Apparently there is some drama involving Amanda Palmer and the payment of backup musicians

Update: Palmer's paying all the musicians, forward and retroactively, so everyone can chill out now.

Whenever a female musician reaches some high point of success, particularly an indie artist—it seems inevitable that her moment of recognition will be followed by a backlash of one sort or another. With this in mind, I was not surprised to see a wave of drama spread accross my Twitter timeline yesterday, focused on Amanda Palmer. Her wildly successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than a million bucks for a music project.

On her blog, the hyper-interactive Palmer put out a call to fans that she was "looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes." In exchange, the blog post continued, Palmer promised to "feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make."

Critics said this amounted to asking for free spec work. Lots of hostile comments piled up on that blog post, some from working musicians, upset that the million-dollar crowdsourcer was asking for free labor from creative professionals who are struggling to make a living.

The New York Times arts blog reported that Palmer was "inviting those who play strings, saxophone and brass to join her on stage during a tour. Joy and beer are the recompense." Palmer told the Times she can't afford to pay the large backup ensemble she's hoping to have on tour, "a string quartet and three or four sax and brass players." The total cost to pay this number of musicians on the tour, she told the Times, would be around $35,000.

Legendary singer/songwriter/performer/producer/engineer/writer and epic troll Steve Albini piled on. He said critical things about Palmer's play-for-love invitation in the press and on industry message boards.

Fuck’s sake a million dollars is a shitload of money. How can you possibly not have a bunch laying around after people just gave you a million dollars?

He called her "an idiot" * He later clarified his comments, and had some thoughtful but critical things to say in a Q&A with the UK publication StoolPigeon. "Nobody's an idiot," he said, "some ways of conducting business are just uglier and more exploitative than others."

Elsewhere, Brendan Maclean, a musician who performed with her at one Australian gig for free, wrote in support of Palmer, and in conversation with her, and provided context for why some musicians don't have a problem with the proposed exchange.

And just last night, internet shit-storm be damned, these guys had a blast playing with Palmer for beer and hugs:

At the LA Times, a critical but civil response from Chad Matheny, "noise-folk singer songwriter" of L.A.-based project Emperor X.

Like Palmer, Matheny also routinely asks fans who can play one instrument or another to show up at gigs and accompany him for free. He, however, does this"out of necessity," as he has "considerable vision impairment and travels by bus or rail because he can’t drive a tour van."

He will often recruit collaborators online for each tour stop, each at varying degrees of skill and necessity for filling out his sound. But while he finds that the setup can be a creatively fulfilling and economically efficient strategy (especially for musicians on the low-margin DIY scene), it comes with expectation that everyone is broke and doing this as a passion project -- a sense of goodwill that an artist with fame and a huge financial windfall can't expect for themselves.

But when an artist raises a million bucks, as Palmer did, and that financial milestone becomes huge news? Well, that "expectation that everyone is broke and doing this as a passion project" is not shared. It doesn't matter that Palmer won't personally pocket "One! Million! Dollars!," and she won't: that string of zeroes is what pops into everyone's head right now.

Which brings me to the thought I've been chewing on, ever since I read the first angry tweet on this topic.

When you crowdsource project funding, every single person that contributed, and every single fan that even just heard about the campaign and didn't contribute—every single one of them feel like they own a little piece of you. That can be a good thing, and Palmer has certainly benefitted from that kind of mass intimacy.

But any time that many strangers feels entitled to tell you how to do your work, shit like this is just gonna happen.

It's worth noting that Palmer's career was built on this sort of volunteer/fan-collaboration/interactive stuff. She has volunteered her own talent as an unpaid artist on projects and tours, she has busked, she has jammed.

And one could argue that for some musicians, an opportunity to perform on stage with the post-Kickstarter-fame Palmer is more valuable than one night's worth of scale pay: bragging rights and egoboo sometimes trump that.

I don't think her intent here was predatory. There is precedent in the blogging world (unpaid guests popping in periodically on a popular blog, as I did before I became part of the Boing Boing team), and in the music world, and probably elsewhere, too. Sometimes artists work together in ways that aren't commercial exchanges. And Amanda Fucking Palmer isn't holding a gun to any starving trumpet players' heads, forcing them to accompany her for free.

In a response on her blog, she wrote:

there were cities like new york where jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps. he didn’t want to bank on possibly risky volunteers that night. chad raines, my guitarist, who’s also in charge of wrangling the horns, agreed on that front as well. so we called our more professional horns and strings friends in new york, and we freed up the budget to pay them. we’re doing that in some cities, and in some cities it’s a total grab-bag of strangers on stage.

So there's that.

Update: Glenn Fleishman wrote an interesting riff on this post, over at his blog.

* To put Steve Albini's comments in context, this is the same man whose project "Run N**ger Run" [redaction mine] released a track “Pray I Don’t Kill You F**got,” and was quoted in Spin as saying he wanted to call Big Black’s second EP “Hey N**ger.” He also once used the phrase "I don't give two splats of an old negro junkie's vomit" and "The future belongs to the analog loyalists. Fuck digital." Doesn't mean he's wrong on the merits of his arguments, but Albini periodically makes provocative or offensive comments to provoke a response.

(photo courtesy


  1. I thought it was a pretty cool experiment. Dangerous. Very edgy. You never know what you’re going to get. Capital ‘A’ Art. Her shows seem to break the wall between band and audience and this just took it one step further.

    But then I found out, via her own post, that she pays for those musicians when she thinks the show is important. Her words. She paid for them for a 3-night run in NYC.

    there were cities like new york where jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps. he didn’t want to bank on possibly risky volunteers that night. chad raines, my guitarist, who’s also in charge of wrangling the horns, agreed on that front as well. so we called our more professional horns and strings friends in new york, and we freed up the budget to pay them. we’re doing that in some cities, and in some cities it’s a total grab-bag of strangers on stage.

    The inconsistency bugged me. Made it seem far less Art, far more Business.

    Which is a bummer. I like her. And Theater is Evil is fantastic.

    1. Just based on what you describe, I have the opposite reaction.

      The fact that artists who just want to play and have fun get the chance to do that on stage with Amanda Palmer sounds great, and the fact that for the biggest venues with the highest expectations she hires proven professionals just sounds like common sense.

      Having known a lot of people on the fringes of the music industry, it took a long time for me to finally realize that the thing they love more than music is arguing about music. My stress level at their parties went way down when I understood that the bitter, cynical, dismissive and bitchy shouting matches were just how they socialized.

      1. Sure. And common sense has more place in Business than in Art. So I start to think she did it for the Business advantages, not for the Art advantages and that bums me out.

          1. This bit of witty is too short and obtuse to put in to the context of this conversation. Can you expand on it? Would you say she is more focused on the end result or the process here?

            I’d say she’s 50/50 there — she has her vision of what the show should be like and she has her methods for getting there. On this tour, sometimes she’s willing to pay people to produce the end result, sometimes she’s not.

            Jim Saul: comment reply depths seem to limit me from responding to your expanded comment below. Thanks for that though. I don’t disagree on the approaches she’s taking in the different locations making sense. It just took the sheen of avant garde Art off the whole thing for me. Like I said way below there: I wish it could have been done consistently, one way, throughout the tour.

          2. It’s a common quote about the music industry, but I can’t recall the source. I think I first read it in Bill Graham’s biography, but from one of the interviewees, not attributed to Graham.

            edit: too many millions of google results to nail down the source, but it’s widely applied to all arts.

            My application of it to this was to the backups rather than Palmer… I’ve always seen her as much as a performance artist as a musician, so in smaller venues getting volunteer amateurs to participate because they find the process itself rewarding seems fine, and paying professionals at bigger shows where the audience expects a professional level of technical accuracy seems appropriate.

            Your point below about NYC musicians unions may completely negate my guess on why some shows paid and others didn’t.

        1. This is a very naive statement. If you know anything about business you would know much of it lacks common sense. If business had anything to do with common sense the western world’s economy wouldn’t be in such a quagmire.

        2. Would you say that a group of highly skilled and practiced musicians are no longer producing capital A art? When I go to the symphony, my critique is not usually that they are too rehearsed. There are different forms of art–all perfectly valid–and Amanda Palmer is taking advantage of that spectrum. Large shows are not small shows. Rehearsing in advance and perfecting group timing does not diminish the artistic qualities of the piece. She doesn’t always need to be capital E experimental. 

  2. There’s a big disconnect with the money here. Yes, Amanda Palmer raised 1 million dollars, but she didn’t make 1 million dollars. She broke down where the money went/would go months ago.

    1. She got 10x times what she claimed she needed, she blew the money and now wants free labor. Sorry.

      I’m so sick of this strawman “Well she raised 1 mil but that’s not what she got.” She also skimmed $250 grand off the top and inflated all her costs. She asked for 100k, but was already 250k in the hole, huh?

      It’s a business she is making money doing it. This “oh it’s art you can ask for free shit” attitude is bullshit.

        1. Why can’t she -and- the collaborators make money? Why does it have to be a zero-sum game? Why is it a bad thing for artists who aren’t amanda palmer to be treated as if their art was valuable?

          1. Hang on a sec. I’m not a big Amanda Palmer fan–I knew a few songs from her Dresden Dolls days that played on the radio, that that’s it. But let’s see what her options are: she’d either need to make plans in advance with them, collect social security numbers and whatnot to pay them legally and above board, and limit the amount of participants to make sure that each one is payed fairly and equally. Her budget would need to be huge. OR she can send out a call, say “hop on my stage for as long as you want, play what you can,” and treat the participants to some beer, some food, time to mingle with her band and ask questions, and generally have a good time. I’m struggling seeing the problem with her decision.

          2. So, you’re saying she would need to behave like a professional musician for the funded music tour in which she doesn’t have to pay her backers, but instead collects exclusively for herself, after expenses…Where the expenses explicitly aren’t other musicians like herself. But hey, beer. That totally makes up for it. 

            Other bands hire local musicians all the time. Blues and Jazz are famous for it, and they don’t raise a million on kickstarter. Why weren’t people like Amanda Palmer considered to be a cost of this project? 

            If we’re going to celebrate unions, and treat writer compensation and illustrator compensation as sacred (as boingboing in post after post does) then why are musicians different? I’m struggling to see the difference between the two worlds.

          3. AFAIK she’s not having people hop on… She called for musicians and asked for videos/tapes of them playing from which she selected, and then they rehearsed becore the show with the band.

            I like her, love her ideas and her spirit… But I think she’s in a slippery slope here. At some dimension art behaves like business and you have to be damn careful and responsible. Unpaid labor is always bad except in very specific and controlled circumstances.

        2. Who ever said she is making zero.  Paying a string section is not going to destroy her.

          Also it’s a business, in a business if you can’t afford something you either go in a hole, or don’t get it. 

          Again this whole “it’s ok to ask for free shit if you are an artist” attitude is bullshit.

          1.  It IS OK to ask.  It’s also OK to say “no”.  Dunno why so many people have trouble with this concept.

          2.  This, a million times this. She’s not forcing people, she’s offering a fun night of music for one night at a local venue.

            If she wasn’t paying her touring band, that would be one thing, but she’s asking local people to bring their gear and join in. As long as the entry prices are also in an appropriate range, I wouldn’t have any problem putting my hand up. A night of playing with AFP would be something I’d put on my resume

      1.  The money she raised was to produce the album, not to go on tour. Apparently, she should have factored in the cost of a tour as well (although I though touring was where musicians made money).

        1. also, the expansion in money raised went to the correspondingly expanded tour and album sales. Folks, being a musician doesnt have to mean you can’t do math.

          1. It doesn’t have to, but given a random selection of people aren’t we pretty sure that an overwhelming majority of them who aren’t even artists can’t do this sort of math either?  We’re a nation that’s in debt and has poor spending habits and we think that just because someone puts up a kickstarter that means they’re better at it than the rest of us?  


        2. On the kickstarter page it clearly says “tour”.  The amount of false information being repeated over and over here is a huge part of the problem.  

          “Amanda Palmer: The new RECORD, ART BOOK, and TOUR”

      2. Just because you see a dollar amount, doesn’t really mean a whole lot once things start happening.  
        Rewards aren’t free.   Sometimes it costs $50 to make and ship a $50 reward.   That means the kickstarter actually lost money.   Sucks, but that’s how it goes occasionally.   Artists are known for art, not their shrewd business sense, that’s why the recording industry kept them in thrall for the last 50 years pretty easily.   Kickstarter isn’t changing that, and not everyone has the money to hire someone with business experience to make sure they can profitably fulfill their obligations to the backers.   

        So you can see a million bucks and think it’s a lot of money, but once the money is spent it’s considerably less so.   Bigger numbers just mean bigger fulfillment and not necessarily bigger profit.   

          1. Yes, and it showed that she has nowhere near a million bucks at the end of the day, but that’s the number that everyone keeps using to say that she should be paying people will her ONE MILLION DOLLARS of kickstarter money.   

          2. also showed she paid herself 250,000 dollars right off the top. some of that could be used to pay musicians.

          3. the way I read it, there was already a combination of debt and expenses that would eat that 250k, not that she was going to take 250k and buy a yacht or a beach house.   

            It looks like the post is down or my google-fu is lacking in the morning, but I definitely did not read it like “hells yeah bitches, 250k is ALL MINE”.  

          4. Having just spent two years working incredibly hard on a personal project that’s not going to net even remotely that much, I have to say … what the hell is wrong with making $250k for writing, orchestrating, singing and producing an album? 

            I’m torn on this issue myself. I dislike the “professionals matter in NYC, but I can get free labor in the boonies!” undertones and I am, frankly, a huge proponent of not working for free. Yes, even if your work is art. 

            But, the implication in this thread that it was inherently wrong to pay herself a salary of $250k? Well, frack it. I see nothing wrong with that. 

          5. I haven’t seen this mentioned, so I’ll throw it out there.  Amanda Palmer listed $100k as her goal for her original Kickstarter.  She then made $1.2 million, of which she said,

            “first i’ll pay off the lovely debt – stacks of bills and loans and the like – associated with readying all of the stuff that had to happen BEFORE i brought this project to kickstarter. for the past 8 months or so, i wasn’t touring – and therefore wasn’t making much income – but every step of the way, there were expenses. so, during that time, i borrowed from various friends and family who i’d built up trust with over the years.
            i had to pay my staff and crew to get this album ready as well as keep the ship afloat and headed in the right direction. i also needed to come up with the cost of the recording itself (which was pretty whopping), and any other expenses the band racked up in the meanwhile. to put a number on all of that behind-the-scenes stuff which just got us to DAY ONE of kickstarter: $250,000.terrifying? damn straight.”

