Amanda Palmer Tells Morrissey: You’d Make Millions Off of Kickstarter…

But is this what Kickstarter was really designed for? The question is whether established artists should be taking huge profits from places like Kickstarter, or if the money should simply be used for the project (and the project only).

Enter Amanda Palmer, who’s now publicly advising Morrissey to not only run a Kickstarter campaign, but to also expect a massive profit windfall in the process.  “Given your record sales and history, let’s make a very conservative guess that 500,000 people back you (i.e., pre-order a digital album) at $5 each,” Palmer open-lettered to Morrissey in Salon. “That’s a total of $2.5 million.”

Which also means, according to Palmer, a nice $1.5 million chunk of pure profit.  “Assumptions galore, but at a guess: Subtract the 20 percent you will need to pay out to commissions (to your management and digital team) and processing (to the crowdfunding platform) and you’ll be left with about $2 million.”

“If your album costs half a million to record, you’ll earn about $1.5 million.”

And, this is a calculation based on a simple, digital-only offering, with little time outside an expensive recording process.  So, no CDs, no vinyl, no customized books, origami, lithographs, or anything else that’s complicated and bothersome.  “You wouldn’t have to tour and risk your health,” Palmer advised.  “You wouldn’t have to do any promotional work for it if you didn’t want to.”

“You wouldn’t have to do anything, really, other than simply go into a studio, record 10 songs, and deal with the small headache of getting the digital information to a bunch of people.”

At its worst, profit-skimming could be considered crowdfunding abuse, simply because fans are supporting a specific project – not a living or personal profit.  In the case of Amanda Palmer, a record-setting, $1.2 million Kickstarter purse ultimately got diverted to things like debt payments (by the singer’s own admission) and questionable budget line items (as published by Palmer, as well).

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Then again, these were private donations from core fans, none of whom seemed to mind (from what we can tell).  Indeed, Palmer even blamed outsiders for misunderstanding her solicitation of unpaid, ‘professional-ish‘ band members.  “I got a lot of criticism online after my Kickstarter went big, for continuing my crazy crowdsourcing practices,” Palmer recently told an audience at TED.

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

18 Responses

  1. Dave

    Why exactly would it be an abuse to make a profit on Kickstarter? It is essentially a site where people pre-order products. Id I set a fund goal of $500k and people give me $2.5mil, as long as I use the $500k as initially advertised and intended I don’t think there is an issue with pocketing the profit. The artist delivers the project as promised and the fans get exactly what they paid for. Once a project is funded any excess money is essentially just pre-orders of the product. The onyl difference is it is pre-ordered on kickstarter instead of iTunes or Amazon.

    • Mike Corcoran

      Yes, exactly. It’s essentially a $5 pre-order for the album, using Kickstarter as the payment vehicle. Everyone gets what they paid for, with excess profit going to the artist instead of the label. Palmer is right: What does Morrissey need a label for, anyway?
      The fact that Morissey is earning $1.5M from his fans – well, who would you like that money to go to? It’s 5 bucks for a 10-song digital album – sounds pretty cheap to me. Were you thinking he should charge $1 per album? What’s the problem here, again?

      The one thing i found astonishing is why it would cost $500K to record a Morrissey album. He should be able to get 10 good songs in the can and ready to go for 1/10th of that, esp. if he’s writing, producing, and using his own home studio (doesn’t he have one by now?)

      In any case, no one should have problem with this set-up, and Palmer was very honest and transparent in her letter.

  2. Rob H

    Why not? If 500,000 people wanted to pay $5 each for an album, is it not better that the artist gets the profit? Then it’s the artist’s discretion as to how that money actually gets spent. It’s not like those artists in question REALLY need to do any promo, so it’s just cutting out the middle man.
    Haven’t people always been saying that artists should get a bigger cut of singles and album sales? Is this not what every musician really wants? Well, now we have a platform that is solely created to aid content creators, which will help them get exactly that. That’s what it’s all about; cutting out unnecessary label/management deals which siphon off all the profits. No-one gets ripped off, no-one gets upset, everybody involved wins.
    And hell, who’s to say that, assuming Morrissey does follow this advise and make millions, that those profits wouldn’t go towards another project? If there’s more cash going into the artist’s pockets, that’s MORE reason to create more content.
    In my view, there is no question here at all. This is how the music business SHOULD work, all the time.

  3. the middleman

    Morrissey shouldn’t cut out the middleman (i.e. the music labels). The middleman deserves his fair share for nurturing the artist.
    $5 per album? That’s too low.
    Fans rather pay $10 on Itunes.
    Cutting out the middleman will kill the music business.

    • Visitor

      After her successful kickstarter, amanda palmer signed to a label!
      More like this, middleman…
      there are middle people, who dwell above ground, and who are needed, especially in the case of a large artist. Let’s give them their due respect and name the titles, in no particular order:
      – Distributor (how else will it get into retail outlets?)

