Spose talks crowdfunding, All Rs, and engagement in the Facebook age

Here is Spose and me hanging out by a dumpster in Sanford. Surprisingly, I did not find those lady sunglasses in the dumpster.

Note: There are some swears in here, though they are only the PG-13 kind so just relax already.

This is the first post in my upcoming series of conversations with folks who will be speaking at the BDN What’s Next Conference. Technically it’s my second, but I didn’t realize I would be doing a series when I talked with Think Tank’s Patrick Roche last week.

I talked with Spose, who, for the uninitiated, is a 27-year-old producer and emcee Spose, hailing from Wells, Maine. At What’s Next, Spose will be on a panel discussing social media, marketing, personal branding, and crowd-sourcing, so I chatted with him about his recent crowdfunding effort where he brought in $28,000. We discuss some of the upsides of crowdfunding, but also several of the downsides. We also discuss his song All Rs (off of the Peter Sparker Mixtape) and the accompanying music video, which, from the perspective of a guy who runs a content production firm (I will be speaking to this part of my life in particular at What’s Next myself), is quite impressive. The video was directed by Jason Bosch.

You had an interesting fundraising experience with Kickstarter. Here is what I think happened, though correct me if I am wrong. I think that you raised a good deal of money and I think that you spent maybe more money. And from what I talk with people who have engaged in crowd-funding, and I went through this when we were producing Food Coma TV, I have found that this happens a lot, but there is no…

Greater consciousness of it? Yeah. It’s just ’cause we want to see people go through agony. [Laughter]

You know, I could go on this campaign trying to tell people not to do crowd funding things, but then how would I know that they are crashing and burning? So everybody should do them. [Laughter]

So you raised what? $28,000, but then Kickstarter took out the percentages and fees they took out.

Yeah, about $5,000.

And you spent a lot of it.

Yeah, a lot of that money I probably spent right out the gate.

I was looking at that inventory of things you were offering as rewards for pledges and it was crazy.

Well I wanted it to be Spose Walmart where it’s like “If there is anything you could ever want from Spose, here it is!” I spent the large chunks of money on inventory and shipping, though the cool thing is I overstocked everything and so I used it to prepare for the future. I restocked all my albums, which were almost sold out and I am set for a while. I got tons of shirts, lighters, and all of these things I was struggling to keep up with. I was able to shoot a few videos and pay for a marketing company, so that is all positive. That, plus shipping, plus getting the inventory, I am up over $33,000. Which is okay, because I invest my regular money into myself anyways.

Well, if you look at it like you spent $8,000 to get $30,000 worth of stuff or whatever… The math on that is probably wrong, but you know what I am saying.

Yes. I look at it like even if I just got an additional $6,000 to spend, that’s more than I would have had. However, I have spend days upon weeks, really, shipping things. I mean, if there is any time a musician shouldn’t be trying to run a shipping business, it is when they are trying to put out an album, which is how these things usually work… They are there for when you put out an album or art project or whatever. So you are working to wrap up your album, which is a full time job as it is and now you also have to ship 700 packages, which is nuts.

Where are you at in the process?

I probably have another 80 packages to go, but those 80 people hate me.

Oh, sure. And they think that you are loaded and effing with them.

They think that I am loaded and blowing off everyone. It’s like, “Yo, look, this is what’s happening.” I still have 80 to go, but it is mostly because they are things I couldn’t create quickly. I have to produce a book of lyrics, I have to get it printed, and now I am thinking, let’s throw this up for $100 and it sounds good at the time but here I am typing up all the lyrics to my rap songs… If I was in a rock band, it would be a whole lot easier. It’s not like I have 40 words here and there, and I had to type up 7 albums worth of lyrics, so beware.

Has someone created the role of Crowdfunding Campaign Manager yet? Where they get some percentage of the overall take or something like that?

I would recommend it. I had relatives who were like, I will help you, but then I have to manage people. I manage people all the time when I have a show or whatever, and it sucks. [Laughter] It sucks. If I could just clone myself 8 times, then the world would be much better… Well, I would be much better off.

Well, creative people who are in your position often have the same take on management.

Yes, it is because I don’t have to answer to anybody and I am very good at just telling people what to do to achieve my goals. “You know what you should do with your life to help me?” [Laughter]

Why did Kickstarter work for you in particular?

I liked how official everything that came from Kickstarter looks. It felt professional and it looked as official as Google or Apple or companies that you trust. When I contributed to Pledge Music, I felt like I was at a yard sale, though no pun intended as that is what the campaign was called, but it just felt like I was searching on Lycos or Infoseek or something. It didn’t feel very safe.

Another nice thing about Kickstarter is that it provides you with that email list.

And then I put out a record on Bandcamp and they give you those contacts as well. It gives a bunch of information, and so that is great for further promotion.

Switching gears entirely, can you talk about the All Rs video, starting with the origin of the song?

Originally I was going to do a song called Alphabet Jesus and there were 8 bars in the song. Off of one of the bars, I said something like, “All Rs like pirate speech,” then started to go from there. Then I was like, let me add another 4 bars, and another 4 bars, and over the course of a year, I came up with the song.

I was wondering how long it takes to put something like that together.

And the best part was this kid who did the beat, theLin from Trails, sent me a bunch of beats and I picked that one. Within three hours I mailed it back to him with this song over it as if I had just come up with it and he gets back at me like, “HOLY SHIT.” But it really took me a year.

For the video, it wasn’t that genius of a concept until 3 or 4 days before we shot it. I realized we were shooting at a continuous loop, so I conceived a one-shot video, which is every artists dream and every video producer’s nightmare. We’re dealing with multiple lighting setups, a dozen people, and not only did Jason Bosch have to follow me around with the camera, he had to turn to get things with the letter R that were hid throughout the video. I was so pleased with how it came out. We shot about 10 takes and ended up using the 7th. The hardest part was really hiding his Production Assistant, who you don’t see in the video. This was crazy because he has to choreograph all of these people, so he has to tell people where to go, remain unseen, hold roosters, and it was quite the ordeal. I was so stoked to have a one-shot video, doing something innovative with the scavenger hunt, and all of the love I got from other local musicians who thought it was awesome.

Can you talk about the scavenger hunt and the role it played as a means of promotion?

The scavenger hunt was a means of offering people something to engage with in a bigger way. It was easy with the Rs. So basically you had to find all of these things that started with the letter R and were in the video. It was as user-unfriendly as possible, as you had to go to get this list of things from the YouTube page, copy and paste it elsewhere, and find where these things were featured in the video. You then had to get in touch with those things and let me know the time stamps of where they appear. I made it as difficult as possible because I didn’t want to mail anybody free shit. I had just done the Kickstarter! And 100 people did it and found everything the day I put it out. I didn’t verify the time stamps, because it’s like, you took the time to find this? Here’s some free shit guy.

I feel like the almighty question before anybody who is trying to purvey anything in the social media age and Facebook era is how do you go beyond posting something and having it become immediately irrelevant. If you can make something last for an hour, you are killing it. If you can make something last for a whole day, you’re a genius. If you can make it last for weeks at a time, you are a god. You are Psy. You are Gangnam Style.

The concept of the scavenger hunt was to keep people interested for more than the running time of the video. That is the whole battle right now. How do you keep fans who are bombarded with information and new things to care about all the time engaged? Within a week, the collective mood and interest jump around so many times, and so the concept was to beat that a little bit.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.