's Andrew Keen interviewed Pomplamoose during the recent SF MusicTech Summit. Keen's gee whiz lack of knowledge of the space and of the artists gave Pomplamoose the opportunity to demonstrate how to gracefully handle awkward interview settings while breaking down the basics of making it on YouTube with cover songs.

Keen On…Pomplamoose

In the interview with Keen, Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte discuss iTunes and licensing deals as their primary revenue streams. Their success with selling digital tracks of the songs they cover in their videos goes back to 2010.  At that point they also tried YouTube's Musicians Wanted program ad program with which they are apparently no longer involved.

Employing an approach they call "videosongs", the two record covers in sparse home studios, shoot the process and create the video from that footage. It's even become formalized into "VideoSong" as you can see in the text below this cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" on YouTube:

This cover is a VideoSong, a new medium with 2 rules:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

While it's always good to have a manifesto, Conte tells Keen that what they were basically trying to find a way to create music videos that was "cheap and quick and easy." In fact, the early videos were made to promote a previous album of Conte's but "they all wanted the MP3 of the song that I’d just posted. That’s when I realized, these videos I’m making are the products!"

Once Jack Conte brought on Nataly Dawn, Pomplamoose allowed them to develop a comfortable working existence as part of the emerging musical middle class.  Given that they continue to work on their own original material as well, Pomplamoose will also provide a longer-term case study for whether or not YouTube cover song stars can crossover with their own originals.

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. It’s crazy how much artists like Pompalamoose and Karmin have gotten such big followings off of their covers on places like YouTube and Vimeo. Just goes to show how much the music biz is changing at such a rapid pace, because both groups are probably outselling a lot of standard artists in this day and age. Another great piece on Hypebot. Thanks!

  2. Use what ya got I guess. If you’re not a hot piece of ass, sing someone else’s songs to get attention – and pray that people will care about your original stuff down the line. Anyone ever seen someone wearing a Pomplamoose T-shirt?

  3. I know he’s done some things that got a lot of attention but I still don’t understand why he’s doing these videos for TechCrunch.
    It’s kind of funny given his attack on amateurs.

  4. thats really pretty cool. They have done an amazing job with using youtube and showing us whats possible for independent artists in their home studio, I thought the host was kinda bad, but they weren’t really great interviews either.
    Maybe some better questions, and more prepared answers could give us some better insight tho. All things considered, it is the HOSTS job to draw those out…

  5. The Web Sheriff just killed one of my covers of Brian Adams’ song on youtube. I got a threat of my youtube account to be deleted for copy rights infringements. So, how do they get clearance to post safely the videos on youtube?

  6. I’ve wondering that too, and they haven’t explained it. They have said that they use Harry Fox, but that has only been for the mechanical licensing for their recorded songs. They have never said they have obtained synch licenses, and I suspect they haven’t.
    YouTube says that partners are supposed to only upload original songs, and yet YouTube has heavily promoted Pomplamoose. YouTube says you need to have permission from all copyright holders, and yet doesn’t explain how Pomplamoose has obtained permission.
    I wish both Pomplamoose and YouTube would provide more info to other musicians wanting to cover songs.

  7. Actually, a lot of people have been referencing my blog post on this.
    YouTube has recently cut a deal with publishers, which is supposed to be administered by Harry Fox, but there has been no explanation as of yet whether musicians are now free to upload cover songs without a problem. This is all that has been posted so far and it is directed to publishers, not to musicians.

  8. Harry Fox administers mechanical not sync licences. To obtain a sync licence one must contact the publisher or copyright holder directly. This must be done for each individual song. Videos require a sync licence. The Harry Fox mechanical licence will suffice for CDs, vinyl, tape or downloads only. If a publisher is not affiliated with the Harry Fox Agency they may be affiliated with the American Mechanical Rights Agency (AMRA) which does handle sync rights as well as mechanicals. Videos posted without obtaining sync rights are clearly liable for infringement. One can find the publishers or composers of songs through http://www.ascap.com or http://www.bmi.com. or http://www.amermechrights.com

  9. Unless YouTube gets an agreement with every publisher for every song they’re never going to be able to give blanket approval for cover songs uploaded to YouTube.
    That’s unlikely to occur across the board.
    It would be nice if they gave you a list of acceptable songs but that’s not going to happen either.
    As long as music publishers can’t all agree on a process for clearing cover usage in videos and someone steps in and provides that process, which they’d already be doing if it was reasonably straightforward, it’s unlikely to ever get easier across the board.

