Amanda Palmer Is Now Defending Her Solicitation of Free Musicians

The question is why Amanda Palmer apologized and backed down in the first place, why she didn’t stick to her values.

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September 13th, 2012: Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter Millionaire, Asking Musicians to Play for Free…

But after scoring $1.2 million on Kickstarter and subsequently soliciting musicians to play for free on her tour, Palmer reversed course after an intense backlash.  And decided to pay the musicians that volunteered to participate, practice, and perform on her tour.

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September 19th, 2012: Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay All Guest Musicians…

Which sounds like the right decision, except Palmer doesn’t quite seem happy with it.  And, she’s now calling all the critics outsiders who just didn’t get it.  “I got a lot of criticism online after my Kickstarter went big, for continuing my crazy crowdsourcing practices,” Palmer told an audience during a TED talk this week.  “Specifically for asking musicians who are fans if they wanted to join us on stage for a few songs in exchange for love, and tickets, and beer…”

“People were saying, you’re not allowed anymore to ask for that kind of help.”

Palmer compared the situation to her early days as a street performer, when she posed as a living ‘eight foot bride’ statue and handed flowers to donors.  According to Palmer, people would sometimes drive by and scream, ‘get a job!’ while completely missing the connection with passersby.

Those drive-by hecklers, in Palmer’s analysis, are the same people now criticizing her solicitation of free, volunteer musicians.  “But those people weren’t with us on the sidewalk and they couldn’t see the exchange that was happening between me and my crowd.

“An exchange that was very fair to us but very alien to them.”

It was all part of a talk that focused on a philosophy of asking, and having the ability and strength to accept gifts and donations.  “Through the very act of asking, you connect,” Palmer said.  “A lot of artists have a problem with that.”

The full video is here.

30 Responses

  1. Andre Saturday

    Hahahahaha this girl is such a phony, it never ceases to amaze me
    btw: underarm hair. Nice. #edgy

    • Visitor

      I am somewhat embarassed that a girl has more hairy armpits then I do. Can I get Rogaine for that?

    • Clare

      Underarm hair critique? Get over yourselves – it grows there, it’s natural. As for the people saying Amanda MADE a million dollars you are all WRONG. She was given donations to produce and MAIL her album out to thousands and thousands of people all over the world. For $25 I received in the mail in Australia a beautiful limited edition small art book encasing the new CD Theatre is Evil. Some people received hand painted turntables and some people received a house party with Amanda – I went to one in Perth and one in the middle of rural Germany – she turns up, performs, talks, communes with he fans – she delivered way MORE than a million dollars. As a performer who has donated her time and a music act to support Amanda Palmer, I guess you can say I am biassed…cos I like her. Very much. I think she’s amazing. But if you don’t really understand how crowd funding works – which is that ‘the crowd’ pays for something and then receives it for a price – then you a little stupid to be commenting on what happened.

  2. buyavowelamanda

    The fact Palmer still “doesn’t get” the perversion of sitting on a million dollars while asking “musician-fans” to play with her for free is almost funny, and fully exploitive. Perhaps her magical sense of self-importance overrides her reasoning, but then again I’m quite sure she didn’t weep all the way to the bank.

  3. Leon T.

    Again, Amnda Palmer has missed the point and again winds up as a story on DMN.
    Was Amanda asked to volunteer for a company that just made a million dollars and also work for free next to others getting paid?
    If that was her situation then it was a good comparison, if not then Amanda needs to try again.

    • Visitor

      People freely volunteer all kinds of stuff to companies like Facebook and Google. In fact, many of them are confused that these services are free and expect to pay for them. (I can’t remember how many times people have asked me if making an account on Facebook is free, but it has been a lot).

      • Leon T.

        It is true that Amanda Palmer was at least honest about asking people for their time and service in exchange for t-shirts and beer.
        One must read deep down into the end user agreement to discover what facebook may or may not be doing with the “stuff” that you give them.
        However, there is still a distinction to be made between facebook asking people to post personal data in exchange for access to a social networking site and a professional musician who just grossed over a $1million asking other musicians to volunteer work that is usually performed by other musicians for pay or the possibility of some type of future compensation.

