Amanda Palmer Destroys/Saves Musicians; Chances Of 'Hitting It Big' As An Artist Remain Unchanged

from the one-sentence-between-'darling'-and-'pariah' dept

In terms of incendiary writing, the following sentence ranks so low on the scale as to be imperceptible:

we will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.

That was Amanda Palmer's offer to instrumentalists willing to join her on stage during tour appearances. And then the internet exploded for most of five days before Palmer reappeared to say this:

me and my band have discussed it at length. and we have decided we should pay all of our guest musicians. we have the power to do it, and we’re going to do it. (in fact, we started doing it three shows ago.)

So. Here's the deal. I had 1,600 words assembled in an orderly fashion and was gently (but firmly) herding them through the Amanda Palmer “free as in volunteer musicians” minefield. It was quite possible many of these words, some multisyllable, some a bit sweary, wouldn't make it all the way across. But, it was this close to being a “thing,” a monumental defense of Amanda Palmer's absolute right to ask for fans to pitch in on tour despite her having $1.2 million worth of Kickstarting (mostly spent) in her hip pocket.

Because she had every right, no matter how seemingly large the amount at her disposal, to ask people to volunteer to be her sidemen/women. The problem was her critics (and lord, there were quite a few of those) were blinded by all the money she had, especially when comparing it to the money they had. Here's Bob Lefsetz, breaking it down:

They believe she should pay.

Because she raised a million dollars on Kickstarter and they didn’t!

Amanda ankled her major label deal, she makes money on Twitter, she uses the new technologies to both reach people and profit and they don’t like it. They could join in, but then they might fail, and they wouldn’t be able to sit at home at bitch.

But before the (probably) bloated opus could hit the front page, Palmer decided to shell out cash to her volunteers, freeing up the money by shuttling money back and forth between line items, robbing Video to pay Sax Players, as it were.

my management team tweaked and reconfigured financials, pulling money from this and that other budget (mostly video) and moving it to the tour budget. 
all of the money we took out of those budgets is going to the crowd-sourced musicians fund. we are going to pay the volunteer musicians every night. even though they volunteered their time for beer, hugs, merch, free tickets, and love: we’ll now also hand them cash.

Was it the right thing to do? No. It wasn't the wrong thing to do, either. It was simply a thing to do. When you're trying to tour and all anyone wants to talk about is whether or not the VOLUNTEER sax player is going to get paid scale or at least, more than hugs, it's often simpler to do the thing that drops the ongoing dialog down to a manageable dull roar, or at least a trifle more supportive roar.

Not paying was never wrong. Take away the crowdfunding aspect (which seems to be what the critics get hung up on) and Palmer's offer is every diehard fan's dream. Get on stage with your favorite artist! Get beer/hugs! In any other situation, there's no controversy. Only people who get to live their dreams for a night and those who get to see others living their dreams. Try these hypothetical offers on for size:

– Lady Gaga, major label artist, sends out an invite for interested fans to jump onstage and perform for a couple of tracks in exchange for discarded wigs, unused wardrobe and travel bottles of Ciroc. (Feel free to substitute a major label artist you can actually tolerate for Lady Gaga, if need be.)

– Indie legend Weezer sends out an open invitation for interested fans to perform onstage with them at their tour stops in exchange for corrective lenses, sweaters and “Pinkerton” CDs rescued from the cutout bin.

– Label-free artist Jonathan Coulton sends out an open invitation for interested fans to perform interpretative dances during his live appearances in exchange for retweets and a 4-song EP dedicated to you and recorded backstage while you wait.

Viewed this way, the same invitation Palmer made sounds like pure gold for diehard fans. Each of these artists is offering a chance for local artists to become local heroes, if only for a night. In exchange for their time, effort and expertise, the contributing fans will walk away $0 richer in direct monetary terms. But who would turn that down? No fan is going to tell one of their favorite bands, “Thanks, but I'd rather be paid.” Or, “Not interested. I'd rather watch from a safe distance away.”

Palmer's offer is different. It's not different because her offer is any different than the hypotheticals posed above. It's different because of one thing: $1.2 million in transparently spent, crowdsourced dollars.

If Lady Gaga declines to pay supporting volunteers, it's the label's fault for not spotting her enough money to do the show the way she envisioned it. If Weezer does it, it's because working for indie labels means tight margins. If Coulton does it, it's because he has to finance his own touring via ticket, album and merch sales.

But, because Amanda Palmer pre-financed her tour, a majority of her detractors saw “$1.2 million” and wondered if she's blown it all on ridiculous stuff like, well, who knows exactly, but presumably wasteful, more-money-than-brains accoutrements. The debacle turned musicians into accountants and Palmer's actual accountants into a “crazy moebius strip of waste.”

But that’s ridiculous. Beyond the fact that the source of the money does make her offer wrong, there's the poor underlying argument from some musicians that there’s something “wrong,” or at least “diminishing” about playing for free. There isn't. Everybody does it.

if my years working as as street performer taught me anything, they taught me to accept help in every way, to never be too proud or afraid to ask for it. i never got pissed at a passerby for not throwing change in my hat. i stood there knowing that maybe 15 people later, maybe 20, maybe 100…someone would. it’s literally an opposite strategy from someone deciding that they, on principle, won’t gig for free.

i’ve built my life as a musician, like many many people in rock and roll, playing for free….a LOT.
or playing for beer.
playing for exposure.
playing for fun.
playing just to be able to sell merch.
playing to do somebody a favor.
playing a benefit to help a cause.

It’s also important to note that Palmer was only asking for a little bit of the artists' time. She wasn't asking them to tour with her gratis or even perform the entire show. 

we’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes.

Palmer's transparency worked against her. A full breakdown of where that $1.2 million is going has only prompted questions on the validity of some of the line items. Her response that it would cost $35,000 to secure the additional musicians for the entire tour is greeted with “but, but… $1.2 million.” It almost seems as though fans were happier when all the money was raised and spent in complete opacity. When the sausage making apparatus was still hidden, and the money routed through middlemen, being invited to jam with your idols was a dream come true. Now, somehow, it’s a slap in the face to struggling musicians everywhere?

Artists performing for free do not diminish the art form or drag all other similar artists into a race for the bottom, pricewise. Neither does one artist asking other artists to perform for free. There’s nothing disingenuous about this offer. Anyone who thought they were being taken advantage of needed to do nothing more than not respond the offer.

Were these volunteers being screwed? If they were, it was being done so skillfully and pleasurably that they never noticed.

when we handed the musicians their surprise cash backstage in new orleans the other last night, they laughed like mad and said “after ALL THAT, you’re going TO PAY US??!!

moreover: i feel like we accidentally put ALL of our volunteer musicians into a weird situation that they didn’t bargain for….they unwittingly signed into a kerfuffle they never asked to join. all they wanted to was to hop on stage, rock out, and drink beer with us, etc.

so you all know: when this all started going down last week, jherek sent an email out to his current list of volunteers telling them that we totally understood if all this controversy was weirding them out. and we gave them an opportunity to pull out, no hard feelings.

since this started, not a single musician has pulled out.

One of the saddest aspects about this whole debacle is that the artists who did decide to play for free were treated as traitors to The Cause simply because they didn't demand to be “treated with respect”, respect in this case being dollars. That's some ugly artist-on-artist hate right there. Not that there weren't other sad aspects, what with the internet being involved and all:

I can’t tell you how many “you’re such a stupid cunt” and “i’d pay to travel just to fuck up your gig…if i played violin” tweets i’ve seen in the past few days…

Lots of criticism along the lines of “I'm a classically trained musician and it's hard enough to find paying gigs without rich musicians refusing to pay us for our contributions.” Well, it's probably true that it's hard for a violinist or cellist or sax player to find paying gigs, but in no way did Palmer's “unpaid gig” offer hurt you unless you yourself accepted… but then, if you hate the idea so much, why the fuck would you? Just to make a point? Weird thought process. It's as if they believe every artist looking for a cellist or whatever will just point at Amanda Kickstarting Palmer and say, “She doesn't pay, therefore neither do we.”

The problem with this “NO UNPAID GIGS” stance is that it only ends up hurting the idealist who take it. You might believe that if enough people turn down unpaid gigs (and make a lot of angry noises about it), then at some point, those needed instrumentalists will run out of artists willing to work for free. If you can manage to hold together a career long enough for every invitation to come accompanied with payment, good on you. You've beaten some very long odds.

Most of this discussion is now academic, as Palmer will be paying all contributing tour musicians from this point forward. That's what living in public does. Transparency is double-edged and every Palmer detractor was seemingly a music school grad with an accounting degree. To her critics, this offer “proves” that her breakdown of the $1.2 million was filled with waste. Now they can pat themselves on the back for righting a wrong and turning “instrumentalist” back into a paying job.

But Palmer paying cash doesn't make the world better for struggling artists, just as paying in beer didn't make it worse. If someone wants to reach the million-dollar-Kickstarter level, they need a whole lot more than one artist paying other artists. And most of these artists who decried the previous situation just aren't up for the level of commitment involved. In fact, most human beings aren't up for it. Living like Amanda F. Palmer isn't easy, and the rewards only come after years and years of killing yourself day in and day out:

You’re just not willing to work that hard.

That the only thing holding you back is you. Amanda does not know the word “no”. And every effort is an investment in her career. Money is secondary. She wanted to raise a million bucks on Kickstarter, did, and now it’s almost all accounted for, profit is next to nothing.

If she sleeps, it’s not for long. I felt lazy just being in her presence. But that’s what it takes to make it today. Hard work. Are you prepared? 

And hard work is not e-mailing journalists who don’t care, it’s not badgering people to watch your YouTube clip and like you on Facebook, it’s doing something so good people are drawn to you.

