Jack Conte of the YouTube-famous band Pomplamoose caused a stir last week when he posted an account of his tour financials on Medium. "Being an independent artist is so difficult" was the thrust of his essay—true, no doubt—and tucked into the back half was a mention of an apparent way out: Patreon, a crowdfunding service that Conte cofounded last year.
Conte's post, which details a tour on which his band lost $11,819 despite having grossed $135,983, was widely panned by fellow musicians: "What is evidenced is not how hard it is these days to be a touring band, but what happens when a band is bad at managing their own expectations," wrote Santos Montano of the metal band Old Man Gloom on Pitchfork. That is to say, if you're pulling six figures and still losing money, maybe trade the $17,589 spent on "Best Western level hotels" for a few nights spent in the van.
But Conte does worse than making believe he's running a shoestring punk operation (His band was once heavily featured in a series of Hyundai commercials). "At the end of the day," he writes before endorsing Patreon, "Pomplamoose is just fine":
Our patrons give us $6,326 per video through our Patreon page. We sell about $5,000 of music per month through iTunes and Loudr. After all of our expenses (yes, making music videos professionally is expensive), Nataly and I each draw a salary of about $2500 per month from Pomplamoose. What's left gets reinvested in the band or saved so that we don't have to rack up $24,000 of credit card debt to book another tour.
But Conte doesn't just make $6,326 per video from Patreon—he's the CEO of the company, as Andrew Choi points out. It says so right there in his Twitter bio, but nowhere in the actual Medium post. It's a cynical bit of sponsored content that isn't marked as such, less a call to financially support hardworking DIY musicians than it is to direct money to Jack Conte's company.
Update: A previous version of this post referenced Patreon putting money in Jack Conte's pockets, but in a follow-up Medium post, Conte explains that he does not take a salary from the company. Salary or no, failing to disclose in your widely disseminated essay that you're the CEO of the company you're endorsing remains shady as hell.