  10. Thank you, this is coming up enough that I need to get more familiar with who one contacts to pursue this possibility.
    But your explanation certainly speaks to the complexity of this particular piece of the puzzle.
    It would be nice if a company would try to tackle this problem but as long as plenty of funding is available for easier businesses, I’d be surprised to see that happening anytime soone.
    Still, it’s becoming such a popular thing, you’d think someone could find an easier solution.

  11. The YouTube deal administered by Harry Fox Agency is for mechanical licences. It deals with audio only postings on YouTube. Once someone syncs that audio to images they will need a separate synchronisation (sync) licence.
    Musicians wishing to record covers need to obtain a Harry Fox Agency (HFA) or American Mechanical Rights Agency (AMRA) licence prior to recording the material. See http://www.songfile.com for available songs at HFA.
    Patrick Landreville: Bald Ego Music

  12. I’m very familiar with the different types of licensing. But YouTube has been touting its new agreement with publishers.
    (1) There doesn’t need to be a new agreement concerning mechanical rights because it’s already available through Harry Fox.
    (2) And YouTube has agreements with the performing rights organizations so musicians don’t need to worry about those, either.
    (3) So the implication is that YouTube is offering something that fills in a hole applicable to YouTube, which would be synch rights. If you can submit a video to YouTube, it gets run through YouTube’s Content ID, and you are immediately told the video is okay or you need to pay a certain fee to publishers/songwriters, that would make life much less complicated. However, YouTube hasn’t really said it’s offering that service. I don’t know what service it IS offering.

  13. Suzanne, it’s a business model issue.
    YouTube is helping publishers monetize unlicensed behavior. That’s the service they’re offering.
    It doesn’t directly involve the people posting the videos except to allow them to stay up and to add advertising which does not go to the person uploading videos without a license.
    That also helps YouTube make a case for their willingness to work with rights holders even given the fact that they built much of that business knowingly with the use of content in violation of copyright laws.
    It fits their business model to offer this services to publishers because it’s possible to scale it using automated id processes.
    It’s very difficult to scale a process that involves negotiations with all sorts of people that you have to look up in databases.
    That said, you’re absolutely right that Google could create a process like you describe to at least reveal what titles are available for use in videos under this program. That would actually make sense cause it could conceivably spur more cover song activity on YouTube.
    “or you need to pay a certain fee to publishers/songwriters”
    That’s the part that’s too complicated and doesn’t scale at this stage.
    However, I just found out about rightclearing which is attempting to address this particular licensing issue so they’re probably worth checking out:

  14. Getting back to Pomplamoose. YouTube touts them as a great example of using covers to boost your career. But nowhere have I read that they have obtained synch licenses.
    It’s a big grey area. On the one hand we are told how taping you performing covers on YouTube will help you. But on the other hand, nothing is said about obtaining licenses.
    Look at this article. It seems to suggest that RightsFlow will work for synch licenses.
    How Karmin & Other Viral Stars Turn YouTube Covers Into Major Label Deals | Billboard.com: Online synch rights have improved in recent years thanks to YouTube’s Content ID system that identifies uploaded songs and its settlement with music publishers on synch royalties. In December, the streaming service acquired RightsFlow to assist with licensing music tracked by the system by taking a song’s digital fingerprint and allocating a slice of ad revenue to copyright holders.

  15. I hear you. I’m trying to get up to speed on the topic since people are asking and I’d like to be able to respond with more details.
    But I don’t have to do that, I probably won’t get much thanks for it and it actually doesn’t fit the business model of any writer except one who’s going to specialize in such details and then find better ways to monetize them than blogging part-time.
    To be honest, it’s not like I’m going to tell people how to do any of the rest of it either:
    no singing lessons
    no guitar lessons
    no videotaping lessons
    I’m not doing those and neither will Billboard!
    That said, I understand your frustration with this situation.

  16. This whole thing is bizzare. Here the owners of copy right are barely hanging on. SOPA is shot down. Then along come a couple of kids who could not have possibly afforded let alone negotiate a deal for sync licenses. They commit a crime then profit from it. And they steal those profits from fellow artists. If it weren’t for cover songs illegally uploaded, Nat would be working in a call center and Jack would be a plumber in a wedding band on the side. Nothing funnier than true life.

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