            So, let me get this straight.  She did a Kickstarter asking for $100k, and then said it cost her $250k.  What, exactly, would have happened if she had only reached her goal?  A) How was she going to fulfill her promises being $150k in the hole, and B) why would she have put it up knowing she’d lose $150k?  If she had people who could spot her $250k (or corresponding work) to “keep the ship afloat”, why didn’t THEY just give her the $100k instead of asking people for it? Also, if one of those “people” happened to be her husband who is worth enough to easily fund a $100k project….um, what?

        1. If your attempt to raise money costs you money you are hopeless.

          We know exactly how much she made, and we have seen her inflated costs.  We have also seen the 250k she skimmed.

          You clearly have not spent much time looking at this issue.

          1. If your attempt to raise money costs you money, you are typical.   

            I find it tough to listen to “skimmed” as the argument.   Go look through 100 successful Kickstarter projects, and you will see 100 projects that are “skimming” if your definition of debt repayment and recouping investment for time and effort and materials spent on prototyping counts as “skimming”.    

            Most do it.   Almost NO successful kickstarter shows up with absolutely nothing to show for it.   You absolutely have to have a prototype or example of what you’re selling to be able to sell it.   It’s a rare kickstarter that is successful on hope and dreams, most of them are half-finished projects that need support because the starter is in debt up to their eyeballs but has a good idea that could make someone money if it’s able to hit the market.   

            Why is music different?  

          2. There is nothing wrong with skimming. An artist has a right to make money after expenses are paid. After all they have the right to eat if people like their work. But the main problem is she skimmed on a huge amount of money and then turned around and asked musicians to work for free. The implication is that she should be paid well for her labor while other musicians should not be paid at all.

          3. Yeah, but that isn’t even at all what she said!   She’s asking for people to volunteer AND paying the people in some places where the shows are going to be a much bigger deal.  In no way does that say musicians shouldn’t be paid at all.   It just says that (gasp) some musicians are more important than others and if she can get them for free, hooray.  If not, no big deal.

          4. pay the more important musicians more and pay the less important ones union scale.

            By the way what does that tell your fans that your show isn’t important so we are just getting some people off the internet…. but New York wooooooo.

            God I hate New York.

            >>This is in responce to Daves comment below<<

  3. Crowdfunding is suddenly the same as launching an IPO, where everyone feels they need to voice their concerns.
    Everyone who paid, have got what was promised to them, after a constant study of her twitter feed.
    If the musicians have no problem, then we may talk, but Amanda Palmer doesn’t have to listen.

  4. I would argue:
    Anytime artists or musicians try to get the media or audiences to consider their work as something actually worth paying for, shit like this is just gonna happen.

  5. I feel bad for the vilification she’s received, but I really feel like she should know better. She’s not a penniless musician – she’s very publicly raised a whole lot of money on more than one occasion. She has won a number of awards. She has sold a lot of records.

    If you are small, underground, whatever, by all means ask around and see if you can get players to come play with you in exchange for hugs. You aren’t guaranteed a response, and that’s OK. If you are a large, established act, you can’t do that. If you can’t afford to pay your players, then you can’t have players. Being a professional musician is not a well-paid gig at the best of times, as well she should know.

    Is she obliged to share her wealth around? No. Are people allowed to call her selfish for assuming musicians won’t feel hard-done-by when she asks them to play unpaid? I don’t see why not.

    1.  I’m not sure being high profile is the same as being wealthy.  The truth is, yes, we know what she has taken in for this sort of funding (not just this project and others), but it is not at all clear that she is wealthy from her work. I don’t know what her “net worth” is and she has not made it public. She could be just scrapping by, or living a middle class living, or she could be going home at the end of her tours, rolling around on a pile of kickstarter cash. There are plenty of musicians who we would think of as being high profile and well known, who make a modest living.

      From what I understand, she paid the guys who are on tour at every day (Grand Theft Orchestra). She has paid her lighting and sound guy. She has paid her camera lady. She has paid her merch lady. I don’t know how much all that comes up to.  She is asking for volunteers for specific dates. When I saw her this weekend, she had 3 volunteers, who played on 3 or so songs.

      I don’t know.  I’m struggling with all of this. I think there are larger forces at work that are impacting the music industry as a whole, and I think at the very least, she has been publicly struggling with all of this. There is an edge of misogynistic nonsense to all of this. Why else would people bring up her hairy pits?

    2. Not all, but a non-trivial portion of musicians I have known are some of the biggest self entitled pricks I have ever met. Musicians have a great job. You get laid more, meet more people, go to parties, and get to spend your days doing something you enjoy on a pretty flexible scheduled. A lot of people think that this is a sweet gig, and as a result a lot of people want to do it and are willing to do it for little, and so the pay is crap. If your job sucked, fewer people would be doing it and the pay would be better.

      This is a trade off. If you value money over the kind of lifestyle being offered, don’t be a musician. Work 9-5 in an office. A musician moaning about being under paid is just as stupid as an office drone complaining that no groupies want to sleep with him and that no one invites him to crazy parties. If the office drone wanted those things, the drone should have been a musician and excepted that his pay would be worse.

      Partying with Palmer sounds like fun. Playing on stage with Palmer sounds like fun. If I had to pick between sitting at home being paid nothing to watch TV or partying all night and playing on stage with Palmer and being paid nothing, I would pick the later without a second thought. Only self entitled prick would think that they deserve the later AND money. If you don’t like it, don’t take her up on the deal. If money is so important to you, stop being a musician and get a real job. It isn’t Palmers responsibility to financially subsidies your fun non-office drone life.

      1. Most of being a musician is much more of a real job than you realize. It’s moving gear from place to place, it’s playing music you hate for commercial clients, and it’s having to shore up your psychic defenses against people like yourself that still insist it’s not a “real job.” You have no idea.

      2. If your job sucked, fewer people would be doing it and the pay would be better.

        Uh, if the job was easy, effortless, and anybody could just suddenly stand up and do it, you’d be doing it too….

        There are countless hours of unglamorous work required before you get to “party all night” after a show….never mind that a ton of musicians also hold down ‘office drone’ jobs while still spending hours rehearsing, writing, planning etc..

        Your comment is even more off base considering that she’s asking for string/brass musicians which are often not just incredibly practiced/skilled, but have undergone years of classical training. Or “partying” as you might call it….

      3.  This is EXACTLY the kind of attitude that AFP is perpetuating – that trying to make a living playing music is a fun, great job where you just go to parties and get laid all day long – and therefore, you are not entitled to actually get paid for what you do. For those who have never tried to make a living as a musician, here’s the inside scoop: it CAN be fun, and rewarding, and satisfying. It can also mean hours of driving, loading and unloading gear; hours of practicing at home when you’d rather be outside; hours spent on the phone trying to find a gig, or get paid for the one you did last week where the guy paying you “forgot” his checkbook; etc. Just because someone has chosen to pursue a career as a creative artist doesn’t mean that they aren’t entitled to be paid for what they do. By that argument, the only people who deserve to get paid are those who are already the most highly paid – because if you aren’t highly paid, isn’t that because you chose something else, valued something else over money?

      4. I absolutely love non-professional musicians lecturing us on what the life of a musician is like.

        Let me tell ya (and I make my living playing, and absolutely think that Amanda is clearly in the wrong here… that the numbers she released clearly demonstrate that she can afford to pay union scale on her tour… she has NO LEG TO STAND ON) you couldn’t be a whole lot more wrong about what it is, as a job.  It’s somewhere between being a house painter and an oil and canvas-artist.  It’s somewhere between being a hermit and a door to door encyclopedia salesman.  Its downtime is filled with dread, instead of the downtime of your normal job.  There is no paid vacation, or paid anything.  It’s high stress, and we do it because it’s a calling… it’s what you know you have to do.

        If Amanda wanted to hire a dozen goobers from the crowd to play kazoo and slide whistle, hugs are more than fair compensation.  If she, as someone who has money (all debates about how we define wealth aside) wants to hire “professional musicians” who have devoted their whole lives to their craft:
        — IT IS APPROPRIATE TO ASK THEM TO PLAY FOR FREE ONLY IF IT’S A CHARITY EVENT.–  That is it.There isn’t another side to this.  This is black and white.So very few of you would willingly do your day to day jobs for free. You need to stop romanticizing what it is to be a musician, and think about the fact that everyone has bills to pay. Amanda issued a slap in the face to musicians, and a massive load of hot air as a rationale.  

        1. So very few of you would willingly do your day to day jobs for free..

          That simply isn’t true. If my choice was between doing my day job for free for a few hours in exchange for hanging out with someone I like, I would and have. I don’t particularly like my day job and I sure as hell wouldn’t do it 24/7 for free, but for a few hours in exchange for a fun experience? Sure. I have in fact offered given my services to multiple people for free just because I liked them and wanted to hang out. If I look at the experience being offered and don’t think it is worth my time, instead of crying about it, I just… you know… don’t do it.

          You need to stop romanticizing what it is to be a musician, and think about the fact that everyone has bills to pay. Amanda issued a slap in the face to musicians, and a massive load of hot air as a rationale.

          Dude, pick another job if you hate being a musician so much and think it is such horrible and hard work. You can moan and groan about how hard it is, but the fact is that you picked it when there were other options. Lots of people picked boring and miserable careers because they wanted to avoid the things you complain about.

          As for Palmer, the solution is simple. Don’t fucking volunteer. This isn’t a hostage situation. She doesn’t have a gun to your head and didn’t make a demand. It wasn’t a slap in your face because the offer clearly wasn’t directed at your self-entitled ass. Don’t want to do your job for free, then don’t fucking do it for free. How hard is this? If everyone agrees that her offer is a rip off, she won’t get anyone to volunteer and will have to shell out cash. The fact is that some people consider the experience worth a few hours of their lives and, unlike you, don’t care about the money. It isn’t Palmer’s job to subsidize your lifestyle and try and inflate your wages by paying for things that people are willing to do for beer. If you really want to gnash your teeth at someone, do it at the people that are undercutting you by offering to do it for beer. Shake your first angrily at those people that picked hanging with Palmer for a few hours instead of watching a TV or taking a paying gig. I am sure they care deeply about your opinion on their life choices and will take it into advisement.

          If you were a prostitute, would you be shaking your fists at the offense of people who are looking for and getting sex for free? Someone is willing to do your job for beer. Get over it or find a new job.

          1. He seems, I don’t know, “right” to me. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. And don’t rage at Amanda, rage at the people who ARE willing to do it. If they weren’t willing, she couldn’t do it. Treat them like union scabs or something. Try to make them feel guilty for being willing to play for beer and the chance to hang out with a person they must really admire. See how that works out for you.

  6. I’m surprised no one has thought of it this way: Amanda Palmer is actually doing a service to the musicians by offering them the chance to play with her onstage. Yes, it’s a bit rough to ask them to do it for free beer and a hug, but they also get to put on their resume that they played a live show with Amanda Palmer. Yes, THAT Amanda Palmer, the famous one.
    While I understand the outcry over this a bit, I still think it’s a bit silly. She’s asking them to do this, not hiring them, getting them to play, and refusing to pay them afterwards. Any musician getting into this agreement knows what the deal is. So what’s the problem? If you don’t wanna do it, don’t do it.

    1.  That’s one of the two things creative professionals hear all the time: “Work for me for free because I’m big and famous so it’ll look good on your resume!”

      The other thing they hear all the time is: “Work for me for free because I’m not big nor famous, so I can’t afford to pay you. Won’t you help a brother out?”

      1. You’re completely misconstruing what’s going on here. Amanda Palmer isn’t saying “Work for me for free because I’m famous!” She’s saying “If you want to work with me, you’re welcome to, but I’m afraid I can’t pay you.” Now, like I said, it sucks that she’s not offering to pay the musicians, but this isn’t some demand. It’s an offer. No one’s saying you have to take it. But it’s also an opportunity to play with a musician that some people like, and to be seen with her in a big, official setting. That’s not nothing. Wanna hang out with a celebrity? Here’s an opportunity.

        1. And everyone is commenting on her offer, no one is saying she has no right to make the offer.  People just think she is bad at business and kind of an asshole for making the offer for people to bath in her presence and smile as they generate revenue for her and get nothing in return.

          1. Calling here an “asshole” is your own subjective opinion. Calling her “bad at business” just shows that you don’t know much about business.

    2. It’s worth absolutely nothing. 

      I’m not trying to be snide or cruel.  
      Having “I played for free in support of Amanda Palmer because of an internet post” on your “resume” (which is hardly a serious thing–we get gigs based on referrals, not based on our history of past gigs) probably just makes you worth LESS, because it shows that you’re willing to work for free, for someone who is being WELL PAID.

      1. Bull. Shit.

        In the real world, people “work for free” all the damn time. It’s called “internship”, and people do it to get experience in a field where they want to work.

    1. There is substance to the arguments floating around, but yes, I have observed that female artists who reach some point of public acclaim tend to get slammed with particular force. I’m gonna take a wild guess here that you are not a female musician, and that you haven’t polled, say, a dozen of her peers to see if this is a common feeling. That doesn’t mean there’s not a story here, or an argument here, but the nature of the pile-ons tend to be particularly cruel when the artist is a woman.

      1. While women are held to different standards, they are also given more leeway in what happens within the band.  Sexist?  Probably.  But I don’t recall any of the women I’ve worked with volunteering to help with load in/out.  

        /yes, that’s not in every band
        //or every woman….or guy
        ///maybe it’s just lead-singer-itis….

        1. As someone who’s worked at a venue for five years: if they were to offer, chances are the band would refuse the help because I’m female. I can count on one hand the times bands took me up on the offer for help, despite being twice their size and it being my job to carry stuff. Sexism is well alive in the industry, and after a while you stop asking just to avoid the awkward “we’re fine”‘s followed by back-breaking groans and whimpers.

          Edited to avoid confusion.

