It's late afternoon at Pomplamoose headquarters, and the sun is falling slowly toward the hills in the west, casting spindly shadows over the two new Hyundais — a silver sedan and a black SUV — sitting in the driveway. These weren't part of the original deal. Hyundai simply let Conte and Dawn pick out the cars they wanted after the ads were finished, effectively giving them a bonus worth at least $50,000.

Inside the shed, Dawn is laying down vocal tracks for Pomplamoose's upcoming album. For the first time, she and Conte are planning to release a project the traditional way: posting it online on a certain date later this spring and then releasing a new video for a song off the album about every two weeks. They're also planning their first tour.

However those efforts turn out, the simple fact that Pomplamoose has gotten where it has, the way it has, holds important lessons for the music business, experts say. "In this world of standing alone on ability to grab attention and create enjoyment, [Conte and Dawn] are clearly stars," says Brian Zisk, an Internet music entrepreneur and social-media strategist. "Yes, [labels] know how to do expensive production. Yes, they know how to do expensive promotion — but these are all things that are no longer a real advantage. Artists can do more interesting things when they're not being managed by folks like the labels."

Jamie Soja
Conte and Dawn handle virtually every aspect of Pomplamoose themselves, including recording, mixing, editing video and marketing to fans.
Jamie Soja
Conte and Dawn handle virtually every aspect of Pomplamoose themselves, including recording, mixing, editing video and marketing to fans.

Whether this band's path will work for others is unclear. Certainly, the combination of musical skill, technical savvy and personal chemistry in Pomplamoose is rare. Conte sees a future, however, in which there will always be companies loaning artists money to make music.

"In truth, a label is nothing more than a corporation, and it funds artists," he says. "Why couldn't another corporation fund an artist? And instead of having Capitol Records at the bottom of your CD, it says Hyundai. Why not?" He says creative artists would still be free to choose which brands to work with, just as Pomplamoose has turned down licensing offers from McDonald's and Walmart. And independent musicians have less to fear from car makers and tech companies than from traditional labels: "HP doesn't know shit about music, and they don't pretend to know shit about music. Record companies don't know shit about music, but they pretend to know shit about music."

It's nearly dark inside the studio, apart from the photographic lights pointing at Dawn. Her face fills the viewfinder of the video camera, and she's fussing with her blond curls. Alone in this room, with only the pastoral afternoon outside, it's easy to forget that what gets recorded here will eventually be heard and seen by thousands, and perhaps millions, of people — or that it could one day be used to promote some large company.

Conte plays back the vocal track Dawn has just recorded, along with the rest of the song. Midway through one section, a sarcastic "you're funny" — a stray little tease from Dawn to Conte — is heard over an instrumental break. It sends a few giggles through the room. "Let's keep that in," she says with a grin, and they both nod. In the Pomplamoose revolution, some things may never change.

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