Amanda Palmer: If You’re Asking ‘What’s In It for Me?’ Then You’re In the Wrong Business…

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The following guest post comes from Amanda Palmer.  It’s also the foreword to the 4th Edition of the The Future of the Music Business by music industry attorney Steve Gordon (check out the book at

When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Mr. Rogers

If you’re reading this, you’re already not normal– normal people generally don’t want to legitimately “work” in the music business. If you’re reading this, you’re either an artist, in which case you’ve taken a decidedly difficult path in life (why not go into insurance sales?), or you’re somehow affiliated with the giant variety of jobs that are supposed to help the connection between the artist and the rest of the world: a club booker, a music lawyer, a producer, a sync agent.

I say “supposed to help” because this basic truth can get lost when people head into the noisy, confusing marketplace of sharing, selling and commodifying music–especially as things are changing at the speed of the internet.

The music business I experienced as a kid was the golden cage/age of the 1980s and 90s, in which the goal was to get signed, and in which the middlemen (the managers, agents, promoters and mainstream media) provided the conduit from the artist to the wide world. The artist’s job was to make music and tour, and it was music business’s job to carry the heavy load of records out the door, make people listen, make people come, make people care.

That era is over.

We now live in a world where artists, if they want to, can skip most of the old-school steps and make their own material (recorded on the relative cheap), release it (uploaded to the net at no cost to the artist), promote their own music and book their own tours (via web tools and email lists); and if their music is any good, they can make a living wage. If they have a strong work ethic and good enough material, and a few thousand fans, they can earn enough to survive without ever being “successful” in the eyes of the mainstream media. You’ll never hear about these people. They are out there, working, and they probably have a small handful of people helping them.

A lot of the jobs that used to be only executed by a manager, agent or producer-engineer are now doable by the small-to-mid-level artist, or the artist’s girlfriend or boyfriend (if the artist’s girlfriend or boyfriend knows basic garage band and/or facebook techniques). Google and email have unlocked of lot of the doors to which only the experts in the music business once had the keys.

It used to be that if you needed to rent gear, only the local promoters knew how to come to your aid. Now, you can google, make a cell phone call from the back of the van (or if you’re well-loved, twitter to fans to please loan you an bass amp…because yours got blown out last night in Chicago).

It used to be that if you had a handful of fans in St. Louis, you used to have to rely on the middlemen to get the word out to those people if you were going to return to town . You needed radio. You needed a label with a street team. Now you can post a PDF to your website and email it to your fans in St Louis, asking them to please hit the coffee shops and college bulletin boards on your behalf.

This may all seem to spell the beginning of a giant DIY culture–and in a way, it does–but in a way, it’s the opposite: no artist can do absolutely everything himself.

Here’s the thing everyone has to bear in mind as we transition from a stiff hierarchy in music to more of a level playing field, with room for a bigger middle class:

Working artists still need HELP.

Someone has to design that PDF. Someone has to make sure it gets to the fans. Someone has to organize and maintain the email list once the artist gets too big to keep track of everything.

People are constantly wondering what’s going to “become” of the labels of yore. They’ve already collapsed. The old majors are shadows of themselves, or they’ve merged into super-structures.

The ones that are succeeding, and the ones that will survive, have to somehow manage, in the thick of things, to find a way to do one, fundamental thing, to fulfill a need that will never vanish. The artists need help.

The companies and individuals who are evolving in the new landscape are able to see that fundamental truth as a ground zero and work upwards from there.

Whether an artist is trying to make a living via Bandcamp and Kickstarter or signing their entire future and firstborn child to Giant-Major-Label-Promoter-Conglomerate (and both of these things are totally legitimate, depending on the artist), they are still the same: they are working artists.

If they’re going to actually work on art: 

They need help getting from place to place.

They need help answering calls.

They need help getting the word out.

They need help collecting their paychecks.

They need help sending and delivering goods and services to their fans.

The women and men I know working on the support side of the new-model music industry who are blazing new trails (and blowing by all the people who are bemoaning the past and clinging to the old rules) all have this one thing in common: they want to help. (or, to be honest, they’re really good at faking it–whatever, it works most of the time.)

Those winning in the music business today adopt an attitude of service. They look at the world and locate who wants the music. They assess the crazed artists who want to make a go of it, and they don’t ask:

What’s in it for me?

They ask:

How can I help?

And they project this attitude towards those they court and work with.

In 2010, I broke very loudly and openly from my label, Roadrunner Records. I decided not to sign with another label, and instead, I worked with a small team and we sold things directly to my fans. We used Kickstarter. We used twitter. We blogged and emailed up a storm. We went direct, we mailed records to tens of thousands of homes. It was a shit-ton of work. I needed a lot of help. I was on tour. From the ground control of Amanda-central, people had to man the phones, filter the help lines, provide customer service, and arrange ALL sorts of inexplicable things. By the time my Kickstarter was over, at least a couple hundred of my fans were on a friendly first-name basis with, the guy on my team who helped everyone, tirelessly, with their nitty-gritty order questions.

We didn’t know what kind of help he was going to have to provide for me until the crises happened, but when help was necessary, he helped.

I’ve been through a mill of managers, assistants, agents and publicists. Some of them wanted to make money more than they wanted to help. Some of the members of my extended team have been with me for twelve years, and some have only lasted six weeks.

What’s the general pattern? The ones who wanted to help more than they wanted to make money have stayed with me.

My booking agents used to just call up halls and book gigs for me. Things were simple. Then Twitter and Facebook came along and made flash gigs possible. (I call them “ninja gigs,” and I recommend them to any artist with an acoustic instrument).

After endless phone calls, explanations and arguments, some my agents began to understand that my desire to show up and play a twittered flash-event in a public park on the day before a gig in Detroit is a feature, not a bug. People would come to the free gigs, connect, and then I’d take polls at the ticketed, money-making show the next night. A lot of people came because they were turned onto the information, one way or another, through the existence of the free flash gig the day before. Promoters used to call my agents, screaming that I was sucking away ticket sales. But the numbers would eventually speak for themselves. Now they listen. They even help.

