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Mar 05 2013

A charitable ethos

I very much enjoyed this TED talk by Amanda Palmer — she puts into practice a spirit of community that we would do well to foster, and which is actually at odds with many people’s attitudes. She’s talking about the music industry specifically but a way of life in general. Rather than trying to think of ways to make people pay for music, putting them in the cattle chute and compelling them to cough up the cash for the industry, she recommends asking and letting them pay, if they can and if they want.

I thought of Greta Christina when I saw that. Recall that when she went in for surgery, she asked for donations to help out…and people who valued her work and appreciated what she brought to the atheist community chipped in and freely gave. That was the work of community. That’s how it ought to work.

Palmer talks about the resentful people who would shout at her “get a job”…and they’re out there. Those are the people who didn’t give, who would bitterly denounce Greta for using money freely given as she saw fit. It’s a peculiar situation where true community is always going to be prone to parasites, but some people get so wrapped up in policing freeloaders that they end up destroying the community they intend to protect.

I think one of the hardest habits for people brought up in a society that dogmatically worships capitalism is to surrender a little bit and just give without expectation of compensation, and without demanding the right to retain control. They’ve rather lost sight of the meaning of the word “give”.


Quick! Let me correct one potential misapprehension in advance! I am not asking you to give to me, I’m not doing an Amanda Palmer move and offering you a flower and a moment of connection for a gift of compensation. I’m one of the lucky ones: I’ve got a secure job, live in an area with a low cost of living, have very good health insurance. I can do this blogging stuff, my own form of giving, without asking you to contribute directly to me. Some of you occasionally give me a small gift when we meet — a bit of squid art, a cupcake, a glass of beer — and that token is more than enough.

If you do feel a compulsion to give, I recommend you pass it on to one of the other bloggers here on FtB who do not have my good fortune of financial security, or alternatively, visit the Foundation Beyond Belief, where you can find plenty of outlets for your compassion.

42 comments

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  1. 1
    la tricoteuse

    I would probably take this more seriously coming from Amanda Palmer if she hadn’t asked musicians to give their time so she could make more money on tour without having to pay her musicians. And then when met with criticism, didn’t argue that it was a privilege for the musicians to play for free with her. And therefore it was ok to keep all the money that she made with their help (and the 1.2 million she got from kickstarter). Oh, but she paid them in hugs and high fives. So that’s ok.

    /mini-rant

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    la tricoteuse: That was a plan which Palmer walked back under criticism, and may have addressed in the TED talk (haven’t watched it myself yet).

    But the former street performer, then Dresden Dolls frontwoman, now solo artist hit a bump the week her world tour kicked off. She revealed plans to crowdsource additional local backup musicians in each tour stop, offering to pay them in hugs, merchandise and beer per her custom. Bitter and angry criticism ensued (she eventually promised to pay her local collaborators in cash).

    http://boingboing.net/2013/03/04/ted2013-amanda-palmer-on-th.html

  3. 3
    moarscienceplz

    some people get so wrapped up in policing freeloaders that they end up destroying the community they intend to protect.

    But, but, if poor people aren’t made to suffer every single day, they won’t be motivated to do the hard stuff to find a job, or to stop settling for low-paying jobs of little value, like teaching or nursing (they must be of low value, ‘cuz they pay so little)!
    /sarcasm

  4. 4
    composer99

    la tricoteuse:

    The comments over at Jason’s blog on the subject suggest Amanda has since modified her budgeting to include paying the musicians after objections such as yours were raised.

    (To be fair, since it’s a comment without a link to support, it could well just be hearsay and Amanda is still stiffing the musicians, which I also oppose.)

  5. 5
    Pteryxx

    http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/in-switch-kickstarter-darling-amanda-palmer-will-now-pay-volunteer-musicians/

    Amanda Palmer, the rock musician known for using social media to build financial and fan support, has reversed course in the face of fierce criticism and decided to pay volunteer musicians who were invited to join her band city by city on a tour.

    “Even though they volunteered their time for beer, hugs, merch, free tickets, and love,” she wrote in a blog posting on Wednesday, “We’ll now also hand them cash.”