          1. Sheesh Vette — you are completely missing the point there. I can’t see how female musicians refusing your offer of loading/unloading help was “sexist”. Those female musicians have to load/unload their gear no matter what the venue, and no doubt experience all kinds of truly sexist behavior from the club owner, club staff, other non-female bands, and the crowd. I suggest you read Angry Women in Rock:


            The interviews with women in bands reveal the same kind of stories over and over, between outright obstruction (Jarboe from the Swans violently assaulted by a bouncer as she was going on stage, because this dude could not believe she was a member of the band) to sound techs refusing to follow instructions to well, everything else in between.That book was released in 1996, but I doubt much has changed. Maybe those women in those bands refused your help because if they accepted your help, they were condescended and patronized to if/when they accepted (ie damned if you do, damned if you don’t).

          2.  Pretty sure you’ve got vette’s comment backwards. I think vette is a woman who has offered male musicians loading/unloading help, and said male musicians refused to take her up on it.

      2. Also, the Boston music scene has historically trashed any musician who get successful outside of Boston, I’ve been seeing it since the late ’80s, probably been going on since way before my time

      3. I see where you are coming from the pile-on perspective, but I just thought it was strange to lead the piece with that. The substance of the “debate” doesn’t appear to have anything to do with gender. Again, not disagreeing with your observation or the sentiment.

        Qualifiers: 1. Musician (arguable), 2. Not female. 3. Have played in bands with female musicians. 4. Have not polled anyone about anything related to this topic.

        1. Perhaps leading the piece with that was not the best structure for this blog post, I’ll grant you that. But it’s the part I empathized with most, because of who I am and my experiences. Anyway, I think I devoted what, a couple lines to that issue, and many grafs following to the substance of the rest of the story.

          1. I think it actually takes the focus off of the real issue at hand.  

            She isn’t getting flak for being a female who did something questionable.  She’s getting flak for having done something questionable.

            There is no question that there are gender inequalities in the music world, but they are not nearly simple enough to be handled in this format–and they most certainly cut both ways.

            I think the topical inclusion in your blog post unintentionally deflects from the question of whether or not Amanda is in the right here.
            It also betrays your bias as the author– maybe that’s not so inappropriate, as a blogger. 

            Then again, you don’t do much here to support your opinion of whether or not she’s done anything wrong here.  You simply make it clear, with other similar deflections (the past and utterly irrelevant ramblings of one Albini for example) that you are on Amanda’s side of the line.

          2. Well stated.  

            Given the amount of obtuse male posturing that exists in the art world, I think there is a larger and extremely valid point to be made about expectations and reactions to a successful woman that deserve larger exploration.  

            However Xeni didn’t attempt to make this point using evidence and instead shot straight to “trolls ruin everything and btw Steve Albini is a racist.”  Both of which are useful factual points but perhaps not elegantly stated.

            The real takeaway from this piece is that ownership over anything crowdsourced is an issue, ESPECIALLY if it’s art or business with an element of art.

            Personally, I’m interested to see how this backlash compares to the inevitable backlash that occurs when the Pebble Watch ships.

      4. I think you are right on the money here.  She has said, that, yes, there is a conversation that needs to be had, and yes, she’s happy to have it. And she is having . She has stated her position and tried to answer her critics. But frankly, would Steve Albini had called a dude an idiot?… Okay, maybe he would have.  Cause it’s Albini.  But the truth is for people who are supposed to be having a serious grown up conversation about crowdsourcing, funding art, and the breakdown of the music industry, they do seem to be spending an awful lot of time calling her nasty names because she doesn’t shave. It’s a shame. I’ve been thinking about the music industry a lot lately (since it’s a part of my work), and these are conversations that those of us who make music, and those of us who consume music need to be having. It’s been an ongoing conversation that has really been happening since the 70s with the rise of punk I think, but it seems to be coming to a head right now.  And all we are getting is trolls who feel threatened by a women who is putting herself out there, and doing okay for herself. I also get a sense that there are some number of music fans, who are guys, who feel protective of  rock music, and feel it is there own personal domain, and that it is a boys club.  Women are there as decoration, to sing pretty, or to be fucked. Not to contribute.

      5.  This is absolutely true, but it’s unfortunate that YOU brought it into this particular debate, because this time, there is LEGITIMATE cause for concern and strong reactions from everyone in the music industry. Palmer isn’t getting backlash because she’s a woman, she’s getting backlash because she promoted an idea that a lot of people think is severely underhanded and shady.

        Of course there are extremist trolls on the internet, but there has been so much fairly rational discourse on the internet about this (going back much farther than yesterday) that essentially boils down to: Palmer has the right to ask people whatever she wants, and some of her fans are going to have no problem giving her what she wants, but everyone else has the right to think it’s a crummy way to conduct business.

        I am in no way saying that there is rampant sexism within the music, and online communities (and thus, a reflection of EVERY community we exist in), but in this case the female musician in question has actually done something worthy of criticism, and for you to throw in “well it must be because she’s a woman, i expected this”, but then to not follow up with the idea that this is all fueled by sexism (because you know it isn’t) makes the initial headline grab a throwaway.

      6. Just look at Hollywood. Scandals involving women tend to get really nasty responses from the public where as scandals involving men are STILL treated as “Boys will be Boys”. A woman could never have come back from the level of scandal surrounding Robert Downey Jr. She would always be tainted and the response would be vicious. Now he is Mr. Alist and its like nothing ever happened.So to conclude I agree with you. Having said that, I am not in love with this woman, I think she is a great performer and her actual music is marginal. I also think her math is a little fuzzy. 

    2. It sure managed to paint her critics as sexist before we even got a chance to read what their criticisms were. Poisoning the well, if you will.

      1. If you haven’t been a very public woman on what can sometimes be a very cruel internet, you probably don’t get the nuance. But I realize that you are not, so I’m not judging you.

        1. I don’t actually think that’s a very fair response – his point about poisoning the well is pretty valid. Even if there are definitely sexist people advocating against her, you shouldn’t bring it up in the beginning of the article, it should be in the body of it.

      2. Poisoning the well…

        You can’t form your own opinion because you read someone else’s opinion? I propose that we call this the Frail Flower Fallacy.

  7. According to her own numbers, as she stated in the NY Times interview we’re talking about $35k, for the whole tour, so all I have to say is WTF.  Can’t we just call it her being cheap without doing this meta-analysis of gender or crowd-sourcing expectation syndrome?  

  8. There are many different ways to do this…

    #1.  HIre a really good keyboardist to do the tour.  
    #2.  Ask for volunteers if they would like some stage time in each city.

    If you get a critical mass of #2’s for a show that night, they perform for stage time and mucho thanks/recognition and #1 can fill in wherever.  

    While I understand there is a vibe with real strings/brass that cant be replicated on a computer…in most cases its close enough that the audience won’t notice the difference.  

    1. she has a band, paid, touring with her, it’s the string and brass section which she would like, but doesnt need to make it work , that she’s asking for volunteers

  9. I’m according to Amanda: it’s ok not to pay artists, sometimes.
    That’s why I’m downloading her album for free.

    1. Good news!   Her bandcamp page actually allows you to do that!  

      From her.  Direct.   She actually agrees with your horribly snarky LOL I’M A PIRATE response.

      I know, this is tooooooootally ironic isn’t it?  

    2.  She will let you.  She has said that.  You can get it at a “pay what you want site” for free if that is all you can pay. You can also pay a premium, and get it on vinyl, along with a painted record player.

      1. But what he *didn’t* tell you was that he *could pay for it* he’s just not going to. Go on with your bad self, Man!

        1. I think that’s the point?  That if you can’t afford to pay for it, you don’t have to?  She’s giving it away cause she knows that it will be up online anyway.

  10. If you find the remuneration unsatisfactory, don’t apply for the gig. It’s not a difficult decision.

    1. No, it isn’t but I do think that in the industry she works in which is already being decimated by “freebies”, it would be nice if she hired the musicians she needed.

      I’m not mad she’s doing this, but I am not surprised at the backlash.  Since I have a full time gig that pays the bills and music is a “hobby”, I wouldn’t care if I was asked to play for free.  But then again, she’s going to get a talent level equivalent to a hobbyist.

      1. I’m not surprised at the backlash either, but that’s because I have a low view of the public, not of AFP herself. People aren’t mad because she’s asking for people to jam with her onstage, they’re mad because she’ll actually get plenty of offers (from those who think it’s a fantastic deal) – and that’s the sort of popularity that irks some people.

      2. If you’ve ever seen one of her shows, hobbyist is pretty much the level of expectation you get from a lot of the backup performance aspects.   I’ve seen a lot of her shows and there have been a lot of random “you were on the street with a ukelele? COME PLAY AT MY SHOW, LET US MAKE ART” things happening over the years.

        That’s approximately why the volunteer thing works in some places but for instance NYC she wanted paid musicians.   

    2. If you tried to do this for a Broadway show in NYC you would have major union problems.  People giving labor away for free affects others.

  11. Ms. Palmer is just asking for volunteers. If one doesn’t want to volunteer, then do not do so. You have the right to bitch. You have the right to picket her shows if you like. But don’t be surprised if some people in some cities go on stage anyhow in support of her as well as seeking recognition for themselves. Oh, and Albini – don’t be an ass. You’re just piling on for your own ego’s sake.

    1. Kind of like how your boss has the right to say “hey! Anybody want to work here for free? You’ll get all kinds of great expereience! And then I don’t need to hire a bunch of people.” And I will work there for free in support of your boss, and you will have the right to bitch and picket if you like. You know, if you’re not out trying to find an actual paying job.

      1. The people agitating against AFP in these comments are just completely clueless. As Tamar wrote, have you seriously never heard of internships?

        1.  Interns don’t compete for jobs that would otherwise be paid. They are special positions that are given for work experience, and quite often _are_ paid. They are for people at the start of their careers, or prior. But one would never hire an intern to do a job that a pro would do. And accompanying a professional musician onstage is a job for a pro. The first violin in a sympony orchestra is not going to be an intern. If the intern had chops, they’d be offered the paying job as first violin.

          1. Interns are hired to do all sorts of work, including “a job that a pro would do.” It just depends upon the level of the internship.

            And, apparently, you’re wrong about your claim that “accompanying a professional musician onstage is a job for a pro.” As Palmer has clearly demonstrated, she is willing to give amateurs (that’s how I read “professional-ish”) a shot at sitting in with her, if they’re both (A) passably talented, and (B) willing to do it for beer and hanging with her and the band afterwards. While the miffed pros is this thread ostensibly fit the “(A)” part of the criteria, they clearly don’t fit the “(B)” portion, which is fine–and also not Amanda Palmer’s problem, or of those who DO fit both criteria.

  12. This is almost exactly like what happens when you loan money to friends.  At some point you will be sitting with them enjoying some beers and think “why aren’t they doing something to pay me back instead of enjoying themselves?”  The whole nature of the relationship changes.

    And yes, $35k seems like chump change considering.  Perhaps this is really just clever marketing?

        1. Well, the audiobook version of Dreams of my Father by Barack Obama is published by Random House Audio. Does this count as a major label?

          1. I meant that Amanda Palmer is an Indie Musician, and Barack Obama is attached to the Democatic Party (that’s a pretty big label, just not a record label), but beyond that, I don’t know about the difference in getting people to do work for free.

  13. I’ve been torn by the similar between the “No Spec” principle for artists and this situation for musicians. But once I actually read Palmer’s perspective about it, I am completely on her side. It’s kinda confusing.

    1. one way to think of it is, what if an Established Band (e.g. The Rolling Stones, or Rush) held a contest for the opportunity to play on stage with them, without further reward. i suspect that there wouldn’t be much opposition to that.

      now, since there IS opposition to amanda palmer doing essentially the same thing, what does that say about fame and celebrity? is the outcry partly a sort of resentment of her bizarre path to success, or a kind of assertion that she isn’t all that and how dare she act otherwise?

      imho, part of the problem is simply that she, stupidly, said she didn’t have the money, which is obviously false in any meaningful way. if she’d pitched it as “a chance to collaborate,” or even more aggressively, i think folks’d be mostly fine with it. it’s the feeling of deception that’s really offensive, not the working-for-free per se. also the combination of “kickstarter success!” and “penniless beggar” is very dissonant.

      1. imho, part of the problem is simply that she, stupidly, said she didn’t have the money, which is obviously false in any meaningful way

        Yes. There it is. Nicely put. She later qualified that she can find the money when she thinks the gig is important enough. It’s a shame not every gig is important enough.

        1. yeah, that’s the other side of the coin, and probably more pertinent. americans (even alt-americans) don’t generally give a damn about labor; being lied to, and paying for an inferior product, on the other hand…

        2. She later qualified that she can find the money when she thinks the gig is important enough.

          So….she budgeted her funds.

          O! HORROR!

          1. i bought a ham and cheese sandwich the other day which came without ham. oh well, i guess they’re just “budgeting their funds,” what can ya do?

          2. it’s not ludicrous. it’s merely exaggerated, albeit greatly. folks in big cities get a professional accompaniment, others don’t. ticket’s (roughly) the same price either way.

      2.  I agree with you 100%, she shouldn’t have said anything about the money. Just to take this further though…

        What If she had framed this as just an opportunity for fans to play with her? Wouldn’t that be deceitful in itself? I know we’re kind of asking her to say a little white lie so pundits feel better about this but somehow I don’t think this changes the experience of fans who get to play with an artist they love/like.
        I think this is a great idea and frankly respect her for being so blunt about the way she’s going about it.

        I would love to see a breakdown of the people who are volunteering for this, I suspect its only an intersection of amateur musicians/Amanda Palmer fans (amateur meaning they don’t play music for a living, even if they have professional level skills) with the odd pro who might be a fan or got dragged in by a friend or wants to put it on his resume.

  14. Most artists start their recording phase with zero, and then go on the road with near zero in starting capital. The idea of a tour is to have people pay their way into a venue to see you play, thereby paying for the tour and paying you a salary. The hope is that you might make a profit on the road, and if the tour is done in support of an album then you hope that the tour will cause people to buy your album and spread the word that you’re awesome. Then you get money.