The agents who didn’t listen to me, who didn’t try to help, who fought me… they didn’t last.

Managers used to roll their eyes when I asked them to please, please, please read my blog comments and my twitter feed, so they could understand the day-to-day vibe of the community, so they could listen, and therefore, know how to help me and the fans to connect in the best ways possible.

The ones who never understood this didn’t last.

Publicists used to agonize, telling me to please shut up and lay low whenever I traipsed into a controversial situation. I ignored them, kept talking, arguing and engaging people, and all of that work eventually landed me a TED talk that’s been viewed almost ten million times, my own book deal, and a gig writing this introduction. You can’t force people to want to help you, but you can walk away and gravitate towards those who really do want to help.

And how do you help someone with a big mouth? How do you help an artist who barely wants to talk?

It’s HARD to help an artist. This will also never change.

Artists are inherently weird. Music is intangible. Music isn’t concrete, even though it can sometimes seem to be. You’re dealing in the business of feelings, and a strange kind of exchange that extends far beyond the eye-for-an-eye exchange of most businesses. The grey area between help and coercion is wide, and many artists don’t even know what kind of help they need. Worse, many artists have an allergy to certain varieties of help. Letting the artist take the lead is essential if you’re going to be seriously helpful. You can’t assume that all artists want the same things. Ask first, then attack.

To put it crassly, but it’s a fine analogy: you can’t insist that someone have an orgasm by simply pounding away at them. Asking how they need it may be hard, or awkward, but it’s essential if you’re going to be a good lover.

All of the tools that Steve is laying out and explaining in the pages to come are for your arsenal of tools, artist and helper alike. Keep everything handy, and know that using the right tool in the right moment is what makes you truly helpful (and if you’re an artist: able to help yourself and those around you who need a lift up).

The roles that exist in “music business land” (manager, publicist, lawyer, promoter, etc.) originally developed to serve the artist and the audience. To act as a bridge. A connector. A helper. Through the years, that concept has been obscured in a jangle of label expense accounts, self-aggrandizing gate-keepers and gold chains.

So as the whole system goes up in beautiful new flames, ask yourself: where are you?

In the burning building?

Or are you looking for a way to act as a bridge, somewhere on the long, craggy trek a soulful song takes from a Finnish musician’s heart to the heart of a 16-year-old kid in rural Wisconsin, who’s listening with headphones in a crowded cafeteria or standing in the back of a shitty local bar, having snuck in with her fake ID, crying her eyes out?

Can you imagine yourself thinking – assessing what you’re doing with your time, your energy, your talents, your life – not about your own success, but something even more divine:

I helped make that moment happen.

And if you can’t imagine that moment being the most satisfying moment of your life, more satisfying than making all the money, more satisfying than climbing up the corporate ladder, you probably shouldn’t go into the music business.

Choose something more concrete.

Go into insurance sales.

– Amanda Palmer 

Image by Amanda Hatfield, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

128 Responses

  1. Frank

    pizza, some beer, and hugs

    — Amanda’s answer to the question to how she can help touring musicians

    • Jeff Robinson


      There is NO economy in freeloading and asking people for favors.

      “Helpers” mean someone is NOT being compensated for their time.

      Independent artists I strongly encourage you to steer clear of this mentality. When you pay for the services you require, then you will respect them more. Most egregious in the Amanda Palmer view is the entitled view of finding people to ‘help’ because she is so deserving of their help.

      How about this- “I’ll help you make a great independent record Amanda, but it’s gonna cost a minimum of $20,000 to do it right and do it my way.” It’s up to you to find out how you pay for it and how you re-coup the money. If you were getting paid for streaming your music, then you could earn the budget to do that once it comes out. I make great records. You’d benefit from that experience.

      • Gudrun

        Jeff, it is funny to me that you assume that “help” means “without money” since obviously, 1) Amanda pays the people she is talking about 2) She clearly speaks about paid people in the industry who just do not help. Also the “do it my way” in your argument sits wrong with me since as an artist I should be allowed to have an opinion about the way I want to do it and might even have a better idea what is helpful in the long run.

        • Jeff Robinson

          Yep, most artists I’ve come across have two things going for them:

          1. They have no money to make a decent record

          2. They ask for ‘help’.

          I make records for a living. Good ones. That start with $$ for services rendered.

          Artists that make the request for ‘help’ are dreamers and will fail.

          • Mike Zigdalo

            Well, Jeff, if those artists fail the way Amanda has “failed”, I look forward to buying their album and meeting them on tour!

          • Bryan

            “They will fail”

            Amanda has been around for a while now…doesn’t look like she’s failing.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t know her — did she ever sell any records?

            Bad writing, too.

          • Anonymous

            She had a label deal, they helped her generate a substantial fan-base. She is also a great schmoozer and went to a decent school where she increased her circles and fan-base as well.

            So she is able to do these things mostly due to the substantial fan base she had built up via the more traditional music label system.

            Yes she has sold records.

            It’s just difficult advice for those who have not had the luxury of significant fan-base building earlier in their careers.

          • St. Ives

            Palmer is a bullshitter and a deceiver. Half her followers are fake, she was dropped from her record label, her tours are a joke and her Kickstarter was a Scientology illusion. Amanda Palmer is Made of FAIL.

          • Dexter

            One look into the google results of your name, mr. Robinson and one will know what kind of music industry dinosaur you are. No wonder you oppose and ridicule Amanda’s approach. What she preaches is obviously bad for yo business.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t bad-mouth dinosaurs, they evolved into birds.

          • Stoufus TheGod

            Jeff..Really? You call the tripe you shovel out of your so-called studio good?
            Whose delusional now?


      • Goose

        What I read was “The fact that your business model seems to work bothers me immensely because it isn’t how Alicia Keys got big and she is clearly the only artist ever.”

        Seems legit.

    • Barista

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blatant comment bombing on an article. So many of these comments are clearly written by the same disturbed person with some kind of weird grudge. But it’s so obvious I am sure it won’t fool anyone who found this article inspiring!