    Source:

    http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20120919/

  6. 6
    la tricoteuse

    I’m certainly pleased to hear that she gave in and decided to pay them, but I can’t say that it makes me completely reverse my judgement of her that she back-pedalled to quell the outcry. I may be being a bit uncharitable in this, I fully admit. I am not always good at judging the appropriateness of my reactions to things, I think.
    But it will be what she does from here on out that convinces me that she “saw the light” so to speak and wasn’t just grudgingly bowing to the pressure. It was a really scummy thing to do, and defending it with “they’re happy to give their time” smacked of taking massive advantage of her fan base (one of which I used to be, but she kind of lost me post-Dolls, not that that’s really relevant). She could easily have included “paying any contributing musicians” in her kickstarter budget request thingie. (And since what she received went well above what she named as a target, I do wonder where the rest of the money was going to go before she decided to pay the musicians after all. Did she massively misjudge what she was going to need for her tour (not including paying her musicians, I mean), or did she intend to keep any surplus as profit? Or something else? Who knows?)

    I think it’s a completely different thing to donating money to bloggers you read (or musicians you like) who aren’t really making a living off of the work they’re doing because in such a scenario you are choosing to pay them for your enjoyment of their work, which you are otherwise able to enjoy for free.

    If it had been a free concert or for charity, that would have been another story and I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it.

    Aaaand…I just realized I’m still grumbling even after finding out she paid them in the end anyway. Stopping now! :D

  7. 7
    consciousness razor

    Her conclusion:

    I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is ‘how do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking ‘how do we let people pay for music’?

    In case you haven’t heard yet, I’ll happily “let” all of you pay me as much as you want, every week. (I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier.)

    I’m pretty sure you’d generally need a sizable fan base before you could scrape by from “letting” people pay for your work. And that means a lot of time, not even scraping by, hoping that it might get better if you just keep doing it. And not everyone is able or willing to go couch-surfing across the world for however many years to do it, not to mention that doing so isn’t conducive to the kind of work different musicians or artists do anyway.

    But I really want to know who “we” is supposed to be in that quote. The TED crowd? Is it something like record labels, who will “let” their musicians get paid for their work the way Palmer did it? Is it that audiences should be more responsive to that sort of thing?

    I mean, we can ask whether culturally we don’t do enough to encourage charity; but at the same time, we can ask whether culturally artists aren’t treated as if they have real jobs (in the society we have, not a non-capitalist one which we don’t have) so that they should expect to be paid for the work they do, from everyone. If some people want to be “charitable” and donate on top of that, I think that would be great too, but it wouldn’t be needed if artists were all paid fairly for their work in the first place. Maybe it’s all just fun and entertainment to you, as a consumer, and you’re not interested in serious “art” anyway. Fine, that’s wonderful. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s real work for the people who have to make living doing it.

    About 10 minutes in, she did mention the controversy about paying her bands with beer and hugs, etc.; but basically the only thing she said about it was that the people objecting to it (at least those who made an enigmatic picture she showed and didn’t explain) reminded her of those telling her to “get a job.” Which doesn’t suggest she’s really changed her view about that, even if she did end up paying them.

  8. 8
    la tricoteuse

    consciousness razor:

    but basically the only thing she said about it was that the people objecting to it (at least those who made an enigmatic picture she showed and didn’t explain) reminded her of those telling her to “get a job.”

    Mmhmm…people wanting her to pay the musicians helping her make money so they can earn money by performing is exactly like people telling her to get a job instead of earning money by performing. If anyone’s turned into the people who used to tell her to get a job, it’s her. It sounds to me not unlike the classic “I got mine, so fuck you” of the lucky upwardly mobile.

