Amanda pays, what do I think?

Well, fair enough. It’s her career.

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.

7 thoughts on “Amanda pays, what do I think?

  1. Pingback: Kickstarter Is Not A Charity | Ear Protection Must Be Worn

  2. As usual, criticism is easy, creation takes time and effort. I do wonder which is the greater sense of entitlement, that of the “freetard” who never pays for content or that of the “maximalist”* who thinks every interaction must be a transaction?
    And then I wonder if either actually exists. I suspect not in significant enough numbers to offset the shades of grey in the middle.

    * for lack of better terms

    • I do rather regret that, for some people, music has now become something you must always pay for. Online infringement seems to have herded them to a theoretical opposite position. In most of the world music is still something everybody does not just a few privileged professionals, and it’s not unusual for an audience to bring food, or drink, or to join the performers for a few songs. The Western record industry got into its current weak state by enforcing a narrow economy. Monocultures are easily wiped out by environmental changes, it’s not healthy to insist on one right way for everyone.

  3. It’s a funny old thing isn’t it? Young kids will just make stuff up and sing it all the time, then we hit a certain age when we’re told that we’re doing it wrong, and it has to go like this.
    And before we realise, it becomes the preserve of the professionals. Odd really.

  4. I’m still coming across outraged commentators fulminating about Amanda’a volunteers.

    But none of the volunteers care. They’ve been on Twitter saying how much they enjoyed playing and what a great opportunity it was to do something different. Not that they need the work, they all come from another world and do unrelated work.

    Some people are happy with changes, others seem terrified of changes that don’t even affect them personally. If they get this upset about some other people doing work for the love of it they would go insane if they heard about half the stuff that goes on in DIY.

    And audiences love it too. They may not know who is being paid union scale and who isn’t but many of them are truly fanatic fans. And that’s what we all want isn’t it?

  5. Pingback: From the Vault: Money and the Cynical Musician - The Cynical Musician

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