Palmer has delivered the narrative, lived out in public, that if you're willing to run flat-out, day after day, for more than a decade, you can get to this point. And the response from so many musicians to her open invitation was basically: “You made it to the top. Now, lift the rest of us up.” You won. Now you owe us.

Everyone got the same offer from Palmer. There's no shame in saying “no.” But there's also nothing wrong with saying “yes.” Artists, including Palmer herself, have done unpaid gigs for exposure, charity, or simply because they were dying to perform and doing it for free was the only way to get it done. Either way, it's up to the individual. Someone else accepting a perceived screwing from an artist that a thousand armchair accountants have already decided has the money to pay in no way diminishes your chances as an artist. These chances remain what they have been, and will be, for years in either direction: slim to none. 

In the end, I'm neither relieved nor disappointed this turned out the way it did. I'm glad that Palmer will be able to concentrate on what she'd clearly rather be doing: touring and entertaining. The Kickstarter money was freely given to her during that campaign, but apparently had plenty of strings attached once she started talking about unpaid gigs. I get the feeling that many of her detractors didn't contribute to the fundraising effort (indeed, it's doubtful that many had even listened to her music — Steve Albini, along with other commenters in that thread, clearly stated that he hadn't), but it certainly didn't stop them from having strong opinions on how an artist they'd never listened to should spend money they didn't contribute.

I guess it sort of works out for everybody — musicians get paid and Palmer gets back to work. But no wrongs were righted and the long, hard road to success didn't get any new shortcuts.

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Comments on “Amanda Palmer Destroys/Saves Musicians; Chances Of 'Hitting It Big' As An Artist Remain Unchanged”

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Mojo says:

unpaid work

I’d admire the lengths you went to justify Amanda’s attempt to get some free workers but you haven’t touched on the morality of it (which stinks).

It doesn’t matter how she raised her million dollars- from her hip pocket, inheritance, hard work, donations, money tree whatever. She had the dough and was putting on a commercial enterprise from which profits may flow now and in the future but she asked for unpaid ‘volunteers’ to assist.

Nice if you can get away with it but she didn’t. No different to a shop or factory asking for unpaid ‘volunteers’ to stack the shelves. This wasn’t for charity and no amount of previous charity justifies it.

And what a dangerous precedent!. Still, who knows perhaps the Mitt Romney’s of the world may consider the concept.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

A factory can ask for volunteers to stack the shelves, but probably won’t get any takers. Artistic pursuits are different, and lots of people play music just for fun. I don’t see anyone stocking warehouse shelves just for fun. That’s why they get paid.

I think the real reason people are mad is not just because she raised everything on Kickstarter, but that she raised far more than she ever said she needed to do what she wanted to do.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

It doesn’t matter how she raised her million dollars- from her hip pocket, inheritance, hard work, donations, money tree whatever. She had the dough and was putting on a commercial enterprise from which profits may flow now and in the future but she asked for unpaid ‘volunteers’ to assist.

You just commented on a website — a for profit venture — from which profits may flow now and in the future. You did so for free, by volunteering to do so after we made that opportunity available to you.

Was that unethical?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: unpaid work

“Was that unethical?”

Those who post here choose to post here, without any expections. Remember, most of us are NOT professionals.

Amanda was asking professionals to forego payment for the “chance” to rub shoulders with her, and after getting a shit load of cash to run the tour, it looks more like she is cheaping out.

You can be sure she isn’t staying in any 3 star hotels on this trip! Perhaps she can adjust her touring methods, maybe use a slightly cheaper tour bus or maybe take a train instead of flying, and then perhaps she can scrap together some pennies for the musicians.

It’s not like the tickets to her shows are free either.

Sorry, but if this was a label act, you would be all over them like shit about it. I know you love Amanda dearly, but call her out when she is being a greedy ass.

gnudist says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

Also, why does it matter if they’re pros or not?

It doesn’t magically change the fact they were volenterrs. How the fuck is it wrong when it’s *exatcly* what they signed up for and they were perfectly willling to do it for free.

That’s a world apart from the dishonest practices the music and film industries like to use to screw people out of the money they’d expect to get.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 unpaid work

“That’s a world apart from the dishonest practices the music and film industries like to use to screw people out of the money they’d expect to get.”

Yeah, collect money up front to pay for the tour, charge money at the door for people to watch the performance, and don’t play people to perform. Sounds like a perfect plan that you guys would kill the labels for trying.

Take it for what it’s worth, Amanda stepped in it big time.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Re: Re:5 unpaid work

You are saying that Palmers “Hey, you wanna jam on stage with us on friday? You’ll get free beer.” has a bad vibe.

Following your reasoning, “Hey, we give you some money to make an album now, and even though you sell a million albums we will take all the profits and keep you in debt as long as we can” should be the blackest, light-consuming abyss of bad vibes.


Or will you do some quick double-think and defend that with “if they didn’t want the deal, they shouldn’t have signed”? And then, paradox crumple zones still hot from the impact, still criticize Palmer for just offering some stage time to local talent?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 unpaid work


Ummm, no.

Not sure how you get there.

I doubt that very many bands sign deals where they sell a million albums and don’t make a penny. Just writing credits alone for those million albums would make them some decent money.

Plus, if they sell a million albums, you might think they could play a live gig or two, or they might be getting radio airplay and income there as well.

If that is an abyss, why are people lining up and just about killing each other to get it?

All I (and others) appear to be saying is that Facepalm could have done a better job at handling it, and perhaps paid them some token amount to show gratitude to people who helped make her show special.

She’s burned through a million bucks on custom painted turntables and videos. You would think she would have a few bucks left in the kitty.

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re:5 unpaid work

No people come to see great music, and for people who like her style, Amanda delivers. If someone is talented enough, people will notice, and free exposure from someone of the caliber of an Amanda Palmer could potentially be far more valuable than whatever they make from the show.

I’m pretty sure the five minutes of TV time the likes of Susan Boyle or Lindsey Sterling got were far, far more valuable and profitable in the long run than maybe getting $50 for the opportunity to play to a crowd they’d likely never have been exposed to otherwise.

And yes, I know people (myself included) who have volunteered to “stock shelves” for free, and found ways to turn that “free labor” into more money later down the road than small amount of cash we’d have received at the time we provided our services. In fact, I have a good friend who is a Chiropractor. He doesn’t do it because it’s good money, he does it because it is his passion. He does a lot of free clinics/workshops, free (as well as paid) speaking engagements, and a fair amount of volunteer work. The end result is he make a LOT of money. Considerably more money, in fact, than a couple chiropractors and doctors I know who do what they do for the money, and try to find ways to get paid for anything and everything they do.

Not every service a person does in this life has to be paid for with cash, and if people don’t like the term of an offer (in this case Palmer’s) than don’t accept. I’m sure for every musician who whined “she’s rich, I should get paid” there is at least one who’s going “shit, I’d give her more money for the chance to get on stage a strut my stuff with her”.

gnudist says:

Re: Re: Re:3 unpaid work

I love how you pretend to know how I’d react to that when you don’t even know me.

If the labels whent about it the way amanda did I’d have no problems. But the labels tend to shy away from open human and awesome and lean more twords being dishonest, scummy dirtbags.

It ultimately comes down to the attitude by which you go about it.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

I must be missing something here….. I can’t see the bit where she lied about anything, held anyone at gunpoint to perform, exerted any monopoly-like influence to make people comply or used some strange mind-control power.
Absent that, I have to assume that the people who accepted her request for “a favour” thought they got enough out of it on the terms she’d clearly described up front.

Not really says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

Actually she wasn’t asking that only pros apply; she was asking for people that can read the score and play a couple of songs at a decent level. There are a lot of people who can play instruments but don’t WORK as musicians. Her shout-out was also to them.
Yes, this way of acting brings a risk. Somebody who volunteers can not play “good enough”. But this is the way she does things.

I am not saying she is completely right in this decision. Maybe she should have hired local musicians from the start. But then she would not give any chance to people who are not pros but play good enough to play with her. If this is a paid job those who don’t work as musicians might not apply.

Amanda is an idealist and this is probably the way she was thinking. Anybody saying she did this just to save money and cheat the musicians is not aware of the way she works. The whole kickstarter rewards were set up in a way to involve multiple artists – who were commissioned and paid. She pimps practically everyone she works with.

Those saying that it’s good she pulled out money from a video to pay the musicians: well, great, musicians won. Some other artists and technicians lost because she won’t be able to spend this money on the video.

Other people say she wastes money on the quality of the rewards; people supported the levels to get the rewards exactly BECAUSE they’re so over-the-top.

I find it interesting how almost nobody who writes negative comments or articles about this has real insight on what is really happening.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

Amanda was asking professionals to forego payment for the “chance” to rub shoulders with her, and after getting a shit load of cash to run the tour, it looks more like she is cheaping out.

The key word here is “asking.” Everyone could have decided she had enough of their money and told her to “Fuck off.” (And from the looks of comments left elsewhere, many did.) The others who decided to take up her offer didn’t seem nearly as hung up on her being technically a millionaire.

Sorry, but if this was a label act, you would be all over them like shit about it. I know you love Amanda dearly, but call her out when she is being a greedy ass.

I’m not sure about that. For one thing, a label artist asking for people to play a few tracks with them onstage would still be a cool experience for those who took up the offer. If a LABEL (no artist, etc.) asked for volunteers to lay down tracks (as session musicians) for $0, it might be an issue. Then again, it might not. There’s always exposure and experience to be gained from a situation like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 unpaid work

There’s always exposure and experience to be gained from a situation like that.