  9. 9
    Kagehi

    While interesting, it has problems. First – not everyone can “get” such a large fan base, so they are supposed to do what, flip burgers? Second – It might work for music, which is kind of an immediate art form, but there are a lot of people I know with web comics, for example, who I would consider contributing to, if not for the fact that I don’t trust my own finances, and most other people can’t either. The real problem with music is two fold – 1) Trading/copying, etc. is not considered in the “margin” of the cost of the business. If grocery stores, for example, treated their business like this we would have armed guards standing around making sure no one make “unauthorized” taste tests, and everything we had, no matter how crappy, or out of date, would stay on the shelf until some poor fool bought it, because, “Its all valuable and we can’t accept shrink, even if it results from half the apples rotting on the shelf.”, which is the logic of the music “industry”. Free samples don’t happen, and everyone that so much as smells a song has to pay for it. And 2) the people getting payed are the music industry people, not the artists. The equivalent of, if, again, my job paid me $20/hour, but the “farmer” only got 1 cent in profit, per pound of produce. After all, without the store, using music industry logic, the farmer wouldn’t make any money at all. i.e., “What are they going to do, sell it themselves? Ha, ha, ha!”

    Yeah, at one time this was way more common, but.. if you didn’t want to work in the tavern, or on a street corner, and maybe, in a bad season, barely survive, you still had to catch the attention of people with real money, who you can be damn sure didn’t give a crap about the “community” hearing the music they wanted you to write (possibly ever, and certainly not without their much larger cut). But, people have figured out that, with the modern tech, you can set up your own labels, and make more than you would working for big-music. Not everyone is necessarily going to be able to use Amanda’s model, even if a lot of them might want to.

    Still, that doesn’t mean buying into the big-music theory that every fart has to be paid for in blood, and even “fair use” of a few seconds of something is robbing them, not the artist mind, but **them** blind.

  10. 10
    consciousness razor

    It sounds to me not unlike the classic “I got mine, so fuck you” of the lucky upwardly mobile.

    I’ll count that as one vote for “the TED crowd.” ;)

    It does sort of smell vaguely of libertarianism, when “let charity take care of it” is the solution to “people are struggling out there because they’re not being treated fairly.”

  11. 11
    consciousness razor

    Free samples don’t happen, and everyone that so much as smells a song has to pay for it.

    Radios happen. You do have pay for the radio, I’ll give you that. But not each time a new song plays.

  12. 12
    kestrel

    Agree with consciousness razor about the fan base. It costs a lot of money to professionally produce a CD to have ready for distribution… giving it away with the hope that people will reciprocate and pay you is not an option for everyone. If you’ve got the fan base, great, if not, you would have to get that money somewhere else.

    I like her ideas about community and think there is some real potential there. People *can* use the internet to connect and create communities, and if these people help each other out, that is really great and hopefully is the way things will go.

    In the meantime, if you are an artist… like I am… you kind of need people to pay you for what you are selling, if only because otherwise you can’t afford to keep doing it. And yes, people do tend to think it’s not a “real” job even though it’s a great deal of work and very time consuming.

  13. 13
    MarcusC

    On a different subject? What is up with her eyebrows?

  14. 14
    Pteryxx

    Radios happen. You do have pay for the radio, I’ll give you that. But not each time a new song plays.

    link-and-run:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola#Third-party_loophole

    and net radio does in fact owe the labels for every individual song played:

    http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/1082968/business-matters-if-big-radio-had-pandoras-royalty-rate-it-would-owe

  15. 15
    carlie

    Can’t watch videos here – did she mention the Humble Bundle concept at all? It seems to be working pretty damned well so far. Put together a set of music/books/games/etc. Sell it for anything people will buy it for. If anyone spends more than the current average going price, they get a bonus. Enough people want the bonus and pay more, it drives up the average price.

  16. 16
    Jadehawk

    yeah no. I love kickstarter, but if I relied on charity for people using my work, I’d have to get another job. Doesn’t anyone here read Clients From Hell?

  17. 17
    The Mellow Monkey

    On a different subject? What is up with her eyebrows?

    They are painted on and she changes designs frequently. If you do a Google image search, you can see the many, many, many different ways she’s had them done.

    She’s made goofy comments about them before when asked, but AFAIK it’s simply an aesthetic preference.

  18. 18
    Jadehawk

    also for the record: not a fan of Amanda Palmer. Some of her songs are good, but she doesn’t seem to be able to stop saying horribly bigoted things. Hell, she seems proud of the fact that others think she’s a bigot; because I guess it makes her edgy and controversial? I don’t know.

  19. 19
    philboidstudge

    That was the work of community. That’s how it ought to work.

    No, that is definitely not how it ought to work. No one should have to beg for medical care.

