Four And A Half Years After Raising $159,000, Skyrim Composer's Kickstarter Is MIA

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.

Plus-

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.

Currently-

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".

WATCH MORE: Gaming News


Comments

    In before "Kickstarter is a scam, what did people expect."

    For what it's worth, I have Kickstarted over 100 games. Of these at least 5-6 were instant classics, a couple of dozen were good, and a number have been pretty middling. Most wouldn't have been made at all without Kickstarter. Only a dozen or so of the games that I have backed have been complete write offs.

    Overall, my odds for picking up great games has been dramatically better from Kickstarter than I have had from random preorder purchases, let alone from the mass of bundle dross filling my Steam account.

    Kickstarter has been, and continues to be, igniting a golden age for PC gaming and I personally couldn't be happier with my 'investments'.

      Kickstarter itself isn't a scam but it does provide a platform for scammers to operate in. It's also no guarantee of success or quality as many high profile failure stories will attest to. In the end you're throwing money someone's way to help them fulfill a desire and that may pay off, it might exceed expectations or it might fizzle. You got lucky with your choices but for those 100 there are thousands of others that didn't work out so well, were scams or have found themselves stuck in development limbo.

        Your completely made up statistics of "thousands" of scam Kickstarters is completely unsupported by any objective evidence, and as above, is far from my observation as someone who has been closely watching the platform for years.

        Let me guess, you've formed a view about the subject based on a gut feeling derived from the impressions that you have formed when recalling articles that you’ve read at some point in the past about Kickstarter controversies.

        Noting that negative bias means that human beings are much more likely to recall negative experiences than positive ones, and that it's far more entertaining for the media to cover controversies than successes.

          It's kind of funny that you talk about bias, but then rely on your own personal annecdotal evidence.

          ~9% of Kickstarter projects fail to deliver their reward. Given Kickstarter has had ~135k successfully funded projects, that means there were just over 12,000 'scam' projects that didn't deliver the promised backer rewards.

          So - yes, there are thousands of 'scam' projects.

            You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

            But regardless, the argument that people dumping on the platform typically use is to imply the exact opposite of your statistics. As our friend above relates, "for those 100 there are thousands of others that didn't work out, were scams".

            I'm also pleased to see that my experience is completely consistent with your statistics. In fact, it appears that according to your statistics my very positive experience of Kickstarter (~12% failures, as in my original post) actually turns out to be worse than average.

              Actually, it does. The 9% I quoted was the proportion of backers that never expect to see any fulfilment of the project they backed, or the fulfilment wasn't what they paid for. They paid for it, will never get what they paid for - seems pretty scam-like to me.

              Also, if you reread @germinalconsequence's comment, he didnt say 'for every 100 there are thousands that didn't work out, just that there were thousands of unmet promises - which is quantifiably true.

              Regardless, the ~10% failure rate doesn't include situations like the above - projects that have dragged on long after the promised deadline with only vague promises of eventual fulfilment.

              That being said, I've had a 100% success rate for the projects I've backed. I tend to only back safe bets - companies with previous kickstarter success or really high-profile low-risk projects like Exploding Kittens... basically you can set your own risk tolerance by the type of projects you back.

                By your definition of scam, every time a company goes bankrupt and you don't get your deposit back it's a 'scam', even if that bankruptcy is completely out of the company's control (eg the factory burns down). It’s even a ‘scam’ if the product you ordered goes missing in the mail.

                Actually, in normal usage a ‘scam’ requires the intention to deceive for the purpose of stealing your money.

                Although there have been a small number of such cases, the vast majority of Kickstarter non-fulfilments have been due to people scoping their project requirements and costs too low and running out of money, or being too optimistic about their own abilities. It's precisely the nature of a seed funding platform.

                While it would be nice for everyone to get a refund in such cases, it's unrealistic to expect that when the money is used as seed capital and it's all typically gone by the time it becomes clear that the project is going to fail.

                As you say, highly critical comments often leave some wiggle room to play semantic games, but at the end of the day these kinds of hyperbolic claims of "thousands" of "scams" that also fail to acknowledge the many tens of thousands of Kickstarter successes are precisely the reason for my original comment.

    Everyone should have run screaming when the statement "the technology doesn't exist and I have to invent it" was made. Its classical/orchestral music that he needed to record... Just like many people and groups before him.

    Last edited 29/11/17 10:40 am

      Yes, it's very suspicious. Modern audio recording technology is pretty bloody remarkable (if you have the budget) and it seems extremely unlikely that he needed to "invent" some new device to achieve his musical ambitions. It's also sad because I adore his music from the Elder Scrolls games and purchased the Morrowind and Skyrim soundtracks.

      Yeah totally.

      As an audio producer, I was thinking that recording an orchestra really isn’t that hard. Just compose the music, then arrange, then hand it to the orchestra and get your sound guy to hit record.

      The hardest part is the arrangement. But you can just pay an arranger to take your MIDI piano roll and dole out the parts to instruments.

      More likely what happened is like what happens to most people when you give them money... they spend it.

    "What part do you want to understand? Are you a Composer that has ever tried to write a symphony?"

    Wow how do these people manage to become reps for social media/PR? Comes off as pretty rude.

    Not to mention the sheer stupidity behind "we used the fake update because it said the right stuff".

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