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      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.1)
    Been hearing a lot of different views on this and thought I'd bring it over to the collective.

    So Amanda Palmer, who recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign scoring 1.2 million for an art book, album and world tour project, has recently asked local musicians to come in and add to the orchestra for free. Well, for merch, beer, fun times and high fives. Her reason is that she can't afford it.

    Now...there's a lot I do understand. I know that Amazon and IRS take a big chunk out of kickstarter earnings and I do understand that a lot of the money goes towards the rewards and shipping etc. and tour costs, which at the very least include travel, accommodation, stage set up, equipment rental and so on take a huge chunk and that she is by no means laughing on her way to the bank. I love how cost-effective and local-minded it is to use local musicians for concerts. I also get, with Amanda Palmer's connection to fans, that asking for volunteers to perform may seem less like a way of getting free labour and more like a community thing.

    But I always get itchy when I'm offered/asked to do a job where everyone involved except me is being paid. Don't get me wrong, some of the best photo shoots I've done have been volunteer work. The slasher stuff I did last year, for instance, was part of a film crew where no one was getting paid and we all were doing what we were doing because we loved doing it. But in this case, if Amanda is getting paid, the roadies are getting paid, the setup crew is getting paid and even the permanent bare bones band that is travelling with her is getting paid, I would expect some compensation for additional back up players.

    Thoughts?
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      CommentAuthorrazrangel
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.2)
    I think Amanda can do whatever and if musicians want to be a part of the whatever (and those parties ARE fantastic - I truly wish I had some musical skillz) then more power to them.

    However, if I WERE a musician and I tried throwing in my lot with the AFP experience I would ask if I could at least put up a tip jar or pass a hat or get to encourage people to stuff dollar bills into my pockets/waistband/bra. Amanda's never been shy about asking for cash and the whole don't-be-shy thing is her wheelhouse.

    So take it as a given that there's no cash from Amanda's side of things. When I last saw her it was in 2008, her back up group toured everywhere with her FOR NOTHING. And at every show they passed hats, boots, etc to collect stray bills so they could eat. So it's not like there's no precedence.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.3)
    Heh, I'll reiterate my thoughts, now in Whitechapel form.

    It's my argument that asking for volunteers doesn't necessarily have to de-valuate someone's work. I think there's a difference between calling musicians-for-hire and going "Hey, we really need you play for us, but we can't pay, so can you put aside things that could possibly pay and do this for me" and writing a blog post to fans who were likely going to be at the concert anyway and going "Hey, so we have the basic band, but it would be super rad if we could round out the sound for some of the songs, any anyone willing to help out in exchange for merch?"

    I think also, and this part sounds cheap, I know, but one has to consider that she's asking her fans for help. Some people get crazy starstruck. Given the outrageous prices some people will pay just for an autograph or photo at SDCC, I'm sure there are some fans who stepped up to volunteer because, in their mind, being able to hang out hang out with her and get high fives and get photos while you're at it is might feel like compensation for them. Again, this depends on the person, and is arguably a super cheap move, but some people are okay with that. Basically a fan, who likely wanted to be there anyway, is getting entry and merch in exchange for their services, rather than paying money for a ticket.

    One of my local circus friends frequently needs volunteers to help with his shows, and what he does is "hey, can't afford a ticket to the show but want to see it? Volunteer for us and come watch the show in exchange." There have been times when I've taken him up on that because I couldn't afford a ticket to his show, but could volunteer some of my efforts in exchange for being let into the show to watch. It's a call for help to people who were already planning on spending their time there, and I personally think that's okay. Also to consider is the fact that he asks for volunteers bc the shows never make enough money to pay anyone beyond the performers, if they even make that much. We don't know what Amanda's personal budget is, for all we know if she paid the city-specific volunteers, it would start cutting into the other musicians pay, too. We don't know what the dea is, financially.

    Now, whether people are going to accept or disagree with my argument, I'll have this to say:

    I DO think she's being unfairly judged. Amanda Palmer is known to fairly pay her artists/musicians when she can. In her blog post about where the kickstarter money went, she even said:

    i have to pay the VISUAL artists who joined this amazing art party. i commissioned them all to paint their art, they own it. i’m only BORROWING the art for the art gallery tour — and using the “likeness” (the digital copy) for the album/book/etc. packaging – and then returning the art to the artist to keep. still, i paid them all. add another $20-25k there. i feel very good about giving them all that money.