    Starting off with more money than most musicians make from their tour+album, and then not being able to pay your workers.. that’s just not very well done. A million dollars is a lot of money in this business, and if it isn’t enough to make an album and ensure that people working on the album or supporting the album get paid then you’re doing it wrong..

    AND it shows how much professional level performing musicians are valued by their peers. Zero!

    Xeni, this isn’t about gender, this is about a completely dick move. If she doesn’t have enough left to pay the musicians, fine. Then either don’t use live musicians or use the money that should come in at each venue to pay them. If her husband were to do this (“hi, I’m Neil Gaiman and I would like you Xeni and Cory, professional writers, to contribute your work for free to my new anthology”) he would also be doing a dick move. If Trent Reznor were to do this, it would still be just as uncool.. (BTW, he pays even amateurs who do remixes that get published).

    Dick move!

    1. Then either don’t use live musicians or use the money that should come in at each venue to pay them.

      Let’s flip this around.  If you don’t want to play with Amanda Palmer without getting paid, then don’t.  She’s not holding a gun up to anyone’s head.

      1. please… desperate out of work musicians hoping for gainful employment, letting anyone abuse that position in the hope that it might pad out their resumes at the same moment that they are taking work away from the professional sector and turning the sector into a hobby sector…

        She, like everyone else expecting professional work for free (see: unpaid internships, for an example) is using her stature within the community (fame) to use others’ desperation for her own monetary gain (she will be able to pay her bills at the end of this tour, and will get an income from album/song sales). That is ALWAYS uncool, and she IS playing the game from the dominant position in this case. Uncool.

        Additionally, it is quite common for people who have gained fame (or a reputation) to be called out when they make a mistake, such is the nature of public life. Palmer is, as Xeni notes, hyper-interactive, and every little mess up she does is open for scrutiny. That’s a pretty tough way to live your professional life, I wouldn’t want to do it, that’s for sure. But to act surprised when the downsides of that approach rear their head… and to turn it into a gender issue like Xeni is while excluding any other factors… Gender may well play some role in the criticism, but the chief factor has to be the open nature of Palmer’s approach to making her product and service available to her customers.

        Xeni, Palmer is talented and nice and she may be a personal friend, that doesn’t mean that her approach to making a living (and art) is above reproach. She can mess up the specifics and the business just like the rest of us. Being crowdfunded and extremely public just brought it to light somewhat stronger than anything we might screw up.

        1. If they’re so “desperate” why don’t they go get day jobs?  I’d like to be a musician too.  That sounds like a lot more fun than what I do all day.  Then they wouldn’t be “desperate” and Palmer wouldn’t be able to “exploit” them.

          The reality is, Palmer can only exploit people who volunteer to be exploited.  You have a problem with that?  Don’t volunteer!  Simplest shit in the world.

          1.  I suppose that you’d want to make a living and get paid for it then, so you wouldn’t have to work a day job? Most musicians do have day jobs, and most artists, and writers.
            Would you do your job for free? Why expect others to? Because their job “seems” more “fun”?  Shitty attitude. While it’s not digging ditches, music, art, and writing is work, for professionals in those fields.

          2. I play music, write, and make art for free.  I do this because it’s fun.  I wouldn’t do my day job for free.  Because it’s not fun.

            I don’t expect anyone to pay for my music, writing, or art.  Those things don’t contribute to feeding, housing, clothing, or educating anyone.  (Maybe a tiny bit towards education.)  Survival comes first, art comes second.  Sucks, but that’s life. Now, some people have figured out how to make a living from art. That’s great, more power to them. But they’re a handful of rockstars. The vast majority of people making art out there aren’t getting paid for it.

            What was the point of your comment again?

          3. Fun fact: 47% of musicians think of themselves as desperate victims and entirely dependent upon the government for support.

            UPDATE: since it’s not apparently clear: SARCASM! I’m implying that wysinwyg sounds like a certain presidential candidate who doesn’t understand why some people have such crap jobs. “just get a better job, like me!” And stop whining when some 9 year old kid takes your job for $0.25 a day and a place to sleep, you don’t see him complaining, do you?

          4. This would be funny, except for this recurrent theme I’m seeing both on this thread and in a lot of the copyfight threads:  “I’m an artist and I deserve to make a living from it because art is so awesomely important in every way and everyone who makes art should always be able to make a living from it even if they kinda suck at it and no one wants to buy any of it.” Kinda undercuts my arguments that not all boho liberals are lazy moochers.

          5. This is in answer to your reply to me. For some reason I can’t reply to your directly.  My point is that art/music/writing is a JOB. Just because it’s not a job for you doesn’t make it any less so for those that do it professionally.  I bet you, or your S.O. cook, does that make a restaurant chef, any less of a professional, because they want to get paid for it? Shouldn’t they get paid? Is their job more “fun” than yours?  I don’t know too many “rockstar” cooks, or artists, but certainly know many who make their living in both professions, and your attitude of “get a day job” is demeaning to professionals of every type. Making a living as an artist is work, in fact it’s a more than full time job, which is why most people doing it aren’t making a living at it–they’re not willing to put the time in.

          6. Art is not a “job” unless it pays the bills. Period. It can be TREATED as a job by the artist, who chooses to live in a dumpy apartment, eat terribly, etc., but unless the doing of your art is how you pay your bills, it’s not a fucking job.

    2. This make me wonder what Theresa Nielsen Hayden would say?   Speaking about writers her rule is Money Flows to the Writers, not from them. 

      1. good question, I would like to see her answer (I value her opinion and know that she has thought about similar issues). Looking at it I see the money flowing from the performance/venue/object being sold to the ARTISTS

        I would thus view Palmer as having two roles here, one is being one of the artists taking money from the performance. The other role is that if she is the bankroll for the whole thing then she has assumed a second mantle, that of being a manager/businessman for the tour, which changes the dynamic. 
        As soon as you are employing people, and assume the multiple roles that may be associated with that, then you are no longer Theresa Nielsen Hayden’s single artist. Or that’s my interpretation, anyway. I base that interpretation on her being in the book business, and she does business and editing duties, which frees the artist up to focus ONLY on creating their art (although the writer may also have a manager who takes care of other aspects of business such as contracts).

  15. Pre-emptive reply: 

    This story can’t possibly be about gender at all, even a little bit, because men who know everything about being a working woman and a female artist say that gender is not a factor in this story in any way.Thanks, I now see the error of my ways!

    1. Okay, you aren’t necessarily wrong that there may be a gender issue here.  But your, and Amanda’s critics, aren’t wrong that there’s an expoiltative issue here either.  To make it even more complex the post about the Boston scene hating on people who make it outside Boston might not even be wrong.

      But you’re asking people to choose between “I don’t want to be sexist” and “I don’t want to see musicians exploited”.  Add in to that the belief that most of us have that helping out young, poor, artists is a mitzvah and it just isn’t going to be an easy choice.

      Perhaps you could admit that there’s more complexity here than you want, and that people getting irked at you doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong.  (Or you could just continue to “see the error of my ways” snarkily instead, because you obviously DON’T see there side of it, which makes you look like a dishonest actor in what is in fact a complex debate)

      -abs wants to wag his finger at everyone here, it looks to him like Xeni isn’t wrong, but Amanda surely isn’t right either

    1. I was actually wondering how much of the paying people in NYC had to do with unions in the clubs in NYC. It’s the *only* place I’ve ever had to show I was in good standing before I played a gig. And we’re not talking some grand concert here.

      1. Depends if the job is normally one that is covered by a union. Unpaid internships are also shit but at least there is the potential for a full time job. Amanda Palmer is not going to be hiring this people full time.

        1. Gigging with AFP for free is considered valuable to the people who do it in SOME way. Perhaps they’re huge fans, for whom this is a dream come true. Perhaps they’re young artists who value “getting in front of people” differently than you do. Either way, you have no right to judge them for the decisions they make in that regard, or to look down on Amanda for giving them an opportunity they clearly valued in some way.

  16. Just to address the folks who believe that professional musicians should work for free: she’s looking for folks who can, say, do shit like read music and follow cues, not open mic night bongo players.  Consider for a moment that maybe they deserve as much respect as say lighting engineers, roadies, and press people?   Maybe they have college loans to pay?  Maybe she’s taking advantage of their sheer desperation and hopes that at least it’ll turn into a networking opp?  

    In the end, this really seems like arrogance pure and simple.  The arrogance of celebrity; the arrogance of those that can benefit from the commodification of the musical performing arts.  And the arrogance of just knowing that you can get away with shit and so you do it.  

    1. ^ This is one of the best explanations I’ve seen in the many threads about the issue.

      As an artist and musician I am frequently discouraged and flummoxed by how often I’m asked to do free work by friends or big businesses. The same people don’t think twice about paying to rent venues, equipment, legal counsel, bartender and door staff, advertising, etc.

      But when it comes to the centerpiece of a production, the actual *content* (to use an absolute commodity term) of an event or project, it’s not uncommon for the person/people doing that work to get shafted.

      It’s not about Amanda being female, having money, having fun, or any of the other things clouding the minds of people jumping on this argument. It’s about entitlement – expecting something because you’re supposedly important and devaluing an industry in the process. And coming from someone who fought against labels and greedy businesses her whole career, it’s a surprising and disappointing move.

  17. From what I understand, the total amount raised (in this case, $1 million) isn’t what she’s getting. Kickstarter takes their cut, plus the money that goes directly to the reward levels. And apparently, the campaign can actually lose money through non-payment (transactions that fall through once the deadline passes). So the amount raised isn’t at all the amount she has to work with to mount the project or pay people.

    1. Well that is another matter entirely. I always believed kickstarter was a scam the same way many old school record labels were. Inserting themselves between an artist and their fans and skimming money off the top for doing something the artists can probably do themselves.

      1. Having raised a small amount on KS (not a million or anything) I can say that it’s definitely not a scam, but it’s possibly not the best deal in town. You do get an easy way to get people to see your stuff and donate, and if you tier your rewards smartly, offering a lot of easily made cheapies for your rewards you can keep costs down. The amount KS takes is really small (5%) and depending on where you live Amazon takes a bit (3-5%) but if you figure that into your budget, figure your rewards into that budget and ask for more at the outset, then you’re good to go. If you’re only trying to raise a few thousand, yeah, you can probably do it yourself. A million? That’s harder.

  18. I see a parallel here with a situation I’ve seen discussed here on BoingBoing multiple times: graphic design “contests” for logos and such, where a business or organization requests a whole bunch of free art, and then only pays what amounts to a pittance to the “winner” they select.

    The business or organization then claims that the participants are getting free exposure and experience, to justify their not paying for all the work they’re getting.

    And even though it seems like the artists and designers who get involved in those contests seem happy to “give away their work for free”, it still seems like they’re getting cheated, or at least, short-changed.

    I really hope Amanda Palmer can see and understand the perspective of her critics on this particular issue, so she can avoid a similar situation in the future.

    I’m actually on the fence for this one.  I mean, if I had an opportunity to play on stage with a well-known musician I like, getting paid would be very far from my mind.

    It’s really annoying that art has to have a price tag attached to it.  Wouldn’t it be great if artists’ needs were covered by the rest of the population, so they could be left to do what they do best (make art) without worrying about money?  I know this is way too idealistic, but I can’t help thinking that the current way things work is preventing a lot of great and fun art from seeing the light of day.

    1. I’m actually on the fence for this one.  I mean, if I had an opportunity to play on stage with a well-known musician I like, getting paid would be very far from my mind.

      I have and will continue to play for free when the circumstances are right for me. I don’t even think her asking was bad or vile or that anyone stepping up was wrong to do so. On the contrary: I completely understand the ecstasy they’ll feel playing on stage with someone they admire as a peer. You’ll ride that high until the day you die.

      I just wish she had been consistent with it. Paying in some cases, not in others, starts to make it all feel weird to me. Puts it in the grey area. I start to wonder if she sees other musicians as part of a caste system.

  19. One of the things I’ve seemed to notice about crowdsourced projects, is that a lot of people work for free so that a small number of people make money and this is good for reasons. Amanda gets her project funded. She gets to make money off of sales, merchandizing, etc…And other musicians benefit by…Hell, thanks to the nature of the tour, ‘I gigged with Amanda Palmer’ doesn’t even have marketable credit, because it’s no longer a rare resource. Even more, it demonstrates you’re willing to work for nothing, possibly less, as you prove willing to -spend- money just so your art gets heard. Also, aside from personal contact with Amanda, what benefit do they get? No one is coming to see the fans, in fact in venues where it might be more ‘important’, there are no fans, less the fans ‘ruin’ a critical show. So: Amanda benefits: She gets a concert funded, she makes money on sales, and the artists she recruits work for benefits that Amanda has by the nature of the tour diminished to the point of worthlessness. Fuck, this reminds me of how Tokyopop treated its ‘new’ and ‘upcoming’ artists. Crowdsourcing: A new way for artists to be Colleen Doran’ed.

  20. Xeni, your section on Albini is the very definition of an ad hominem ‘argument’. His actual argument, which you do not address at all (link: has some merit IMO:

    “On the part of the fans, I totally understand and sympathize with this impulse [to play for their favorite musician for free]. That’s starkly different from a millionaire asking people to do things for free, under the guise that she is giving them something by indulging them. It’s cheapness repainted as generosity and it’s gross. Using people in this way, exploiting their good nature for one’s own benefit, is a cancer that taints many enterprises and it always reflects poorly on the exploiter. It’s one of the things I hated most about the old-school record business, the practice of fucking with people who loved music so much they would put up with endless greed and abuse just to be a part of it. A new music business paradigm, if it is worth anything, should strive to be free of exploitation and be honest about its motives…. Nobody’s an idiot, some ways of conducting business are just uglier and more exploitative than others.”

      1. Appreciated. Certainly Albini makes LOTS of “acerbic” statements about all kinds of stuff. He is also one of the foremost voices advocating artistic independence in the music industry and has a long and pretty unblemished redord as far as that goes. He contains multitudes….not all of them pretty.

  21. For one thing albini alked back calling her an Idiot but was still critical of her spending all of that money. See it here.

    And how hard is it to understand how people can be annoyed at her asking for free labor for professional grade work. If it wasn’t Amanda Palmer and some random scumbag on Craigslist you would have crucified them.