    • Stoufus TheGod

      This Courtney Love knockoff is hardly the spokesperson for real artists.
      Her classless and talentless “shows” are sideshow events at best.
      Her fool of a husband’s pockets are her biggest “Help”


    • Monkeyshine

      Amanda Palmer cannot sing or write music. That’s the amazing part of this. Why would musicians take advice from a talentless, awful, scammer who worked as a dominatrix and married a rich scientologist who cold fund her crazy pipe dream of being a star? Rosebud.

      The blabbering excerpt from her book is mindboggling in its run on sentences, bizarre use of semicolons and childish rambling devoid of any sense. Did Gaiman even look at your book? Because if he did, he wants you to fail bigtime. I wouldn’t let my worst enemy put out writing that crap addled without a warning them they were about to step in it.

    • Cyrus

      Amanda Palmer, please go sell insurance and stop torturing the Internet with your crappy music, muff dances, stripping and howling tuneless thought vomit.

  2. maxwell

    “Pizza, beer, hugs”

    -Amanda Palmer when asked, “What’s in it for me?” by the professional musicians she wants to work for her for free

  3. Ari Herstand

    I love you AFP. So inspiring. So much truth. Paving the new business. Excited for your book. My response to your Art of Asking.

    • Sammy Flow

      I couldn’t agree more..thanks Amanda for shedding the light.

    • Anonymous

      Come on Ari man.

      Paving the new business?

      A new business she would have no chance at if not for the traditional label system that helped her build the very fan-base she now can exploit herself.

      Come on guys, a little truth and honesty into the reality of the situation please, thanks!

      Telling others to follow her success is going to result in massive failure for many many people because her success is built and dependent upon traditional record label support and significant years building a fanbase.

      Kickstarter and asking people for help and these books and all these tricks mean squat without a lot of fans already established.

      • Anonymous

        Honestly i think the best advice Amanda gives is just in being herself, because she has found a lot of success through her personality and her networking.

        Schmooze the bloodclot out of it. Schmooze schmooze schmooze schmooze schmooze.

        Theres the book that should be written. 300 pages of schmooze repeated over and over. I wish someone would have drilled that into me before i decided to get into music.

        If you can schmooze like a mofo, you will be pretty successful.

        • Anonymous

          This is definitely an Amanda Palmer et all BLOG.

          Using the benefits of the old label system to generate huge fan bases and then selling dreams and advice to those who fall for the evil label propaganda stuff, thus damaging and hurting peopels real physical lives.

          So who is really evil here?

          Anyways, that’s it. Moving on.

          • Anonymous

            i just stepped unknowingly into the middle of a War when i got into music.

            Collateral damage for sure. Oh well, hope all of you are successful and achieve your dreams and may you win whatever war or revolution you are fighting, but one thing for sure, it isn’t about freedom.

            Good Luck,

          • Anonymous

            i think for me the sense i get, is that this group of people is really playing that Jesus almight, saint, miracle worker, i help people card all over the place, and profiting handsomely from it.

            I would go as far as to suggest this crew, her crew et all, are the most selfish narcissistic people out there and significantly more evil and unhelpful then those they are fighting.

    • Versus

      The “new business” is apparently not a business at all, but a charity or hobby.
      You just give and expect nothing in return.
      Peace and love and all that.
      Doesn’t pay the rent or keep the lights on or put food on the table for the children.

  4. Minneapolis Musician

    Seems like all the money is in selling services to aspiring music stars. There seems to be a never ending supply.

    The current 13 to 23 years olds are happy with simple beats and no lyrics of any substance. This is music which can be generated by a computer and mouse clicks pretty easily. Plenty of free tutorials on the Web.

    So everyone knows someone who makes popular-styled music these days. It’s nothing special.

    Image. That’s special. The make believe image that you create as an “artist”. Then you shout your anthems for your demographic to pump their fists to as they declare their feelings along with you.

    Gerat, interesting music? It’s like jazz…a VERY tiny number of people love it these days.

    • hippydog

      Quote “Seems like all the money is in selling services to aspiring music stars. There seems to be a never ending supply.”

      You hit the nail on the head on that one..

      at least until the people get sick of drinking to much “kool aid”..

    • mojo_bone

      Yep. Puts one in mind of the Gold Rush days when the only people who didn’t ‘get broke’ were the ones selling the shovels, pans and pickaxes. Amanda is entirely correct, in some respects, but her ‘advice’ should be taken with a large dose of salt. She’s known more as a media personality than for her actual music; you know her story, but can you name a single song? Making connections is vital, and who you know counts for more than what you know, but you don’t want your music taking a back seat to your media presence; you’d do as well to ask Madonna how she ‘schmoozed’ influential NYC DJs back in her club days.THAT’S your competition, and that’s how bad you have to want it. Better to take advice from people who actually have skin in your game than from dream merchants and profiteers.

      You really do need to maintain an attitude of service, instead of coming from ‘I need’, ‘I want’ or ‘I demand’. The real narcissists in this business NEED a layer of management between themselves and the people who can help them, so as not to drive them away, screaming. Some of the biggest stars are flaming egotists; sick, twisted monsters driven by an overriding NEED for fame and adulation, but they tend not to have long careers. If you want to get anywhere in this or any business, you have to learn to focus on the needs of others; your happiness is a byproduct of the happiness of others, and you have to truly love the work, or you’ll never last.

  5. another anonymous

    A little realism…. Thanks for that. Bottom line is…. Moments don’t pay the rent. If the next McCartney/Lennon/Hendrix/Cobain can’t pay the rent, they’ll sell insurance.

  6. another anonymous

    A little realism…. Thanks for that. Bottom line is…. Moments don’t pay the rent. If the next McCartney/Lennon/Hendrix/Cobain can’t pay the rent, they’ll sell insurance instead.

  7. Minneapolis Musician

    Nothing wrong with selling insurance, by the way. If your house burns down, you’ll be so thankful someone sold you the right insurance.

