As you may know I supported Amanda Palmer for using volunteers. Even now that she pays all her musicians including locals, she still uses other volunteers, and I think she was and is right. If she wants to do something different she’s still right. That’s the beauty of DIY. You choose and you can never be wrong.
Here’s the thing. Independent musicians today inevitably start off with a lot of help. They need it, they use it, they love it. I love it. The people who run house concerts, lend instruments and support and feed artists are not normal fans. DIY musicians seem different and act differently to remote businesses that persistently balance the books and try to make a profit. I would rather need people than need money. I would rather have people I don’t know volunteer than see helpers queue up for cash.
But the blogosphere has drawn a line over Amanda’s musicians and made her change her mind. Now, if you publicly sell 24,000 albums and a global tour there are limits to the volunteers bystanders will allow. I think this makes us all worse off. Just imagine if local musicians could join Coldplay, U2 or Lady Gaga on stage for fun, wouldn’t that be rather splendid? Just for kicks? I wouldn’t give them house room but it would be a fabulous thing.
But no. They’re too rich to have that kind of fun. Too rich for volunteers.
24,000 albums is not much for today’s music business. UMG, Sony or WMG would drop you like a stone for selling 24,000 albums. In fact they’d drop you for selling 20 times that many. That’s what they did in 2000. Almost every 500,000 album Major label artist was dropped after the crash started. Major labels today only want platinum artists, if you sell less than a million you’re on life support.
Unfortunately mass media stories tend to set the standard. Every successful Kickstarter artist will be hounded over volunteers now. Amanda Palmer may even be hounded for remaining volunteers until her business is pared down to the dull, purely profitable model the righteous blogosphere will accept. Independent? Not much apparently.
I saw numerous blogs describe AFP as “one of the 1%” or equally ludicrously “a millionaire”. Those innumerate dullards seem to think that $1.2 million (less the cost of 24,000 albums, a world tour, etc.) makes you as rich as Mitt Romney and the arseholes of Wall Street—English readers: the City of London. You can’t educate that kind of ignorance.
Of course, there were others who simply believe every pro musician must always be paid. I disagree with them too, vehemently, but I can understand why they think that. It’s OK for them to be wrong.
My Theatre Is Evil CD arrived in the post today with free extras (I’ve been playing the download for a week or so). $25 including Kickstarter commission and international postage—that’s art and cheap. As far as I’m concerned Amanda Palmer delivered. The commentators who don’t like her business model would do well to give us something that good and make 24,000 people happy. I won’t be holding my breath.