Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nataly Dawn: How to Make a Living as an Artist

Nataly Dawn is a young singer/songwriter/"video song" producer from California. She is one half of Pomplamoose, an American indie music duo with Jack Conte. The band formed in the summer of 2008 and sold approximately 100,000 songs online in 2009.

Their videos mostly take the form of "VideoSongs", a medium Jack Conte defines with two 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)
The name of the band derives from the French word pamplemousse, meaning grapefruit. Pomplamoose is an English-spelling approximation of the French pronunciation.

I first became aware of their videos on You Tube, and was struck by the layered sound they achieved with recordings done in an ordinary room in their house and also by Nataly's pure voice. The group does mostly covers, with originals by Nataly such as "Always in the Season" (  Nataly recently earned a masters in French Literature and does some wonderful covers of Edith Piaf songs [and dare I say, she sounds better than the original on songs like "La Vie en Rose." ( Please do not mail overripe Camembert to me for my opinion!]

The group achieved "commercial" success when their version of the Chordette's "Mr. Sandman" ( was used as as the soundtrack for a Toyota commercial. This past year, they were featured in a Hyundai commercial with their version of "Jingle Bells" as the soundtrack.

Nataly recently shared some of what she has learned writing, recording and producing music. I think her observations pertain to any kind of creative endeavor. (Note: I have edited her comments for language since she unfortunately uses a vocabulary that would not be appreciated by most Biscuit City readers.)
Here are Nataly's thoughts:

1. Don’t sign anything that has a 99% chance of not being to your advantage.

2. Don’t do things just because that’s how other musicians have done it in the past.

3. Don’t get excited about shortcuts: they don’t lead to anything worthwhile.

4. Work your head off. If you think that anyone is going to run the business for you, you’re wrong. Do as much as you can on your own, and when you can’t anymore, delegate the work to people you trust.

5. Have high expectations for yourself and for the people you work with.

6. In the words of my indispensable counterpart, Jack Conte, think like a start-up. If someone asks for 15% or 75% of your income, feel free to say, “ok, but if that’s what you want, what are you going to do for me?” And then get it in writing.

7. Hire people who you trust and who have a good work ethic, and do your best to keep them on board once you have them.

8. Don’t burn bridges. Even if you don’t end up working with someone, keep in mind that they have a voice and that the music industry is a small world.

9. Hire a good lawyer. They’re really the only thing between you and getting screwed most of the time.

10. Be careful with your time. You only have so long to achieve what you want out of life. So don’t let yourself get bogged down. Things will always fall through the cracks. Balls will get dropped. You can only do so much. So choose those activities wisely. And like I said before, if you really think that someone else will help you achieve your goals, hire them (but first refer to points 1, 6, 7 and 9).

11. Start with what you have. You won’t like what you’ve made ten years from now anyways, so don’t be precious about it. Put stuff out now. Use the mics you have, the computer you have, the instruments you have. More “stuff” won’t make you a better artist.

12. Be good to your fans. If you’re lucky, they’re in it for the long run. And they may be the only people out there who actually care whether or not you’re making music 30 years from now.

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