    They’ve rather lost sight of the meaning of the word “give”.

    Really, tell us what giving means to you, Professor!

    I can do this blogging stuff, my own form of giving…

    Gah. Gag me with a spork.

  20. 20
    The Mellow Monkey

    Jadehawk

    also for the record: not a fan of Amanda Palmer. Some of her songs are good, but she doesn’t seem to be able to stop saying horribly bigoted things.

    Saying as well as doing. Her turn in “disability drag” as one half of Evelyn Evelyn (with an unnecessary fictional backstory involving performing as circus freaks and being subjected to sexual abuse) was rather…offensive, to say the least.

  21. 21
    Skatje Myers

    also for the record: not a fan of Amanda Palmer. Some of her songs are good, but she doesn’t seem to be able to stop saying horribly bigoted things. Hell, she seems proud of the fact that others think she’s a bigot; because I guess it makes her edgy and controversial? I don’t know.

    Out of curiosity, what are you referencing here?

  22. 22
    Skatje Myers

    Also, re: the paying-musicians incident, I have a hard time really disliking her exactly for it. I don’t think her intentions were malevolent. With her history of incorporating fan musicians into her free gigs, I can understand her attitude of “let’s just have fun playing music together!”. She just didn’t (doesn’t?) seem to get that using her influence to get free work out of people for the shows where she’s being paid is in the same vein as the sort of capitalist stuff she claims to be so counter to.

  23. 23
    la tricoteuse

    She just didn’t (doesn’t?) seem to get that using her influence to get free work out of people for the shows where she’s being paid is in the same vein as the sort of capitalist stuff she claims to be so counter to.

    I guess I just can’t see her failure to get that as anything but willful.

  24. 24
    Emrysmyrddin

    A quick Google found this and this.

  25. 25
    Emrysmyrddin

    And a very thorough treatment here.

  26. 26
    Emrysmyrddin

    Er, um, and – TRIGGER WARNING FOR LINK- there’s more . I wish I’d never googled now; backing away very rapidly and going to look at bunny videos.

  27. 27
    Skatje Myers

    Thanks, Emrysmyrddin!

    Sigh. I still really like her music, and admire her courage and wit on certain feminist issues, but there’s certainly a lot of disappointing stuff she’s done and said. I hadn’t really followed her interviews, and never paid attention to Evelyn Evelyn, so I missed a lot of this. The Katy Perry thing is disturbing and completely not what I would’ve expected of her.

    Though one thing bugged me in the third link: “constantly reminding us of her relationship with renowned author Neil Gaiman” and such. This is such BS. They’re married and heavily involved in each other’s lives and art. Of course she’s going to tweet about him and at him, just as he mentions her regularly on his blog. I don’t see anything that’s wrong or attention-grabby about this. Heaven forbid a woman has a connection to a famous man, she must just be leeching off him. :|

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    The Katy Perry thing is disturbing and completely not what I would’ve expected of her.

    I found the first comment on that article informative though:

    The thing I’d like to point out, though, is that, in my opinion, there is nothing empowering about that Katy Perry song. As a gay woman? I find it offensive. It’s very much of the “oh, I can kiss this girl while my boyfriend stands over there and watches, because it doesn’t mean anything anyway, la la la”.

    And I believe that is what Amanda was trying to get across, however crudely it came out.

    There are few things worse than women who pretend that encounters with women don’t count or are just innocent and don’t mean anything. It makes me madder than most things, actually, because it tells me that my sexual orientation is not real. I hate that. I really, really hate that.

    So, yes. Amanda went too far, but I can see where she was coming from. (I think, after all I can’t see inside her head.)

    yes, I listened to that Katy Perry song, and this hits it on the mark. It’s very trivializing and the exact opposite of empowering.

    I think Amanda’s performance piece was meant to show the anger that comes from trivializing the love two people can feel towards each other. Not the way I would choose to attack Perry’s effort, but I think I understand where it comes from.

  29. 29
    Ichthyic

    …oh, and not just anger; I think that the anger drove it, but I also think most of the performance piece looks more like demonstrating that Perry would NOT have wanted to participate in the strong emotions, or indeed, actual sex that comes with that same sex relationship she was trivializing with a kiss.