I think people are very much over-valuing the “exposure” afforded by these unpaid gigs. I have an acquaintance who earns a very nice living as a touring musician, session musician, and writing his own music who had this to say:

“This kind of exposure, as a side-man, for only a few songs, for a relatively unknown performer, is barely a footnote on a resume. It doesn’t even make for an interesting story at a cocktail party.”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 unpaid work

“This kind of exposure, as a side-man, for only a few songs, for a relatively unknown performer, is barely a footnote on a resume. It doesn’t even make for an interesting story at a cocktail party.”

Yes, that’s pretty much what the experienced sidemen I know would say.

The people who would jump at the chance are more likely those who learned horns or strings in school awhile ago, and maybe even still jam with friends, but never get an opportunity to play on stage.

But it also puts them in the “fan” category rather than the “professional” category. They may have the talent to be able to pull this off, but it’s a treat for them because they never get to do it otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

Amanda used to stay at people’s places during tours because she couldn’t afford hotels. I highly doubt she’s staying at the Ritz nowadays. If she offered a drawing and randomly selected people to play on stage with her, that would have looked amazing. The fact that she simply just asked though somehow made it bad. It’s kinda ridiculous.

She’s not being greedy. *You* are being greedy thinking that people need to be paid for an opportunity. You probably agree that the radio should pay to play music too, even though it’s a free advertisement. I don’t think cable pays to play coke commercials. You’re a hypocrite that drew an invisible line in the sand as to what is advertising and what is work and you think everybody should agree with you. It’s ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: unpaid work

I don’t disagree with Amanda giving her fans the chance to play with her, but that being said, I think the question of ethics is more interesting than it would appear.

Specifically, asking artists to do something for free, since it fits a few particular criteria.

Those being:
1. tons of people want to do it

2. It takes a lot of time, training, and money to acquire the skill, keep the skill, and have the equipment to be an artist, (let’s ignore cases where this isn’t true for this argument. In this particular case, skilled musicians, it is true that instruments cost $$$ and most musicians aren’t natural musical geniuses, who even then take time to perfect their skill)

3. People need to survive.

4. Society has the idea that ‘artist’ should be a possible occupation

This leads to some interesting ethics for artists; if artists offer their skill for free, it devalues the entire market for artists, which diminishes the price people are willing to pay, (Isn’t there a book, (or maybe a couple dozen . . .), about how to rip-off artists on deviant art to get free or very cheap art for your business?).

Asking for artistry for free like Amanda Palmer did here could form part of a pattern of artists being expected to perform for free.

This is true because the number of artists isn’t limited. Consequently, it is harder for artists to live because their work is devalued and so many people still want to do their job. Some artists will quit, but we’ll still have a lot around because people want to do it regardless of being able to make a living of it, but they won’t be able to make a living of it in the worst case scenario.

But, the idea of someone offering something valuable for free doesn’t seem like it could possibly could be something unethical. Which is what I’ve just argued above, that there is something unethical.

My conclusion is that one of my four assumptions above, or the underlying assumptions hidden beneath them, conceal something unethical. Well, tough nuts, 1-3 are facts of life and number 4, artists should be rewarded for their skill enough to make a living, sounds more ethical than not, but clearly must be where the problem lies. (That is, in one of the underlying assumptions).

Going further would involve more opinion & politics than logic, so I won’t go there, (I have opinions, though, don’t get me wrong), but suffice to say that it isn’t exactly an option for Palmer to change current society to erase all the ethical problems around asking awesome people if they’d like to join you being awesome on stage without money being involved.

Which leads back to the mind-numbingly stupid conclusion, that in our current society, because of [insert political opinion here], it is actually unethical to ask such a thing.

Compare to commenting here, which isn’t expected to earn any commenters a living, and doesn’t require time or skill on the level required to be a professional musician.

Compare to releasing your music for free online . . . which, despite the fact that it forms a pattern of artists performing for free, also allows them to earn a living and make their skill more valuaARGHHHHHHHHH.

tl;dr: Our society is built on something stupid that complicates the issue and statistically, you aren’t likely to agree with me on what that something stupid is, exactly

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

This leads to some interesting ethics for artists; if artists offer their skill for free, it devalues the entire market for artists, which diminishes the price people are willing to pay, (Isn’t there a book, (or maybe a couple dozen . . .), about how to rip-off artists on deviant art to get free or very cheap art for your business?).

HOW? It’s free promotion for yourself, and if you’re a fan, you get to play with the person you want to support. How is this not a good (if not necessarily useful) thing to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 unpaid work

If everyone does it, no one will be willing to pay for it. You and I both agree an artist should be able to make money from being an artist? Go ahead, try and draw lines in the sand about where it’s ethical and not ethical to expect payment . . . it effects the bottom line anyways, and then you’re disagreeing with the idea that artists should expect compensation at all. Maybe that is your point though: if there’s an abundance of artists, you have to sell the scarcity, which isn’t your artistic skill.

Sorry, I thought I could skip that when I talked about a real world example of this. Are you aware of how cheap design art is these days, if you’re willing to be unethical? Is it ethical, as an artist that’s part of that environment, to continue to contribute to the problem by being an artist who is willing to work for cheap for exposure/other BS?

Well, there’s this chart:

Of course, the larger idea behind my post is: This SHOULD be ethical, but society prevents it from being so.

“How does society prevent it?”

Well, there are different opinions. A few of them, minus the nuances:

People shouldn’t have to work to live

Artists shouldn’t get paid for their work

Artists shouldn’t expect to make a living from being artists

Artists shouldn’t expect compensation.

Art should be recognized as something fully different than corporate use of art (in conjunction with one or more of the other opinions)

Artists should be guaranteed a living

And many more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 unpaid work

If you can play your own music, this has nothing to do with devaluing work. She’s looking for people to play *her* music. That doesn’t take art, that takes skill. I’m talking, dime a dozen skill. So yeah, maybe it should be cheap or free. Maybe exposure is worth a lot more than the money in that case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

It doesn’t devalue an artist. It devalues someone that can only play other people’s music. They are a dime a dozen and shouldn’t be given money just because they need it. Money goes to where there is value. There is no value in someone who can only play other people’s stuff. If they can play their own stuff, there is always value. If Amanda offered to play for free at your birthday party, are you gonna say she’s devaluing bands everywhere? Reverse this situation and if a “millionare” artist plays for free, it’s seen as a gift. That’s hypocritical and a double standard. I can’t believe people aren’t dying for a chance to play with her (assuming they like her music). That’s free money in that you get that exposure. So many people will know you. The value you get in that is ridiculously high. Obscurity is what is needed to be overcome in artistry and she’s giving a way out of it for free. Those people should have been paying her for that, but they weren’t. She was giving a gift and got punished for it. She tried to help musicians and some people got upset about it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 unpaid work

It devalues someone that can only play other people’s music. … I can’t believe people aren’t dying for a chance to play with her (assuming they like her music). That’s free money in that you get that exposure. So many people will know you.

Aren’t you contradicting yourself here? The people playing for Amanda are playing her music. So that would mean the exposure they are getting is, by your definition, not worth anything by since it is Amanda’s music they are playing rather than their own.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 unpaid work

No, that’s a lack of understanding stuff on your part. If I see someone cover a song, i don’t automatically assume they must have no ability to play their own music. Yes, it shows they have skill to play, but it says nothing of their own ability to write music. Exposure is literally just that: EXPOSURE. If I see that someone who played with her has a show, I’ll recognize the name, I’ll equate it with someone I like, I WILL POSSIBLY GIVE THEM A CHANCE THEY DIDN’T HAVE BEFORE WHEN THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY UNKNOWN TO ME.

What part of that is so difficult to understand? Am I being that unclear?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 unpaid work

EXPOSURE. If I see that someone who played with her has a show, I’ll recognize the name, I’ll equate it with someone I like, I WILL POSSIBLY GIVE THEM A CHANCE THEY DIDN’T HAVE BEFORE WHEN THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY UNKNOWN TO ME.

You know, I know a lot of musicians, have written musician bios, and have been involved with music promotion and marketing.

Playing a few songs with Palmer isn’t likely to launch any careers based on audience reaction. Now, it might be possible to connect enough with Palmer herself during the rehearsals and the partying afterward that to impress her, stay in touch, and perhaps collaborate someday.

The audience isn’t likely to notice who the volunteer string and horn players are (their job is NOT to upstage Palmer, but stay in the background and play), but perhaps the players can bond with Palmer and use that to their advantage someday.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 unpaid work

To put it another way:

This sounds like something that is fun for Palmer fans.

Serving as a showcase for musicians who want to impress the audience and industry types, not so much.

As I have maintained all along, Palmer was just doing what she has always done and it has worked for her in the past. And I think audience participation is a good thing. The more people you can get involved, the better.

I like Palmer’s approach to art a lot. Occasionally she does something that ticks off some folks, and she writes intelligent stuff about that process. I highly recommend her blog.

But let’s not muddy the waters here by suggesting that she is giving great exposure to musicians wanting to break through to a bigger audience. That’s not likely the outcome of playing a few songs as a sideman on stage with her.

In fact, she’d mostly get slammed if she invited people to do this “because it’s great exposure.” She would know that isn’t the case and most musicians would know that isn’t the case.

And in hindsight, she shouldn’t have said she couldn’t pay people because she doesn’t have the money (although in her head that might be the reason why she structured it this way).

Conversely, I think the reason she didn’t promote this as a “party” opportunity is that she was planning to screen volunteers based on ability. The invitation isn’t open to everyone, just those who are skilled enough to be able to sound “professional.”