    • Sef

      She wasn’t implying something was wrong with selling insurance. The term comes fromthe days of door-to-door insurance salesmen. It was a less than concrete way of earning money. She’s saying “if you don’t have the ability to put your everything in to this, you’re not likely to make much money here. You’ll be better off selling insurance, something which historically has a very poor reputation for making money.”

      • Minneapolis Musician

        Over the years the phrase “then sell insurance” meant do some grey, boring, uninspiring job. At least that was the meaning when would-be stars and artists used the phrase.

  8. Minneapolis Musician

    “Artists are inherently weird. Music is intangible.”

    I don’t think artists are naturally weird. Maybe some like to think they are special. I think they are normal humans. Humans create. You don;t have to be abnormal to do it.

    And second, what the heck does “music is intangible” mean, really? That you cannot physically touch it? Why is that important in the context of this article/speech? Music’s sound waves are physical and are definitely tangible. You HEAR it. It’s there. Its concrete. It is as real as a smell or a feeling.

    Can we sum up the premise of this article in a sentence or two?

    Maybe, that the future of the music business is in providing services to all the aspiring artists out there. It’s not really in making music itself. That’s not a viable career any more unless you get very lucky, long term. But selling services to the endless stream of people giving music a try as a career, that is a viable way to make a living, long term.


  9. why

    “I can’t live on free beer and hugs. You just made over 1 million dollars. Surely, you can spare some of that for musicians you want to play with you?”
    -Professional musicians Amanda Palmer wanted to play for her for free

    “If you’re asking “what’s in it for me?” then you’re in the wrong business.”
    -Amanda Palmer’s response

    Seriously, Amanda Palmer, you think only people who don’t need the money should be in the music business? The rest of us should be selling insurance, or the equivalent? I suppose that’s one fix. Would work for the children of the wealthy. Oh, wait! Didn’t you grow up in Lexington, Massachusetts where the median HHI is over $100k. Right …..

  10. MickeyMac

    I stopped reading after the first “yall.”
    Posting negative rants = no balls.

    • Anonymous


      If that is what you believe then that is what you believe…

  11. music fan

    She’s the same person who was not even paying the musicians in her band. She sounds like a narcissist to me. The great mysterious artist, and her servants who live to help her.

    • LamissV

      Please do your research. The members in her band were salaried and the people who volunteered to play with her for a few songs for live shows were paid retroactively after the matter was brought up and she considered what everyone said on the matter. Hate her if you like, but for the right reasons.

      • bostonian

        She asked for “professional-ish” musicians who could submit a resume and show up for rehearsals. She wanted “volunteers” only in the sense that these professional musicians weren’t going to get paid the night they played with her. Here’s the audition call from her blog:

        • Paul Resnikoff

          I think ‘bostonian’ has a point. The salaries were paid only after the massive backlash that ensued, when critics broiled Palmer for calling for free volunteer band members after making $1MM+ on her Kickstarter campaign.

  12. danwriter

    Condescending bloviation. Makes Taylor Swift’s essay in the Times look positively spot on.

  13. David

    The irony is that Amanda Palmer is one of the world’s most self-absorbed people. If you have a strong stomach, try watching her TED talk – especially the bit near the beginning where she recalls how her street performances (actually ‘living statue’ stuff) brought a moment of light into the drab lives of the people passing by. Keep a sick-bag handy, just in case. Of course, the TEDdies loved it all.

    • Notyet

      So are you saying that not one of those people that passed her on the street had any light brought into their lives?

      Because I still think about this one particular statue downtown who acknowledged me in his own way. He definitely brightened my day.

      • Flanders

        Amanda Palmer is is an immoral sex addict who worked as a dominatrix and is in an open marriage, objectifying and using people for sex. Now she’s pregnant with God knows who’s baby and she’s going to perform that in public too. Revolting.

  14. hippydog

    There is a difference between asking people to pay for services rendered,
    and actively ripping people off.. problem is that “line” can randomly change position

    Its all about perceived value right? Maybe a musician sees value in playing for free (even though everyone else is making money)
    What can happen is as the “kool-aid” starts to wear off, the backlash can be immense,,

  15. Willis

    After reading the title of this article and considering reading the entire piece, I wondered what was really in it for me, so I passed.

  16. Minneapolis Musician

    Ever notice how people start businesses helping others get rich at something after they can no longer get rich doing it?

    Like seminars on how to get rich selling real estate…from FORMER real estate speculators?

    SO now we’ll start to see former music stars starting a long-term business telling aspiring youg musicians on how they can be music stars and reach enough audience to make a living, etc.

    • drhill

      that whole “how to make a living in music” advice thing is probably how a large percentage of ex-musicians are rollin…

    • hippydog

      its already started.. First they start with blogs.. then a book, then DVD’s start coming out..

  17. Dry Roasted

    Alternate title:

    “If You’re Not Asking ‘What’s In It for Amanda Palmer?’ Then Get the Fuck Outta Here!”

    • roasted

      LOL I like how she complains about her staff who work for pay and not “to help” her. YOU’RE FIRED! No more hugs for you!

  18. Hypebot Hater

    Very shrewd move, Steve Gordon. Says a lot that you choose to put this in DMN.

    • roasted

      Sarcasm, I assume? Cuz, dude, this is some crazy narcissism right here.

  19. Vickie Nauman

    I love this essay. It’s her philosophy and it works for her in a music economy that is really, really difficult.

    More power to artists who hone their craft, find their fans whether few or many, and proceed with eyes wide open.

  20. Anonymous

    This is my effort to combat the trolls.

    I used to be really pissed off at AFP’s not paying musicians who helped on tour. I’ve done a teensy bit of gigging and know there’s no way in hell I would have been playing X, Y, and Z had it not been for the fact I was being paid for my time. Then my girlfriend, who’s an extremely avid Amanda fan, talked some sense into me.

    These weren’t just gigging musicians she asked to play at her tour stops. They were her fans, who play music, just like she does.