    It isn’t this is the first time she has asked for money or crowdsourced, she does it constantly. She asks people to help her make a living as an artist as opposed to having a day job but then turns around and asks for free labor. It is unprofessional to not pay people you work with and it is even more unprofessional to have people pay money for a live show and leave it up to whoever walks in off the street. Musicians want the opportuinity she has to make a living and have the privilege to eat food doing what they love, why should they not be afforded that opportunity.

    As far as Albini’s argument, I agree with it. To be an independent artist she should be self sufficient at this point making records to pay for tours and merch  witch makes money to pay for records. Not treating your fan base as an ATM to hit up whenever you feel like it.

    Making a million and a half on a kickstarter paying yourself an arbitrary 250,000 dollars and not paying your musicians is bullshit.

  22. “Don’t work for free.” is a pretty common mantra among independent writers, photographers and other artists.  The promise of exposure and resume blurbs is hard to weigh against the fact that the entity that wants the work done would normally have to pay someone to do it.

    Amanda Palmer’s kickstarter was set up in part to pay for her tour, and it pulled in 12x was asked for.  Asking for pro bono musicians in the aftermath seems to be in bad taste.  She could correct the imbalance by offering to attend a jam session with the people who play with her or helping to promote their next tour.  It doesn’t need to be direct compensation, but it ought to be something that she would otherwise expect to be paid for.

    I haven’t followed the controversy proper, but I fully believe the charges of sexism.  The internet is full of entitled men who rely on misogyny to communicate.  These assholes are wrong, and should be shouted down whenever they show up. 

    That doesn’t make criticism invalid, but it does mean that criticism needs to be careful to distance itself from them.  If you don’t explicitly repudiate such actively offensive people, you are part of the problem, because they have poisoned the well and that affects the context of your criticism.

    1. I agree. I have a lot of creative type friends who are constantly asked to donate their work for innumerable good causes. It drives them crazy. Folks always want a freebie, and they can always seem to justify you giving one. And these are the non-profit askers. Then there are the folks who want you to work on spec. No one wants to pay, and it depresses the willingness of others to pay, and when they will pay, he amount that they will pay. No one actually values their work, but want it nonetheless. I assume that Amanda Palmer is touring with the notion of making a profit from the effort. To expect folks to give their labor and talent for the no real recompense is to value it at nothing. She is a successful woman who raised a lot of cash partially to finance the tour, which in turn promotes the music which she sells for money. With her success seems to have come a feeling of privilege.If she was a struggling artist in a van she wouldn’t think to ask for the freebies. She would assume that it wouldn’t be forthcoming if she asked. There is a power imbalance between an internationally known musician who has the pull to generate a million bucks to finance her goals and local musicians. She is abusing her fame and popularity to even ask people to work for free. Pay your musicians. It doesn’t matter if you have a penis, a vagina, both or neither.. It’s a old concept:”The laborer is worthy of his wages,” (I Tim 5:18). All she has to do is add a couple of bucks to the tickets at most, and she’s not even out of pocket.

  23. I haven’t read the comments on Amanda’s post, but I am sure there are many nasty commenters motivated primaily by her gender. As always, it is important to talk about this. But this is not the only story here. No matter where you stand, volunteer labor is a serious issue for many artistic professions (and not only), so there are important arguments to made against her response (and this post as  well).

    1.  I read about 3/4ths of the thread. Most of the folks who were against made the arguments “my landlord doesn’t take high fives and beers for rent,” and “she’s getting paid, so should everyone.” The pro free labor arguments seemed to boil down to “y’all are a bunch of assholes harshing on AFP because you don’t understand how much fun it would be.” The anti free labor folks are mostly calm and stating reasoned cases, and are getting up votes far in excess of the down votes.The pro free labor side seems mostly not to understand why anyone would pass up the chance to be on stage with AFP unless they are a dick, and are getting clobbered with negative votes on their comments. Can’t say how the argument boils down elsewhere & I can’t say that I saw much in the way of “Amanda Palmer is wrong because of VAGINA!” in that thread, but I tend to miss social cues, especially on the intertube.

      1. You really have no idea how the “non-music” world works. And you’re also very adept at setting up nonsensical straw men regarding viewpoints with with you disagree.

  24. Just some AFP quotes, from her site, for context:
    “i’m CHOOSING to spend all this money making the packages fancy as shit….and i’m CHOOSING to tour this way. EXPENSIVELY.”
    “to take the band on TOUR to six cities and install the art shows is probably going to break even,”
    “i have to pay the VISUAL artists who joined this amazing art party. . . . i feel very good about giving them all that money.”

    If you look at her breakdown , it all makes sense, in terms of the numbers. She’s paying off debt, funding a high-quality set of products, and funding a touring operation (though the tour itself is assumed to break even, at best). I find it unfortunate that she talks a lot about paying the “artists”involved with her cd/art project and her touring band, but couldn’t find a way to pay the artists who join her onstage in each city, but that’s the choice she made.
    To some she’s a hypocrite, to some she’s a community-maker, and to some she’s shrewd. Maybe she’s all of these. She’s also trying to find a way forward out of a music-business landscape that is well-and-truly fucked, and she’s bound to make mistakes. Rather than a pile-on, maybe it would be better to offer strong criticism that starts by giving the benefit of the doubt.

    As for the charges of sexism . . . I think it’s in there, in the mix, but I think it colors the response more than creating it, ya know? it can add that specialedge of hatefulness and spite (kind of like we see regarding potential racism and the presidential election).

  25. Jesus fucking Christ.  When did punk rockers start getting so butthurt about everything?  As penance, Amanda Palmer agrees that anyone can download any of her recordings or sneak into any of her shows for free.  Also, why no mention of: Steve Alibini’s mortgage; payment of, by fans (google it)?  Let’s move on now.  

      1. Haw!  And D’oh! I shoulda taken my advice and googled to see what actually became of that effort.  Albini’s public butthurting over this current issue is very much ameliorated by his entirely standup declination of his fans’ equally gracious offer to pay off the studio’s mortgage.

  26. How is this not a violation of the minimum wage law? I think offering an opportunity to talented, enthusiastic  fans who want to perform is a wonderful thing, but giving fans that opportunity in no way precludes paying them. Pay ’em union scale if you’re performing in a union house, the professional going rate if they’re professionally talented, even minimum wage if you’re using them for filller and only making minimum demands on their skills. But pay ’em. Otherwise, you’re a for-profit enterprise using volunteer labor to perform tasks thet would you would otherwise have to hire someone for. And in the US, despite the growing abuses of “internships”, that kind of abuse is what labor law is supposed to protect us from.
    I can’t really speak to the question of sexism in this this response, because I don’t fully understand it. All I can do is assert is that my reaction to her attempt to displace paid labor is neither nore nor less outraged than it was when when certain tech startups and movie producers were found to be doing the same thing. I can’t say if Albini’s reactiosn are colored by gender or not, but he’s a well-spoken hothead with a substantial history of publically caling out what he views as abuses in the industry, so I find it hard to start from a place of assuming that they are.

    1. Let me publically repudiate the “well-spoken” part of this? I wrote it before noticing Jardin’s quotes of previous things he’s said. Truth be told, my impression of him mostly came from the classic “some of your friends are probably already this fucked” essay which, while flawed, was a pretty impressive piece of invective against some real, vile behavior. I’ve read other writings which are similar, but on a smaller scale. I had no idea about, and would never want to endorse, the other sorts of shit that have apparently flowed from his mouth on other occasions.

  27. Just let economics work its way out.  If people want to play for beer and hugs with a popular indie band then they will.  If they don’t want to play for that, then they wont and Ms. Palmer will have to decide to pay up in the future if she still wants it in her act.

    1. This argument is the same argument used to oppose minimum wage laws. The problem is that the employer in this relationship wields much more power than the employee. In order for musicians to get paid for their work in your world every single one of them would have to refuse to work for free, otherwise why bother offering a wage? Unfortunately some are desperate enough to work for free in the hopes that this will lead to a paying job in future. This isn’t their fault, the option shouldn’t be allowed. 

  28. As an artist, I get asked to do free work all the time. In fact, just two hours before I first heard about this Palmer business, I was asked to do work for free. The excuses are as varied as the offers: I should do it for the exposure, I should do it because it’s an awesome project, it’s for charity, etc, etc. The number of times I am asked for free work outnumber the offers for paid work ten to one, at least. While it would sometimes be fun to be involved in projects like these, every minute I am working without pay takes away time I could be using to work for pay and every time you say yes to a project like this you are solidifying the very dangerous idea that artists should work for free for one reason or another. Charity I can understand but things like exposure are bs. I can understand the inclination to do it and I’m not going to dictate was someone else can and cannot do, but it sure makes it harder for the rest of us. I don’t care if she’s trying to be super artsy or if she made big money on Kickstarter, it sends a bad message.

    1. Exactly. I think the backlash comes from the fact that artists, especially fledgeling ones, are bombarded by such offers of ‘free portfolio/resume work’ and it eventually leads to donor fatigue.

      The wide-eyed, communal-spirited, happy-go-lucky part of me is gushing “yay, free beer, artsies and luuuv!!” at this, but the more experienced, street-smart, seasoned artist sees it as one of those offers that’s more like helping move a friend- who hasn’t called you in 2 years- for a slice of pizza… It may seem cynical at first glance, but my savvy half is the one paying my hippie half’s bills ;)

      In my experience, those innumerable unpaid ‘opportunities’ bring a lot less recognition (and actual opportunities) for your art than the ones where you are paid for your work and time. People who pay for your work tend to remember you or at least have your name down somewhere for the next time a real opportunity shows up.  Putting down a bunch of free work on your resume just shows that your asking salary/base price is $0.

    2. Then get mad at those who ARE willing to “work for free”, by which we mean, “jam with a gal who’s (most likely) their favorite artist for free.”

  29. Some of the comments here about volunteer contributions need some context: Amanda has volunteered herself on several tours/projects in the past. She has busked around cities and, especially early on in her career, it was not to promote herself, but rather for the experience and for the entertainment of others. She’s not asking anything which she has not done herself and continues to do.

    1. Yes she is.  Busking is not generating income and profit for another person.  

      This a for profit venture, your above example do not equate to what she is doing here.

      1.  Except that you ignored the part where she has volunteered herself on tours/shows/projects in the past – for other people’s profits. I saw her on stage last November – unpaid – but performing with a friend who was earning profit from the show. Your point about busking, however, is well taken.

        1.  Except she was doing it for a FRIEND, not as a fan. You cannot consider the relationship equivalent. Fer instance: you ask a FRIEND to help you move – no pay, just beer and pizza and “high fives” – that is one thing. You ask someone YOU don’t really know, but you know has a real thing for you, a fan, if you will, to help you move, because it might be “fun”. Same payoff: alcohol, carbs and grease. Radically different ethical content (hint: the second example is completely exploitative).

          Look, I get struggling artists need help sometimes, but AFP clearly has transcended the label”struggling”, even if she doesn’t get to pocket the whole Kickstarter. You have to  draw a line somewhere. What if U2  came to town and sent out a tweet asking the fans to come and load in and out for free? We would all think it is fucking ridiculous. But say Black Flag plays a local club for the door take in 1985 and needs a place to crash, you might volunteer your living room floor, and give them coffee in the AM for free (friend of mine did do this in 1985, but it was Henry’s night to sleep in the van). That’s different. The problem people are having is that AFP is cross that line I was referring to. She’s doing well enough that asking for free stuff is just arrogance.

  30. Is this really any different from when the Beastie Boys gave their fans video cameras at a concert and then the Beastie Boys made a video out of the footage? Presumably the Beastie Boys made a ton of money at the concert, and even by selling the video, and I doubt any of the videographers saw a penny of that money. And yet, the fans had every right to refuse to participate, just as Amanda Palmer’s fans had every right to decline. That’s the beauty of a free market.

      1. You don’t know that. And it doesn’t matter anyways. If a Beastie Boys fan happened to be a professional film maker, he could either choose to participate, or not. Simple.

  31. Craigslist Ad Template for All the Musical Entrepreneurs: 
    Open Coffee Shop Opportunity

    Date: 2012-07-30, 4:01PM PDT

    We are musicians looking for coffee on Thursday evenings. This is a great opportunity to get some exposure and possibly get some tips. Unfortunately at this time we cannot afford to offer any payment but we do have an excellent space with great water. We are looking for coffee that is appropriate for a musical setting. If you have other ideas we are open to them.

    We have electricity and water available at no charge to you. In the past we have had coffee in our studio and have been approached by numerous coffee makers who are willing to make coffee with this same arrangement.If you are interested please send a link with a sample of your coffee. We will likely have those we are interested in come by and make some coffee in order to deem it appropriate for our studio.

    Again, no money, but you can put out a hat, and it’s great exposure.So, bring your cups, saucers and Coffee Machines down and join in the fun! If this goes over well, you could be featured as a guest brewer at one of our Coffee Open House nights.

    Location: My Basementit’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

  32. The main point here is to never, ever think of someone highly just because you like his/her work. This always leads to disappointment. In this particular case, it is especially true. A musician, who is already extremely wealthy, gets a million dollars from Kickstarter and still refuses to pay a couple of bucks and abuses her fans’ love and admiration for her. Truly despicable.

    1. No, it’s “despicable” that you choose to judge someone that you do not know, and that you presume to know that she is “wealthy” and “abuses her fans love and admiration for her.” THAT, Mulayim, is “truly despicable.”

  33. It should be clear to those who read the entire post, but for those who can’t be bothered, let me spell it out: I believe that you can have a critical opinion about Palmer’s play-for-no-pay invitation and not be a sexist pig. No, disagreeing with her does not make you sexist. I didn’t say that.

    99% of this blog post is devoted to a discussion of issues other than gender, and a wee bit is devoted to an observation I’m making about the tone and force of some of this backlash, as a working creative who is female. I put it at the top, because that’s the first thing that came to mind, a familiar bell rung, when I heard about how bent out of shape the world was over this with her.

    Sorry some of you are so butthurt about that.

  34. Personally, it comes across as being rather cheap, but I don’t see it as an outrage or a “dick move”.  She’s asking for volunteers, with the acceptance of the variable/uncertain quality that comes with that.  And when she requires the highest quality, she pays for it.  (Though, if I was a fan, I’d be disappointed that she doesn’t demand similar best quality for every show.)  I suspect that in her mind this is more about “engaging the fans” and “keeping it real” than just being cheap.