  4. Visitor

    You can decide to not play for her. Well fuck, what if I wanted to play for free? I’m not allowed to now?

    It’s like giving her a donation, is that so wrong if I like her music and give her money for nothing in return? Do I have to give all musicians a fair share, even if I think some of their music sucks?
    I don’t get why everyone was shitting down her throat over this.

    • Leon T.

      You are free to give her as much money as you want. That was what the whole kickstarter campaign was for. And nobody was upset about her making over $1 million, in fact most were congratulations.
      You can also play for free for her if you want to. No one would be angry at you or Amanda Palmer for that.
      People are offended that she asked for musicians to play for free (or next to nothing) immediately AFTER she just made that million bucks. People were even more offended as they are sure to be now that Amanda still fails to understand how it appears arrogant and offensive to some people, particularly musicians whose job is perfoming backup for tours.

      • V

        How is asking fan musicians to participate in a show different from crashing at a fans house?
        Remember the story from TED where a family let her band sleep in their beds while they took the floor? Are you going to get outraged at somone trying to contribute to the band in other ways than just money? Well no, but you do if it’s musicians instead of money…
        What if you don’t have a house and the only thing you can provide is a skill? This is for people who want to help and participate, the million she made is irrelivant. Also, she is paying her band so don’t say that anything is getting devalued.

        If you are a jealous musician maybe you should figure out how to make money rather than rely on someone for a job.

        • Leon T.

          You are correct I would be less offended if prior to the tour Amanda Palmer asked fans to let her and her band crash at their houses immediately after collecting over a million dollars on kickstarter. But I would still be offended. And as I said in previous comments people are free to give her as much time and money as they want that is not offensive. What is offensive is HER ASKING for people to come rehearse and perform in a “professionalish” manner (I think that was her term) for beer and merc. after her successful kickstarter campaign.
          Obviously, I disagree that the million dollars is irrelevant. That is the point of my previous comments. Asking for contributions when you’ve got nothing or next to nothing is one thing, asking for the same contributions just after grossing $1 mil on kickstarter is completely different. Sure there will always be fans that will donate time and money regardless of how much money the STAR makes. That is the fans choice. But to defend asking fans for contributions after making a million on kickstarter is offensive on Amanda Palmer’s part not the fans.
          “If you are a jealous musician maybe you should figure out how to make money rather than rely on someone for a job.”
          That comment just proves that you have no idea of how musicians make a living playing gigs in a horn section or as backup for tours.

          • V

            Imagine inviting people up to the stage and them being so bad that it is not fun for the people in the audience anymore. I think that is why “professionalish” was used.

            “That comment just proves that you have no idea of how musicians make a living playing gigs in a horn section or as backup for tours.”
            Songwriting is the currency of the music industry, but I’m going to play the horns… that makes sense right?
            Yeah it sucks don’t get me wrong, but those musicians chose to have a role that is more expendable than other ones. Maybe find a more important role or another job if you are not getting enough work/money?
            Do you think that people out of school are automatically granted jobs because they finished a degree?
            Just because you are a horn player or whatever doesn’t entitle you to a job. You have to make opportunities sometimes, and that can be difficult if you have a secondary role. It probably would have been a better idea to look at how to provide the most value to others before jumping into a particular role.
            With that being said I do believe musicians should be compensated, but in this particular case since I don’t draw a distinction between being rich or poor begging I think it stands as an exception. It is not like she wasn’t paying her own band.
            Can you imagine what it would be like to play alongside your favorite band? I know I wouldn’t expect to get paid if I had volunteered to play with the Beatles.

          • Leon T.

            “I do believe musicians should be compensated, but in this particular case since I don’t draw a distinction between being rich or poor begging I think it stands as an exception. It is not like she wasn’t paying her own band.”
            That is the point of this discussion, the rest of your comment is beside the point, baiting and strawmen.
            For clarification you think it would be OK for Amanda Palmer to ask a fan or fans to co-write a “professionalish” song with her and couple of other people. The fan/composer will be paid in t-shirts and a phot-op, the rest of us will be paid every time the song gets played, sold or licensed?

