In March 2013, Skyrim composer Jeremy Soule used Kickstarter to raise $US121,227 ($159,252) for a new album. Four and a half years later - and stop me if you've heard this one before - that Kickstarter project is nowhere to be found. And the most recent update has a wild twist.
When Soule launched his crowdfunding campaign for The Northerner, fans were thrilled. The composer said this album would mark his "first foray into the grand traditions of classical music" and that it would be out in September of 2013. Given Soule's track record of composing music not just for The Elder Scrolls but for Guild Wars, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and much much more, the thought of a full orchestral record was exciting to thousands of fans, and over 4000 people backed the project.
"I will be working with the same team that has provided reliable and excellent support throughout my career," Soule wrote. "Recordings aren't easy to make, but if planning is done within a reasonable time frame, the process can go smoothly. As we have delved into the initial planning stages of the recording session, scheduling for the summer months affords us enough planning time for a recording of this nature."
On 26 September 2013, Soule wrote that he needed a few more months. "I have decided to delay the recording sessions in the hope of ensuring the finest work possible," he said. If you're familiar with other disappearing Kickstarter projects, you probably know what happened next: A string of sporadic updates, sometimes releasing excerpts, sometimes expanding the scope of the project, and sometimes promising more frequent updates. In early 2016, Soule said he would offer refunds to anyone who emailed his team, but many commenters on Kickstarter have said that it took them months to get responses, if they ever heard back at all.
In February 2017, things got really weird. A backer going by the handle Mysta02 wrote a comment on the Kickstarter page that appeared to be a message from Jeremy Soule. "Alright, that wasn't written by Jeremy, but I wish it was," he added. "It's what I've been waiting 4 years to read."
Mysta02's fake message looked like this:
But then, in perhaps the most unusual Kickstarter twist we've ever seen, that fake update actually appeared as an official update on the Kickstarter page. Word for word. It remains there today.
Back in February, I reached out to Gloria Soto, a producer at the Max Steiner Agency, which represents Soule. Soto runs the Kickstarter and had claimed in the page's comments that this update did in fact come from Jeremy Soule. I asked her why she had copy-pasted a backer's fake update and she sent over the following email:
I posted the update - thinking it was a backer sharing a post from a social media site. Sometimes Jeremy chats there & I shared what thought was from him. Super simple.
Why is it still there? Kickstarter doesn't allow you to remove it after so many hours.
It still rings true. All the Backer did was re-post what Jeremy has said in the past. Which is still true. What part do you want to understand? Are you a Composer that has ever tried to write a symphony?
The current status - we're in the process of figuring out the recording session - and which part to record. Which is also explained on the Kickstarter as well. So far - if everything falls into play - we'll have this wrapped up in 2017. A lot of these discussions have not been finalised & I'm not at liberty to disclose it. What I do know - is that we are receiving a lot of support from the true fans.
The ones making noise are backers that I have refunded - have become trolls - which I am currently working with Kickstarter to get them removed from posting on our page.
Then I reached out to Soule, who pointed me to an update he posted on The Northerner's Facebook page on 17 February 2017. In that update, he said he had been developing new technology but did not offer any sort of timeframe for delivering on his Kickstarter project. It's not clear why he did not post this update on Kickstarter. The fake update remains on Kickstarter with no explanation or indication that it was not actually written by Soule.
Soule did not respond to a new request for comment yesterday. He has regularly posted on his personal Facebook page with links and news about other projects, but he has not updated his Kickstarter since 15 September 2016. The most recent update on The Northerner's Kickstarter was in fact written by Mysta02.
This morning, Soule said he will release "Northerner Diaries" to backers on December 20. This is not the symphony he Kickstarted, Soule told Kotaku, but "the fully produced vignettes of my ideas for it so far".