    People are judging her as if she is someone who profited 1.2mil from kickstarter and is unwilling to use it to ever pay musicans bc she's too cheap to pay them. Such is not the case. If she is to be condemned for asking for help, it should at least be done knowing that 1) The kickstarter money was all used on the incentives and the album, 2) she fairly pays artists when she can, and 3) she is respecting peoples' decision to not volunteer for her show because don't play for free. It's not like she's bitching at the people who are unwilling to play for her for free.

    Also, as a twitter friend of mine pointed out, why did't anyone bitch this much when Weezer did the same thing last year? Again, unfair judgement on AFP. People love hating her. It's okay when Weezer does it but not Amanda? That said, maybe there was bitching about Weezer doing it but I just missed it bc I don't follow them, but I do follow AFP.

    All that said, I do still respect peoples' decisions to never do work for free. That's okay. But I also think it's okay to ask for volunteers and then take what help you can get when you feel like you need it.

    edited to add to Raz: Yeah, that circus friend of mine who I've volunteered for before let me keep tips. I was helping serve alcohol to people in theme costume (that shaman costume I posted in one of the past Draw Eachothers), so in addition to getting to see the show while I worked, I also made a little bit of money on the side, but not from the show revenue.
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      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.4)
    Argos, yeah, I don't really get the people who think that she has 1.2 million just for the tour. The immediate deductions (a big chunk), creating the rewards and sending them out (another big chunk), along with all the costs of a tour of 35 dates (as someone who works in the music business I can say that that's a REALLY huge fucking chunk) there still is a good chance that Amanda will just get the amount she started off with after ticket sales and even then she may be paying out of her own pocket after all is said and done. And hey, to even make things more similar any convention I've ever gone to, huge or small, is made up of volunteers. There's just something about this that seems off to me and feels like a step backward. I like Raz's thought, that if the musicians were allowed to pass a hat around. I think if Amanda did that fans at the area would without question put a few bucks in.
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      CommentAuthorjoe.distort
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.5)
    i dont 'love to hate' her (im actually a huge DRESDEN DOLLS fan), but my two cents can be summed up in

    $5000 house shows.

    fuck all of this.

    :)

    EDIT:
    as someone who works in the music business I can say that that's a REALLY huge fucking chunk

    not when you are selling out most/all of your dates and have a fairly sizable guarantee, honestly. when you are that size (selling out mid-tier rooms in 35 cities IS pretty big for totally indie stuff) touring becomes pretty self sufficient monetarily
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      CommentAuthordorkmuffin
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.6)
    That this woman managed to raise 1.2 million on Kickstarter for a single album but couldn't figure out how to set aside even $150K of that to pay musicians is appalling to me. I know it's not for the tour, but with intelligent budgeting and forethought, she could have set aside even 10% of that. Or figured out how to raise more money to pay musicians. This sends the wrong message. I've already said a bunch about this in other online venues.

    Amanda Palmer also just rubs me the wrong way on a personal level. I find her REALLY fucking irritating (an opinion I know many people here do not share). Too much forced whimsy and not enough substance in my view.

    In closing, I'll leave you with Steve Albini's words:

    I have no fundamental problem with either asking your fans to pay you to make your record or go on tour or play for free in your band or gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other. I wouldn’t stoop to doing any of them myself, but horses for courses. The reason I don’t appeal to other people in this manner is that all those things can easily pay for themselves, and I value self-sufficiency and independence, even (or especially) from an audience.

    If your position is that you aren’t able to figure out how to do that, that you are forced by your ignorance into pleading for donations and charity work, you are then publicly admitting you are an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin, every band ever to go on tour without a slush fund or the kids who play on buckets downtown.
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      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.7)
    @dork, that's kind of my thoughts. And actually, the kickstarter was for the book, album AND tour so I have to wonder if it was just incredibly bad money management or aiming a little too high on the rewards.
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      CommentAuthordorkmuffin
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.8)
    Re: it devaluing a person's work, I do work for certain friends for free all the time, but that's because they LITERALLY cannot afford to pay me. If they offer, I'll take an incredibly reduced fee, but it doesn't devalue the work. It might de-prioritize it because I'll have to do shit that pays me money, but that's INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT.