At any rate, I think the discussions of all of this (ie., who gets paid for what) is important.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

You are missing out the part where this has been the case for, well, ever and still people can sell gig tickets. You want to know why? I am not equally a fan of all musicians in the world and nor is any one else. The value in seeing some one play is seeing that person play, if they are some one unknown or new you tend to offset risk of watching people you don’t know if you’ll like at a gig by either cheaper prices or by dint of being their for another act or the main performance.

The point is that as a musician you start with out a fan base, no one wants to see you Syracuse no one knows you. You have to make people care, if you are good enough and work hard enough at that then once people care you can’t be replaced by some musician your fans don’t know saying they’ll play your gig for free. It’s absurd.

Session musicians are another matter and in this case Amanda wouldn’t have hired local session musicians in the first place. This was a move to try and connect more with her fan base by offering people the chance to play a show with her. If one of my favourite bands did the same thing I’d jump at it, not as a musician or as some one in a band but as a fan and as some one who understands what a special thing it is to play with a group of people. To get to play a likely packed out show is always a rush, to do that with a band you love? It’s a chance for a unique and shared experience, why else do you think so many people sing and dance along at shows in the first place?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: unpaid work

I think there’s a difference between comments on articles and the articles themselves. The articles are what brings people to this site and are written by people who have some skill, training or expertise in the craft of writing.

You do pay the people that write articles for Techdirt, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: unpaid work

And Amanda brings the audience and the funding. Jamming with her is pretty minor in advertising appeal.

Plus, I see in little jazz clubs, there are guys who do some jamming like this on a totally spontaneous, volunteer basis for a few minutes at a time. I doubt they expect to get paid. Often they know the artist.

What is the big deal?

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

If the shop or factory owner was a small business person I knew and respected and was just trying to get their business off the ground, I would certainly volunteer to help stack the shelves for no more payment than “beer and hugs”.

It’s a very sad world when people can only see money as a reason to do something.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

Mitt Romney is out there begging people to give him money to run for President when he has piles of cash, is that moral? Demanding other people pay the bills for his attempt to run for President? He has tons of unpaid volunteers too.
Where is the moral outrage over that?

Ah yes the morality of asking people to do something, instead of using her money to just purchase them as slaves and force them to perform.
The worst possible thing that could happen is these artists would be able to parlay the exposure into more interest in their own work…

Why are you allowed to be the arbitrator of morality for other people?
Just curious.
See because many of the problem in the world today seem to come from people who claim to be the people allowed to decide if its moral or not for others.

Who died and put you in charge of all artists making decisions for themselves? They are grownups, they heard an offer and knowing the terms accepted it… but your morality trumps what they decided was ok.

It is immoral for you post online unless you pay for an insider badge. It offends my morality that you do not have that badge, so you have to get one NOW!

But then I’m not the arbitrator of morality for you, maybe you need to worry about just your own moral decisions.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

mitt rmoney has zillions of dollars himself, and zillions more in kickstarter, er, PAC donations, yet he still asks people to volunteer to run his everyday campaign activities, how evil is that ? ? ?

you people are not to be believed…
*AND* i seriously doubt 99% of the bitchers have done an ‘artistic’ endeavor in their pitiful lives…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

anon says:

Re: unpaid work

Seriously, there are enough musicians out there that do it just for the fun of it, if they want to expose themselves and use the experience to better themselves so be it, they have the right to do that, how many of those people working for free would never have had the chance to get on stage in front of so many people and play, For how many of them is it a lifelong dream to just do what they enjoy.

As long as this was not what was done every time Palmer did a tour and this was not something that became a norm in the market I see no reason not to give people the chance to get up there and have fun.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: unpaid work

I’d admire the lengths you went to justify Amanda’s attempt to get some free workers but you haven’t touched on the morality of it (which stinks).

I’m interested in hearing about the “morality.” Considering Amanda Palmer has always worked this way (with volunteer musicians, etc.), does it suddenly become “immoral” at a certain dollar amount? If so, where’s the cutoff? Or, as someone felt compelled to mention below, she’s got a rich husband? Should she have been paying every artist involved with her since Day 1 simply because Neil could have written a check for it?

No different to a shop or factory asking for unpaid ‘volunteers’ to stack the shelves. This wasn’t for charity and no amount of previous charity justifies it.

Except when a shop/factory asks for unpaid volunteers, the line is much, much shorter. No one’s going to form lifelong memories hauling boxes for free. But getting onstage with one of their favorite artists in front of hundreds of people? That leaves an impression.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: unpaid work

I’m interested in hearing about the “morality.” Considering Amanda Palmer has always worked this way (with volunteer musicians, etc.), does it suddenly become “immoral” at a certain dollar amount? If so, where’s the cutoff?

Palmer was not wrong to ask. Involving her fans has always been part of her show. She was just doing what she has always done and it has been a lot of fun for those who participate.

What has changed is the use of Kickstarter. It expands the sense of “ownership” of this project. You’ll see more discussions like this. People want to know where the money is going. And if they think it isn’t being spent wisely or fairly, some of them are going to weigh in on the subject.

And that is GREAT. We need more discussions like this.

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

wow. sad. Among all the other things I do in this world, I became the business manager for an up and coming singer last month. One of the challenges has been how we envision funding to happen. Sign with a major label and potentially give away your profits and creatives for years to come?

Go the kickstarter route and compete with thousands of other singers, on the off chance you can generate a million dollars, which is ridiculously less than we’re going to need to go big without still having to put in even more years of effort?

Get a top name producer to listen to her music and believe enough in her to cover the costs up front in exchange for a percentage? Seek old-school equity investment capital?

Almost right away, as I spoke with top industry people (yeah, I’m blessed to have some connections), and looked at it from a detached business perspective, and the singer I’m managing offered her take on things, it was agreed that crowd-funded would not be a wise choice for a host of reasons. And reading this just confirmed it.

Crowd-funding has all sorts of great benefits. Except between this example and the Oatmeal’s, it’s pretty obvious there can be insanity of an epic proportion as well.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Kickstarter changes things

I’ve posted multiple times on several different threads on this over on

Here’s my most recent post, which I hope boils it down from my perspective.

I don’t fault Palmer for inviting fans to play on stage for hugs and beer. She’s done it before and everyone has been happy.

What I have wanted to shoot down, though, is the idea that musicians who complain about not getting paid are bitter and jealous. I don’t think that is the case. Rather, they see that Palmer raised a significant amount of money and have wondered why there’s not enough left to pay everyone.

And the reason everyone knows how much money she has raised (aside from all the stories about it) is Kickstarter. People can now see how much a Kickstarter artist has raised, what the rewards are and how many have sold, and, if the artist is open, what she/he plans to do with the money. Plus Kickstarter encourages everyone to think of these projects as “their projects.” Therefore the community becomes involved and may be more inclined to voice their opinions on what should or shouldn’t happen with the money. I think all of this is good, but it does change the dynamics between artists and their patrons. Yes, contributors to Kickstarter can be considered patrons rather than fans, and patrons tend to give out more advice about the projects they are supporting. It’s no longer artist-to-fan. It’s artist-to-patron-to-artist, a continuing feedback loop. Palmer knows that and routinely adjusts what she does based on what her fans/patron/audience say.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Kickstarter changes things

I’ll add that this in many respects has played out exactly as a crowdsourced/crowdfunded project should have played out. It was no longer Palmer’s project to control on her own because she went to the people to fund it. It became the project of the community at large and they spoke and Palmer listened.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Kickstarter changes things

1. so-o-o-o, one gives up control by kickstarting ? ? ?
i don’t think so, that is EXACTLY WHY they are kickstarting: TO RETAIN control so they don’t have to sell their souls -and total artistic life- to soul-sucking korporate overlords…
(AND that includes idiot monkeys in the peanut gallery…)

2. i doubt seriously that most of the bitching is being done by ‘fans’, but mostly non-contributing bystanders who are attempting to put her in her place… and YES, i would say that most definitely includes jealous people who are not, can not, and will not succeed by going indie like she has…

3. as explained in the article, as a matter of principle, i’m disappointed she caved to UNFAIR bitching, but that is HER CHOICE to respond to the situation…

4. …oh, and not that you were saying this, but the other idiot who says that as a society we HAVE TO support artistes, etc: you are an idjit, NO ONE ‘deserves’ support or a guaranteed career, i don’t care WHAT field it is in, and that goes DOUBLY for so-called ‘artistes’…

the guy who mops up hospital corridors is INFINITELY more important to society than both artists and bank CEO’s…
(which has actually been ‘proven’, i think in britain, where they studies the ‘value’/’worth’ society derives from various jobs, and hospital janitors are ‘worth’ more than bank CEO’s…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Kickstarter changes things

I’m a bit surprised at your outlook. Amanda has gone from starving artist to entrepreneur. Her talent enabled her to raise 1.2 million to further her music. It seems that in solidarity with other musicians (especially those contributing to her further success) that she’d feel that supporting them financially was the right thing. I totally understand asking people to help out when you simply can’t pay them, but if we truly believe in art, music and culture the right thing to do is take care of the people that make it possible. I’m glad she thought about it and did the right thing. And while I don’t think this applies to her (at all!) or in every case, there are certainly those out there who exploit the “cool” factor to get people to work for nothing when they could and should be throwing some money their way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Kickstarter changes things

” raise 1.2 million to further her music.”

Incorrect. You need to go look at her list to realize how little she actually raised.

Most of the money was spent on fulfillment. I think the custom painted turntables that had to be shipped around 3 or 4 times was classic.

Net, once she counts it down, she took in only a couple of hundred grand to play with, and then spent that quickly on videos and such (odd to do, considering that unless a video is really viral these days it’s almost wasted cash).