  30. 30
    Emrysmyrddin

    Just ‘cos it’s born of anger doesn’t make it NOT a fucking awful and gratuitous rape scene.

  31. 31
    Jadehawk

    two more things about her:
    1)she once faked a suicide, let her then-boyfriend (who just had suffered a drug-relapse; possibly he was also suffering from mental illness, given that eventually he committed suicide) find her, recorded it, and put it on a record.

    2)one of her music videos a)has a transphobic intro, b)also makes fun of the people who’ve been pointing out her bigotry

    (videolinks later, when i get home. no video on the netbook)

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    Just ‘cos it’s born of anger doesn’t make it NOT a fucking awful and gratuitous rape scene.

    that’s just it, I don’t think it WAS intended to be a rape scene.

    I think what it intended to show was just how UNcomfortable miss Perry would have been when confronted with real emotions and sex behind that fake kiss.

  33. 33
    The Mellow Monkey

    that’s just it, I don’t think it WAS intended to be a rape scene.

    I think what it intended to show was just how UNcomfortable miss Perry would have been when confronted with real emotions and sex behind that fake kiss.

    And when someone is confronted with “real emotions and sex” that they do not want, it’s called…?

    Trigger Warning:

    The Katy Perry stand-in has her hand forced onto a dildo while she makes faces of distress and fear, then has her face pushed into Amanda Palmer’s breasts. She mimes trying to escape from them as they grind her between their bodies. Then they strip, bind and gag her. She continues to struggle and squirm until the end.

    Amanda Palmer and everyone else involved may very well have not seen it as a rape scene. That does not mean it wasn’t choreographing non-consent. Which is rape.

  34. 34
    Emrysmyrddin

    Whatever-the-fuck it’s meant to be, I don’t care; my visceral reaction comes from that I can all too well understand the feeling of unwanted hands. Just because it’s ‘art’ doesn’t mean it’s not ‘rape’.

  35. 35
    Murray Devine

    Ahh, that terrible moment when the first comment immediately misses the point.

    @la tricoteuse : The point is that money is only one type of reward. Don’t you understand the point of the connection? Playing on stage with Amanda Palmer is like getting to spend an evening with PZ or any other person you admire.
    Imagine your favorite author was writing a new book and asked if you wanted to spend an evening with them chatting about ideas for the book. Would you take them up? Would you leap at the opportunity or would you say ‘only if i get 5% of the sales’?
    It’s not taking advantage of her fan base, it’s giving her fans an opportunity to really, truly connect and be part of something they really really want to be part of.

  36. 36
    la tricoteuse

    Sigh. “You’re missing the point” is not code for “you disagreed!” Because that’s what I did. I disagreed.

    If PZ or anyone else I admired was selling tickets to the event during which I got to “spend time” with him (that is, help him provide the entertainment for which people were paying) then your analogy might make sense.

    And in that case, if I were being asked by PZ (or anyone else I admired) to donate my time to join him in providing entertainment to a paying audience, for HIS PROFIT, yeah he’d be taking advantage of me. My (hypothetical) devotion would not absolve him of his responsibility.

    Musicians who play with famous people deserve adequate compensation. They don’t stop deserving this compensation simply because they are so thrilled to get to play with their idol that they consider it a privilege to be screwed over by her/him.

    I’m not “missing the point” by considering this important. I am disagreeing with you that their devotion absolves her of the obligation to be decent towards them (which includes not taking advantage of that devotion).

  37. 37
    ericoehler

    If I may leap back a bit – what bugged me about the whole “people should play with me for free!” thing was manifold:

    1) She’d just asked for $250k to make a record and tour. She’d gotten $1.4M. And yet she didn’t have enough money to pay musicians. Even if she had misbudgeted and did indeed spend it all, it still feels like showing up to a date in a new Ferrari and asking to go dutch becasue you’re a little short on cash. Maybe factually true but taaaaaccckkkkyyyyy.

    2) She made it clear at the beginning that she *would* pay musicians in *important* areas – NY and LA. So those of us who don’t live in one of those two important markets can suck it.