    @Xeni:disqus  – I find your argument that people can’t say its not sexism because they aren’t a female artist to be really weak.  You can justify every accusation of discrimination and dismiss all arguments against it with that same blanket argument:

    – Critics of Obama’s economic policy are clearly racists.  No?  Well, you’re not the first black president so you have no idea how hard it is so your argument is worthless!
    – Critics of Romney’s economic policy are a bunch of anti-white/anti-rich haters.  You’re not a rich white guy, so you can’t argue otherwise!
    – Critics of me are just a bunch of fat-people haters.  You’re not a fat guy, so you have no right to argue.

    This kind of argument has little place in a rational discussion if you want to keep it from descending to the Godwin level. 

    I think most people are capable of considering some argument of debate, looking within themselves at the roots of their feelings, and deciding what the influencing factors are.  So a non-female non-artist should be more than capable of looking at why he is critical of the non-payment of the musicians and deciding his feelings have nothing to do with her being female.

  35. The thing that bothers me the most is that essentially, she’s asking people to work for free, and that, IMHO, only contributes to the societal impression that artists must starve for their passion. Why shouldn’t corporate CEOs starve for theirs? In effect, an artist/musician/dancer/etc is a one-person corporation, and therefore their own CEO; and yet, in stark contrast to Wall Street fat cats, it’s accepted that they should starve in order to do what it is that gets them out of bed every morning.
    What AFP is doing with her kickstarter campaign/tour is basically shrewdly reinforcing that unfortunate status quo.

    How is it going to look if someone pitched a kickstarter campaign to pay AFP’s musicians?

  36. So you’re an amateur musician and your favorite band/singer is in town and is asking for amateur musicians to play… fro beers and hugs. What would you do?

    As an amateur musician I’d PAY to get on stage with Pearl Jam.

    Its a great stunt and I don’t see this as the same issue as free spec work.

      1. I read the post and she is looking for people who can play, that includes amateurs. A lot of paid musicians are amateurs in that they have no formal training.
        “Amateur” is not a slur you know.

  37. What was touched on briefly above, and what I think is what is really grating on people, is that she asked for 100k on her Kickstarter and got 1mil. 10x what she asked for.

    1.  and then couldn’t budget $35,000, even with ticket revenue, for strings and horns. But hey – I guess she didn’t have to because hugs.

  38. I saw her in New Orleans a couple of nights ago, and it was a fantastic night.  Moreover, the volunteer musicians looked like they were have a great time with smiles and dancing all around.  My word on this whole argument is that if you don’t think it’s right for a band to ask you to play for free, then just don’t do it. 

  39. Judging from a review of the comments, what this drama needs is for a professional music version of Harlan Ellison to jump on top of this. I can hear him shouting from the top of his now-geriatric lungs, good intentions be damned, “PAY THE FUCKING WRITER [MUSICIAN]!”

    1. It would be good to hear what Harlan thinks about this, but since he’s said to be a good friend of Amanda’s husband, I’m sure he’ll maintain his distance.

  40. As another reply pointed out, she’s not asking for amateur musicians, she’s asking for (in her own words) “professional-ish” musicians – people who can read charts, and attend a rehearsal before playing the show. Saying “professional-ish” seems disingenuous – she wants musicians who are well-trained and practiced enough to go to a rehearsal, read her professional charts, and be able to perform them.

    The issue, to me, is that she, and SOME members of her band, are getting paid, as are her stage crew, publicity people, and a myriad of others involved in this tour. As I understand it, tickets are anywhere from $30 to $60 apiece to see this show. If the show was free, or all the money was being donated to charity, I might feel differently. But to choose to pay certain people, but not others, seems dismissive of their contributions, and contributes to the widely-held notion that making music is something that people should just do for fun, and be glad to have the opportunity.

    1. Amen and kudos. It’s especially abhorrent given the ‘outsider’ role AFP plays to her fans and the public. Any artist should be paid. Not in love, which can be given freely, but in money; real, physical currency, which landlords, grocery stores, and other merchants accept. AFP should know this more acutely than most, given her past and stance as indie performer.

      1. “AFP should know this more acutely than most, given her past and stance as indie performer.”

        Exactly. It’s one thing when the London Olympic Committee does this – actually, it’s just as bad, but not so surprising coming from a bunch of wealthy, entitled fat cats. But I find it really shocking that someone who has been in the trenches as an indie artist would treat fellow performers with such a lack of respect.

  41.  Yeah, trying really hard to get outraged about this but I can’t seem to do it.  AP asked if some people would play backup for her pro bono.  No one is obligated to do this, it’s on a purely voluntary basis.  If you think she’s greedy or whatever…well, don’t go play backup for her (haha, just kidding, you suck at trumpet anyway). 

    Getting butt hurt about it just makes it look like the internet is a bunch of mewling babies who can’t stand the success of others.  Which is probably true, but you guys could tone it down a little.

      1.  Try reading the thread again.  My butt is starting to hurt vicariously just from reading all these whingers.

    1. I agree!
      No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head.

      I know plenty of pros who would love the opportunity to bang out a couple of songs with bigger names just for the exposure. The rest is a bonus.

      This is not sneaky or forced in any way……get over it.

  42. The fact that this performer looking for free labor who can make her look good is a woman is irrelevant, and musicians who expect to be paid for their work are not assholes.

    1. From what I can tell, the comments are a microcosm of the current struggle for the direction of this (U.S.) country. Those who see nothing wrong with the capitalist notion that if you can get some idiots to work for free (sans hugs and ‘exposure’), more power to you and your Randian business acumen. However, if you’re a struggling artist and you can’t buy a package of Ramen with ‘exposure’, your viewpoint’s a little different. Sure, I say to all those who argue that the artists aren’t forced to appear, that’s true. But don’t ignore the fact that those who *can* pay shouldn’t be asking those who need to make a living to work for well wishes and happy times. And in particular, don’t go calling them idiots and assholes for wanting to make a living. You’re right on point, Maverick, and I salute you for your conciseness.

      1. You’re being ridiculous.  Besides being WAY too obsessed with Amanda Palmer (seriously, spend a little more time worrying about your own tiny little world instead of Palmer’s, huh?), you’re way off-base.  I have no problem with Palmer’s request and yet I’m a frequent and sincere critic of capitalism, especially Rand-style fundamentalist capitalism.  Also, who’s calling anyone assholes or idiots?  As far as I can tell, those epithets are mostly being aimed at Palmer herself.

        1. Clearly someone wants to move this into a flamewar, but I don’t have the time, what with my obsession with my opinion and truth and trying to make a living as an artist in a world dominated by assholes who can’t tell the difference between serving a Big Mac and serving creativity. I’d say I’m sorry for having obviously hurt your feelings, but I’m not. You should lighten up, though, since you seem to be the one attacking and obsessing. Maybe some alt-music would help? Try the Busker’s brand. A true anti-capitalist such as yourself should love it, and I hear it’s free if you hug someone while drinking it.

          1. “what with my obsession with my opinion” vs. “since you seem to be the one attacking and obsessing.”

            You’re making a lot of assumptions about me on the basis of the fact that I disagree with you.  You’re also making a lot of comments with a lot of invective.  Try developing some self awareness.  Get off the internet and find someone to hug you or something.

        2. That’s a good point that a friend of mine came up with as well in our discussions about this – that this kind of looks like neo-liberalism. I wish people would really wrestle with these issues, because it impacts all of us who love music (whether if we make or consumer) and are trying to figure out how to deal with the current capitalist system that seems determined to eat everything alive.

      2.  I don’t’ think anyone was attacking the people who had serious concerns. I do think that people are attacking the sexism that at times permeates the music industry (and everywhere else). Also, how does Albini calling her an idiot help anything.

        I think the point is that Palmer, Xeni, and many people here are struggling to find a way forward in how to fund something that we love – music. We all know that the old system of funding popular music (which is different from the classical world) was way beyond broken and every exploitative. And we all know that musicians are struggling and so  are many people right now. Coming to terms with how she funded this project is something that I think will be valuable to everyone involved… Name calling is not helpful.  If she is being an asshole here, maybe bringing that to her attention and trying to have a conversation about it is more useful than calling her the c-word and pointing out that she has hairy pits… 

  43. Last I looked, she’s charging a normal ticket price to see a concert in a concert venue.  If she wants to use backup musicians, she should get them from the local musician’s union and pay union rates.   She obviously does not want to reduce her profit from the tour, and figures exploiting others is the way to do it.  If she can’t afford to bring the instrumentalists she wants on tour, and won’t even pay local musicians a fair wage, then maybe she should compromise her sacred artistic vision.

  44. Speaking as one of the musicians who was contacted for the Minneapolis portion of this tour, I can say that I was surprised that a national act was looking for volunteer players. A few thoughts from a gigging cellist:

    1. For them to suffer through the practical logistics of contacting, booking, and rehearsing a different ensemble at each tour stop seemed odd.
    2. The gig also involved playing a full set with Ms. Palmer’s opener, also without pay.
    3. The going rate for a good rhythm section musician to play a gig in this town is usually $75-100/musician/set. A good string quartet here usually books for anywhere between $500-1000/set. In the context of playing venues that sell 1000+ tickets, the cost of hiring quality musicians, while not insignificant, usually scales to a point that makes sense for all parties involved.
    4. Excellent, reliable, experienced players don’t come cheap, and gigs don’t come that regularly. National acts either have the funds to hire the auxiliary musicians or they forgo them. Volunteering for this gig would mean not working any paying gig that evening, which is a lot to ask of a gigging musician.
    5. Everyone is still trying to figure out what benefits and detriments crowdsourcing and direct connections of social media can bring about; in the current system, though, if you want musicians who are excellent, they come at a price.

      1. Happy to chime in! Correct. It wasn’t anything against Ms. Palmer or an attempt to make a stand – just the nuts and bolts of balancing work (and making that work worth it) and time with my family.

        It seems like this system could potentially be an exciting way for recording artists and gigging musicians (who are fans of that artist) to interact. Seeing the comment regarding musicians being hired to play bigger cities like NYC is revealing, though – it’s hard to escape the business aspect of the music business when you want reliable, excellent players.

        1. Another thanks for chiming in.

          You said you were contacted. Not that you contacted them. In her follow-up post she intimated that when they reached out to musicians in NYC they paid them. She makes specific mention in that post about how, when they ask specific musicians for help, they pay them:

          it’s very important to me that we clarify that – not everything you see on stage is black and white, and those specific musicians in new york (and in some other cities) who got paid shouldn’t be put in the same category as the volunteers. WE called THEM personally because we had lots of experience with them and knew what we were gonna get.

          I guess you got a call, but no offer for pay, because they didn’t know you personally?

          As you point out: scale pay for the musicians she’s asking for isn’t astronomical high. Certainly not in the context of the venues she’s playing.

          Chalk it up to another inconsistency that just makes it all feel weird to me. Not “good weird”, “bad weird”.

          1. Yes, I was contacted; or rather, my string quartet was contacted. I’m not sure if that was their SOP, if they had heard that we regularly do pop/rock work in MPLS, or if they hadn’t found sufficient volunteers. Also, the offer was backstage access, the opportunity to play and enjoy exposure, free food and beer, and promotion from the stage of whatever our quartet’s next gig was. I decided that that compensation was not worth the time (and time away from my newborn daughter!) that they asked of me.

            The fact that pay was offered to musicians a large market like NYC (to secure quality) but not to a small market like MPLS is disheartening, but not surprising. While there are fans and musicians in each market, there’s a lot more at stake (especially critical review) for an artist in a large market. It may not be a sunshine-and-rainbows aspect to the way artists present themselves or the way that fans perceive artists, but it’s certainly normal.

            That said, I don’t think it’s poor of Ms. Palmer to ask for volunteer players. My quartet was free to choose whether or not we wanted to volunteer our time and services for this gig; a different quartet may decide that an opportunity of this kind would very be much worth their trouble. I think that the inherent difficulty for the artist is that there is often an inverse relationship between the quality/experience of a performer and the likelihood that that performer would be willing to work for free.

            FWIW, at least in the twin cities, a union has little to no influence over this situation. I know very few musicians who work within the union – almost everyone freelances on their own.

          2. This has been the point of most in the “Defend AFP” crowd above–at least that I saw. Your group had a choice to make, and you made it. Good on you, and congrats on the new baby girl!

  45. I think this whole business would disappear if she paid musicians like $100 each.  She’d be out, what, under $10k tops?  How many shows are on this tour? Or does that move the category from volunteering to wages, and then get into trouble with minimum wage, or union issues?

    And may I say that I dislike the phrase “butthurt” – it implies that that someone is just whiny, without addressing the argument on its merits.  Does that make me butthurt about “butthurt”? Waah!

    1. Seconded on the “butthurt”. “Butthurt” is the new “whiny” – a codeword for “someone who dares to question me”.

  46. If put into another context, does her argument make sense?

    “I am having an event that I charge money for that I would like people to photograph for free so I can have photos.  You get the chance to take photos of famous people.”
    “I am doing a concert but need an accountant, would you like to manage my money for the experience?”
    “I need help unloading my truck for a concert, you will be able to tell everyone that you met my production manager.”

      1. My point exactly, I can’t tell you how often I see “shoot my thing for experience” when I could just as easily get experience shooting something on my own dime that didn’t have a cheapskate client telling me I was doing it wrong.  I can’t imagine anyone ever asks an accountant to go over their books in order to get exposure.

    1. If put into another context…

      …then you will have created an irrelevant false equivalency. Musicians WANT to play with their favorite musicians. Nobody wants to unload the truck or manage the money.

      1.  I disagree, having unloaded trucks for my favorite musicians.  But since this is seen as a job where people get paid for it, I got paid for my time and effort.  And a tee shirt to boot.  It’s not a false equivalency, it’s showing respect for people who have worked with you.

        1. I want to play a show with my favorite musician.
          I want to haul my favorite musician’s sound equipment.

          False equivalency.

          1. Your logics are not welcome here. People want to be angry about this, and they’re going to be angry, period. There’s no reasoning it out of them.