Anyway, the point is that she sold for 1.2 million… but didn’t raise that money. Most of that money went back to fulfillment. Further, she appears to have spent more time on this project than on music, which is a sad commentary on how “artists” have to live in the new music world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Kickstarter changes things

Look I understand that she has fixed costs or fulfillment costs and that does matter. But the fact is that she could afford to treat these musicians like pros and she ultimately did. How hard would it be for her to explain to fans that she was going to add a small percent to her revenue vehicles so she could pay local musicians? Thereby promoting them and acknowledging their professional contribution to her music and fan base. I doubt many people would have objected.

Chris Mikaitis (profile) says:

This is upsetting

I didn’t read the entire post, but did read all the comment threads around it (considered submitting it 4 days ago, but… whatever)… None of the people that disagree with her have anything to say to counter her point, which is, essentially, ‘let me practice my artistry as I see fit’.

I can’t find a substantive argument against her.. they all seem to be along the lines of “you’ve made it, you should do better”. ugh… let an artist do her own thing… don’t criticize. Learn, and grow from this experiment.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: This is upsetting

let an artist do her own thing

I’m embracing the discussion as a way to illustrate that the walls between artist and audience/fans are coming down. When the artist has no money, everyone plays for free. As soon as the artist gets more, everyone hopes that the money gets shared more freely among all the contributors.

In Palmer’s mind, beer, hugs, and a good time were enough compensation because it has worked in the past. But now with her success on Kickstarter, there’s more expectation that she can budget enough to give everyone something. Having both paid band members and unpaid band members is a status thing. One group are her band members and the other group are her “fans.” But the community questioned why that should be and Palmer, to her credit, found enough money to pay everyone something.

What has happened with the Palmer/Kickstarter/fan thing is a minor revolution. And perhaps Palmer has been right all along to call her fans her “comrades.”

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is upsetting

so-o-o-o, you are perusing all the budgets the nickelbacks, madonnas, justin beibers, etc of the ‘mainstream’ music world spend on their tours, and whether *they* pay EVERYONE, and pay them sufficiently and fairly ? ? ?

WHEN HAS ANYONE ever done such scrutiny of THEIR payouts ? ? ? are you telling me NO ONE has ever played for ‘free’ (as in beer) with those superstars ? ? ?

where is the (fake) outrage over all those situations which have preceded ms palmer ? ? ?

oh, you mean there isn’t any ? ? ? you mean all these wendy whiners only pick on (relatively) little people who *DARE* to have a fan play with them ? ? ?

yeah, i have a difficult time thinking these are all principled, oh-so-worried-for-the-artistic community types, and not simply jealous shit-stirrers…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is upsetting

WHEN HAS ANYONE ever done such scrutiny of THEIR payouts ? ? ? are you telling me NO ONE has ever played for ‘free’ (as in beer) with those superstars ? ? ?

But that is the point. Palmer is willing to talk about it. That’s why she is the perfect person to be in the middle of all of this. Palmer is very transparent. Sometimes some of her experiments generate controversy (her Evelyn project ticked off members of the disability community), but Palmer reads all the comments and responds and says VERY insightful stuff about being an artist.

Palmer didn’t do anything wrong in inviting people to participate for hugs and beer. But it triggered a discussion that is very relevant. That in itself was useful. And then Palmer agreed to pay everyone. Which wasn’t a concession so much as proof that she’s been listening.

Palmer is a lot farther ahead in her thoughts than many of the people defending her. Let her change the system. Don’t hold her back with justifications that are last year’s news.

DMNTD says:

Re: This is upsetting

Word. What a hair-splitting ridiculous topic! You want to fund me..great. I guess that is the problem with situations like this..these same people bitch so much to other entities that they can’t turn it off.

I don’t know the specifics but if you crowded her the cash..and no agreements were made, then all you got is a bitch fest and people like to bitch. She should have done what felt best to her and for her. Maybe she did, meh.

AJ (profile) says:

Works out for everybody?

Someone must have lost out, although we don’t know who that was. If most of the money to pay the musicians came from the video budget maybe they’re paying for fewer camera operators, or they’ll be do less work in post-production so the result might be less polished. I’m not trying to find out the full details, but to imply that nobody has lost out because of the change is obviously incorrect.

Atkray (profile) says:

First of all, Tim very nice piece.

Secondly, I agree with Alanbleiweiss, sad.

Once again the entitlement mentality rears it’s screaming head and makes demands because someone else was successful.

That Amanda is willing to go onstage with different musicians for every performance should be a clear indicator that this is not about money, the risk of something unexpected happening is too high.

This was clearly about giving fans an opportunity that is incredibly rare, and now those who were volunteering because they wanted to give have had that taken from them. I would think that those who volunteered did it as a labor of love. Now they are going to be paid for their love.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m really not seeing this… Why is Palmer different? For decades, people have had apprenticeships in music. You have plenty of artists that link up for a tour and find new talent and ways to interact with the crowd.

We have stories from centuries past in how bards travel together and spread songs. Yet now, someone has to get paid in order to enjoy the music. What has our culture become when we focus on money over good music?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

She was asking for professional musicians- in other words, people who do it for a profession, who make a living at it. There aren’t pro horn players all over the US looking to do free gigs just for the fun of it. That’s just not how our business works. For people outside the music business (presumably 99% of the people in this thread) you don’t get it- what’s leisure, entertainment, a hobby, and/or fun for you is a JOB for us. How are professional musicians supposed to put food on the table from the good will alone of hacks like Palmer? No, she will pay her musicians, just like any other credible act must.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Professional doesn’t mean living wage. Some professionals are smart enough to realize that exposure is just as useful as a paycheck in many instances. We get that you don’t like her work (why else call her a hack?), but she isn’t the first to do something like this, and she won’t be the last. If you VOLUNTEER, then you have no expectation of pay. Expecting to be paid when you volunteered just makes you the asshole of the day.

Anonymous Coward says:

All this has done is prove that Amanda Palmer is just like everyone else – take in a lot of money, pay out a little. By your guys standards, that makes her a record label.

In raising the Kickstarter money and then appearing to use it in odd ways seems to be way more of a turn off for people than anything. I just don’t think that this is working in her favor.

My suggestion is that she goes back to making music, because while I don’t think she is particularly original about it, she’s better at it than being a money manager.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In raising the Kickstarter money and then appearing to use it in odd ways seems to be way more of a turn off for people than anything.

Yes, that has been an issue. Some people have pointed out that although she raised $1.2 million, she didn’t actually get to pocket all of that. But others counter that had she planned wisely, she would have had the money to pay the extra musicians.

It IS kind of like the movie/music label song-and-dance which has generated skepticism over the years. “Well, sure we took in millions of dollars, but our expenses were so high we actually lost money.”

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think that this, along with the fact that Palmer actually listened to the complaints, separates her from the labels. That fact that she has shifted some of her already planned-out budget to compensate people is a bonus, and representative of her attitude towards others who aren’t having as good a time playing music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I read her list – plenty of stupidity there. Some good stuff, but plenty of stupidity.

I would say the most obvious one is this: She has 100k for videos. Bit the bullet, make one less video, and take 20-25k to pay the musicians. How hard is that?

Her priorities appear to be all about promoting brand Amanda (because that’s all this really is) and nothing about the people helping her get there.

Sad, really.

Her attitude is “anything for the brand”. You seem to be mistaking it as “anything for the music”, which just doesn’t appear to be the case. Custom painted turntables? Are these people nuts?

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, that was what was initially set aside for videos. The fact is that, as some people were unhappy about the situation and gave their feedback, Palmer listened. It took five years for Ubisoft to listen about non-working games.

Moreover, people paid for the custom-painted turntables. Are you saying that that is unethical, too? Add in the fact that she asked and when this blew up, not one musician turned her down after the agreement, and it seems odd that this is the thing that people pick up on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I would say the most obvious one is this: She has 100k for videos. Bit the bullet, make one less video, and take 20-25k to pay the musicians. How hard is that?

Wow. Didn’t I just read an article here about a feature length motion picture being made for $9000?

Seems to me that you should always try to pay people who contribute to a money-making enterprise whenever you can. I trust she’ll feel better about paying musicians than having an extra goodie in her video.

Chancius (user link) says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 21st, 2012 @ 9:57pm

She never asked to have musicians to join in and fully back her up on tour! She had her own band and she was just trying to do something to better relate and mingle with her fans! Telling fans to join her and her band on a couple of songs per gig does not warrant paying them cash, especially when those musicians were given other things and did so knowingly and willingly! Come on!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: From a musician who did volunteer

I look at the setup, I look at the number of people in the room, and I wonder:

Why couldn’t Amanda pay these people at least local musician’s union minimum for the performance? Honestly, it would be about 3 or 4 tickets out the rooms.

Cheap is cheap Mike, no matter how it’s phrased. Paying them at least the local minimum would be respectful.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: From a musician who did volunteer

How horrible that she used a team of commandos to track down these artists, have them tranq darted and transported to the stage and forced them to perform with her…

Oh wait, you mean that the people who joined in did so of their own free will, and that a bunch of people who just want to claim that nothing but the label system will ever work got their panties in a bunch and created a great “moral” outrage?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: From a musician who did volunteer

Yes, and I am sure that every girl working in a strip club is doing it of their own free will as well.

Sometimes, when there are no options… you can perform at a gig that makes the artist an apparent ton of money for free, or you can get ignored.

It’s not like Amanda was doing this for nothing. How much were tickets for her shows?

Zubin (profile) says:

Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

Tim, Mike, I love this blog, but you guys really buried the lede on this one! This topic is right up your alley.

The real story in this is not about asking for volunteers for a for-profit venture. It’s not about greed or generosity. It’s not about morals per se. It’s certainly not about “hitting it big”.