    When I was about 19 and trying to teach myself piano, I learned a shitload of Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor songs. I would have DIED if either of them had offered up a similar deal. It’s the chance to perform, to share in that both ethereal and visceral experience that every musician craves.

    As far as I’m concerned, AFP did an incredible kind service to her fans by offering them that backstage, “you are one of us, you are just like me” experience. All those people were happy to work for free because they were working with someone who inspires them, much like so many grassroots organizations (the 2008 election comes to mind).

    Bottom line is, there are various forms of compensation.

    • Teebiscuit

      In the olden days, this was referred to as a “jam” session. You would have your featured artist with guest walk ons for collaborative creativity which the audience could experience in an intimate setting. It’s not like these are “stadium” venues and big money. The negative feedback on this was ridiculous and sensationalzed by the union a-holes. I doubt Jimmy Page and James Taylor are gettng paid for guest walk ons for a song or two “jam” session in the giant venues.

    • padraig

      I absolutely agree, an artist or musician is inspired by those who came before them. As an artist, I would gladly give up hours of my time for a few minutes of my idol’s. To put it another way, if a starving artist, who is inspired by AFP was unable to afford to go to her show, was given the opportunity to not only attend, but can also score a free backstage pass, who are we to judge that person. I’ve managed to attend a buttload of free shows in my younger years by lugging amps, working doors et al for no compensation except the chance to hang out and chill with the band. I loved it. It didn’t pay my rent, but I got experiences that were worth more than money. I’m a firm believer that art is for everyone, not only the very rich with extra cash. Yes the artist has to live too, but in the end, if as a society we can build a structure where the value of love is greatest, then we all win.

  21. Craig Cartmell

    I have been following Amanda’s post for a little while, read her online essays, watched and listened to her music. Oddly, it seems, I don’t want to form a circular firing squad around every person who stands up and says ‘how about trying something new’ or ‘how about breaking the paradigm’.
    That’s because I am an engaged human and I love it when someone challenges my cosy little beliefs. I don’t have to agree with them but it makes me think, which is always a good thing.
    What I don’t understand is the hostility she and others seem to attract for trying something different and then sharing their experience of how it went, what worked and what didn’t. Are these critics lives so small and their world view so fragile that they feel the need to pour vitriol on those that try to do things differently.
    Our world is changing now at an exponential rate. We need people who will kick out the walls and say ‘hey, it’s sunny outside’ and ‘we don’t have to do it that way any more, there are other ways’.
    There will always a couch in my house, a seat in my car and a dinner on my table for somebody that does that.
    Young lady, keep doing what you are doing, you have made some of us better by doing it.

  22. lili

    I tend to misunderstood things, but I got the following ideas: Music bussiness will be hard in the future, in order to make a living with art connecting with your fans and having a clear idea about what is your market group target will be a key. For instance having a group of manager/publicists, etc. that will help you to find the best, cheapest and more personalized service that a small amount of money can afford will be neccesary.
    However, it is possible that you can’t make enough money to have a luxurious life with all the competence that it is about to come thanks to the digital era. For instance unless you are going to follow the art career for the sake of art itself it would be better to follow a different path. Sounds pretty sensible to me.

  23. jayrowse

    I’m wondering why people are assuming ‘help’ means for free? I help people at work all the time. I’m constantly wondering how I can help my organization run smoother and function better. I’m still paid.

  24. What works for her...

    …doesn’t necessarily work for you. In sex, life and business.

    So. Take what you need and leave the rest.

    Thanks AFP

  25. EasternEuropeanGirl23

    It’s easy for a rich person like Amanda to say “it’s not about the money”. Who cares about some kid in Wisconsin, when you have only enough money to live in a flat, buy food and once a few years go on holiday abroad for a week. Americans probably won’t understand what I’m talking about.

    • Gramma Goat Farmer

      Vacation abroad every couple years? I WISH! This American is lucky to get two days out of town every 5 years! I don’t make much money in my business because I DO care about people I have never met (in Wisconsin or where ever) that have need of what I make and can not afford exorbitant prices. There are actually many people who feel like this. Making money isn’t everything, as long as you can cover your basics.

      Amanda has money (big deal), it does not negate her words. What I get from this is, if you are ONLY in it to make money and don’t care about your art, or those it is aimed at, you are better off finding a different way to make money.

      As for your dig at “Americans”, this poor American dreamer is glad not to understand your particular way of thinking.

      Keep on Amanda! I may not agree with everything you say but keep on saying it Gal!

  26. Etienne Domingue

    It’s not like I’m working with a representative sample, but I have been in a few (terrible) bands over the past decade. The quality of my experience, and of the experiences of my (generous, forgiving) bandmates and audiences, seemed to increase with my willingness to make concessions. Making art doesn’t have to be a big deal if you respect yourself and set equitable, honest parameters with everyone involved.

    I’m given to understand AFP is saying: “It is a better idea to start with the goal of making music rather than with the hope of raking it in.”

    From the plethora of comments critical of this short essay, I can only assume that AFP is a minority figure and that success in the industry is determined largely by self-interest and business acumen, and this does seem to explain “top 40” extremely well.

    In philosophy, the contention that altruism is ultimately self-interested presents itself as rather more of an aporia than an ethical criterion.

  27. Anonymous

    The point is, unless you do it yourself, you rarely get to make the music you want, the way you want to make it. The technology to do it all yourself is finally there. Real artists don’t work for the money, they do it because they have an artistic itch that needs to be scratched. They do it because they have to, not because they want to make millions of dollars. I’ve been helping my musician friends promote their music for years, not because I expect them to pay me, but because I enjoy it. That’s why I have a day job.
    You might not like what AFP has to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true that people are making their own music, self-distributing it and booking their own shows. Joan Jett did it, back before the technology was on the artists’ sides, and look where she is now.

  28. Janelle

    I find it interesting that a lot of comments on this basically boil down to, “BUT MY WAY IS BETTER!”

  29. Obie

    Amanda is the rarest of breeds, the philistine-artist hybrid.