    3) She got away with it (almost) in the first place because she was Amanda Palmer, not because it was a good business model. As one indie-band friend of mine who routinely hires session musicians in the Bay Area wrote “I guess I’ll just have to accept that she gets for free the same musicians I have to pay for.”

    4) If she had succeeded, it would set a really bad precedent, wherein being a session player becaomes a race to the bottom. First it’s Amanda Palmer asking a small band to play for free, next it’s The Stones renting an entire orchestra for $10 (or something). It’s deflating the value of the session musician, at any rate. Why hire a unionized session band to back you up in Chicago when you can just put out a call and get a bunch of semi-pros to play with you for free?

    Maybe if she’d asked for amateurs right off the bat nobody would care, but she asked for “professionalish” volunteers, which comes loaded with a bunch of implications.

    5) While she did walk it back, she walked it back with a rather snotty not-pology. Hey guys, sorry you all got offended by me trying to change the future of music.

    Before all this happened, while I wasn’t a fan, I tolerated her. Now I basically find all her prognosticating on the future of media to be entirely disingenuous, because it all seems to come from a remarkably self-centered viewpoint. Also, there is the fact that she’s generalizing about the future of an industry based on a sample-set that includes almost exclusively her fans. And “Amanda Palmer fans” are not exactly the same thing as “music consumers.” Most music consumers aren’t going to spend $400 in an online auction for an empty wine bottle their favorite star drank from once. Some might, but that’s not really a sustainable model for every artist.

  38. 38
    Murray Devine

    No really, you’re missing the point. You’re assuming the only way to place value on something is money. Goto any Autralian folk music festival and almost every band has members from other bands up for a song or two, unpaid because they are friends, they enjoy doing what they do, and it’s a great way to increase your exposure.

    Again, take the author example. Lets pretend Terry Pratchett has organised a book tour and will be speaking at various places around the country. At each location he’s organised for an up and coming fantasy author from that region to join him in a panel on writing fantasy novels. The up-and-coming author isn’t getting paid. The up and coming author also isn’t renting the location, advertising, organizing, hell, they aren’t even touring with him. All they need to do is turn up on the day and be interesting. Who is ‘exploiting’ who? I would call it a fair exchange. Hell, I would say Sir Pratchett is doing them a favour.

    Now, to address ericoehler:
    1) the kickstarter goal was 100k, not 250k, but you are displaying your ignorance on how kickstarter works. People are not giving you money to make your dream. They are pre-purchasing what you are going to sell. Amanda was paid 1.14 million but then had to make good on those purchases. That means making a physical product, art books, cd’s, etc depending on which package you selected. The deadline doesn’t shift, which means hiring people to get shit done. She has a breakdown of where the money went on her blog.

    2) see my above point. I know a lot of folk musicians who would gladly join other folk musicians on stage for a song or two without recompense as long as it’s not putting them out too much. This is so insanely normal in the Australian music scene, and not just folk music.

    3) Yes, popular musicians with a strong following can offer more than just money. Being positively exposed to AFP’s fan base can be a very positive thing. See the Terry Pratchett example. Also doing awesome things with awesome people can be awesome.

    4) She did succeed. Pretty much every musician who volunteered to play with her would have done so without the cash. However the slippery slope argument is total rubbish. It’s like saying if I make a website for a friend for nothing then all of sudden full on CMS systems will become free and destroy companies making websites for people.

    5) She did walk it back just to try and get people driving past in cars shouting ‘get a job’ to shut up. Because sometimes it’s easier to say ‘fine, whatever’ than be prideful about it.

    Lastly Amanda Palmer fans are ‘music consumers’, but not all ‘music consumers’ are Amanda Palmer fans. This has nothing at all to do with the model she is advocating. The idea that digital music can be freely distributed via then internet, and if people like it they will come back and pay for it is remarkably like busking.

    Once an album is created, distributing digitally costs almost nothing. If you allow people to have a copy and trust in them to pay if they enjoy it more people will hear it. Not everyone will like it, but it doesn’t matter because it cost so little to give it to them anyway.
    The people that do like it will give back what they can.

    The musician is now standing on the sidewalk of the internet, letting passers by listen to their music with the hat out in front.