It’s about business. Amanda Palmer made a bad business decision, and had to correct it before it was too late. Making 12x her goal, over $1M, all eyes were on her, and she acted like every professional musician’s nightmare and that generated bad press. Sure, morally or legally she did nothing wrong. Maybe those musicians were overreacting, maybe not. That’s not the point and blaming them isn’t the point either.

The point is that she harmed her personal brand and her musical reputation, at a time when many people were watching. Making good on this is a big step in salvaging that reputation and brand.

This is the same reason even very small software companies donate time and money to open source initiatives. This is why extras get paid for appearing even in most non-union movies. It’s not about morals, or greed, or generosity, or helping others hit it big. It’s just good business.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

After reading your post, I really needed an aspirin for the headache.

“The point is that she harmed her personal brand and her musical reputation, at a time when many people were watching. Making good on this is a big step in salvaging that reputation and brand.”

I personally think that you have no idea what the word “fan” means. In no way did Amanda harm her brand or damage her reputation. The ONLY people who think that are not fans and are not in any way connected to her revenue stream.

Amanda’s mistake was caving in to pressure from idiots and deciding to pay fans who only wanted the chance to play live on stage with their idol and share a beer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

I don’t understand why it is so bad that she paid them. These are people who have a distinct talent who have probably worked very hard to develop it. I certainly understand the need to ask for volunteers sometimes, but if you can afford to pay someone for their contribution to a revenue making venture, shouldn’t you?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

So when GSA sends their minions out to sell cookies they should pay them.
When BSA sends their minions out they should pay them.

Because the publicity of having been on stage performing with someone “famous” has no value what so ever in your world.

Your making this moral appeal based on the idea that the artist who OFFERED TO DO IT FOR FREE, are suddenly sweatshop workers who have been kidnapped off the street for indentured servitude.

It is bad that people outside the situation between her and the musicians who said yes, decided that she HAD to do more because they were offended. Not the artists, but suddenly the artists are low IQ barely functional humans who need all of these defenders screaming how she is taking advantage of them…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

My point was that I believe that if someone contributes to my revenue making venture I should throw some money their way. I’d imagine that a fan would be even be more deliriously happy to have their idol pay them for their contribution. Just because you can get somebody to do something for free doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go. And it appears that after further reflection, Palmer feels that way too. Or do you think she has a gun to her head?

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

The thing is if the musicians wanted to be paid then they wouldn’t have volunteered.

What those who are claiming they should be paid seem to be ignoring is that there is value in volunteering.

It doesn’t matter if it is going down on Thanksgiving to serve the homeless or spending Saturdays coaching kids playing sports or going on stage with someone. When you volunteer you gain something in return something that cannot be purchased and something that is take away when you are compensated for your time.

This is what people are missing. Amanda and the volunteers had a agreement that was acceptable to everyone involved. Some people who weren’t involved, either couldn’t see that or didn’t care or respect it and decided to raise a stink.

Zubin Madon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Missing the point. It was a bad business decision.

The reason it was a bad business decision is not related to the value of anything exchanged materially, or any moral argument.

It was a bad business decision precisely because it harmed her brand and reputation. Whether it “should have” harmed her brand is immaterial. Whether “the complainers” should have thought something different is immaterial. It happened, and she had to make a business decision.

tritter211 says:

To put things in perspective: Take for example, Justin Bieber. Lets say he is asking for one of his “belibers” to perform with him onstage during a concert. (for which he is getting paid).

What do you think is the obvious reaction of the fans who performed with him?

Do you think “I don’t get paid for performing with Justin Bieber?? BOO “

Or hysterical cries of happiness and savoring the experience for the once in a lifetime opportunity?

She explicitly said she wants “volunteers”. If you feel offended that she doesn’t want to pay for the musician, don’t “volunteer”. Strive to be a better artist then. Just don’t whine.

Michael says:

Complete and utter bias towards Amanda simply because she’s not signed to a major label. Though I loathe the labels and RIAA, even I see the inherent problem with a millionaire asking people to offer their services for free. And for all the folks who say things like ‘It’s great exposure!’ or whatever nonsense, if that truly is the case then why shouldn’t EVERY musician go out and volunteer their skill to the major labels, cut an album for free and go on tour without pay? That would give them far more exposure …but 100% of nothing is still nothing.

As someone said, this is all about Amanda putting herself over. She went from being a relatively small artist while signed on a major label to massive indie success. Part of me has to wonder how much funding was due to her ties with Scientology.

Even if Amanda’s whole career fell apart, she still goes home to her multi-millionaire husband, so she wins either way. Can’t say the same thing for all those volunteers. It’s hypocritical to sit there defending her actions while she’s raking in tons of money every night and could EASILY afford to pay everyone. Lest people forget, this is the same woman who made a stink about how unfairly she was treated by her label.

Stephen Pate (user link) says:

Free amanda

I learned one thing – truthful stories are short and long tedious ones are full of convoluted and distorted reasoning. I couldn’t even bother to read past the mid-way point. Amanda loves the crowd – the wisdom of same – she crowd sourced her money, fans and free musicians and the crowd crowd-sourced their response which amounted to a raspberry. That’s my response to your article.

dreddsnik says:

I am a local musician, considered pretty good at a one time. I would have been ecstatic to perform with her for beers, food, high fives and hugs. Every single musician I know in my area ( a whole lot of em ) feel exactly the same way. I just don’t understand what the problem is, and I have been a working musician for 30 years. Can some one explain what the problem is without sounding like a jealous, bitter wannabe ?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is disingenuous at best.
I am sure someone much better at Google-Fu that myself can show how many stories there were about her shows before the moral outrage and how many after.

She was placed into a position of appeasing people completely uninvolved with her tour, simply to drown out the bad publicity about her “stealing” the bread from these starving artist mouths by forcing them to perform for free so she could go back to focusing on her tour instead of trying to debate people claiming the moral high ground and passing judgement about her being rich and a thief.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It’s like you are the role model for Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs”. I didn’t used to tip the bellman at my hotel when he got me a cab and put my suitcase in the trunk. But then I talked to one of these guys and found out how little they make so now I kick him a couple of bucks. Same with the hotel housekeeper, my barber, the postman, garbage men, etc. They’re all providing me service I’d get anyway. But for me I do a little extra because I can afford it and I think it’s the right thing. People have to earn a living so I figure if they provide me a service and they are not well compensated I try to do a little something extra. Not because I have to, not because of peer pressure but simply because it’s the right thing for me.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

These are musicians who wanted to do this, knowing it would be unpaid.
Comparing this situation to other people providing services is apples and oranges.

The people who signed up to do this are not the ones bitching about it, and that is the amazing thing. People are inserting what THEY think should happen, ignoring the decision of the musicians like they are children to stupid to know any better and need a grownup to fix it for them.

How insulting it must be to be a “valuable” artist who people think are to stupid to be allowed to make decisions for themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

She was placed into a position of appeasing people completely uninvolved with her tour, simply to drown out the bad publicity about her “stealing” the bread from these starving artist mouths by forcing them to perform for free so she could go back to focusing on her tour instead of trying to debate people claiming the moral high ground and passing judgement about her being rich and a thief.

I hope that’s not true. I’d like to think that she decided that it was the right thing to do. But if it is true, I guess that it’s one of the hazards when you choose to make your living in the public space. The public tells you what they think.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Boiled down I believe it would be ‘greed’ and ‘projecting’, with perhaps a little bit of jealousy thrown into the mix as an further incentive.

The people complaining mostly seem to have the mindset of ‘I would never do any work for free, so anyone who would is obviously deranged or being conned’, and so they’re out trying to ‘protect’ the victims of the horrible crime of being asked to play in front of a large audience for free(ish).

Now, had she somehow tricked the people she asked to play, perhaps by promising pay and then later ‘finding out’ that she didn’t have the money, then yeah, I could understand people being upset, but given the offer and the ‘pay’ was listed up front, and she still had people willing to volunteer, I find it rather hard to think of a justification for such a fit of anger that doesn’t fall into at least one of the categories listed in the first sentence.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

The walll is disappearing

I won’t keep making my point because it’s getting lost on a lot of people.

But the relationship between art creator and art consumer is disappearing. Palmer has always sensed that because she does include people in her efforts. In the past there hasn’t been enough to pay everyone. But now that she has the money, the crowd says, “Share it.”

There’s a revolution in process, but those who have a vested interest in maintaining what we have don’t yet see it. Power to the people who are no longer “fans” but full-fledged creators themselves. The difference between paid artists and unpaid artists will disappear except for those few who are still being marketed under the old system.

Here are a couple of thoughts I’ve written lately:


Here are some other ways to look at this.

Let’s say I am a musician and I am having a party at my house. I invite other musicians over and tell them to bring instruments if they want. It’s a jam session. Lots of fun; no one gets paid.

Let’s say I have a performance and invite some musicians to come play. The band and I will get paid; you volunteers will not. You are, in other words, fans, not professionals like us.

Let’s say I am organizing a performance for charity. Lots of professional musicians will be playing for free. No one gets paid.

So you can see a lot depends on who is getting paid and who isn’t. If no one is getting paid, then it is cool. If some are getting paid and some aren’t, then presumably the ones who aren’t getting paid fall into the “fan” category or in the “do it for exposure because it’s good for your career” category. In other words, the volunteers are a step below the stars, even if that wasn’t the intended message. It’s a status thing.

I’m a bit frustrated with the Palmer discussions. I don’t think she did anything wrong for inviting people to play in exchange for some beer and hugs, but on the other hand, I don’t feel the musicians who are asking why they should play for free should be written off as bitter or unrealistic.

How we compensate people and what counts as work is one of the core questions facing the global economy. If we have more people than we have jobs for them to do and yet if we expect people to work for a living, then we have a mismatch between reality and expectations.