    Amanda Palmer is NOT someone who has to ask people for favors like this. She can either afford to pay musicians or she can use her very large and, as she's proven, very giving fan base to help pay them. She could still have sourced musicians from fans only she could have paid them for their time and effort as well, and not just in hugs.

    (I threw up in my mouth a little typing that last sentence)

    I can't possibly credit this to just bad money management. It was also just bad judgment. Even if she mismanaged the Kickstarter shit, she still could have figured something out. Given the rabid nature of her fandom, I think she could have appealed to them successfully.

    I dunno, from a professional musician this is pretty appallingly unaware.
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      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.9)
    From a NYT article, Amanda Palmer's reaction to the criticism.

    She said the players joining her band were there because “they fundamentally believe it’s worth their time and energy to show up at this gig.” As a working musician, she added, she absolutely believes regular players on a long tour should be paid salaries, as are the three other band members in her Grand Theft Orchestra.

    Ms. Palmer also said that she could not afford to pay the extra musicians she requests, a string quartet and three or four sax and brass players. The cost, she said, would be around $35,000 for all the tour dates.

    They also referred to the money Ms. Palmer had raised. But in the interview, she stressed that most of it went toward recording expenses and the costs of promotion and touring.

    “To me it seems absurd. If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem?”


    I'm a bit weirded out that promotion is such a huge expense for her. I'm totally simplifying it, but Isn't it not uncommon that she can sell out a show with just a few tweets?
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      CommentAuthorrazrangel
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.10)
    Everything about Amanda Palmer is about trying to do more. Argos hits the nail on the head with saying she was trying to source musicians from the fans already trying to get to her shows. I read a thing on in the New York Times about this kerfuffle and I think it's telling that the people who are blatantly against it aren't fans of hers.

    It's ok, take a deep breath. If you already don't want to go to the show this isn't an opportunity you're missing.

    I'll repeat my first sentence, "Everything about Amanda Palmer is about trying to do more." It isn't to try to convince anyone, people who disapprove will carry on disapproving.

    But it is THE Amanda Palmer thing to just gather people around wherever she happens to be and play music and sing and then maybe open her ukelele case and ask for whatever people feel like pitching in. Sometimes it's a $20, sometimes it's a couple nickles, sometimes it's a torn piece of paper with the words "I love you!!!" That is the AFP. That is her whole thing. And she will always try to reach past what she's acquired.

    Her initial kickstarter goal was $100K, not a million. She was originally going to try a small tour with just a piano and ask for help (like she always has) for anything else she needed. That she can now have a band and do more dates is exciting, but I'm not shocked at all that she would try to reach past even that.

    I dunno, it can be poor business sense, but making the money has always seemed to me to be besides the point. I have given up so much of my time to work with my theatre company for pennies (or more usually, for nothing) all because I believe in what we do. I know the agony of asking artists to join us for pennies or for nothing because we just don't have any money but we want to reach past the the meager resources we do have. We raise money from our friends and apply to grants and get help from the city and as often as not end up putting our own money in the pot, but we constantly reach past what our bottom line says we can afford. And in return we create work that we can stand behind with pride.

    Six of one, half dozen the other? My parents sure don't understand why I kill myself to do theatre when I make no money. And that's to say nothing of the fact that there are many other companies that don't pay a dime and I would not waste my time with them because I don't fall in line with their aesthetic.


    I suggest this is a point of view. If it bugs you to put in your hard earned skills to an event for no monetary return, then don't do it. By all means, bend your efforts toward paying gigs! (I'm also a writer, but I'm not writing for free for anyone but myself. Period.) But from the POV of a fan, that sounds like so much fun I'd be an idiot to not try out my luck with them. I love that Amanda always strives for more. If her reach exceeds her grasp, so be it. But it's better to have tried. At least, I find it inspirational.

    I mean... I just don't get the judgment like it's a personal insult. If it's not the gig for you, cool. Don't stop looking for the gigs that are for you. You deserve the life you seek; hell yeah artists & musicians deserve to get paid. So if you feel better off passing then I respect that as knowing who you are and what you're after.