  39. 39
    Murray Devine

    Lastly this is core misconception. “people should play with me for free!” is not what she said. she ASKED if anyone would LIKE to play with her for hugs and beer.
    There is no “should” going on here. She wasn’t deceptive about it, she didn’t force anyone. People were free to decide if the opportunity and experience is worth THEIR time.
    Some people say yes, some people say no.
    Who are you to judge their decisions? What amazing insight do you possess into the situation you’ve read about on the internet to judge them?

  40. 40
    michaelpowers

    Recently, I wanted to download a song from a band whose videos I’d seen on YouTube. An eclectic group of people who are individually very talented, and together seem to be greater than the sum of their parts. When I got to their site, they listed the price of their songs as “whatever you think it’s worth”. I thought it was so cool that I paid twice the going rate. Plus, I figure they’re just starting out, and one of the band members is pregnant, so they could use a little extra.

  41. 41
    ericoehler

    Ahh, but I *do* know how kickstarter works, although perhaps I’m prhasing my objections imporperly. But I’ve been involved on the back end of a few of them. Several that did far beyond their initial expectations. Yes, the premiums cost more because they don’t scale. Yes, she spent it all – I read her breakdown. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s pretty tone-deaf to rack up a big advance, generate a lot of press about how successful it was, then suddenly say “sorry guys, I can’t afford to pay you.”

    I apologize for getting the intial amount wrong. I was going from hazy memory, and was probably confusing it with a different kickstarter for a sous vide circulator.

    Anyway.

    I’m also a musician who has been giving my music away for free/”pay what you want” on the itnernet since 1994. One could say I have, in fact been using the Amanda Palmer model since long before she was a Dresden Doll. Now, I lack her talent, but I’ve been reasonably successful at it. I can tell you wth some pretty solid experience that it is not a sustainable, long-term model for the industry. It’ll work great for people like Palmer, who have a decent starting point and a particular fanbase (unified demographic, reasonable tech-savvy, social-media aware) and a few others like her, but it is *insanely* difficult to replicate the success of one particular artist on a larger scale. Indie artists have been taking this approach for years, and while there are some nice new tools for it (kickstarter, bandcamp, etc) the risk:reward ratio hasn’t gotten much better. There is also the unpleasant fact that talents outside of music are strongly required to make any of it work, and many musicians simply lack those. Lord knows I do.

    Whether or not you agree with the slippery slope argument – and I begrudgingly admit it can be seen both ways – a lot of the initial uproar was made for that very reason by professional session musicians. I honestly think she coulda prevented about 90% of the issue by not using the word “professionalish” – certainly Imogen Heap did essentially the same thing on her last tour with an all-volunteer choir, but she never said she wanted pros, just anyone interested in joining who could demonstrate aptitude. And it worked fine, no uproar. I think there’s a lesson in there someplace.

    But of course my biggest gripe with the whole thing is the simple attitude that if you don’t agree with Amanda Palmer, then you’re clearly “not understanding her” or you’re “part of the problem.” And that’s not generally her fault, but it’s no less annoying. What’s the point in arguing if you’re immediately going to be told that there’s simply no possible way someone like *you* could understand? It’s like arguing with the religious, for pete’s sake.

  42. 42
    consciousness razor

    No really, you’re missing the point. You’re assuming the only way to place value on something is money.

    I’m not assuming any such thing. Isn’t the point that musicians can value working with people they admire (happens quite often for me, even when they’re “nobodies” you’ve never heard of); and at the same time, that they should also get fair compensation for their work?

    see my above point. I know a lot of folk musicians who would gladly join other folk musicians on stage for a song or two without recompense as long as it’s not putting them out too much. This is so insanely normal in the Australian music scene, and not just folk music.

    Indeed, and I’ve done lots of favors for musician friends without being paid. In other cases, I’ve done performances and commissions for established “charities” (or community organizations) which were still paid gigs, though for less than it would’ve been if it hadn’t been a charity. Because I wanted to help them. I have no objection against any of that. The problem is that what Palmer did is no kind of business model that’s in any way fair for the musicians she ‘hired.’ Yet she presents it as if it’s part of what the future of the music business ought to be like, not as “hey everybody, these people just wanted to play with me because I’m so fucking admirable, isn’t that nice?”

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