    She and Cory Doctorow should go on a speaking tour. I’m sure Google or some other Silicon Valley megacorp would bankroll it.

  30. Deanne

    I find it sad that so many people’s attitudes boil down to “growing the economy” – this must be how we ended up with auto-tuned pop-tarts and manufactured and easily manipulated throw away “reality” TV winners dominating popular culture.

    Those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo will never understand the approach Amanda’s talking about. They either can’t, or dont want to, terrified and/or offended by the notion that – for artists whose primary motivation is to entertain on their own terms with full artistic freedom – making-mega dollars isn’t the primary motivation. Because not everyone wants mega dollars, they just want enough dollars to keep doing what they love on their terms. For some, the reward of music being inclusive, collaborative and cooperative is just as valuable as earning a dollar from it. Music is primal, tribal. Music made with care, passion and intent can be felt deep in your soul; music made simply to shift units is completely devoid of soul.

    Trolls will always troll because it’s what they do. What’s disappointing is that on this topic, the desire and the ingrained sense of responsibility to MAKE ALL THE MONEY like good little capitalists completely ignores – or derides – the desire that many have to be part of something that is more than a path to a pay cheque. I would gladly help an artist be it by donating money or time to see their dream realised. The false worship of economy over integrity, expression and substance has created a system that praises complicity, malleability and a pre-determined and approved image. There is no room for true individuality when you have a list of people as long as your arm whose interest in your success is driven only by their desire to get paid.

    Throw away, manufactured pop has always existed to sell. Nothing has changed about that. But I am so happy that there are artists out there who are affecting their own change, so they are able to do their own thing on their terms – with a little help from their friends. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    P.S. Helping is selfish? Really?? I don’t help others to feel good about myself, I help because I see a need for it. I don’t consider personal reward – that sounds like a religious person’s motivation. I don’t have the god thing; I don’t seek to earn personal reward from my actions. What a pompous and depressing thing for that person to say…

  31. Ruby Nightingale

    Hello Amanda,

    I have noticed that the musicians and artist in the area where I live do help each other quite a bit. I am sure the fans play a part as well. I think you will never be lacking “helpers”. Your music will probably immortalize you to a certain extent because each song that you sing is born out of your experiences, your loves, relationships, imagination, and your heart. Even if you lost your voice in this vast span of time, your character would prevail because you have a Mojo, presence, and creativity that no one else can duplicate. Technology has changed so much in my 51 years of life; I can’t help but wonder what it will be like in another 50. Will bands be playing on peoples desk tops in virtual forms? who knows? It is all so interesting not only seeing the changes in the music industry but all the changes that have come with the internet and gadgets in the palms of our hands. The computer can answer the phones but then we lose the personal touch, as it lost in the virtual stream.

  32. Ruby Nightingale

    We should be able to edit! I meant to say. The computer can answer the phones but then we lose the personal touch, and so it is lost in the virtual stream.

  33. Minneapolis Musician

    Let me try to summarize her essay, as best I can understand it

    1) The music business has changed and there are no longer powerful record labels to promote an artist.
    2) But thanks to the Internet and technology, you can do most of this yourself.
    3) But “working artists” need help and you can help them
    4) Don’t help them primarily to earn money yourself; help them to help them. To be of service.

    My comment: assuming the helpers need to earn about $30,000 or more a year plus health insurance and all the other things an independent adult needs to support themselves…these working artists you help had better be able to pay you fairly!

    Or are the helpers expected to do it for the love of music?

    • bostonian

      Yep. Well summarized.

      You asked whether Amanda Palmer expects people to work for “the love of music”. It seems so, yes. That’s why the incident in which Amanda Palmer was expecting professional-quality musicians to play on her tour for free is so relevant. The whole thing embodies her attitude towards the people who “help” her. Succinctly, it’s all about her.

  34. CrowfeatheR

    Let me summarize her article into one scentence. Get behind the artist and be helpfull instead of standing in front of them as some self agrandizing gate keeper. Gate keeper, man your gate, but the wall hath fallen, we can simply go around you now, you are obsolete. However an extra pair of hands is welcome.

  35. Al

    Truly wonderful article, keep doing what you do best Amanda Palmer which is a variety of things.

  36. Burton

    Having worked in the insurance industry for 35 years I find Amanda’s comments relative to insurance, and for that matter any business outside of music, at worst patronising, at best unresearched.

    I have also played music for over 35 years, managed bands, played in bands, managed people.

    It may come as a surprise to some but there are only two differences, generally, between music and any other industry, be it from insurance to civil engineering (and both of which I have had considerable experience in) to whatever it may be. That difference is the product, I use that term because the article itself is very much geared towards “selling” (although from my persecitve it does seem to concentrate on the person more than the music), but the main difference is people in other industries are rarely chasing a dream, as they appear to in music.

    That “dream” is itself a product, of the society we live in, and a rather recent product, if we are talking “rock n’ roll”. If perhaps we understood what dreams represent to us a little better, we woud not become so fixated on “living the dream” and blaming “the system” when we dont get what we want. Dreams, generally, are not meant to be taken literally, dream psyschology 101 will tell you that much. They are methaphors for your own life, good, bad or indifferent.

    As to helping and being helped, it doesnt matter what industry you’re in, but the people who succeed and leave a postive legacy understand very much that you dont succeed without others help. They also understand that when you ask for help you cant expect it to come wrapped up precisely how you want it, you have to take it how its given and with good grace. You also have to give it back and when people complain that’s it’s not quite how they want it dont become offended but accept that with good grace.

    To my mind Amanda is herself continuing, perhaps unwittingly, to perpetuate the myth which modern music (modern being since the advent of the industrial revolution) has become, which is that it is an end in itself.

    Music is to be enjoyed. Trust me you can do that and have any job you like, including being a musician; just dont get caught up in someone’s elses dream.

    • Minneapolis Musician


      What a great set of thoughtful insights. I enjoyed reading it.

      Amanda would do well to read it as well. Because the gist of her “go sell insurance” quip is a common saying that selling insurance is vastly inferior to the amazing work that “artists” do.