          • V

            I said in my first post that I think the million is irrelevant, but nice try..
            And if a fan agrees to do a co-write and not get paid that is their choice- so yeah it’s okay. Have you heard of one-sided contracts? They exist, and while they may be unfair that doesn’t mean that that should stop. I feel like you are having trouble with the concept of a free market.

    • Dry Roasted

      Like many TED talks this was intellectually stimulating and inspirational but also partly fiction.

  5. Esmertina

    Somewhere there is a community of nurses clicking their tongues at the shameless exploitation of the nurse in Melbourne to provide the neti pot. After all, she made 1.2 million, she can’t buy her own damn neti pot?
    Wherever they are, they missed the point too. This talk is not a out how to bilk the world’s nurses of neti pots. And it’s not about the kerfuffle, although both are featured.
    Look, Amanda has been able to use that moment to put together a talk that is inspiring people. Meanwhile you lot are still just sulking and resenting. Positivity wins.

    • Yeah

      “Do No Evil”
      So spoke Google and look where they are today.
      Everybody loves them and anyone that doesn’t agree is just sulking and resenting.

  6. @mattadownes

    This girl is a testament to hard work and committment. She backs up the old saying that “ANYONE can do ANYTHING if they put their mind to it”.
    However, didn’t her rise start with a few nudes she posted on twitter awhile back? This further proves that if you want to break it in the entertainment industry, you almost always have to take your clothes off.

  7. Dry Roasted

    Without the major label there would be no “Amanda Palmer” to discuss. The put lots of money into the Dresden Dolls: tour support, marketing, distribution, video production, studio time, etc.

  8. redwards

    She is a genius maketer and music manager, plain and simple. She finds new ways to make money and takes advantage of it, plain and simple.
    Is she a moral becon for the new music industry, no.
    Is she a roll model in fair buisness practices, no.
    Is she a good example of how to make a lot of money in the current music landscape, yes.

  9. David

    I can’t stand Amanda Palmer – possibly the world’s most self-obsessed woman – but I have to keep repeating that Kickstarter pledges are not gifts: they are payments for goods and services. In Amanda Palmer’s case the goods are mainly deluxe versions of her album, and the services are mainly private ‘house concerts’. How much of the money will remain in her bank account at the end of the day, after all the costs and taxes are deducted, is unknown, but it won’t be anything like $1.2 million.
    What really annoys me about her TED talk is her assumption that just because she is happy to beg for money (because in plain English that is what she is saying), then everyone else should do the same. Not everyone has her monstrous ego or her appetite for self-promotion.

    • Leon T.

      I agree that her self promotion, seems to have no bounds. If it works for her, fine.
      However, I have heard the “She didn’t net $1.2 million” comment before and I would like to repeat that after taxes and expenses she made more in one kickstarter campaign then 99% of all working musicians out there. And that is the whole point of the outrage. She made a large chunk of money (good for her) and then turns around and asks for people to perform a service for free that would otherwise be a paying gig for a musician (bad for her) and then fails to understand why people are pissed (extremely bad for her)