    ETA: @Oldhat - she might sell out shows, but I can't say that it's the regular thing. (I wouldn't even know where to look for hard numbers, but I wanted to speak to the speculation.) I think from what I've heard from tweets and occasional concert reviews, they get sold out when Neil Gaiman is on the bill with her. But even then she didn't sell out her New Year's Eve show with the Boston Pops. Her current US and Europe tour is on sale and only a handful of *Europe's* shows are sold out. US dates may eventually sell out, but it's been a few days already....
  1.  (10831.11)
    If she's getting paid for the gig, then the other musicians should get paid. If she is doing this for "shits and giggles" and not getting paid either, then fine. Pretty simple equation if you ask me.
  2.  (10831.12)
    This is part of a wider debate, particularly in the same year that the olympics didn't pay performers. I think as artists, as most people on Whitechapel are (whether writers, musicians or visual artists) we have a responsibility to set our own standards of what we will accept, set a cut off point and not betray that. Working for no financial reward can be justified if there is some other kind of payoff, for example exposure or connections. Remember plenty of people pay to be published, play in venues, exhibit art. if these artists are local musicians who normally have to pay to play in venues then maybe this is a good opportunity to raise their profile. While some people may feel justified to level criticism at Amanda Palmer I also think artists have to man up and make that decision based on their own judgement.
    TBH for many people starting up it could be a good opportunity compared to slugging around dive venues that charge to pay or use flyer deals etc so bands end up out of pocket.
  3.  (10831.13)
    i'm sorry but if i couldn't afford to pay a string quartet, i'd just load the album session tracks up on a laptop and not have musicians i can't pay on stage
    •  
      CommentAuthorglukkake
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012 edited
     (10831.14)
    The problem I have with it is coming from the fact that my industry has already been torn up by companies crowdsourcing artwork.

    This is like the early days of creative contests, where professionals were beginning to be devalued of their work, replaced by bidding sites to accept the lowest pay for the same amount of work.

    And when that message comes from someone who insists that her efforts should be rewarded, but others' should accept hugs and being part of "the experience", then it's a bit of cognitive dissonance.

    If this was for a ninja show or something for free, I'd think this was a fantastic tour idea. But this is a for profit venture. And if we don't set standards for people getting paid then it's going to become a similar clusterfuck of lots of people doing more work with a lot less of a chance to make a living off it. So yea, people can use their time and skills as they see fit, but I'm not going to back down about the potential harm to an industry when I've already seen it.

    Additionally, it kind of irks me with the whole defense of "well, you'd do free work for a friend". Except that like, I support my friends. I do work for their events for free or significantly reduced fees that just covers my materials when they do free work for me. If it's models or musicians, I pass around hats/tip jars to ensure they get something. If I'm making them come out with me, I cover transportation even if I can't cover their time. I feel like so many people will just do it because of her celebrity with this feeling like "oh, we're friends now" but that's not really the case and that's where it starts to come off as exploitive. It's taking something personal and making it impersonal for her monetary gain.

    If it was any other company or major group doing it, people would be speaking out. Amanda Palmer has cultivated a really great community and following and I feel like people give her a lot more of a pass because she works to develop a rapport with her fans. But objectively, that doesn't make what she's doing any less skeevy than someone who is more distant from their wider fan base. So I'm not keen on letting her off the hook just because she's a good person.


    Pay the people whose efforts are making you money. Why do we still have to fight for this in the arts?
  4.  (10831.15)
    So playing a bit of Devil's advocate what about performances with audience participation, interactive theatre? The audience are paying but are integral to the show and are paying for the experience. Is there a difference?
  5.  (10831.16)
    im gonna go out on a limb and say anyone who refers to her as 'AFP' probably doesnt agree with me on a LOT of things
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      CommentAuthorglukkake
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.17)
    @Steve Toase - never seen audience participation require carting your personal large musical instrument or rehearsals or learning anything more than a simple clap rhythm/call & repeat. Or being called in to replace any kind of professional anything, really.
  6.  (10831.18)
    Fair point.
    •  
      CommentAuthordorkmuffin
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.19)
    @Glukakke:



    YES. YES YES YES YES YES.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrazrangel
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012
     (10831.20)
    @glukkake - Amanda has asked if people would bring things to shows, but more usually her "ninja" gigs. It's always been for the hell of it. She's had people offer out of the blue to come play cello for the audiences as they come to the venue before a concert and she's happily accepted. It turns the event into a happening - it's not like the people who are thinking of seeing Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra are much swayed by the chance to see a session saxophonist, but it's cool to get to know a local musician with some chops.

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