      I have played in clubs and coffeehouses over teh years, had people pay real cash to hear me play, and yet I also built a software business that has sustained me well. I love all of it.

      Leonardo DaVinci was both a scientist, and an artist. He understood.

      — Glenn

    • bostonian

      If you read Amanda’s blog, you’d find she’s pretty down on “businessmen”. They show up on her blog often as the bad guys. They wear bad clothes, have offensive politics, and say stupid things. It IS offensive. I agree.

      • Minneapolis Musician

        Sounds like she loves to be the non-conformist, dissing the “straights”.

        • Burton

          People who only pick low hanging fruit are perhaps destined to remain on the ground

  37. Salesman/Business Owner

    …it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, but the people who succeed and leave a positive legacy understand very much that you don’t succeed without others help.

    Good salespeople do not sell FOR THE MONEY. Good salespeople (I’ve trained a few thousand) understand intuitively that they are problem solvers, and are there to HELP find solutions to peoples needs and desires.

    Amanda is correct. Today’s busy, working, DIY artist, needs HELP. But we don’t buy based on NEED. In fact, of the top five reasons people don’t “buy” – NO NEED is #3 behind NO DESIRE (2) and NO TRUST (1) which I read a lot of in this thread of negative comments about now NOT to succeed in sales and marketing.

    This isn’t about music. Some of my favorite music and artists are those who never play outside of their hometown – some of which is highly developed and sincere – but for whatever reason can and never will reach a wider audience.

    I have a couple of dozen clients a year who ask me for my HELP. My HELP comes with a price tag. I am altruistic to a fault, but I understand that my business is successful because of the HELP of others – either done voluntarily, or by those who I’ve engaged professionally.

    This was truly one of the saddest threads I’ve read on DMN in some time. There are some seriously jaded and cynical folk among you 🙁

    • Burton

      “My HELP comes with a price tag. I am altruistic to a fault, but I understand that my business is successful because of the HELP of others – either done voluntarily, or by those who I’ve engaged professionally.”

      Absolutely agree.

      “This was truly one of the saddest threads I’ve read on DMN in some time. There are some seriously jaded and cynical folk among you.”

      I’m not sure about that one. I think the topic, though to my eyes it was rather meandering and wide ranging, simply indicates there are a vast range of views on it including Amada’s; there is however no copyright on opinion. I think its very positive people feel strongly enough about it to post comments, which whether I (or Amanda for that matter) agree with, at least shows diversity; the majority were what I would see as constructive, including yours.

  38. Boston rocker

    Ironically, Amanda Palmer should be a much more successful artist. I think she torpedoed her music career with her various antics, and is now trying to reinvent herself as a TEDlebrity and cultural guru. She had a phenomenal start in the Dresden Dolls and she’s realized huge cultural capital from her marriage and artistic association with Neil Gaiman. She’s got wide name recognition, yet as Vulture magazine pointed out, few people have ever heard her music.

    Raising $1 million dollars on Kickstarter was an achievement, but as comments here have mentioned, her fan base was established while her record company was promoting the Dresden Dolls. In 2006, the Dresden Dolls sold 25,000 copies of their second album, and in 2012 Amanda received Kickstarter donations from 25,000 fans.

    Her fan base should have grown during that time, not least because of constant media attention due to her marriage to Neil Gaiman and his promotion of her work. She certainly became more well known during this time, but greater name recognition didn’t translate to a larger fan base. At several points, she squandered the goodwill of longtime fans through various controversies, including asking them to play on tour for free.

    Amanda has said herself that her Kickstarter-funded record was a commercial failure. I think she’s a model for how to run a promising music career into the ground.

    • Boston rocker

      I realized that I didn’t directly reply to this article, though implicitly if Amanda’s not the big success she claims then this whole essay falls flat. She says she did things “her way” and that the “help” shouldn’t disrespect that, but evidently if she had taken direction, she could have been much more successful.

      Yes, “her way” resulted in broad name recognition, if by “her way” you include her marriage to Neil Gaiman and the promotion of their collaborative projects as well as all of her various provocations and her TED talk, but it hasn’t resulted in the commercial success of her last album. She hasn’t achieved any growth in her market audience since the Dresden Dolls, a time period which has coincided with her doing it “her way”. Instead, there have actually been major missed opportunities to grow her audience, since none of her increased name recognition has translated to musical sales.

      The end result instead seems to be a sudden deviation from music into a new career as what I’m calling a cultural guru (though TEDlebrity is also an option). As I said before, she’s a model for how to tank a promising musical career and not how to grow one.

      • Anonymous

        i really used to like TED, but i am slowly growing very concerned with the direction they are taking and some of the philosophical ideologies they seem to be pushing and are supportive of. Shame really.

    • Brother Hammer

      Amanda Palmer married into the Scientology cult. The million dollar Kickstarter was orchestrated by that cult. Gaiman is funded by the vitamin money he receives from the cult. Amanda Palmer is a talentless has been and Scientology is not going to keep fudging her awful projects.

    • Taligarth

      All true except her career wasn’t promising. Amanda Palmer is just plain bad at music. She sucks.

  39. Bitch “BitchPudding” Wheeler

    How I adore your truthfulness.
    As a “regular” person of no musical talents, I do all I can to assist the artists I love. I support them in so many ways, not JUST buying their CD’s.
    I post, blog, tweet and share all I can. Aurelio Voltaire created the Voltaire Signal Corps and we do all those things to support his music, toys, books & other forms of art.
    Thank you very much for ALL YOU DO.
    I appreciate you.

  40. Anonymous fan

    This is awesome. And sums up the situation marvelously. Thanks. : )

  41. Music Manager

    Three things drive music sales….

    1. Radio Play
    2. Fan Base
    3. Live Shows

    be creative look for what can be done by yourself with whatever budget you have to spread your music, social media is great but not the be all end all to sell your music, get out from behind your computer and do like the artist in Canada did, he put an a-frame sign with a seating chart on it and walked the streets to sell tickets that he had written a check for that is artist participation and he sold it out! Now think of something else that was his idea…..And yes, if you are going to hire a publicist, radio plugger or manager you need to pay them. Good isn’t Cheap and Cheap isn’t good! Zig Ziglar

  42. Willis

    Uhhh…what’s in it for me?