I also think Kickstarter should bring to the forefront an examination of artistic collaborations and who gets paid for what. In the past, a lot of the industry was done as a work-for-hire arrangement, but I think Kickstarter now might push more people to think of projects as collaborations where all contributors get a share of the proceeds.

Palmer’s approach of having fans play for free reinforces the old concept of a star and her fans. I think that concept is changing and that wall between star and fans will disappear. Everyone will be a participant at an event. Much less, if any, hierarchy.


Burning Man is a good illustration of the future of arts events. The participants themselves are the event. There is lots of art, but no one gets paid for it. Everything is done for free.

Palmer is part of that movement, even if she didn’t initially set out to be. She has a community. They have supported her financially. Now that she has money, it’s her turn to give back. She can be part of the process that dismantles the star/fan system. Get rid of the hierarchy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The walll is disappearing

…I don’t feel the musicians who are asking why they should play for free should be written off as bitter or unrealistic.

Because those asking aren’t expected to play for free. The ones that accepted her original offer *did* expect to play for free. Because that’s what they agreed to do and happily, by all reports.

I’m frustrated with the whole thing as well. No one was forced to do anything. Even Palmer was not forced to pay volunteers after being painted as a selfish hoarder and/or spendthrift by those who have nothing to do with her.

The outrage smacks of smear, so yes, those “asking” (a polite term considering the vitriol in much of the criticism) will come off as bitter and unrealistic. What’s it to them? All they have to do is chose not to participate.

Anonymous Coward says:

The chance of having any good pop music has collapsed. I grew up in the ’80s and there were so many iconic pop songs. I’m open to new music but there is so much garbage out there, quality has really suffered with the downfall of labels despite dramatic technical advances. Some people like this site, think all musicians should play for scraps, or for the privilege of entertaining people. Personally I want professional music, performed by professionals, and I’m happy to pay for it.

Beech says:

OK, what if KISS had a contest where the prize was the opportunity to play on stage with KISS? Should the contest winner be paid? Isn’t the opportunity to play with a massively popular band a prize?

economically speaking, “the price will be what the market will bear.” if there are people willing to play for free, why not let them? If I had a friend willing to help me move for $50, and a friend willing to do it for free, I’d take the free friend every damn time. If I was i millionaire, nothing would change.

Kaden (profile) says:

I’m a lifer local musician. Last night was one of those nights where, lacking a gig of my own, I was out in the clubs flying the fan flag for buddies who *were* playing. The ‘Amanda Fucking Palmer’ issue came up last night between sets, and the consensus amongst a bunch of skilled, well trained and over-all ‘professionalish’ players was an overwhelming ‘meh, whatever’, with a few interesting provisos.

The first point of dissent raised concerned AFP’s decision to go with paid pros at the larger market venues. With ticket prices being the same from venue to venue, AFP being willing to subject, say, Minneapolis to a pick-up band while ensuring NYC heard a full professional ensemble created a two tiered audience experience.

Given the rough-edged nature of an AFP performance in general, it was agreed than this was likely not a real big deal, until the ‘you’re playing for exposure’ part factored in. On-stage exposure with a Big Name In Music has a lot more meaning, and potentially a lot more career impact in NYC than it does in Minneapolis, and we kinda concluded that she would have appeared w-a-a-ay cooler had she provided the same amount of exposure to her ‘professionalish’ fans in the big markets too.

The only other point of contention that came up was her decision to pull a quarter of a million off the top to cover her debts from the previous 4 or 5 months when she wasn’t out touring. It woulda looked better had she budgeted out the entirety of the KickStarter funded project before dipping into the cookie jar to cover what was perceived of as ludicrously high past expenses.

In the end, we concluded that AFP suffers a bit of cognitive dissonance between how she perceives herself (a creative but impoverished artiste bringing her rag-tag band of merry minsterels to the adoring masses any way she can) and what she actually is (the highly successful standard bearer of a new funding paradigm for professional musicians).

There are always a few bumps on a new road; she learned. Everybody else learned too.

It’s all good.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with this article. It is a free choice, nothing insulting. But I am still puzzled by exactly *what* the difference is with the Lady Gaga example. The best I can think of is this:

Lady Gaga is so famous and inaccessible that the carpers just *know* they’ll be blown out of the water: for every complainer there’ll be literally 100 rabid fans rushing toward the stage, for whom payment is simply irrelevant. To sit and complain about payment would just get you laughed at. Lady Gaga has the upper hand and people know it.

Whereas Amanda Palmer is still one of us, and by her transparency she demystifies the process. Anybody can do what she did. So she’s vulnerable. That makes people attack, knowing instinctively that many others will too. It’s kind of sadistic.

Plus, many of the people following the story are not actually fans but were drawn in by fascination with the crowdfunding aspect. And they have strong ideas about fairness, but these ideas would destroy any entrepreneur because they typically undervalue the risk and grit it takes to put yourself on the line. They see only the success stories, which make it look easy in retrospect, not the “shadow stories” where you get knocked down. Like a guy that only wants to pay for insurance if he actually experiences a loss.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Lady Gaga is so famous and inaccessible that the carpers just *know* they’ll be blown out of the water: for every complainer there’ll be literally 100 rabid fans rushing toward the stage, for whom payment is simply irrelevant. To sit and complain about payment would just get you laughed at. Lady Gaga has the upper hand and people know it.

That’s the point, I’m making, though. When you have a star and her ever-eager fans willing to do anything for her, it’s an unequal, icon-worshipping system. Yes, it exists, but as we give everyone the tools for self-actualization, hopefully there will be less of this and more of everyone finding their own creative abilities.

Palmer is mostly there by creating events where everyone participates. The trip-up here was the perception that she’s done something great by raising so much money and that fans should volunteer their services because she’s done something great. Palmer is noteworthy by breaking down walls, not by reinforcing them. So for people to complain that it is an unequal system is understandable. In other words, her followers are keeping her “pure.”

I welcome the discussion as a step in the direction of more community-run events. Hooray for the shareable movement.

Anonymous Coward says:

What if the internet so empowers people to distribute their art, that virtually everyone starts producing it, and the market clearing price of art mostly goes to zero — because it is no longer scarce.

Then no one will get any money, but we’ll all be the richer, because we will make and have more art. Especially make. The (external) reward will be attention, not income.

In fact, this is already happening.

Much of the sharing done on the internet — whether websites funded on spec and eyeball payments, blogging and commenting, file sharing, file stealing, whatever — rests on a novel economics of NON-scarcity, just as writers on Techdirt often assert. Everything is catalyst, side-effect. One product funds another that itself is unpriced. One person works, and gets a good deal. Someone else figures out how to get money of things. Or not.

Where it will shake out, none can say. But why carp?

Kylie says:

The whole of the art and music world runs on volunteers, galleries and festivals wouldn’t survive without them.
She asked for volunteers for a single show to add to the atmosphere and fun.
If you don’t agree, don’t volunteer.
The world does not owe you a living…

I volunteer at an art gallery, I volunteer my skills in photography and social media in exchange for the opportunity to keep the art scene alive in my town, and the chance to work with and meet an amazing array of people and my life is richer for it.

dionne simone says:

kickstarter $

I have not had time to read every post out there about the kickstarter monies but there seems to br a recurrent theme…

Somehow the idea that persons contributing to her kickstarter have some say in how she allocates the funds in her creative touring efforts. We don’t. We paid for a product. I picked the cd. She could have sent me a home recording of her yodeling, wrapped in a paper lunch bag and fulfilled her agreement. Of course she didn’t because she
has ethics and would like us to support her in the future.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: kickstarter $

We paid for a product.

I don’t know if you have seen this yet. Straight from Kickstarter itself.

“Kickstarter Is Not a Store” – The Kickstarter Blog: “It’s hard to know how many people feel like they’re shopping at a store when they’re backing projects on Kickstarter, but we want to make sure that it’s no one.”

Webcomic artist says:

I would like to tell complainers something that is a working analogy.
There are many webcomics on the web. A couple of them are the main source of income for their creators.
When there is a situation when the creator knows they can’t update regularly they give a shout-out to the fans for guest comics.
People draw a page or a picture. For free. Some of them have their own webcomics. What they get in return is likback to the webcomic and the attention of all the readers of this webcomic.

This is a similar situation. Amanda didn’t go around and ask people. She gave a shout-out for volunteers. And people answered. And in return they get a signal boos – because Amanda DOES pimp everybody she works with.
Some of you say it’s useless. But she was clear about the terms and everybody who volunteered was, well, a volunteer.
I am against spec work. I am against working for free with a promise of exposure. But what Amanda does is promise beer and gratitude; and she gives the exposure anyway. It does not take a lot of investigating to see how true it is.
And that for many of us is something priceless. A boost for working with a celebrity might give us ability to reach audience it would take 2 years to bring by any other means. And that by rocking out with someone you admire?

I am not a professional musician but I did 8 years of music school and sang in choirs later. If musician I admire asked the fans to sing with him at one concert, people who can read score and sing in polyphony, I would apply instantly. Would it mean I am evil and taking jobs from professional singers?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


I’m all for volunteerism. I think that’s where all the creative fields are headed anyway. Everyone will be working for free. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It will be Burning Man for everyone. No money transactions. You give. I give. You create. I create.

Fans will likely to be too broke to buy anything anyway, so we might as well plan for it accordingly. Like I said, hooray for the shareable movement.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Volunteerism

Here’s a very long series of articles I did on the concept of gift economies. Some people have suggested that art should only be given away, never charged for. I looked into the concept to see how workable it might be. A gift economy for the arts can work if there are also changes in other aspects of the economy. And I think that is happening for a variety of reasons. The P2P Foundation is the best place I have found for discussions of all the possible options and ramifications.

