Dan Bull, Amanda Palmer & El-P: A Big Week For Artists' Voices On Techdirt

from the change-of-pace dept

Today, instead of the usual community favorites post, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight our own top picks for the week. It was an easy choice, because we love it when artists and creators visit the site to speak about their experiences, and this week we were lucky enough to have guest posts from three different musicians. They all had a lot of great stuff to say, and here are a few highlights.

The first came about as a result of my post on rapper/producer El-P's friendly message to fans who downloaded the early leak of his album. El-P joined the comments, then followed up with a guest post discussing his approach to the music industry, and his thoughts on the popular debates about it:

So how do I feel? What's the right way? Fuck if I know. But I'll adapt and I'll do it with respect and class and not kicking and screaming. There's a hell of a lot I could say about both sides of this particular subject, but honestly does it matter? You all have formed your opinions on it already and in the end people like me are still out here trying to make a living no matter what those opinions are... right, wrong or in-between.

Unfortunately the comment thread on that post was hijacked by one particularly obnoxious AC, but amidst the noise there was also a strong response from some community members who were grateful to El-P for sharing his frank and thoughtful opinion, just as we were.

Next, we got a visit from the one and only Amanda Fucking Palmer! Amidst all the excitement surrounding her Kickstarter project, Amanda deftly employed an allegory about bamboo to describe the campaign's massive success, and the many years of work that made it possible:

There's a great story about how bamboo grows. A farmer plants a bamboo shoot underground, and waters and tends it for about three years. Nothing grows that's visible, but the farmer trots out there, tending to this invisible thing with a certain amount of faith that things are going to work out. When the bamboo finally appears above ground, it can shoot up to thirty feet in a month. This is like my kickstarter campaign. The numbers aren't shocking to me, not at all. I set the goal for the kickstarter at $100,000 hoping we'd make it quickly, and hoping we'd surpass it by a long-shot.

Incidentally, as I pointed out on Twitter, Amanda Palmer is an anagram for A Mr. Panda Meal. Coincidence?

Last but not least, Dan Bull took a break from writing epic raps to write an epic post. After Dan successfully used the Pirate Bay and its Promo Bay program to get his new single on the charts, we wondered what he must think about his country's decision to censor the site. Now we have our answer: he thinks it was pretty damn ridiculous.

Now, thanks to the High Court ruling, no aspiring musician will be able to use The Promo Bay to gain exposure in the UK. Once again, the British Phonographic Industry is throttling any channel of distribution which doesn't allow them the cut to which they believe they are entitled. I'd like to see what the BPI's head, Geoff Taylor, has to say to George Barnett, the unsigned British songwriter whose fanbase skyrocketed after being featured on The Promo Bay. The only thing that the BPI has done for George is to entirely prohibit his primary means of exposure.

Of course, those aren't the only choice words Dan has for the BPI.

Big thanks to El-P, Amanda Palmer and Dan Bull for stopping by and sharing their thoughts! For some other creators featured on Techdirt this week (just not in person), check out game developer Stardock's Jon Shafer on building a loyal fan base, producer Swizz Beatz on embracing technology, My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields on a dispute with Sony, and author Paulo Coelho's stats on his $0.99 ebook sale.


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  1. identicon
    Michael, 6 May 2012 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not sure how I feel

    Let's take this step by step.

    "How do you differentiate between a 'vanity project' and every other artist making an album? I'm really curious. How is this a 'vanity project' and, say, a Miles Davis album not? Or are all record albums 'vanity projects?'"

    Label artists are fronted money by the labels and then owe the money back, albeit through a completely one-sided contract which favors the labels. Independent artists tend to either fund their own projects or get a small loan from a financial backer who typically wants it back + interest.

    Amanda Palmer already has the means to both create her album and promote it. Therefore, asking her fans to essentially front her almost a quarter of a million is vanity and nothing but. I've never seen an artist ask his/her fanbase for so much money.

    "Whatever the case, many people want it, enough to voluntarily support her making the album. That suggests that it's not just a 'vanity project' to me."

    It can only be one of two things: a necessity or a vanity. You need food to eat; nobody needs $200,000 to promote an album. Indeed, one of the oft-covered topics here on Techdirt is how the internet has changed the face of the free market. Promotion is cheaper and easier than it's ever been -- the corporate middle-man is becoming a thing of the past. Besides, she's already established, so just how much more 'promotion' does she require? $200,000 worth? Moreover, she's not earning it via work -- she's asking for a handout. That's vanity, plain and simple.

    "If you're working with some fairly big names, and hiring a lot of studio musicians, then $200K is actually not a lot of money. It's roughly what she spent on her last album (which she paid for herself, incidentally - she never got reimbursed by Roadrunner)."

    Sure, if you're working on a big project which necessitates top-tier session musicians, that can cost some serious bread. But from what I understand, her new album is already finished, so your argument doesn't wash.

    "...But even if she did get more than she needs, so what? Once she reached her goal, people could have stopped paying on Kickstarter. They didn't. Whatever you may think, nobody who supports her cares that she makes a lot of money. Good for her. She deserves it."

    She's not earning any of that money through hard work; she's having it handed to her. Granted, if people want to throw money her way, that's their choice. She could've stopped the Kickstarter funding after she hit her (ridiculous) goal, but she didn't. She's not running a charity, she's just collecting free money at this point.

    "If 'other smaller acts are getting maybe a couple thousand for funding their albums and promotion,' then that's their problem, not hers. Besides, it's not like Amanda is taking money away from these smaller acts. It is not a zero-sum game."

    That's not "their problem" so much as it is that they're not looking to spoil themselves, hence why I brought them up. Seriously, what independent artist goes around asking their fanbase for about a quarter-million just to put themselves over?

    "And I have absolutely no idea why you keep harping on her marriage with Gaiman. Artists have married other artists for as long as art has been around. That doesn't mean they don't keep working independently, and it doesn't mean they stop earning money independently. I mean, it's an absurd notion."

    You cannot ignore the fact that she's fully capable of supporting herself. Having a millionaire for a husband only reinforces that fact.

    "What is with you, anyway? Why are you even upset about any of this? The only thing she's guilty of is being a successful artist. Do you have a problem with successful artists?"

    You're twisting the argument around. Not once did I level a complaint against her for being successful. I've already explained why I have an issue with this.

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