      – Booking Agent (doubtful Morrissey will want to book his own tour and negotiate each contract)

      – Manager (doubtful Morrissey wants to be like Amanda in this respect, as she blows through managers. Look at all the middle people there are to manage…and her reputation amongst managers is one of abuse & non payment yielding total fulfillment of the artist clichè)

      – Physical Manufacturer & Distributor: Morrissey will want / need to release vinyl to his fanbase of audiophiles
      – Publicity: Just as the president of the united states has a press person, so does an artist the size of Morrissey. The press requests will be massive, and will require at least one person to write the press release for the album release. If M wants to do interviews, the requests will be massive and require management.
      Morrissey will need a team. Ms. Palmer has yet to prove that she respects her team, which is why she flies through managers faster than you can…oh wait… did she just fire someone again without paying them?

      • Jeff Robinson

        “Morrissey will need a team. Ms. Palmer has yet to prove that she respects her team, which is why she flies through managers faster than you can…oh wait… did she just fire someone again without paying them?”
        Perhaps she doesn’t earn.
        Kickstarter aside, what are her actual numbers annually?
        20% of nothing is nothing.
        I’ve never heard her music. I’ve never heard her on the radio and other this internet kickstarter noise she’s made, she’s done nothing perceptible.

  4. mara

    Knowing that everything Amanda Palmer does is self-referential, now we all know how much money she made off of her Kickstarer campaign. Apparently, 3/4 of 1.2 million dollars (since she tells Morrisey he can garner 3/4 of his profit for himself). It’s time for Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman to show up at the Occupy rally with a sign that says “We are the 1%!”. For Fuck’s sake, be honest for once in your life, and stop your psuedo-Communist shenanigans. You believe in capitalism when it works for yo’ bad-assed self. That New Yorker article about Amanda not paying her touring musicians was right on, a must read (google it).

  5. Saumon Sauvage

    It is great that musicians can profit. What I don’t appreciate is a musician NOT paying OTHER musicians to work for her. And I WON’T buy her music because of it.

  6. Visitorial

    Way to negate the creative process.
    “all you have to do is go into the studio and record an album”
    and there you have it folks, this is why she has fans based on her personality but not her music.

    • Big Swifty

      “…based on…..personality but not……music.”
      Isn’t that what pop music is all about?
      Marketing the personality of the POP STAR is the primary focus.
      If you want to make intellectually stimulating music or complex emotional musical statements then be prepared to be marginalized at best.

      • Visitorial

        there’s this guy, his name is bob. last name dylan.
        and this other chick, a performance artist who admires this other dude named David Bowie – her last name is gaga, know her?
        There’s this other guy, his name is John Darnielle, his fans think he’d make a great poet laureate. his little band, on this tiny label (merge) is called the mountain goats.
        Find me a vapid member of the canon, literature, music or otherwise.
        Pop stars who are personality based don’t last as long as the pop stars with talent.
        Speaking of which, whatever happened to Ke$ha after that track of her vocals was leaked? nothing? right. nothing.
        It works in concert. There are fads, and there are artists.

        • Visitorial

          In a great stroke of irony, I forgot to mention Morrissey.
          chock full o personality.

          (that’s sarcasm)

          • Big Swifty

            (That’s not irony)
            Do you think that any of them would have gotten the exposure that they did without marketing their personality?
            Also, interesting that several of your examples chose pseudonyms. Why is that?

          • Visitorial

            oh, and Thom Yorke.
            Already a member of the canon. Because meeting people is easy.
            staying power generally requires depth of field which stretches beyond the confines of personality.
            there’s no real formula, we’re talking about an x factor, but even after a million dollar kickstarter, it doesn’t seem that amanda palmer’s staying power is rooted in music, making her advice to Morrissey a little null and void given that he is already a member of the canon.
            And what does this have to do with Kickstarter? Nothing. Because Amanda Palmer can only hope to play in a league with Morrissey. She’s not even close, at least not yet.
            Therefore, instead of advising Morrissey it might serve her future better to ask Morrissey for his advice.

  7. The Best Things In Life Are Fr

    Additional monies could be allocated to your personal bank account if you compensate your touring musicians and road crew with free hugs, the occasional beer and a daily slice of pizza. I recommend establishing at the outset that there is a maximum number of toppings per slice not exceeding three – it’s important to keep touring expenses under control. The same principle should apply to the beer of course, whose costs could be substantially minimized by having a beer manufacturer sponsor your tour (see: Justin Timberlake). The beauty of this scheme is that you personally enrich yourself while simultaneously giving yourself an altruistic veneer: after all, money is vulgar; hugs are lovely.
    A somewhat unintended consequence of this course of action is that you, as an artist, will develop the same mindset of a hedge fund manager – the very mentality that a conscious artist would denounce as immoral at a time when reckless banking practices have caused chronic unemployment among your fanbase on both sides of the Atlantic.
    But we need not entangle ourselves with archaic notions of integrity here: as Ms Palmer astutely calculated, there is a quick and easy way to acquire a boatload of money, and what else matters in this age of austerity?

  8. bp

    anybody know how much the last few morrissey albums have sold? i really can’t see him selling half a million copies of an album.

  9. Lie Witness Blues

    Heh. Morrissey’s got health problems sure. He’s sick of playing his shows, so he cancels them all the time. That’s not an artist I’d support on Kickstarter sorry.