Amanda Palmer: why fans choose to pay artists they love



I remember listening to a story that Planet Money did on crowdfunding albums a while back that featured the success story of Jonathan Coulton. It was an interesting piece, but for some reason they kept coming back to the question, “Yes, but can a system like this give us the next Brittany Spears?” Why in the hell would that be the relevant question? When you’ve got brilliant, passionate people making enough money to be happy and comfortable doing exactly what they love to do, just accept, let it wash over you…


It would be irresponsible not to consider the hazards, too.


Perhaps that’s a feature, and not a bug.


BTW - enjoyed your interview on NPR about the new book @doctorow!

Is this irony? I mean, like, real honest irony? I mean, why didn’t she want to make herself feel happy for her opening acts?


Did you read that all the way through to the end where it said?

*Corrections: This post originally misstated the amount of money
Palmer sought on her Kickstarter page, and mistakenly implied that she
was paying none of the musicians on her tour. We regret the errors,
which we have corrected above.

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Sometimes yes sometimes no. No musician I ever knew made their fans an offer they couldn’t refuse. Some of us continued to make, give away and sell music and even though people say they like it, the money doesn’t always come in. I’m glad that there are more ways to get music out to fans than there were previously but Palmer is not providing a magic formula here.

The musicians on her tour. Not her opening acts.

Let’s just see exactly what she said:
"we’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes.
we need a COUPLE of horns (trumpet! bari! sax! trombone! all need apply!!!) to join in the blasting with Ronald Reagan, our sax duo who’ll be joining the Grand Theft Orchestra every night.
and we need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for jherek bischoff’s beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!).

the deal:
you’d need to show up for a quickie rehearsal (the parts are pretty simple) in the afternoon, then come back around for the show!
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."

The article has been corrected from when it was first published and it’s premise is still the same:
Come spend the day with us.
We will give you a high five for your craft. And a shirt.


Presumably Molly Crabapple and Amanda Palmer don’t agree on this.

Looks like Discourse is screwing up the numbering here, but whatever.

  1. Don’t be a dick. Be nice to everyone who is also not a dick, help people who don’t have the advantages you do, and never succumb to crabs in the barrel infighting.
  1. Be a mercenary towards people with money. Be generous and giving to good people without it.
  1. Working for free is only worth it if its with fellow artists or grassroots organizations you believe in, and only if they treat your respectfully and you get creative control.
  1. Don’t work for free for rich people. Seriously. Don’t don’t don’t. Even if you can afford to, you’re fucking over the labor market for other creators. Haggling hard for money is actually a beneficial act for other freelancers, because it is a fight against the race to the bottom that’s happening online.

The Internet will not save creators.

Social media will not save us. Companies will not save us. Crowd-funding will not save us. Grants will not save us. Patrons will not save us.


I hear the point, I don’t know if it’s as much of a smoking gun as the article makes it out to be. The criticisms of NGO work were much more stinging. An opportunity for exposure in this way is also a lot realer benefit for a musician than an aide worker. I also don’t see how the “come play with us for a bit” is all that different from the “support us financially if you can” request. If they love her, this is a way to support her, and also to spend some time. Calls for free labor in intern form can be abusive, but for such a brief engagement, with (what appears to be) very little screening or competition for the slot, this doesn’t seem particularly evil. I agree it would have been even better had she payed them, but the article seems bitter, and eager to pop a bubble.


Wow, that’s almost as bad as child labor!

You ever been to one of her shows? I ask because it’s not the symphony. I’m not sure what your complaint is? Are you complaining that other musicians voluntarily choose to be part of something musical, for free? Are you aware she passes the hat, herself, for the opening acts?

Besides, a 20 dollar shirt, 20 dollars of beer, and dinner is more than most musicians get for 10 minutes onstage anywhere else. Jeez. I really think you just like complaining about other peoples good times, occasionally.


It also presumably helps as a street performer if you are born a pretty girl. Best advice: be born a pretty girl. You can just stand there in a dress and people will put $40 an hour in a hat for you. You just stand there in thrift store clothes and people will give you $20 bills. Magic. So, please give me your life’s secrets…


Oh the haters are awesome.

You obviously never saw how creepy the living bride was, and how enormously amorphous the dress was.

You don’t have to be afraid.


I’m not sure I get the point of what you’re saying. A bunch of adults get together and engage in consensual acts, by prior agreement, and everyone has a good time… what’s the problem?

I give the professional musicians who show up at my parties less than that, I’m sorry to say… basically at my place you get all you can eat and drink, no merch or handjive at all.


I belive her TED talk on the Art of Asking might help clarify this:


Only in that Molly Crabapple was a bit more pessimistic than Amanda. They both have pretty much the same fundamental precepts, though: Don’t let big investors and producers own you, work hard, and treat your fans with respect and love and cultivate them. I took Molly to be arguing that social media and crowd-funding aren’t an instant success machine that will lift you out of absolute obscurity or a replacement for that hard work. I don’t think Amanda Palmer would say “don’t work hard and cultivate a fanbase, just start a kickstarter!” The specific crowd-funding part seems more like arguing over avenues for gathering supporters rather than a fundamental disagreement.

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It’s not true punk unless you negotiate first over stock options.


It’s not true punk unless you LOVE it.

(i think you were being sarcastic?)

As a former musician I tend to agree with some caveats. When I used to busk I could make a solid $20/hour, but there just weren’t 8 solid hours in a day that would pay that. So like most musicians you had to diversify.

If I had still been in the business when A. Palmer had the call for horns, even not knowing who she was, hell yes I would have gone. Taking risks is the only way a creative eventually makes money (or art, or fun).

As time goes on there will be fewer chances for huge, breakout, and enormously profitable creative individuals. But there will be (and frankly are now) more modest, solid, profitable, and satisfying chances.