    This has long been the cry of anyone entering the music arena. Girls? Money? Fame? Everyone is in it for something.

  43. Paul Resnikoff

    I’ve noticed a considerable level of discussion around the role of Amanda Palmer’s record label in building her career, and I’d have to agree that the promotional and marketing role of Roadrunner (a major-distributed) has been instrumental in Amanda’s success. I’d venture to say that without her major label, Amanda Palmer might not have a recognizable name; she’d probably be an obscure (and passionate) artist working on the fringes.

    The problem is that this doesn’t fit the narrative that Amanda has constructed, because it’s not the narrative anyone wants to hear or believe in. Nobody wants to believe that you need a media partner or established company to truly succeed; the ethos and magic of ‘DIY’ is too seductive and empowering to be polluted by reality.

    Amanda is a smart person, she’s an incredibly charismatic, enterprising and creative person who understands that her story and what it represents needs to be crafted in a specific way to work. And, to make Amanda Palmer, Inc. a successful enterprise. So, she’s very skillfully created a mythology, and delivered it in the most passionate and convincing way imaginable. That’s what being a ‘charismatic leader’ is oftentimes all about.

    I’m not placing a value judgment on that, but it’s worth pointing out.

    • Cmonbro

      While we also don’t want to talk about it… Neil’s ability to financially support the situation no matter what makes Amanda’s life a hell of a lot easier…

      Of course no one can fault her for whom she married but she can make these blanket ‘my way or the highway” statements because of entitlement.

      She doesn’t need music to pay the light bill or put food on the table..

      • Boston rocker

        Musicians don’t trust or like Amanda Palmer. She spins a mythos about her career that doesn’t acknowledge the legacy of her record company’s involvement (see Paul’s comment) or the advantages she’s gained from her marriage to a rich and famous man (see Cmonbro’s comment). Her claims about what has “worked” for her feel disingenuous, and her implications about what could “work” for the rest of us therefore feel condescending. Musicians are also aware of the scandal around not paying our kind to play on her 2012 tour, which seems indicative of her attitude towards the rest of us. Her marketing of this “do it your way” mythos to a naive, general audience feels like a stab in the back to working musicians.

        I saw some comments on this thread saying it was populated by trolls, but most early comments came from regular names here on DMN (including “Anonymous”). I just don’t think this stuff is going to fly on a website devoted to musicians.

        • Paul Abruzzo

          Boston Rocker – you speak the truth. As a full time musician, I’m much smarter than Amanda and so she can’t pull the wool over my eyes like she does to so many of her fans.

          But you are 100% correct in your comments. She loves to skip over details… What a phony.

          And you’re right – I have yet to meet a full time musician who has any respect for her.

          Weekend and Bedroom warriors? Love her because it’s the only time they get offered a real gig. But those of use that do this for a living and get paid correctly know what a phony and farce she is.

        • Go bimbido

          The only trolls populating this thread are the army of Scientologists that comment on all things Gaiman or Palmer. They always use the same strange, fawning language. Gaiman and palmer are a Scientology production. The cult pays for native advertising in The Guardian. The Kickstarter Campaign was a fake illusion courtesy of the cult. Palmer is borderline whack job.

  44. Paul Abruzzo

    Yeah, it’s easy to say money doesn’t matter when you marry rich. She’s like the Kim Kardashian of Music – she’s famous for being famous.

    Keep it real, Amanda. Real dumb.

  45. Another Hater

    I just hate this kind of neo-hippies, they’re nasty, she is an attention whore: undressing and saying some curses so that’s why she is famous, because her music, her 4 chords songs really stinks… It is like abstract art, take shit and put more shit then you can call it art (or in this case, music).

    • bostonian

      Basking up close in the glory of Amanda Palmer. You may also get a paycheck, if you negotiate well.

  46. Jamiah Jordan

    Interesting Video up there. lol…. HEY check out my Cover of Sam Smiths “STAY WiTH ME”
    Thanks. #LISTEN and #SUBSCRIBE

  47. Anonymous IV

    i think Amanda is just saying that people work harder if they like the music that they are helping promote/create…

    in any case, as an artist, i wouldnt want to get people for free unless they liked the music because no pay means its harder to tell them to do something your way

  48. Versus

    “If You’re Asking ‘What’s In It for Me?’ Then You’re In the Wrong Business…”

    This is self-contradictory. Calling it a business means that there is a mutually agreed upon exchange involved, typically financial (although it might be barter), in which there must be something for both parties, music creator and audience.

    If there is only a one-way transaction, from creator to audience, with nothing in return “for me” as payment, then this is not a “business” at all, but either a hobby or a charity.

    • Kyle Williams

      There are some counter-intuitive concept that sometimes work in business. For one, putting others (fans, clients) before yourself or bottom line is an example, and can actually lead to better long term results.

      Gary Vaynerchuk (successful business owner) wrote about this in Thank You Economy. AFP is following a similar route.

  49. Charles Ives?

    Charles Ives was in insurance sales his whole life (and, in fact, helped establish the modern practice of estate planning), and now he’s regarded as one of the most important American composers of all time. Don’t knock insurance sales.

  50. Anonymous

    At some point we need to ask what’s in it for me?To end up at 50 years old with no way to pay bills is not a pretty sight.

  51. Detroit

    At this point, Amanda Palmer appears to be a bipolar, histrionic psycho. This isn’t a manifesto or a plan, it’s a babbling diatribe written but someone who appears to be unhinged. This is Amanda Palmer’s mind vomit and it’s just as noxious and disturbing as her music.

  52. Ted

    Amanda Palmer has never helped anyone but herself. She pretended to commit suicide to scare her druggie boyfriend who then actually killed himself. Then she talks about it onstage like it’s funny. Amanda Palmer is human garbage.