You could say that it is a very American story. Girl comes up with drink-based party entertainment. Girl meets boy. Boy helps girl with her business. Girl has a certain level of success. Boy suddenly turns into an opportunistic douchebag and sues girl over the thing they have been working on together. But then the story of Ali Spagnola and her Power Hour would be even more American if the ‘boy’ in question would have gotten away with his ridiculous claim. Luckily, the story has a happy ending that was also the beginning of bigger things for Ali Spagnola.
► Whenever I interview someone who makes a living based on food, my first question is “What did you eat for breakfast”. In your case, I feel the question should be: What was the last drink you had?
My last drink was a shot of Jameson at an Irish festival.
► How many hours ago was that?
Hours? It was on Friday, so it was a week ago. Wait, no. I drank on Tuesday. So the answers are “a beer” and “three days ago”. It was a Southern Tier
Harvest. I love that brewery. I’m not passionate about breweries or types of beer, but Southern Tier is amazing.
► The reason I’m asking, of course, is the Power Hour as well as a plethora of alcohol related tweets in your Twitter feed. I seem to remember once having called you ‘social media’s highest functioning alcoholic’ or rather ‘drunk’ on Twitter…
Yes, lets get this straight. Alcoholism is a disease and nothing to joke about. And I don’t have said disease. But highest functioning drunk? Well, I certainly drink and when I do drink, I do it efficiently – I even have a song called Efficient Drinking – and I drink to have a good time, for sure. But sometimes I just want to tweet something funny about beer and I’m not necessarily under the influence.
► For those who don’t know, what exactly is a Power Hour?
In it’s basic form, a Power Hour is a drinking game. The rules are pretty simple – as with most drinking games, I guess. In this case, you take a shot of beer every minute for an hour.
► How many people ended up in a hospital before they figured out to use beer instead of hard liquor?
I don’t think anyone ever tried it that way. Although mixed drinks work just fine. With harder stuff, a Power Hour would be over after ten minutes or so. And that would mean I wrote way too many songs.
► Which neatly brings us to the question, what the Ali Spagnola Power Hour is…
In my case, it is a drinking game that doubles as a concert – or the other way round. I perform 60 songs that are all one minute long, and the audience takes a shot of beer every time I change the music. It’s a lot of fun.
► Do you participate?
I may drink a little bit. But I certainly can’t keep up with the Power Hour while I’m performing. I’m mostly the MC and keep the party rolling.
► How difficult was it to write the 60 one-minute songs? Were you struggling after a while?
No, it actually became easier towards the end. After doing it so many times, you kind of become a pro at it. And in the end, it’s still writing a full song – it’s got a verse and a chorus and a bridge. You’re basically on the way to a full song and then just cut it off.
► For a while, the whole concept was in jeopardy, though. You were dragged into a legal battle. Over what exactly? Couldn’t have been the concept.
Not the concept, no. I fought the legal battle over the term Power Hour, because someone had claimed they owned the drinking game. Which is nonsense. So I had to fight them in court. Which was bullshit. We actually had been working together for about nine months at that point. Which makes it all even more ridiculous. Our actual first contact had been positive, since he liked what I was doing. He was very complimentary and ended up selling my DVD in his store. While he was already selling my DVD, he send me a cease and desist, saying my Power Hour was illegal and infringing on his trademark. A week before that had we a friendly conversation, and then there was a complete 180.
► Not the only way he tried to trip you up, right?
I’d say. He got me taken off Rhapsody and Amazon. He just started attacking these places – and they are not going to look into the details, they’ll just play things safe and take stuff down. Which makes sense on their part. He was also threatening to go to iTunes and other places. So I couldn’t sit back and wait for him to take me to court, because he was already affecting my business.
► Did you, at any point, think it’s not worth all the trouble?
I was second guessing myself all the time. For the whole three years I was thinking, “What am I doing with my life? This is insane. This is just a drinking game. What am I doing with my life?” But I went through with it and I don’t regret it for one second.
► The win was followed by a crowd funding project at the beginning of 2013, to fund the Power Hour Victory Tour. The goal was $40,000?
Yeah. And we raised about $40,100.
► Close call. And, unlike some crowd funding projects, the success wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
True. The donations came in bit by bit throughout the period. Up until the last hour it was so close but not quite there yet. But there was one guy, named Dave Parker, who came in and gave a thousand dollars to get it over the top.
► What makes it even more interesting is that, at the time, you didn’t have as massive a following on Twitter as you have now with almost 1.5 million.
Not even close. I still had an awesome group of fans that I loved, but it was a much smaller social following. So getting the word out was difficult. I couldn’t bank on hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to pitch in or even to help spread the world. So not a foregone conclusion at all. Actually, I was pretty sure I was going to fail.
► Also, despite not having that huge following back then, you did quit your job to fully concentrate on this part of your life, correct?
Yes. End of December 2012 the legal battle was over. End of January was the end of my video game career. My creative endeavours are still the only thing I do full-time. It’s not just Power Hour stuff, though. I do videos on YouTube and I’m working on a new album. So let’s hope that the career becomes something bigger than that.