The first article in my series.
Music and the “Gift Economy” 1: An Introduction

Here’s the last in the series with links to the other parts.
Music and the “Gift Economy” 7: Alternative Economies

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Volunteerism

If you’re not sure the degree to which the global economy is changing, let me point you to these two very recent articles.

This one is about $45 tablets available in China.
Hardware is dead | VentureBeat

This one is about Apple filing even more legal blocks to avoid smart phone competition.
Apple?s $707M, U.S. Sales Ban Filings Against Samsung Underscore One Of Apple?s Biggest Concerns | TechCrunch

Price competition is coming everywhere. Everyone is right to say that there are lots of people who are happy to play music for free. There are lots of people willing to work on lots of stuff for little or no money. And music events will likely be free at some point, too. Communities can organize their own, put them on with volunteers, and invite the community to contribute their skills.

Ophelia Millais says:

Things I noticed or inferred about the attackers:

? “Love” to perform, but never enough to do it for free when asked by someone who might be able to afford to pay.
? Emphasize the title artist, as they feel they’re not just a mere musician or performer, no matter how limited their role in a particular session.
? Avoid the word volunteer; prefer to say work for free or not get paid for work.
? Consider volunteerism (and other forms of generosity and charity) to be moral only to the extent they feel the recipient is deserving.
? Consider asking for volunteers to be moral only to the extent the recipient is unable to afford professionals.

These people must be great at dinner parties.

reboog711 (profile) says:

Weezer has done it

Weezer has done that before; from their wikipedia page I(n the Red Album section):

Shortly before the encore at each show, the band would bring on fans with various instruments and perform Island in the Sun and Beverly Hills with them.

They’ve done full concerts where fans are invited to bring instruments. They call them HootNanny shows; and there are a bunch of videos on YouTube from these concerts.

abby says:

oh cmon.

I don’t think it’s unfair for the musicians to ask for payment – she’s not a starving artist. She’s a brand now, all about her own publicity.

It amuses me that there’s so many pro Amanda comments on here compared to other articles about it, I’m guessing that’s because she posted this on her twitter page to all her fans.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: oh cmon.

I think its unfair that you managed to read this and miss the fact that the musicians who agreed to volunteer their time AREN’T THE ONES CRYING ABOUT IT, but people who have no stake in that exchange other than to create a moral panic that Amanda is ripping these poor morons off.

She continued a pattern she has used in the past, asking for people to volunteer to play on a couple songs.
Because she had a successful Kickstarter, she is now seen as “rich” even if that isn’t factual.
By creating “moral” outrage over these poor “artists” being “forced” to work for free, when she has more money than she could possibly need, the attack accomplishes several things.

– It allows people to point out that if she had a label, this wouldn’t have happened.
– It allows people to point out that Kickstarter is “bad” for artists, they need a label to take care of all of this for them.
– It allows people to run around claiming because someone is an “artist” they are owed a living for everything they do… even when they agree to do it without monetary compensation.
– It allows the labels to scare up and coming people into being afraid of being “owned” by the crowd having unreasonable demands on them.

Please find 1 post anywhere from someone who agreed to volunteer who then decided they should get paid, you will be hard pressed to find it. The musicians agreed to volunteer, they did not sign a contract selling their soul to Amanda and having to work for her for free for life.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: oh cmon.

I don’t think it’s unfair for the musicians to ask for payment – she’s not a starving artist.

Bingo. Palmer is no longer a starving artist, plus she’s asked for money from her fans many times herself.

It’s her community. Yes, she can ask them to play for free. And by the same token, now that she has some money, they can ask her for money in return. Just as she struggled and needed their money, now some of them are struggling and need her money.

Here’s something from her blog from 10/13/09.

Virtual Crowdsurfing – Amanda Palmer: “please understand: i don?t preach this from a high horse, i say this so you (especially who don?t KNOW me) understand that the people i am reaching out to?these people KNOW ME.
a lot of them have MET me. a lot of them have FED me, HOUSED me, helped me carry heavy amps and gear up stairs, promoted my shows in their towns.
to this day, i rely on them for TONS of help. and this is a huge part of why i feel confident that i won?t look like too much of an asshole when i reach out to my fanbase for money.
even those who haven?t helped me directly follow the story, they see how my life functions and they offer what they can.
they?re part of this ride, part of my struggle to live this weird life with it?s many travels and ups and downs.
for the most part, they trust me. and i trust them. time and attention has made that possible.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: oh cmon.

“I don’t think it’s unfair for the musicians to ask for payment – she’s not a starving artist.”

See, here again is where you, much like the detractors and whiners, are making a huge mistake.

She, Amanda Palmer, clearly asked for volunteers to perform for free, in exchange for hugs, beers and a general awesome good time.

People volunteered knowing they would not be paid. Then people like yourself started pissing and moaning and saying things like you just said. “She’s not a starving artists. Where’s our cut?!” And despite this, knowing they would not be paid, they kept their voluntary involvement.

Now here we are, where people like you and a few ACs above are saying this was unfair and how dare she deny them payment and what about all the poor starving artists.


Things literally, cannot be put any simpler or made any clearer. It seems like the only people bitching are people with nothing at stake and people who didn’t volunteer in the first place. Basically, arm chair quarterbacks now attempting to sling mud at Amanda for doing something amazing (raising over $1 million on Kickstarter) and for being awesome with her fans and fellow artists (giving them a chance to participate on stage with her, just for the heck of it, and in quite a few cases give them time to promote themselves as well).

What amuses me, is that despite commentary such as yours and a few others on here, I’ve yet to see one of the artists who participated/volunteered say anything negative or even say, “Hey, we should’ve gotten paid from the get go.” Not a one has done so. Which says a lot more than anything certain arm chair quarterbacks has to say. And which I think should end all debate.

twilightfog says:

The money raised from Kickstarter is not her own money. Until she delivers the merchandise or CDs or other promised stuff to her Kickstarter sponsors, even though she raised it herself, the money is not hers.

The situation is similar to any kind of public funds, governments expenditure comes under scrutiny for the same reason. The reason not many will complain if big label shows invite local artists to play for free, as they will foot the show from their own pocket.

I’m not against Amanda Palmer asking musicians to play for free, but using public funds brings in expectations and she has realized this much.

Matt Henley (profile) says:

Amanda Palmer in Houston

I went and saw Amanda Palmer and her band at a local club this week. It was one of the most fun shows I have seen in years. They had the guest musicians play along with 2 or 3 songs, then she thanked them for their help and allowed the leader of the group take the microphone and tell the audience about the quartet’s current project and where they would be performing. Then Amanda related what they were doing to a performance of Baryshnikov she saw as a child in NYC. The musicians obviously excited to be there and probably doubled the attendance to their experimental show.. what’s the problem again?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

More on collaborations

My primary interest in Palmer, and in Kickstarter in general, is how collaborations are/will be handled. I don’t think most of you care, but for those who do, I will point you to this book.

Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy – P2P Foundation

This quote comes from page 35.

“To understand the ‘price of community’ involvement we could ask a few simple questions. Would you collaborate for a for-profit company or any entity that would privatize your contributions without any reciprocity or reward? Would you contribute if in addition to receive no payment you would not be allowed any participation in the governance of the project you are volunteering for? If one participant is paid but not another, is this done using fair criteria, if at all acceptable? Answers to such question can inhibit or promote collaboration.”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: More on collaborations

I’ll add that I think the trend will be this for creative projects: Rather than everyone getting paid for them, no one will. I think between everyone wanting to be a creator and no one having any money, we’ll make art ourselves and then just give it away. I think the “artist with fans who give money” model will disappear in time. As I mentioned before, it will be the Burning Man model of creation. You create. I create. You give it away for free. I give it away for free.

Sure, there will be differences in quality, but I don’t think those differences will be enough to compel people to pay more for one thing than another as overall consumption goes down and people learn to get by for less.

herodotus (profile) says:

I have been following Amanda Palmer stories on Techdirt for years, and have always read them with amusement, without really knowing who she was or what she sounded like.

But I just figured out that she is responsible, at least in part, for that ‘Coin-operated boy’ song that college radio couldn’t get enough of when it was released.

I like Techdirt, I really do. I’m on your side when it comes to IP law and the internet and the other big issues. I just really wish you guys could find a musician to champion that didn’t make me want to stick ice picks in my ears.

Tim K (profile) says:

If any label musician did a drawing where the winner (out of millions), was able to play on stage with them, and hang out backstage with them, then everyone would think it was great. The person who won would think it was great, and the artist certainly wouldn’t be paying this person (despite having lots of money) who already won this which was considered a prize. But since Amanda is offering it directly to lots of people, and not doing some drawing or contest she’s now an immoral terrible person?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The whole thing would have been avoided if she had offered the chance to play on stage with her as one of the reward levels on her kickstarter.

Yes, it is quite common for crowdfunding rewards to include being in a band’s video, playing on a song on an album, etc.

Now, I suppose having people pay to get on stage might not have produced talented musicians, but here’s what she could have done. People pay for the privilege to play at each tour top. If it turns out that those who are paying have no talent, give them something they can do on stage and then use the money they have paid to hire professionals at each stop who can play. So the fan kicks in enough money for the privilege of getting on stage and that money goes to pay the musicians who can play.

areyounegativenancysfromcraigslist says:

the negative rhetoric

… seems to be only coming from those somehow feeling ‘underserved’ by the professional community because they believe their entire exisitence is measured in dollars per minute. It’s pathetic really.. the voice of those who are basically ‘armchair’ performers, bedroom rockstars, and/or has-been dredging through cover band set lists that complain the most.

They might even tell you that they ‘never’ played for free. And to any musician, we know they are full of shit.

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