    2. More than one artist has used the crowds at an event to put together a live concert video. You don’t want to participate? Don’t. The reason the jobs you mention don’t work for free is because–wait for it–they refuse to to work for free. And gigging with your favorite artist is not the same as doing her books.

  47. However, he also implied that by pleading for donations Palmer was publicly admitting that she was an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin or “the kids who play on buckets downtown.”

    Sorry, but as a fan of two of those artists, and knowing all to well about the other one.. this made me lol.

    A few things:

    I think Xeni is right about there being an element of sexism to such backlashes, so let’s not pretend that doesn’t exist doods.

    Albini is actually quite nice, and I thought the way he was presented was some pretty blatant ‘well poisoning’ in effort to just completely discount his argument altogether.  I mean this stuff about 1975 when the guy was probably a tween….really?  And from “Vice” (ironic/hipster racism) of all places….speaking of “trolls”, and privileged right wing trolls at that.  I’ll also add that this is a dude who could *always* command serious sums of money based on his name alone if he chose to, but still charges regular (non-major big budget) bands a reasonable rate to work with him.

    Personally I don’t know what to make of all this, there’s an “intern” aspect to it that makes me uncomfortable.  Certainly any one of these gigs is paying well enough to throw some cash at these people who are (rehearsing) and then playing.  Even if it’s like a $50 a piece ffs. The argument people are making about “exposure” and connections is just weird, and it has the same anti-labor stink that unpaid internships do. Should legendary venues ask Palmer to play for free (or bargain for less) because of the exposure and bragging rights of being able to say you played there?

    Maybe some of the skepticism/backlash comes from the fact that the artist in question is so famous and successful, particularly at raising money? Certainly that causes some to question if she’s *really* unable to kick down some cash for these musicians? Maybe with all the budgeting for the show she truly is unable to pay them?  Maybe it should be budgeted?  None of us have a way of knowing for sure I suppose….

    I still can’t get my head around Kickstarter.  There’s a financially comfortable, panhandling/ #whitepeoplesproblems aspect to it that gets my bullshit detector ever so slightly ticking a little bit, but I can see how it can also be useful in good ways….


    1. Maybe I was being a little unfair to Albini, who I admit is a musical genius, and responsible for some awesome work. But I was just trying to make the point that he is known for making provocative and offensive statements in a colorful manner. In other words, being kind of a troll. That doesn’t make everything he says wrong. 


      LOL just kidding you made some good points bro

      1. I think another relevant aspect of Albini is also that, while known for recording some massively significant albums, he does the vast majority of his work for small bands working on a flat fee. He’s all about being fair and offering tools to musicians. To me, it makes his disgust at discounting the value of these musician’s contributions more significant.

        1. The fact that Albini does this is so telling about what he values (in a good way). He will work with musicians big and small, he could ask for much much more but he doesn’t because he wants to work fairly for musicians within their budgets.

          But dude don’t work for free. Even if the band is teeny tiny and they kickstartered themselves or whatever. He’s modeling the kind of behavior he wants to see in the world – people valuing themselves enough to not give away their work, and hopefully the artists who work with him and like him adopt that policy themselves.

    2. This. ^

      And I’m in agreement with you about the bullshit detector and Kickstarter. It just seems off-putting to me, but we seem to be in the minority there.

      Also- An artist is much more likely to die from exposure than make a living from it. 

  48. It’s too bad Amanda happens to be a woman, because it does lend a bit of run-of-the-mill internet misogyny to what is otherwise a very standard problem for those of us that are trade musicians. 

    Whether I’m making music for video games, commercials, TV, studio sessions, or just playing gigs, pay is a huge problem. For most people, music isn’t considered “work” the way, say, being an actuary is. People pay us late or not at all CONSTANTLY, which echoes much of what I hear design, art, and other freelancers say.

    So — when Amanda Palmer appears to give this attitude a voice and a position of respectability — it gets people like me right in the feels. 

    You’re right, we don’t have the right to tell her how to spend her money. But be aware; most other bands pay their musicians, and they manage. Amanda Palmer is figuring out a way to simply pay herself and not her band. Nothing more or less revolutionary than that.

    1.  “when Amanda Palmer appears to give this attitude a voice and a position of respectability”

      This is what the crux of the argument is, thanks for verbalizing it so well.

  49. Offering people a chance to play for free seems to be working for her as far as getting volunteers. Many musicians would pay for the chance. Paying a backup band would not be the same, since it wouldn’t give fans in each city the opportunity to get on stage. Offering to pay them would change the relationship, and she would still get criticism for not paying enough if she *only* paid scale, in addition to increased expectations and likely the overhead of having to hold auditions and show that the hiring process was fair.  It’s a lot like conventions offering shirts and free admission to their volunteers, where offering to pay them in cash would seem insulting and undervalue their contribution.  

    1. What is the difference, in your opinion between a professional, and fan with professional level skills?  What makes the second one, by not receiving compensation, purer than the former? Do you feel that college football players, by receiving an education that costs 1/1,000 of the revenue they generate to the school, should be grateful? Your con statement completely bewilders me. You’re attributing a moral purity to a t-shirt, that I don’t feel it has. How does paying a con staffer $70 to work a day differ from the $70 in trade (via a pass and a t-shirt?) economically, they’re equivalent. The reason people are paid this way has nothing to do with the moral purity of volunteerism, but rather that the pass and shirt represent at best $5 worth of cost to the convention, and the ability for the convention to rake in more money from a volunteer who has already established a willingness to throw time and treasure into your enterprise. For a $5 outlay, you get 8-20 hours of work, and they pay even more in-convention. 

      No wonder unions are dying. Apparantly there’s a moral purity involved in being scammed.

      1. Almost every concom I’ve ever heard of is a registered non-profit, and can legally accept donations of labor. Those that aren’t, AFAIK, pay.

    2. No, many musicians would NOT pay for the chance. That’s where people are getting this wrong. Artists like to be paid, just as anyone else who works for a living! It’s the dewy-eyed amateurs who think just getting to be next to another performer is payment enough!

    3.  I’ve talked to a lot of musician friends this week about their opinions on this issue, and the misconceptions that some people seem to have about what musicians think. The ones that have heard about this divisive news story also talked to many of their own friends in music circles.

      Based on first- and second-hand accounts (not to mention my own as a “professional-ish” musician) I’ve found that 100% of them find the idea of “paying for the chance” to play with *any* artist of *any* stature to be completely insulting and laughable.

      Yes, many of them do volunteer their time and talents to support friends and events, based on a case-by-case basis. Some play for free in orchestras where first-chair players are paid. But all of them agree that soliciting for free talent on a paid tour by someone of Amanda Palmer’s place in the music scene is astonishingly ignorant behavior, if not distasteful.

      Some of the most DIY punk and noise artists I know who do it purely for fun and spectacle manage to pay on-stage collaborators a couple bucks out of pocket, even when they take a loss at a venue. It’s much more about the gesture and respect for one’s time and talents than any kind of entitlement or rock star class system abuse.

  50. Totally inappropriate. She can probably expect to hear from some organized musicians labor movement (ie: union). It’s not like she’s inviting a talented kid to come up on stage and pound out a solo for laughs and a once-in-a-lifetime-experience, she’s asking for a very valuable service for free and then taking profits on it!

    This isn’t a cheap skill set she’s asking for. It’s not like some 15 year old coming to mow a lawn or do odd jobs – “professionalish” wind musicians already have a really hard go of things in this economy and it takes years and years to become a decent as a performer. It’s like holding a panel at each concert, and asking for four or five volunteer judges from the area to show up and participate. The only reason it happens to be working for her at all is because there are so many people out there making music (same reason musicians and other artists don’t get paid what they’re worth… but isn’t that what this whole discussion is about?)

    It’s insulting. Other comments say well if you don’t like it, don’t go to her show, don’t volunteer yourself. Well I don’t like the implication that the thousands of hours I’ve spent reaching a “professionalish” level are worth nothing but a couple suds and a high five from a famous/pretty person. Will that high five feed me this week? Will those beers fit into my financial plan to quit my day job and focus on making music so one day I can be as successful as she is? A brass player isn’t likely to break out under their own name like Amanda has; no one’s kickstarting million dollar collections of highly technical french horn albums. And most of us don’t expect that, what we do expect is that when you need a specialized skill set, like plumbing or electrical, you pay the union rate and those workers get the security of knowing they can live a life.

    Amanda Palmer, and every volunteer who shows up on stage with her is robbing someone who is working hard to get to the goal of full-time musician of a little bit of time and opportunity. I can’t understand “too expensive” as an argument. Most of us love what we do and will work for any appreciable amount of money. Just got $25 bucks? Well explain that to me (after all, I’m only “professionalish”), throw in a beer, a high-five and I’m yours for an hour on stage, no problem! If it’s fun, I’ll even stay longer at my own expense!

    Just deeply insulting, and I’m absolutely furious at what it says about what I’ve spent my life doing.

    1. Then start a “strike.” Make the evil AFP, and all those nasty people who love her and want to gig with her for beer and access feel like the union-busting cretins you apparently think them to be. See how far that gets you.

  51. I wish people would stop fixating on the amount AFP raised. I read her breakdown of costs awhile back and it looked reasonable. As far as I could tell the cost and effort of putting out the Kickstarter premiums would eat the lion’s share of income whether the amount raised was ten thousand or ten million.

    Second, the $250,000 taken off the top. If that’s to dig herself out of the financial hole she was in from previous projects then fair enough. If I were one of the people who kept her afloat for months and then watched her raise and then spend a pile of money without paying me back, I’d be a bit cheesed off.

    Third, nobody has mentioned how big a bite Uncle Sam took, even if AFP is now AFP, Inc. She didn’t either, but it had to be something.

    Fourth, crowdsourcing an album and tour is a one-off. Getting income and expenses to balance out on the first try is pretty impressive for someone who’s never handled that kind of cash before. (And if Amanda were financing her tour on Neil’s dime, she’d be getting a rhubarb for that too.)

    I don’t feel strongly either way about calling in backup musicians (for beer, merch and hugs) at each town to play a single gig if they’re not the core of the show. Transportation, housing and feeding can get pretty expensive before you get to actual pay. But I do think AFP should budget a bit more for the local musicians, because they’re basically being paid out of the beer and merch pots. And if there’s a tour album, every local musician’s name should be on it, or at least go on the web page.

    1.  I agree that the Kickstarter issue, and how much money she has raised, is a bit of a straw man.

      However, since it is in play, and since AFP herself posted on her blog with a “breakdown” of where all that money went, I do have a thought or two about it.

      If you read her blog post, she plays pretty fast and loose with the numbers. Granted, some of the costs she’s talking about are unknowns until they are actually incurred. But, for instance, at one point she talks about how much she budgeted for video production. She says “around 80k for videos, but now that we can afford it maybe we’ll raise that to 100k.” In other posts, she has said that to hire the additional musicians she needs/wants, it would cost her 35k. So, just as one example – why not take that “extra” 20k from the video budget, which was apparently already adequate at 80k, and use it to hire the rest of the band? That gets her more than halfway to the cost, and that’s just a single line-item from her budget. I would be surprised if there wasn’t another 15k to be found somewhere in there.

    2. Exactly. People whose argument boils down to “BUT 1 MILLION DOLLARZ!!!” clearly did not follow AFP’s Kickstarter, and haven’t bothered to research it in any depth at all.

  52. I think this post misses a few point about why AFP fans are upset. With her Kickstarter and through her work and writing, she’s continually been a champion of sorts for /paying the artist what they’re worth/. With her Kickstarter, it was a way for her to get the money she needed to do her art. For her to ask for pro-level musicians (resumes or videos) to come in and do a gig for free feels antithetical to her entire stance on ~revolutionizing the arts/music scene~ and feels exploitative because she’s now in a position of power to actually create change in the industry, but instead is perpetuating standard industry norms (you should do this free gig for the exposure/experience). As a semi-pro musician, would it be fun to play with AFP? Yeah, but you know what would make me feel respected? Like $50-$100 — not the going rate, but enough to feel like she cares about professional musicians and understands that paying work is hard to get.

    The fact that she pays reliable pros in big media markets is a slap in the face to her fans (only some of you are worth the budget) and to her volunteer musician crew.

  53. I think the problem is that Amanda Palmer still thinks of herself as this “living-hand-to-mouth Bohemian” instead of what she actually is, which is the most famous and successful musician in her genre. The fact that her kickstarter got more than ten times the sought after amount proves that. (Anyone remember when her Radiohead ukelele cover album sold out within 15 minutes or so?)

    Were she still some lesser-known artist trying to make it big, this would be a cute and admirable thing to do. But when your shows easily sell out, and you can manage to pay yourself a quarter of a million dollars off of the top… well, then it’s just being cheap. Professional work deserves professional pay, it’s as simple as that. Anything else devalues the work of all musicians and artists (this is basic labor rights stuff, not too complicated).

    And let’s not forget: Amanda Palmer is the one who benefits from the success of the tour. She gets the album sales, merch sales, and her career is aided by the publicity these shows generate. It’s not just the revenue from ticket sales or kickstarter donations or whatever. You make big business levels of money, you treat your operation like a business. That mean’s paying your employees a fair amount.

    For the record, I like AP’s music but think her fans are some of the most obnoxious and annoying in the world. If anyone else as successful as she is tried this trick, people would be howling in rage (in fact, as someone else in this thread posted, Xeni and BoingBoing criticized the Obama campaign for doing the same thing with graphic designers).

  54. Don’t work for free is a pretty common rule in art, writing, etc.  However, sitting in with a musician friend for food/beer/peanuts is pretty common in the folk music culture, assuming there is a quid pro quo.  I sincerely doubt AFP is going to be returning the favor for most of these people though. 

    I think when there is an inequality of status it’s wrong to ask for this kind of free work.  I do think there is a gender aspect to the controversy, and I think it has to do with her being high status, but not quite high enough. 

    Whatever the case may be though, I think Amanda Palmer does have a problem with being emotionally/socially tone deaf.  I think her response to the disabelist controversy around Evelyn Evelyn was similar. I would suggest she think of a really socially skillful compassionate friend and run her ideas through them first.  I suspect her heart is in the right place, but she didn’t think through how it would read to others, probably because she isn’t used to being in the higher status category, and hasn’t quite groked the privilege that comes with her relationship with Neil.  Who knows what their finances are, but any claims of poverty read as extremely insincere given the obvious success they enjoy.