      • Visitor

        Look, I’ve got no real affection for Amanda Palmer. But it probably makes sense to check your outrage.
        What she grossed from Kickstarter in absolute terms is far less important that what she did with the money. People funded her Kickstarter because the admire her work and wanted to help her do something cool. I’m sure some of the funders also would prefer that she do her business in an ethical way as well. But I’m sure many other people don’t care. They’re more concerned about whether she gave them value for the money they paid.
        I’m sure she didn’t starve from the kickstarter. But I’d also be shocked if she put $900k or something in her own pocket. On the other hand, if I found out that she put $100k in her pocket free and clear, that wouldn’t shock me. That’s less that the average tech entrepeneur probably put in his or her pocket after completing the first round of VC funding for a hot Internet Start-up.
        Think about it: That money funded her whole album/tour cycle. It’s probably about what a major label might spend producing, manufacturing and promoting a release that had some importance.
        Undoubtedly, the Kickstarter allowed her to do things at a scale she might not have otherwise done, but it also created additional expenses that needed to be paid out of that money.
        I recently heard a story about another musician’s kickstarter. It was more modest in scope, but still successful for this person. I think they raised around $30,000. A lot of this musician’s fans are in Europe. One of the promised items that people got for contributing to the Kickstarter was a vinyl copy of the album. A lot of people in Europe bought at that level.
        Unfortunately, the musician had not really considered the cost of shipping vinyl to Europe. This ended up eating significantly into the Kickstarter funding the musician received.
        My point is telling this story is simply to underscore that these situations are often more complicated than they seem, in terms of unexpected costs, etc. Many musicians are great at music but still learning about the business side of things.
        When Palmer got that extra money above her desired Kickstarter amount, it upped the ante both in terms of expectation and in terms of costs. We have no way of knowing all the details of that. And we should be careful how we judge.
        Moreover, musicians get abused by other musicians all the time. Do you think the members of David Bowie’s band get as much as he does? Do you think that the bass player in Wilco is paid as well as Jeff Tweedy? It’s capitalism.
        People like Bowie, Tweedy, and Palmer are essentially the 1% of the musician world. They write the tunes. They conceptualize the project. They are the face of it. And they usually get benefits far in excess of all the other musicians who have contributed, because they own the equity.
        The reality is that most musicians don’t get paid, but they still play music anyway. Is Palmer taking advantage of that? Yes. But it’s really more a matter of degree than a matter of kind.
        I know plenty of bands who are excited to get a slot opening for a more major artist. Often, they get paid like $500 a show while the headliner is making $20k a show. Bands still take those gigs. for the exposure and legitimacy it potential ascribes to what they do. It’s an investment. For most people, that investment doesn’t pay off. But that’s true for most people who aspire to have a career in music. I mean how many people make it to the NFL out of all the people who play high school football? And how many of them last for more than 3-4 years do it? Not many.
        Anway, just to recap, if you can’t distinguish between gross income and net income, learn how to do that before completely trashing Palmer.

        • Leon T.

          First I used the term outrage as reference to the negative comments as a whole. Personally I think it is simply embarassing and I have no respect for her.
          I am well aware of the difference between net and gross and I am sure she deserves to be paid more for her work and performance than others in the organization. I am also sure that the cost of the band’s pay was figured into the budget.
          As you said, most musicians don’t get paid, but they certainly do when the band leader just ran a kickstarter campaign to raise money to cover expenses for recording and touring.
          “musicians get abused by other musicians all the time. Do you think the members of David Bowie’s band get as much as he does? Do you think that the bass player in Wilco is paid as well as Jeff Tweedy? It’s capitalism.”
          First, this fact makes it OK to continue abusing musicians. It’s just a matter of degree? Second, of course those musicians don’t get paid as much as the star performer. However, I am sure they get paid something which is more than what Amanda was offering.
          Finally, as I have said elsewhere in this comment section, it was embarassing enough that she asked fans/musicians to perform for free. But what really causes me to lose any kind of respect for her is the fact that she can’t understand why some people think it is insulting.

  10. AnAmusedGeek

    I guess what bugs me (as a non-musician) about this is she raised money to cover expenses. I would imagine ‘expenses’ included food, travel, MUSICIANS, etc.

    Now she got her money, she suddenly wants one of her expenses to go away? Why not ask venues to let her play for free and pay the musicians. How did musicians suddenly become a less important expense?
    The answer is simple – as much as people here rail about the devaluation of music, I’ll bet $10 she found a bunch of musicians willing to play for free….

  11. danwriter

    Amanda Palmer is perhaps an amplified version of Arriana Huffington, who also notoriously asks semi-professionals to work for free (in her case, writers), a situation reviled by many professionals. Huffington also took a nice chunk of change home, by way of the acquisition by AOL. Interesting parallels in the content game.

  12. Hahahahaha!

    Another case of the flying monkeys being sent out. And time and time again people fall for it and debate it.