  55. Her fans gave her $1,000,000 to make her project happen. She claims she can’t afford $35,000 to pay the musicians who will help her make it happen. We’re supposed to believe that she couldn’t budget $35,000 for the musicians and do the rest on $965,000. Sorry, no.

    It would have been more honest if she had simply said something like: look, I invited people to play for free and they came, it was their free choice, etc. Which is true enough. But instead, and perhaps tellingly, she felt she had to justify herself by making the extremely dubious claim above, and also (in her blogged explanation) say something to the effect that “it’s a free exchange”. As many in the blogosphere have pointed out, there is no exchange there… unless you believe that basking in the aura of Amanda Fucking Palmer is tantamount to tangible payment for hours of work as a musician.

    And clearly people do believe that. Often, it’s people who have played for free for AFP in the past and got some sort of benefit out of it, or their friends who imagine that may happen to them too, someday. Concentric circles of in-crowdish proximity to celebrity, is what it looks like from here.

    In my insignificant opinion as a total Internet nobody, this is a special case of the Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire syndrome: “Ah! Shut up, butthurt hater! You’re just jealous of other people’s success, blah blah.” Actually, no. I admire AFP greatly as a performer and I’m glad she’s made it big. I just think that, after you’ve asked for hard dollars and got a million of them, it’s exploitative and unfair to use your celebrity to get people to work for you for free. The fact they voluntarily agreed doesn’t mean it’s not exploitative. She should have just coughed up the $35,000 and thereby shown these musicians, most of whom probably worship her, the simple courtesy of sharing an infinitesimal fraction of her financial success. But she didn’t think that was important, because she’s a celebrity, she knows she can get people to work for her for free, and it’s merely a reasonable business decision, don’t you know. That sucks, and to think it sucks is not jealousy but a concern for fairness. Are we to conclude that the people who dismiss this concern would do the same if they were in Amanda’s position? Ah yes, there they are, the temporarily embarrassed famous musicians.

    One last thing, and I’m pointing out the obvious here, but the reason people are raising a stink about this has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Amanda Palmer is a woman. Xeni, I think the reason you’re getting some flack is that your post was, to some extent, inevitably framed by starting it with a mention of sexism. No, you never said that disagreement with you implies sexism, but let’s face it, the end result was a bit scare-quotey. Since sexism is very real, it’s understandable that when first noticing the drama you might have thought “Ah, another backlash against a successful woman” but then, after looking into it and seeing that sexism had nothing to do with the grievance in question, you might have avoided putting it in terms of “I wasn’t surprised at this, because sexism”. The fact that some people have inveighed at Amanda in a sexist way still doesn’t make the story about a sexist backlash, by the way. It’s a minor quibble, and one I hope won’t be interpreted as disrespectful or dismissed as butthurt. My butt is quite comfortable in the proverbial armchair, and no disrespect is intended. By the way, get 100% well soon!

    Love all around,

  56. American Idol, X-Factor, every other fucking talent show ever.

    No time to audition properly, no time to get a tight set, etc. She’s not trying to piss away this kickstarter gift. I’m sure people will be credited if they are used and maybe compensated; if not then I’d be on board with being pissed at her.

    Lets see if she actually shafts talent that ends up on the project.

  57. I know this is a huge thread but I have a couple of points to add.

    1. AFP spent three weeks at Bard College prepping for the Tour.  My kid was on her VOLUNTEER crew.  The kids had nothing but positive things to say about AFP’s generosity as an artist. Learned tons. Saw the rehearsals for free.  Neil Himself also gave a reading for the kids. She said it was an amazing experience.

    2. My mister is a musician.  Musicians log roll all the time. By ascribing it to just dollars and cents people are forgetting about the community of musicians.  Someone lends a drumkit, plays guitar on a track, does recording in their basement; they help each other out.  When musicians get out of their hometown, they expand their network. More couches, more show partners, more opportunities. And when someone breaks through, more often than not, they bring their friends and network with them. This is how scenes are made. It’s kinda how “alternative” was born. 

    3. Musicians make choices all the time about when/where to play and what their compensation should be. It’s an individual choice. And it should be.

    4.  Albini’s comments are very Albini. Kinda like the old scorpion and frog story…

    1. Someone lends a drumkit, plays guitar on a track, does recording in their basement; they help each other out.  When musicians get out of their hometown, they expand their network. More couches, more show partners, more opportunities.

      That’s all true, but probably a little less true for artists that are at a level where they’re spending a million on record projects and playing House of Blues.  Jamming or collaborating with friends or extended friends is one thing, this is way more like ‘hired gun’ territory if you ask me, right down to requesting documentation and proof of skill. “Professional-ish” strings and brass (and great drummers) are a bit harder to come by then “professional-ish” guitar players too, which is why they are so often trying to make a living at session/gig work. This just doesn’t seem the same as having another similarly famous person come and join you on stage for a song or two.

      This is how scenes are made. It’s kinda how “alternative” was born.

      Scenes are usually made among struggling equals. Two touring bands stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to cheer each other up in the auto shop’s parking lot because one of the bands battered old van broke down on the highway. Wondering how they’ll pay for gas to the next town.  For this artist it’ll more likely be giant tour buses and nice hotels. Nothing wrong with that of course, but let’s not confuse things..

      1. I don’t think I’m confusing things. I can count on both hands the number of ‘professional-ish’  (ahem, ones who play in bands y’all might recognize) musicians we know and could call to help with a project. In fact, I have reached out to help with a project. I can speak only to the “alt” world, but it’s common practice. 

        It would also be common to say if you’re in a ‘new place’ and if you need help, “hey, I’m xyz from jpl. we’re doing a show here and we’re buddies with these folks from your town; can you help us with X?”Respect and friendship go further than perceived fame; in fact- it goes much further.  Mostly because those who can be trusted are those who share the common experience, that you reference above.  As AFP ‘came up’ on that kinda scene; why should fame/money change the cultural practice?I do think that musicians who come from a classical/orchestral background; who have historical experience with unionization and a more regulated pay structure would definitely have a different perspective on the debate. As well they should.  And I think that’s where this debate hinges.

        1. I came up in the DIY punk world so maybe I have a different perspective. But it seems that you’re sort of backing up what I was saying by talking about existing relationships. She’s not really working within some existing network of friends, friends of friends, and collaborators.  She’s basically putting out a help wanted ad, with a set of job requirements but no pay, apart from beer and hugs of course.

          I can speak only to the “alt” world, but it’s common practice.

          I have friends (and former bandmates) who’s bands are famous enough to have eager strangers play for free too.  I can’t imagine at her level of success not compensating people who are otherwise strangers that basically responded to a help wanted request, even if they’re fans. I guess for me it’s the requesting of pedigrees, rehearsal, paying of other people for the *important* ‘big city’ show etc. that push it into a realm outside of a fun experiment (treat for fans) and more into that of free work.

          Anyway, I think she meant well regardless.

  58. I’m sure i’m repeating something someone already said but i don’t feel like comment wading right now.

    I really don’t see any issue with asking for people to come up and do this for free. No one was required to do so or in any way obligated, if someone didn’t like it they could always abstain, those who felt it might be cool could just do it, i really don’t get the issue.

    1. It may not change someone’s opinion, but reading through the comments (here or on many similar threads) will certainly educate people on what many musicians and artists feel is an overlooked, misunderstood issue.

      As some have commented, it’s more an issue of ignorance on the part of people soliciting “volunteers” rather than a dig at Amanda personally. Take a quick read through and you may get what people are so fired up about.

    2. The issue is exactly the same as with a job paying less than the minimum wage. Think of all the reasons why that would not be ok, this is not ok for the same reasons. Think of all the reasons why this is ok because-of-this-special-reason think how you would feel if it was an accountancy firm offering a similar deal to professional accountants.

  59. What does “Whenever a female musician reaches some high point of success” have to do with it? And it was $1.2 mil. She can’t manage money.

  60. She got to where she currently is by doing things a certain way. I think this invitation to perform is part of the way she does things. That does not mean AFP cannot reflect on the issue and decide to change they way it is done.

    I do wonder these beer and hugs performers are integral to the show. That would be a significant threshold if i was organizing this. Fortunately I am not and I wish AFP, her paid performers, her unpaid performers and all the paid/unpaid support staff well.

  61. Snowmentality, in response to my comment, then that is my bad if I have gotten this turned around, but Vette makes reference to being “twice their size”, and having a job at the venue to carry stuff, with the statement: “chances are the band would refuse the help because they’re female”. Maybe it was poorly worded or comprehended on my end, but I believed this to mean that female bands refused the offer of help. I do know one woman who is larger than the average man, and is also very strong, so my own sexist assumptions may be at play, here. Gender presentation clarification, Vette ?

    1. The pronoun “they” is unclear. But the immediately previous comment complains that women never offer to help load, so I took Vette saying “If they did offer, […] the band would refuse the help because they’re female” to mean “If women did offer to help, the band would refuse because the women were female,” and the rest of the comment giving a personal example of that happening. I could be misreading/misunderstanding, too. Maybe Vette will clarify?

  62. What does AFP being a “female indie muscian” have anything to do with the discussion?  She wants free labor, some are willing to give it, others think it devalues their profession.  I can see both sides, but I still don’t see what her gender has anything to do with it.

  63. Unknowns are being asked to come jam with a hot, famous performer. It’s a one-off. For fun, to be on onstage with someone you admire in a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of their art. If I could play, and they came to my city, you’d have to fight me for the spot. 

    1. This, for me, highlights the tone of much of the thread. ZOMG if she does this then no musician will ever get paid again! It’s EXACTLY like asking ditch diggers to work for free!

      As you’ve pointed out, it’s a one-time, experimental thing that allows people to do something fun. Or not. Some of the responses reek of Zero Tolerance Health & Safety Panic.

      1. And if this is successful, and becomes seen as an acceptable way to manage tours, does that make the number of ongoing paid gigs go up or down?

      2. It´s a touchy subject in an industry where everyone who has been there for more than a year is already sick and tired of constantly being asked to work for free. It´s not like no musician will ever get paid again because of what she´s doing but it is part of the problem and she should know better.
        The assumption that professional artists enjoy their job more than a ditch digger doesn´t mean they don´t have to get paid for it. I´m sure lots of managers, lawyers, doctors etc. enjoy their job (making a lot of money is fun) yet no one would expect them to do it for free.
        Like many people have said before in this thread, it´s a gig some professional musicians could have gotten but won´t because she will find others who will do it for free. If someone were such a great fan of Palmer to happily go and play for her for free, how much happier would they be to get hired by her and honored with a modest fee for their effort?

  64. I like Amanda Palmer a lot, and I wish her all the success in the world.  Additionally, I have a number of friends who are professional musicians struggling to put bread on the table.  I have a strong desire to assist my friends in their endeavor to avoid starvation.  I have no ill will toward Ms Palmer, but I must side with my friends.  As such, I should add that if Ms Palmer would like to hire (for pay) the services of a professional electric ukulele player (whose ukulele style is very different from her’s) in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can set her up.

    1. She is a class act.

      I hope this shit-storm doesn’t deter her and others like her, from offering stage-time to relative nobodies.

      It’s pretty clear that explotation was never her intent.


      1. offering stage-time to relative nobodies.

        Nice.  I guess Yo-Yo Ma wasn’t interested.  What strings/brass celebrities would have been available instead?  I honestly can’t think of any outside of the professional classical/jazz world….

    2. So wait she actually has the money?

      Sorry don’t see how this exonerates her at all. 

      Just another shady dodge in long line of shady dodges during this project. 

      1.  Did you read the post – they are moving money from one area of the tour to another (video). Presumably that means something was cut or someone else took a pay cut.

    3. Lordy! That is one long rambling semi-coherent YesButNoBut attempt to sweep things under the carpet. I much prefer when people have the nerve to say “Oops – screwed up. Let me fix that.”

  65. Glad to see it all worked out in the end.   But I’m also glad that this conversation (sans the vitriol) was had these past few days. It’s good to see this all resolved. Kudos for AFP for being willing to listen and response to criticism. There are many, many MANY in this world who never can do that.

    1.  So, a happy ending for all and no more hurt butts? Yay! And hopefully this controversy spawned enough mentions of the word butthurt to hasten the day when people are over the term and stop using it reflexively.

  66. Non-troversy in Amanda Palmer’s favor. Who really cares? The world of art is filled with free gigs that people take & favors people do for others.

    Steve Albini is full of crap. He’s the kind of guy who—for example—proudly proclaims he’s never been paid by a major label (or something like that) when he recorded Nirvana because the band paid him directly… With money the band got from the record label.

    He’s probably jealous that a new economic model exists in the indie world that has upset his role as the ubermensch of all independent philosophy.

    Also, gender does play a role here. Won’t add to the mess, but it does.  If one can’t recognize that, then get a clue.

  67. Reading her blog post, I don’t get the impression she’s actually realized the problem – all I see is her going “okay, fine, I’ll pay them” and not in any way apologizing for exploiting her fame to get free work from professionals.

    In this case, I agree 100% with Albini that $1.2M is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on an album and tour, and even if you took her terrible accounting at face value, she is clearly in a financial position outside of the Kickstarter funds to pay professionals for their work.

    The fact that she has to be goaded into it, and at no point apologizing for not doing it from the start, says a lot about her personally and her opinion of both her fans and the musicians she works with.  Sure, she’s paying them NOW, but I honestly think she’s doing it because “the internet made her do it”.

    The forum posts around the Albini comment were disgusting and degrading, which unfortunately ruined the main point he was trying to make.  Dragging her gender and grooming habits into it was counter-productive and unnecessary.

    I quite liked the Dresden Dolls, but since she went solo and surrounded herself with sycophants who clearly do not ever say “no” to her has really warped her world view, and for me, made her music less enjoyable.  She needs to realize she’s not some starving artist living in a squat anymore – you can’t pull this “for hugs” bullshit when you are, essentally, an international star.

    A number of friends of mine have met her in person and spent some time with her, and their opinion of her was low – they thought she was egotistical and self-absorbed, and had no time for anyone not kissing her ass.  I took it with a grain of salt but her actions on this really highlight how right they are.

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